Brave New 'Markets': How High Frequency Trading Algorithms Risk Massive Sudden Sell-Off

One thing is clear: These aren't your daddy's markets anymore

Why? Because about 10 years ago the Rise of the Machines (aka high frequency trading algorithms) completely altered the terrain of what we call the 'capital markets.'

Let's look at this as a before and after story.

Before the machines, markets were a place that humans with roughly equal information and reflexes set the prices of financial assets by buying and selling. Fundamentals mattered.

After the machines took over, markets became dominated -- in terms of volume, liquidity and pricing -- by machines that operate in time frames of a millionth of a second. The machines and their algorithms use remorseless routines and trickery -- quote stuffing, spoofing, price manipulations -- to 'get their way.'

Fundamentals no longer matter; only endless central bank-supplied liquidity does. Because such machines and their coders are very expensive and require a lot of funding.

The various financial markets are so distorted that I first resorted to putting that word in quotes – “markets" – to signify that they are not at all the same as in the past. In recent years I've taken to putting double quote marks – “"markets"" – in attempt to drive home their gross distortion. Not only are todays “"markets"" something the human traders of a generation ago would fail to recognize, they're no longer a place where human actions of any sort have much of a remaining role.

Why care about this? Two big reasons:

  1. Such “"markets"" are easily manipulated by central banks and other state actors by virtue of their automated responses to liquidity injections. Are the markets going down when you don't want them to? Just use any one of several highly leveraged means of signaling to the computers that it's time to buy instead of sell. Common leverage points include the Japanese Yen-to-USD price level, selling VIX to lower volatility, and buying massive quantities of index futures 'all at once.'
  2. These manipulations will work until they don't. When they fail, they may well fail spectacularly -- resulting in shattered markets that have to be shuttered until the damage can be assessed. Investors will not be able to access their capital, either to buy or sell, while things get sorted out. When the markets finally do reopen, valuations will be a whole lot lower due to the loss of the huge block of (phantom) volume previously supplied by the now-shut down algos.

The main predicament were facing is that by jamming the “"markets"" ever higher, the central banks have created an enormous gap between current prices and reality.

An easy to see example of this is the housing market in San Francisco, where average income earners cannot afford average houses -- at all. The only way the SF housing market can re-balance to a sustainable level is either for salaries to shoot up massively (while house prices remain flat) or for house prices to fall.

Equities are no different; their prices current suffer from a similar "reality gap". The same is true for bonds.

Obvious Price Manipulations

Just to show that I'm an equal opportunity critic and don't just think gold and silver are manipulated -- and they have been and continue to be, which is now a matter of fact -- I warn that the same dynamics that infest the precious metals "markets" at the COMEX indeed happen elsewhere.

My conclusion is that the HFT computer algos are in complete control of the "market" action, and play with and off of each other to create massive sudden price movements that have nothing to do with anything except book order saturation.

Today's recent example comes to us courtesy of the WTIC oil market on the NYMEX:

Starting around 6:30am, oil futures started drifting slightly lower. A little volume came in around 6:40 a.m. and then -- BAM! -- right at 6:44 a.m. EST, a super spike of volume to the downside occurred. I happened to be watching this in real time and began counting off seconds. Before I got to 3 seconds it was over. (These are one minute bars so those three seconds are obscured in a full sixty second long bar).

So...8 thousand contracts in 3 seconds. Staggering.

For fun, amortize this out over a full trading year. It's a preposterous figure.

The point being, these volume spikes (especially to the downside) have an intensity that is simply overwhelming for the market structure.

Which is entirely the point of the operation. That's the very essence of price manipulation.

Let's try to look at this rationally. Let's define intensity as "volume of more than 2 standard deviations above the recent 1-hour average, divided by the duration of the volume event."

If we do this, an analysis of the oil chart above would go like this:

Say the average volume was 200 contracts/min. The normal 'intensity value' would be 0, because there are no moments above 2 std before the big volume spike (0/0)
Making a guess of a std of 300 for the normal period, at the height of the spike, the value would be ~7,400. Then divide the 3 second episode (expressed in minutes) and you get 148,000.
So from an intensity value of 0, thing spiked up to 148,000 in a matter of seconds.

