Sympathy for the Devil? Trouble in Paradise for the Bankers

Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from PeakProsperity.com.

In our recent report, Banks Are Evil, we pulled no punches in making the accusation that the financial system is the root cause of injustice in today's society.

It's a good blood-boiler. You should read it if you haven't already.

Its main premise is this:

In my opinion, it's long past time we be brutally honest about the banks. Their influence and reach has metastasized to the point where we now live under a captive system. From our retirement accounts, to our homes, to the laws we live under --- the banks control it all. And they run the system for their benefit, not ours.

While the banks spent much of the past century consolidating their power, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 emboldened them to accelerate their efforts. Since then, the key trends in the financial industry have been to dismantle regulation and defang those responsible for enforcing it, to manipulate market prices (an ambition tremendously helped by the rise of high-frequency trading algorithms), and to push downside risk onto "muppets" and taxpayers.

Oh, and of course, this hasn't hurt either: having the ability to print up trillions in thin-air money and then get first-at-the-trough access to it. Don't forget, the Federal Reserve is made up of and run by --- drum roll, please --- the banks.

With their first-in-line access to this money tsunami, as well as their stranglehold on the financial system that it all runs through, the banks are like a parasite feasting from a gusher on the mother-lode artery.

It should come as little surprise that, with all this advantage they've amassed, the banks have enriched themselves and their cronies spectacularly. They have made themselves too big to fail, and too big to jail. Remember that their reckless greed caused the 2008 financial crisis, and yet, in 2009, not only did bankers avoid criminal prosecutions, not only did the banks receive hundreds of billions in government bailouts, but they paid themselves record bonuses?

And the bonanza continues unabated today. By being able to borrow capital for essentially free today from the Fed, the banks simply lever that money up and buy Treasurys. Voila! Risk-free profits. That giveaway has been going on for years.

Couple that with the banks' ability to push market prices around using their wide arsenal of unfair tactics -- frontrunning, HFT spoofing and quote stuffing, stop-running, insider knowledge, collusion, etc -- the list is long. James Howard Kunstler is dead on: we don't have a free market anymore. Instead, we have rackets, run by racketeers. The rest of us are simply suckers to be fleeced.

But all is not roses if you're a banker these days. Even within the evil machine, there is great disparity in how the plunder is being divided.

Bad Times For Bankers?

A guy I've known since childhood works on the 'sell side' (investment/commercial banking, stock brokers, market makers) and has been telling me how cutthroat things have become over the past few years. The pay structure and job security have deteriorated notably. And he says the same is true for many of his colleagues on the 'buy side' (hedge funds, asset managers, institutional investors), too.

Really?

Even with enjoying the "unabated bonanza" described above, even with the markets back partying at all time highs, things are getting worse for many bankers?

Yes.

And while I personally can't conjure any sense of empathy for these poor devils, it looks like things are going to get even harder for them.

So what's going on here?

Well, it's mostly a story of the banking system's plundering ways coming back to bite it.

Capital Is Fleeing From Active To Passive Funds

First off, by flooding world markets with over $12 Trillion since the Great Recession, the central banks have pretty much destroyed "alpha".

Alpha is the "excess return" that fund managers' fees are based on -- i.e., "you're paying more for a smart guy like me to 'beat the market'". But when a tsunami of liquidity rises all boats at once, it's that money flood (i.e. the central bank money printing) that drives valuations. And its influence is so much larger than any other factor that it's really the only factor that matters. Great and crappy companies alike rise in price -- the "fundamentals" that fund managers use in their analysis become useless.

Which is why 66% of large-cap active managers failed to top the S&P 500 in 2016, and why 90% missed their benchmarks over the past 15-year period.

So it's no wonder that investment capital is fleeing from actively-managed funds to passively-managed ones. If the passive funds have much lower fees AND they perform better than the actively managed ones, why the heck shouldn't money flow into them?

Per CNBC:

A buoyant start to the stock market in 2017 couldn't stop investors from ditching actively managed funds.

The trickle away from stock pickers and toward indexes has turned into a flood, with more than half a trillion dollars heading into passive funds over the past 12 months, according to Morningstar.

Active management in total saw $13.6 billion in outflows for January, mitigated only by net inflows to bond funds, Morningstar said. U.S. equity saw $20.8 billion in outflows, bringing passive management closer to parity when it comes to domestic stock funds.

By contrast, passive management saw just shy of $77 billion in inflows. U.S. equity funds, which track broad indexes like the S&P 500 and its sectors and subsectors, pulled in $30.6 billion for the month.

Overall, actively managed U.S. equity funds now hold $3.6 trillion in assets while their passive counterparts hold nearly $3.1 trillion. All classes of passive funds have seen inflows of $563 billion over the past year, while active funds have suffered $325.6 billion in outflows.

"The massive exodus from actively managed U.S.-equity funds continued in January," Alina Lamy, Morningstar's senior analyst for quantitative research, said in a statement. "The tidal wave is showing no signs of stopping, threatening all but a select few and making active investing a dangerous ocean to swim in."

The result of this is tremendous mounting pressure for active managers to reduce their fees. Lower fees being charged on shrunken fund pools obviously affords fewer asset managers, who in many cases are now working for less compensation.

Keep in mind, between just the ECB and the DOJ, nearly $200 Billion of additional liquidity has been -- and continues to be -- injected into world markets each month(!). So, as the above article says, don't expect the tidal wave of capital fleeing actively-managed funds to stop while the central banks' liquidity spigots are still flowing.

The White-Collar Cost Of Automation

Finance was one of the first industries to embrace the automation boom, given the obscene profits that could be made. In his book Flash Boys, Michael Lewis described how the arms race of high frequency algorithms literally changed the game in terms of how financial instruments are traded -- and made $billions upon $billions of unfair profits for the big banks that invested in the technology.

Well, many of the bankers who cheered the boost the machines gave to their annual bonuses aren't cheering so much now. You know what algo-driven markets don't need? Human traders.

Below is photo of the UBS trading floor from 8 years ago, contrasted with one from this year (source: Zero Hedge):

8 Years Ago

Now

Per the Wall Street Journal:

Technology is replacing people on trading floors and in the middle and back offices where trades are checked, confirmed and settled. Some of this is to give investors an edge in markets with computer-driven tools such as algorithmic and high-frequency trading.

But technology also means more work can be moved offshore or to cheaper locations. More reliable internet links with India, for example, mean people can work together on the same documents or files in real time.

The total number of people employed by all kinds of banking in the U.K. has fallen 22% from its precrisis peak in 2008, or by about 120,000 jobs, according to data from Britain’s statistics office.

Here's another stark example:

Goldman Had 600 Cash Equity Traders In 2000; It Now Has 2

For the dramatic impact of technology, and specifically trade automation from algo, quant and robotic trading on today's capital markets, look no further than Goldman's cash equities trading floor at the firm's headquarters which, according to the MIT Tech Review, employed 600 traders its height back in 2000, buying and selling stocks for Goldman's institutional client clients. Today there are just two equity traders left.

As warned of in our earlier article Automating Ourselves To Unemployment, jobs lost to automation don't come back. More than that, the technology itself lowers the cost structure, ultimately lowering industry profits as other competitors invest in similar tech and the margins are competed down:

Structural changes to the equities business over the last several years, such as the rise of electronic trading, have knocked off around $15 billion from the equities fee pool, according to a report from Morgan Stanley and management consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

Electronic trading has dramatically increased trading volumes, while making the cost of trading much cheaper.

Oliver Wyman partner Christian Edelmann, who co-authored the report, does not see those revenues coming back. "Once the equities model has become technology driven, that's not going to change," he said.

A Cultural Shift To Cost-Cutting

And the jobs cuts aren't just related to technology. As profit margins are squeezed, players in the financial industry are looking for any and all reasons to cut costs.