Is that a useful number or way to look at this? I think so, because it expresses the idea that these volume spikes, combined with their extremely short duration, have an intensity that is far outside of the normal trading bounds. And it's that super out-of-range characteristic that just clobbers the price of whatever is being traded (in this case oil, one of the most widely-traded commodities on the planet).

These blasts destroy the market bid/ask structure in those moments. You have literally zero chance of trading that event as a human, even and especially if using 'insurance' like stops.

This means that the "markets" have a barrier to entry where the cost is the price of a very expensive arrangement of hardware and software capable of operating at the micro-second level. Humans need not apply.

These are not your daddy's markets. They belong to the big players (aka big banks and hedge funds) and their very expensive machines.

Understanding Volume vs. Liquidity

What we're really describing here is a sudden spike in volume that basically destroys the current market book of orders.

What that means is this. Imagine that you are selling eggs at the farmers market along with nine other vendors. There are 500 people wandering the market looking for eggs and other produce. The average sales rate for all 10 egg vendors and all 500 customers is 5 dozen eggs per minute.

The price you can sell your eggs for is set in accordance with the other prices around you. Yours are organic, but small. The vendor next to you has large eggs that are conventional, but larger. And third has small colored eggs from heritage breeds that are free range. Let's say that the range of selling prices is from $4/doz to $5.50 per dozen. This is the market structure for eggs at our farmers market in this thought exercise.

All of a sudden, a giant semi-truck backs up. It's filled with eggs matching every description of those being sold at our small little market. A bullhorn speaker rises from the roof of the truck and announces that 10,000 dozen eggs are now available for the next 1 minute for whatever price anyone is willing to give him for them.

What do you think happens to egg prices over that one-minute window? That's right, the price gets completely crushed. And what do you think happens to demand for eggs among the 500 potential customers at our market? It's completely satisfied. So future demand is eliminated and sales volumes decline accordingly.

In other words, the “"market"" for eggs got ruined, right there and in an instant. You and the other 9 original egg merchants got thoroughly hosed.

The volume of eggs on offer shot up massively all of a sudden, but once all 500 potential egg buyers had been satisfied, the number of buyers dropped away rapidly. Liquidity dried up.

This shows how it's possible to have a market with tons of volume, but no liquidity. There are lots and lots of eggs for sale, but no buyers. All volume, no liquidity.

I know this is a little complex, and possibly arcane, but the points are important to understand. You see, even the most liquid of all possible markets, the US Treasury market, er “"market"", suffered an amazing flash crash back in 2014. It's been pretty well studied, but the culprits were the HTF machines that now dominate that “"market.""

This next chart by Eric Hunsader of NANEX (whom we've interviewed numerous times over the past years) shows the relationship between price, liquidity and volume on that fateful day, when yields plunged and prices spiked (remember in bonds yield and price move oppositely).

Note the first event which was a sudden loss of liquidity, seen at the yellow arrow:

At the same time that the liquidity dried up, you can see volume ticked up pretty strongly and this caused prices to rise. For whatever reason, in HFT land the rules seem to be:

  • High Volume + High Liquidity = small price movements
  • High Volume + Low Liquidity = big price movements
  • High Volume + HFT only Liquidity = flash crash

The point here is this: The computer bots now are the market.

They operate according to a set of pre-programmed parameters. If or when those parameters are exceeded, they simply vanish in less than an eye blink. When that happens, prices go wonky as the remaining few algos go wild. Their resulting erratic trading spikes volumes and prices all over the place.

Why This Matters

Maybe you're thinking, “So what?" Maybe you aren't a trader and think the hows, whens and whys of the computer algos in the Brave New Market isn't really of any concern to you.

But it really is. And here's why.

The flash crash in May 2010 gave us an indication, but the mini flash crashes we see almost daily in various other markets -- ranging from the tiny to the US Treasury market -- tell us that it's entirely possible that someday all the worlds computer algos might suddenly stop operating because an event occurs that is out of their programmed operating state.

We've seen these flash crashes numerous times. The biggies were the 1,000+ point plunge in the Dow on May 6, 2010, the Treasury flash crash of October 15, 2014, the ETF flash crash of August 24th 2015, and the dollar flash crash on the last trading day of 2016.

There have been innumerable smaller flash crashes in specific equities and commodity contracts as well. But the biggies show us that nothing is safe. When you can have flash crashes in the entire equity market index universe, ETFs, the Treasury market, and even the US Dollar, then you know there's no safe place.