A current victim of this trend is equity research. For decades, sell side firms like the investment banks offered their clients "expert analysis" from their research departments. Historically, that was bundled into the bank's overall fee it charged its clients.

But now, increasingly cost-conscious clients are demanding to know how much that research is costing them. Especially since almost all of that research doesn't even get read. A recent Reuters article showed that of the 40,000 research reports produced every week by the world's top 15 global investment banks, less than 1 percent are actually read by investors.

It's long been a poorly-kept secret that the research departments were a dependable vehicle for investment banks to bilk their clients for unnecessary profit. Now it looks like that ruse is over. And billions in revenue per year along with it:

Banks have already been trimming their research budgets. Spending on research at the top investment banks fell by just over half to $4 billion in 2016 from $8.2 billion in 2008, according to Frost Consulting.

An industry long known for its "Wolf of Wall Street" culture of excess is now counting its pennies. That's a very significant perception shift.

A Sign Of The End

What's important about all this is not sympathy for the poor bankers who have to accept lower wages or a pink slip. Consciously or unwittingly, they've been foot soldiers for a cabal that's done the greatest evil towards global human rights and prosperity over the past century. Personally, I'll happily take a front row seat, open up a bag of popcorn, and delight in the schadenfreude of watching that industry collapse on itself.

What is important is what all this tells us about where we are in this story. We are now getting close to the end.

For decades and decades, more and more sharks found their way into the financial industry. And for decades and decades, there was plenty of prey for them all to feast and fatten on.

But now we're at the point where there's much less to prey on. So the biggest sharks are now turning on the smaller ones. Those at the top of the industry are trying to preserve their share of the pie -- and if they have to do so by cannibalizing those below them on the org chart, so be it.

It has now become a shark vs shark world.

That's important.

This is happening, mind you, at a time when the banks are in their 8th straight year of enjoying practically-free money from the world's central banks, which is essentially a great wealth transfer from the public's coffers. And at a time when financial assets have been re-inflated to all-time highs.

If things have reached this cutthroat a state when Wall Street is booming, imagine how much more gruesome this "eating their young" dynamic can/will become during a market downturn.

We're at the point where those at the apex of power are becoming increasingly desperate to maintain their unfair advantage. And as the economic pie refuses to grow due to the twin overload of too much debt and declining net energy, these apex predators will turn on each other -- first to maintain their spoils, and then simply to survive.

Things will get nasty in a hurry during that stage, as we warned about in our recent report: Positioning Yourself For The Crash.

While you still can, you want to make sure the bulk of your investment capital is positioned for safety, and you want to make your lifestyle as resilient as possible so that, no matter what jarring developments the future may bring, you and the ones you love are least impacted by them.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a transgender activist called for a "Supreme Court Assassination Challenge" on Twitter, according to screenshots captured of the now-deleted tweet.

Activist Eli Erlick, a founding member of Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER) and creator of the controversial "gender identity" teaching tool for children called the "Gender Unicorn," tweeted and later deleted the disturbing remark on Friday, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) also caught a screenshot of the tweet before it was deleted.

"The unhinged radical left is calling for the assassination of our Supreme Court Justices. That's not the way to disagree with a decision in America. It is unacceptable, and Biden’s DOJ must immediately act," Blackburn responded on Twitter.

Erlich then tried to play off her call to assassinate Supreme Court justices as a hilarious joke only Gen Z and Millennials would understand, apparently not understanding the seriousness of the attempted assassination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh just three weeks ago.

Erlick isn't the only Left-winger to make incendiary calls since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. Here are just a few examples:

  • Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) called on people to “defy" the Supreme Court.
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called for people to get “into the streets” alongside radical communist leader who wants to 'overthrow' the American system.
  • Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) yelled "F*** Clarence Thomas" on a public stage for all to see and hear.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) suggested that Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh lied to Congress.
  • And of course, "TheView" host Whoopi Goldberg issued a disgusting racist threat toward Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Filling in for Glenn Beck on the radio program, BlazeTV hosts Pat Gray and Stu Burguiere took a look at these and other stunning examples of leftist lunacy over the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Watch the video clip below. Can't watch? Download the podcast here.