Everything is under the control of the computers.

A long-running discussion between Dave Fairtex, myself and others, concerns the idea of whether or not markets as big as the ones just mentioned can be manipulated by government/central banking forces to stop, limit, or even reverse a price decline.

My view has always been “yes", because it should be child's play to fool the algos into going this way instead of that way by simply injecting a relatively small amount of capital at the right place and time.

I would love to know, for example, why central banks have an incentive program at the CME -- where the exact sorts of highly leveraged, electronically traded products that would be best suited for market manipulation -- are traded.

By virtue of its existence, we know that central banks are highly active traders on the CME platforms. Otherwise an incentive program offering steep volume-based trading discounts would not exist.

Not one single central bank (yet) reports anywhere in their financial disclosures of being the proud owners of any of the accounts traded on the CME. So the details of the situation remain a mystery.

But dependably, every single market decline that began over the past several years has been reversed -- usually in the dead of night, and in the futures market -- by mysterious injections of capital that then get the HFT algos to follow the trend. So inquiring minds would like to know.

Back to the story: Dave had an opportunity to meet recently with a super smart HFT developer and operator who confirmed that algos are easy targets for such a manipulation scheme should the central banks wish to engage in such a thing.

So I went off to my afternoon meeting with the HFT trading guru and, well, because of too many ciders I forgot most of the questions. But the one I remembered most clearly did get answered.
I asked him, "Do you think that someone could manipulate the market by figuring out what the bots were coded to trigger on, and then taking action to encourage them to do just that?"
Short answer: yes.
(Source)

So, yes, such a thing is possible. And because it's possible, and there are seemingly no consequences for getting caught, and because the Fed is fighting any sort of audit tooth and nail, and because the CME has a central bank incentive program, and because the “"market"" mysteriously self-corrects at odd moments usualy with a flood of intense futures buying, my inner prosecutor thinks he could win a case in front of a reasonable jury here.

The big issue, however, is what might happen if (or rather when) things get 'out of hand' and the computer bots cannot be cajoled back into the market because the parameters are just too far out of whack. 'A major market accident' is the likely answer.

Dave continues:

Two weeks ago I went to this lecture by a guy (a physics PhD) on unsupervised machine learning techniques called "reinforcement learning". In the past, the lecturer had worked for JP Morgan and others on HFT applications. He's now got this startup, and he was (more or less) recruiting AI/ML people to come work for him.
The sense I got from his lecture is that there was a big initial move using machine learning to harvest pennies, but that the market is very efficient now at that particular thing, and so its tough to make a living these days by using that approach. Another thing he said was that, there are bots out there that try to find your bots, and then trick them into losing money. Enemy bots, as it were.
One interesting question was asked by an audience member: "how do you train your bots for market problems or exceptional conditions?" His answer, informed by years of work in constructing market maker bots, was: "the vast majority of time is spent in 'normal markets' and as such, that's how we train our bots." Basically, when things get dicey, they just turn them off. I've heard that before too, but it was fun hearing it from the horse's mouth.
And, of course, that's why we have flash crashes. Also my sense is, there aren't really enough humans left to make markets in an emergency, since the profits have been all eaten up by the bots - no money to pay the human traders, which would spend 99.5% of their time sitting and looking at the bots doing their work. And the bots have only been trained on "normal situation" operations.
It makes sense. Why train a bot for exceptional situations, when a huge pile of money can be made just on the day to day fluctuations. Not only is finding enough data to train a bot to run during crash situations difficult, testing is problematic, and then of course you have to wait for a crash and see if it actually works. And if there's a bug, losses could be catastrophic. Better to pull the plug when things get iffy.
(Source)

So, why does this matter to you? Because today's "market" structure is so completely broken now that a flash crash can happen in any sector, no matter how large. That's not speculating, that's established fact.

Once a crash really gets under way, for whatever reason, getting the computer bots back online cannot be accomplished until and unless the markets are within certain operating ranges. That's just how they are built and designed. So as long as everything is within a certain set of parameters, the bots will participate. But as soon as they aren't, they'll all just disappear. When they do, they'll take literally 99% of the market quotes away and 70% of the trading volume. In an instant.

So I'll add one more 'rule' to that list above:

  • No quotes + no volume = no market.