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Many members of the far-left already are calling for a ‘Night of Rage’ after the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the White House has been discussing plans to defy the ruling too. In fact, one idea floated by Biden Administration officials, according to the New York Times, includes providing abortions on military bases. So, will America experience another summer of riots? Are YOUR taxpayer dollars at risk? And what does this mean for deep-blue states? Josh Hammer, legal expert and opinion editor for Newsweek, joins Glenn to discuss what may come next...

Transcript

Below is a rush transcript that may contain errors

GLENN: Josh Hammer, he's the opinion editor of Newsweek. He's the host of the Josh Hammer show. He is really quite brilliant. One of the leading minds in the conservative movement, I think. Josh Hammer joins us now.

To tell us, what did you find in this decision?

JOSH: Glenn, great to be back with you, on such a momentous, and really such an emotional day, honestly. So, you know, look, as you said, this dropped recently. Funny enough, I was in the middle of getting a guest lecture from an organization on the advisory board as to when it drops. So I barely had any time to kind of skim through, let alone guess the concerning dissenting opinions. But it looks like this looks very similar, to the draft opinion that was leaked, by the Politico story, a month and a half ago, in early May. And I think those of us who were praying that the five justices from this leaked draft opinion, would have the fortitude to stiffen their spines against this unprecedented assault. Now knows that our prayers were answered, Glenn. That's really my takeaway right now.

This looks a lot like the leaked opinion. Justice Thomas and Justice Kavanaugh have some reconcurring opinions.

But unbelievable. And really just holding aside the constitutional law stuff for a second hear. Just speaking as pro-lifers, on a day like today, I think we really just need to pause. And I tweeted this out earlier. We need to just be grateful for our half century of pro-life activist forbearers. You know, this -- Glenn, this issue could have gone away after 1973. That was a long time ago. 1973. I mean, this issue could have just gone away. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the pro-life moral activist. Political activist. And, of course, yes. Legal activist. Who fought day in and day out, that makes sure this great injustice stayed front and center of our national, political conscience. And in many days, the culmination of a half century of fighting for truth and justice. But in many ways, it's also a new beginning for the pro-life fight as well, interestingly.

STU: How do you mean a new beginning for the fight? I just it's going to turn, I think we're going to see abortion turn even darker in those states that allow it. Is that -- is that what you're meaning by this?

JOSH: Well, look, for a half century now, Roe vs. Wade, and its project any, specifically, the Planned Parenthood versus Casey case of 1992.

They took away from the states obviously. They arrogated authority away from the states, the ability to attempt to nationally codify one view of the morality of abortion.

It happened to be a profoundly immoral view. So these -- the fight now shifts to the states. And the pro-life activists. And all the 50 states. Especially, obviously in red states. Purple states. I mean, admittedly some blue states like New York and California, probably won't be able to touch them there.

But we have to make sure that our side is well positioned in the state Capitols for every red, purplish, probably even light blue state, to make sure we fight for successful, cogent, and morally consistent pro-life legislation. The state of Oklahoma, actually, just north of Texas. Right where you are now, Glenn. They have been leading on this actually. Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law, a fantastic pro-life bill there in Oklahoma. A few weeks ago. Maybe a month ago or so at this point, that basically just bans abortion straightforward from conception. And there are some -- you know, obviously, likable the mother. So forth. But we really need to start thinking about trying to craft legislation now, at the state level. But to your point, I do fear that the blue states will only double down in their radicalism. Unfortunately within that will only lead to an ever greater divide, in our country, that we have today. But obviously, at the end of the day. We're going to save at the end of the day, millions and millions of unborn children. We are going to save human beings who can grow up to cure cancer, who can win Nobel prices.

I mean, this is just a tremendous win for the human species. I don't know how to say it other than that.

GLENN: I will tell you, I saw the stat, that I think it was last year or the year before. 20 percent of all pregnancies ended in abortion. 20 percent.