Someday parameters will be exceeded and the “"market"" will crash. Unless the central banks can manage to become such dominant buyers in the “"market"" that they become the market. Japan's central bank has already achieved this status in its country's government bonds and ETF markets.

Who knows? Maybe this is the goal of every major central bank. But if so, then we should be having a robust discussion about how this is no different than printing up money and handing it directly to the very wealthiest individuals and most powerful corporations.

That's not monetary policy. That's social engineering.

Conclusion

Patently obvious price manipulations happen daily now in all electronic markets. Oil, gold, silver, indexes, individual equities, options – you name it – all are subject to overt price manipulation tactics being run by the largest and most well-connected Wall Street and private trading firms.

The algos are now the dominant force in the markets in terms of both quote and trade volumes.

Further, the central banks can and do easily use these same lightning-fast programs to halt and reverse market price declines.

This level of micro-management of the “correct" pricing is ruining the core function of the financial markets, which is to set prices by aligning the collective needs and wisdom of millions of individuals and entities.

By ruining this, the central banks have bought some temporary market price stability at the expense of legitimate price discovery. Without that mechanism, mal-investments are now accruing, as they always do when speculation is rewarded over hard work.

Making a sound investment decision requires smarts, effort and risk. Feh! Who want's to go through all that when you can borrow at 1% and retire stock in your company yielding a 2% dividend?

Who wants to figure out how to satisfy all those state and federal regulations involved in opening a new business when you can earn more by playing the speculation game in the financial "markets"?

As my business partner Adam Taggart wrote recently:

When [the market correction eventually] happens, those who decided to look like an idiot early on and refuse to join the party (i.e., positioning their capital defensively), are going to look like geniuses. They will avoid the heartbreak of loss, and they will have capital to deploy when the dust settles, purchasing quality assets at (potentially historic) bargain prices.
It's not an easy choice to make, or to remain steadfast in. It takes foresight, courage, and resolve. But it's a smart choice.
Of course, cash savings is just one of a number of options for positioning your financial wealth defensively right now. For those looking to learn more about other ways to do so, we recommend the following progression:
  1. If you haven't yet read it, read our free report The Mother of All Financial Bubbles to understand the full nature of the situation we're living through today
  2. Read our report How To Hedge Against A Market Correction, to understand the most common strategies for protecting your portfolio from downside risk
  3. For those interested, I've shared how my own personal portfolio is positioned (Note: this is not intended as personal financial advice, but as an example to evaluate)
  4. Schedule a review focused on downside risk management with your financial adviser. If you're having difficulty finding one experienced on this topic, we can suggest one to consider.
It's unknowable exactly how much longer our unsustainable markets can remain at their record levels. But there is one thing we know for certain: we're closer to their day of reckoning than we've been at any point over the past seven years. A recession is due soon by historical standards, and long overdue by fundamental ones.
When it happens, do you want to look like an idiot? Or would you rather choose to look like one now, so that you can look brilliant then?
Choose wisely.

Good luck everyone. This is the most unusual period in all of economic, financial and monetary history. Perhaps this time they've got it right.

But if not: Look out below.

It's time for our April 29, 2019 edition of our Candidate Power Rankings. We get to add two new candidates, write about a bunch of people that have little to no chance of winning, and thank the heavens we are one day closer to the end of all of this.

In case you're new here, read our explainer about how all of this works:

The 2020 Democratic primary power rankings are an attempt to make sense out of the chaos of the largest field of candidates in global history.

Each candidate gets a unique score in at least thirty categories, measuring data like polling, prediction markets, fundraising, fundamentals, media coverage, and more. The result is a candidate score between 0-100. These numbers will change from week to week as the race changes.

The power rankings are less a prediction on who will win the nomination, and more a snapshot of the state of the race at any given time. However, early on, the model gives more weight to fundamentals and potentials, and later will begin to prioritize polling and realities on the ground.

These power rankings include only announced candidates. So, when you say "WAIT!! WHERE'S XXXXX????" Read the earlier sentence again.

If you're like me, when you read power rankings about sports, you've already skipped ahead to the list. So, here we go.

See previous editions here.

20. Wayne Messam: 13.4 (Last week: 18th / 13.4)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

A former staffer of Wayne Messam is accusing his wife of hoarding the campaign's money.

First, how does this guy have "former" staffers? He's been running for approximately twelve minutes.

Second, he finished dead last in the field in fundraising with $44,000 for the quarter. Perhaps hoarding whatever money the campaign has is not the worst idea.

His best shot at the nomination continues to be something out of the series "Designated Survivor."

Other headlines:

19. Marianne Williamson: 17.1 (Last week: 17th / 17.1)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Marianne Williamson would like you to pay for the sins of someone else's great, great, great grandparents. Lucky you!

Williamson is on the reparations train like most of the field, trying to separate herself from the pack by sheer monetary force.

How much of your cash does she want to spend? "Anything less than $100 billion is an insult." This is what I told the guy who showed up to buy my 1989 Ford Tempo. It didn't work then either.

Other headlines:

18. John Delaney: 19.7 (Last week: 15th / 20.3)

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Good news: John Delaney brought in $12.1 million in the first quarter, enough for fifth in the entire Democratic field!

Bad news: 97% of the money came from his own bank account.

Other headlines:

17. Eric Swalwell: 20.2 (Last week: 16th / 20.2)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

The Eric Swalwell formula:

  • Identify news cycle
  • Identify typical left-wing reaction
  • Add steroids

Democrats said there was obstruction in the Mueller report. Swalwell said there “certainly" was collusion.

Democrats said surveillance of the Trump campaign was no big deal. Swalwell said there was no need to apologize even if it was.

Democrats said William Barr mishandled the release of the Mueller report. Swalwell said he must resign.

Democrats say they want gun restrictions. Swalwell wants them all melted down and the liquid metal to be poured on the heads of NRA members. (Probably.)

16. Seth Moulton: 20.6 (NEW)

Who is Seth Moulton?

No, I'm asking.

Moulton falls into the category of congressman looking to raise his profile and make his future fundraising easier— not someone who is actually competing for the presidency.

He tried to block Nancy Pelosi as speaker, so whatever help he could get from the establishment is as dry as Pelosi's eyes when the Botox holds them open for too long.

Moulton is a veteran, and his military service alone is enough to tell you that he's done more with his life than I'll ever do with mine. But it's hard to see the road to the White House for a complete unknown in a large field of knowns.

Don't take my word for it, instead read this depressing story that he's actually telling people on purpose:

"I said, you know, part of my job is take tough questions," Moulton told the gathered business and political leaders. "You can ask even really difficult questions. And there was still silence. And then finally, someone in the way back of the room raised her hand, and she said, 'Who are you?' "

Yeah. Who are you?

15. Tim Ryan: 21.6 (Last week: 14th / 20.7)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

When you're talking to less than sixteen people in Iowa one week after your launch, you don't have too much to be excited about.

Ryan did get an interview on CNN, where he also talked to less than sixteen people.

He discussed his passion for the Dave Matthews Band, solidifying a key constituency in the year 1995.

Other headlines:

14. Tulsi Gabbard: 25.2 (Last week: 14th / 25.9)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Tulsi Gabbard torched Kamala Harris in fundraising!!!!! (Among Indian-American donors.)

No word on who won the coveted handi-capable gender-neutral sodium-sensitive sub-demographic.

She received a mostly false rating for her attack on the Trump administration regarding its new policy on pork inspections, a topic not exactly leading the news cycle. Being from Hawaii, the state which leads the nation in Spam consumption, she was probably surprised when this didn't go mega viral.

Other headlines:

13. Andrew Yang: 27.2 (Last week: 12th / 27.1)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Yang has a few go-to lines when he's on the campaign trail, such as: "The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math." Another is apparently the Jeb-esque "Chant my name! Chant my name!"

Yang continues to be one of the more interesting candidates in this race, essentially running a remix of the "One Tough Nerd" formula that worked for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

I highly recommend listening to his interview with Ben Shapiro, where Yang earns respect as the only Democratic presidential candidate in modern history to actually show up to a challenging and in-depth interview with a knowledgeable conservative.

But hidden in the Shapiro interview is the nasty little secret of the Yang campaign. His policy prescriptions, while still very liberal, come off as far too sane for him to compete in this Stalin look-alike contest.

Other headlines:

12. Jay Inslee: 30.4 (Last week: 11th / 30.4)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

If you read the Inslee candidate profile, I said he was running a one-issue climate campaign. This week, he called for a climate change-only debate, and blamed Donald Trump for flooding in Iowa.