JOSH: Wow.

GLENN: That is -- that is a shocking number. And we do have our -- our work cut out for us. Because I -- I think that these states are going to double down. But I think, you know -- God doesn't waste anything. You know, there is no waste with God. Even the -- even the worst things that could possibly happen, turn out to be something good. You know what I mean? You're like, holy cow, how did that just happen.

And I think that evil is going to fully come unmasked. I'm telling you, Josh. I don't know how you feel about this. I think this could be the day of America's Kristallnacht. I can see these pro-life centers being burned to the ground today. They're calling for a night of rage around the country. I think evil is going to show itself. And that will scare the American people, hopefully.

JOSH: You know, I've been thinking about this a lot this week, actually. Because I've been bracing for a new kind of George Floyd summer of love, happening this summer. Coming to a city or suburb near you. Unfortunately, myself. Look, I live in Florida. I know, Glenn, you live in Texas. It is in moments like this, where I do think that where you live matters. And who your mayor is. Who your governor is, matters.

Because law and order and rioting and anarchy is not really a federal issue. It is to a limited extent. June 2020, Tom Cotton wrote this op-ed that was pretty controversial at the time.

I happen to agree with it. Where he said, quote, unquote, send in the troops. And there is some federal legislation from the reconstruction era that would justify that.

But most kind of quelling and quashing of anarchy does happen. Constitutionally speaking, at the state and local level. So at a moment like this, where I fear that you're probably not wrong. I take some solace. That Governor DeSantis is my governor. I think Texans should take some solace, that they are represented by -- by a Republican governor. The legislature there as well. So I -- I fear that you are right. I pray obviously, that no one -- it's hard.

I fear that it's something -- that something bad is happening. At the end of the day, of course. It does not mean that justices cannot do what they are supposed to do. So thank God they did that.

GLENN: So, Josh, have you looked into what the White House has been saying? The White House yesterday. In fact, do we have a clip of -- of this?

What the White House said yesterday, about the guns. And then they were turned to the -- the Scott us ruling, for Roe vs. Wade. Do we have that, please?

JOSH: Will the president accept this decision, even if he disagrees with it?

VOICE: I think it's going to come from the Supreme Court. So it's a decision we certainly are going to respond to. I'll leave it at that. Just like any other Supreme Court decision. Just like the one they did today on guns.

GLENN: So the White House won't say that they're going to accept it.

Which I don't think they will. They're talking now about taking doctors and moving them into places like Oklahoma or Texas, where abortions will be outlawed. And putting doctors on our military bases to perform abortions.

I mean, where does this go, when you have a government, that is in defiance of -- of one branch of the government?

JOSH: So there's a lot to unpack here. So we should start from first principles. The idea of judicial supremacy, and this is a peculiar thing, to say on a day like today, where such a pro-life victory has happened in Italy. But if we're going to be consistent here, the idea of judicial supremacy. The idea that the justices, have the sole and exclusive ability to interpret the Constitution for themselves. And no other Constitutional actor, in article one or article two, let alone the state. Has the ability to tentatively interpret it. That is erroneous. In fact, actually it was really Abraham Lincoln actually, who in the Dred Scott case, famously opposed judicial supremacy and flouted the Dred Scott ruling, at least as it pertains to everybody other than Dred Scott himself. I have actually argued, a former legal scholarship, in a law review article actually, that the Laconian view of how each branch of government should interpret the Constitution for itself, is correct.

Having said that. Having said that, there is a thing called prudence. And there is a thing called comedy. And in a moment like today, when it really does look like -- and I agree with you, that we are now bracing for riots through the streets. When the political rhetoric is at DEFCON one. When people are trying to assassinate Supreme Court justices. I think it would be -- at its bare minimum, a profoundly imprudent act. For the Biden administration, to try to undermine this ruling.