He also may sign the nation's first "human composting" legalization bill. He can start by composting his presidential campaign.

Other headlines:

11. John Hickenlooper: 32.2 (Last week: 10th / 32.0)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

John Hickenlooper was sick of being asked if he would put a woman on the ticket, in the 0.032% chance he actually won the nomination.

So he wondered why the female candidates weren't being asked if they would name a male VP if they won?

Seems like a logical question, but only someone who is high on tailpipe fumes would think it was okay to ask in a Democratic primary. Hickenlooper would be better served by just transitioning to a female and demanding other candidates are asked why they don't have a transgendered VP.

Other headlines:

10. Julian Castro: 35.7 (Last week: 9th / 36.2)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Lowering expectations is a useful strategy when your wife asks you to put together an Ikea end table, or when you've successfully convinced Charlize Theron to come home with you. But is it a successful campaign strategy?

Julian Castro is about to find out. He thinks the fact that everyone thinks he's crashing and burning on the campaign trail so far is an "advantage." Perhaps he can take the rest of the field by surprise on Super Tuesday when they finally realize he's actually running.

Other headlines:

9. Kirsten Gillibrand: 38.1 (Last week: 8th / 37.8)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Gillibrand wants you to know that the reason her campaign has been such a miserable failure so far, is because she called for a certain senator to step down. The problem might also be that another certain senator isn't a good presidential candidate.

She also spent the week arm wrestling, and dancing at a gay bar called Blazing Saddle. In this time of division, one thing we can all agree on: Blazing Saddle is a really solid name for a gay bar.

Other headlines:

8. Amy Klobuchar: 45.1 (Last week: 7th / 45.5)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Klobuchar is attempting a run in the moderate wing of the Democratic primary, which would be a better idea if such a wing existed.

She hasn't committed to impeaching Donald Trump and has actually voted to confirm over half of his judicial nominees. My guess is this will not be ignored by her primary opponents.

She also wants to resolve an ongoing TPS issue, which I assume means going by Peter Gibbons' desk every morning and making sure he got the memo about the new cover sheets.

Other headlines:

7. Elizabeth Warren: 45.3 (Last week: 6th / 46.0)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Elizabeth Warren is bad at everything she does while she's campaigning. I don't really even watch Game of Thrones, and the idea that Warren would write a story about how the show proves we need more powerful women makes me cringe.

Of course, more powerful people of all the 39,343 genders are welcome, but it's such a transparent attempt at jumping on the back of a pop-culture event to pander to female voters, it's sickening.

We can only hope that when she's watching Game of Thrones, she's gonna grab her a beer.

Other headlines:

6. Cory Booker: 54.9 (Last week: 5th / 55.5)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Booker is tied with Kamala Harris for the most missed Senate votes of the campaign so far. He gets criticized for this, but I think he should miss even more votes.

Booker is also pushing a national day off on Election Day—because the approximately six months of early voting allowed in every state just isn't enough.

Of course, making it easier to vote doesn't mean people are going to vote for Booker. So he's throwing trillions of dollars in bribes (my word, not his) to seal the deal.

Bookermania is in full effect, with 40 whole people showing up to his appearance in Nevada. Local press noted that the people were of "varying ages," an important distinction to most other crowds, which are entirely comprised of people with the same birthday.

Other headlines:

5. Robert Francis O’Rourke: 60.2 (Last week: 4th /62.6)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

Kirsten Gillibrand gave less than 2% of her income to charity. The good news is that she gave about seven times as much as Beto O'Rourke. Robert Francis, or Bob Frank, also happens to be one of the wealthiest candidates in the race. His late seventies father-in-law has been estimated to be worth as much as $20 billion, though the number is more likely to be a paltry $500 million.

He's made millions from a family company investing in fossil fuels and pharmaceutical stocks, underpaid his taxes for multiple years, and is suing the government to lower property taxes on a family-owned shopping center.

He's also all but disappeared. It's a long race, and you don't win a nomination in April of the year before election day. If he's being frugal and figuring out what he believes, it might be a good move.

But it's notable that all the "pretty boy" hype that Bob Frank owned going into this race has been handed over to Mayor Pete. Perhaps Beto is spending his time working on curbing the sweating, the hand gestures, and the issues with jumping on counters like a feline.