Now, what they might do, is they might try to kind of issue some kind of executive orders, or issue some regulations, that might try to kind of undermine it, at the edges here. But at the end of the day, the idea that this returns to the state. There's not really a whole lot they can do about that. Basically, at this point, throughout the country. Kentucky within West Virginia. Kansas. Whatever. If they want to go ahead and ban abortion, what can the Biden administration literally do about that? I mean, short of sending in the National Guard, to protect Planned Parenthood, if the state legislature of Kentucky goes ahead and bans it. There's not a whole lot they can do. And it's very difficult to envision a world, in which the Biden administration literally sends in troops to red states, to protect Planned Parenthood, if that state legislature goes ahead and bans it. So for practically speaking. This is a lot of tough talk and rhetoric. Obviously the campaign here in 2022. There's not really a whole lot that practically speaking, they can do to actually prevent red and purple states from enacting pro-life legislation.

GLENN: I'm glad to -- I'm glad to hear that. I know that they have been working on things. I mean, he has said, you know, there's executive orders, that I can employ. There are things that I can do. He's talked about a national public health emergency. Which I think is just -- is crazy. But I would hope, that the president would come out and say, we strongly disagree with this. And you're right. The court is not the end all. But the court did not end abortion. It just said, the people should decide. I think that's the best kind of court ruling, on any of it. The people should decide what this is. And send it back to the states. Josh, I thank you very much. Appreciate your time. Was there -- there was another ruling, that came out today. Was it important?

JOSH: Oh, no. In comparison to this. A total nothing burger. A 5-4 decision on Medicare reimbursement related. So nothing, honestly.

GLENN: Great. Thank you very much. Appreciate it, Josh. Josh Hammer, opinion editor for Newsweek. And the host of the Josh Hammer show.

GLENN: There are two things trending on twitter right now.

Number one is praise God.

Number two trend is Night of Rage.

Good verses evil.

Build up or tear down.

'Lord, we are SORRY it has taken us this long': BlazeTV hosts react to historic Roe v. Wade decision

Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Supreme Court of the United States officially overturned Roe V. Wade, and the debate over abortion rights has been given back to the states. On this historic day, BlazeTV hosts celebrate the Supreme Court's incredible decision and take a look at some of the insane reactions as the left comes completely undone.

Jason Whitlock: Today will forever stand as a pivotal moment in our nation’s history

The Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision and the reaction to it have already revealed a lot about our people and politics. Pro-life groups celebrate, pro-choice groups call for “a night of rage,” and Nancy Pelosi just seems completely confused by the United States Constitution.

Glenn Beck reacts LIVE to Roe v. Wade ruling: 'Lord, we are SORRY it has taken us this long'

I never thought that in my lifetime, I would see Roe v. Wade be overturned. But today, that day has come. The Supreme Court has voted 6 to 3 to return decisions about abortion to the states. But this fight isn't over. We are about to see good versus evil side by side. Many states will stand with the unborn. But others will become abortion mills. It's your turn to choose now, America!

Allie Beth Stuckey: 'Praise God, Roe v. Wade is overturned!'

I don't know about you, but I just had the most euphoric feelings. It almost seems too good to be true. I didn't think there was any way that this would actually happen, especially with all the backlash, intimidation, and violence toward the Supreme Court justices. And yet, here we are. Roe v. Wade has been overturned. This is an amazing day!

Dave Rubin: Big disagreement on what happens next now that Roe v. Wade is overturned

Dave Rubin, Libby Emmons, Jeffrey A. Tucker, and David Reaboi debate what will happen in the wake of the Supreme Court’s breaking decision on Roe v. Wade. Now that abortion rights have been pushed back to the states, will there be a summer of massive riots or not? Will the Roe v. Wade ruling make America’s political polarization significantly worse?

Stu Burguiere: Here are the reasons SCOTUS overturned Roe v. Wade

I never thought this would happen. I never thought I would see this day. I just never ever ever ever never ever believed that Roe v. Wade would actually be overturned. I really didn't. But let's take a look at the reasons this day has finally come ...

The Rick & Bubba Show: 'This is history! Unfortunately we're 60 million lives too late'

We were live on the air when news broke of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.