Other headlines:

4. Pete Buttigieg: 62.9 (Last week: 3rd / 62.9)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

When we first put candidates in tiers earlier this year, we broke everyone into five categories from "Front Runners" to "Eh, no." In the middle is a category called "Maybe, if everything goes right," and that's where we put Pete Buttigieg.

Well, everything has gone right so far. But Mayor Pete will be interested to learn that the other 19 candidates in this race are not going to hand him this nomination. Eventually, they will start saying negative things about him (they've started the opposition research process already), and it will be interesting to see how Petey deals with the pressure. We've already seen how it has affected Beto in a similar situation.

The media has spoken endlessly about the sexual orientation of Buttigieg, but not every Democratic activist is impressed. Barney Frank thinks the main reason he's getting this amount of attention is because he is gay. And for some, being a gay man just means you're a man, which isn't good enough.

When you base your vote on a candidate's genitals, things can get confusing.

Other headlines:

3. Kamala Harris: 68.6 (Last week: 1st / 69.1)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

There are a couple of ways to view the Harris candidacy so far.

#1 - Harris launched with much fanfare and an adoring media. She has since lost her momentum. Mayor Pete and former Mayor Bernie have the hype, and Kamala is fading.

#2 - Harris is playing the long game. She showed she can make an impact with her launch, but realizes that a media "win" ten months before an important primary means nothing. She's working behind the scenes and cleaning up with donations, prominent supporters, and loads of celebrities to execute an Obama style onslaught.

I tend to be in category 2, but I admit that's somewhat speculative. Harris seems to be well positioned to make a serious run, locking up more than double the amount of big Clinton and Obama fundraisers than any other candidate.

One interesting policy development for Harris that may hurt her in the primary is her lack of utter disgust for the nation of Israel. There's basically one acceptable position in a Democratic primary when it comes to Israel, which is that it's a racist and terrorist state, existing only to torture innocent Palestinians.

Certainly no one is going to mistake Harris for Donald Trump, but a paragraph like this is poison to the modern Democratic primary voter:

"Her support for Israel is central to who she is," Harris' campaign communications director, Lily Adams, told McClatchy. "She is firm in her belief that Israel has a right to exist and defend itself, including against rocket attacks from Gaza."

Just portraying the rocket attacks as "attacks" is controversial these days for Democrats, and claiming they are responses to attacks indicates you think the Jeeeewwwwwwwws aren't the ones responsible for the start of every hostility. Heresy!

Someone get Kamala a copy of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' before she blows her chance to run the free world.

2. Bernie Sanders: 69.2 (Last week: 2nd / 68.3)

CANDIDATE PROFILE

If Bernie Sanders hates millionaires as much as he claims, he must hate the mirror. As a millionaire, it might surprise some that he donated only 1% to charity. But it shouldn't.

It's entirely consistent with Sandersism to avoid giving to private charity. Why would you? Sanders believes the government does everything better than the private sector. He should be giving his money to the government.

Of course, he doesn't. He takes the tax breaks from the evil Trump tax plan he derides. He spends his money on fabulous vacation homes. He believes in socialism for thee, not for me.

Yes, this is enough to convince the Cardi B's of the world, all but guaranteeing a lock on the rapper-and-former-stripper-that-drugged-and-stole-from-her-prostitution-clients demographic. But can that lack of consistency hold up in front of general election voters?

If Bernie reads this and would like a path to credibility, clear out your bank account and send it here:

Gifts to the United States
U.S. Department of the Treasury
Funds Management Branch
P.O. Box 1328
Parkersburg, WV 26106-1328


Other headlines:

1. Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.: 78.8 (NEW)

Joe has run for president 113 times during his illustrious career, successfully capturing the presidency in approximately zero of his campaigns.

However, when the eternally woke Barack Obama had a chance to elevate a person of color, woman, or anything from the rainbow colored QUILTBAG, he instead chose the oldest, straightest, whitest guy he could find, and our man Robinette was the beneficiary.

Biden has been through a lot, much of it of his own making. Forget about his plagiarism and propensity to get a nostril full of each passing females' hair, his dealings while vice president in both Ukraine and China are a major general election vulnerability— not to mention a legal vulnerability for his children. But hey, win the presidency and you can pardon everyone, right?

His supposed appeal to rust belt voters makes him, on paper, a great candidate to take on Trump. The Clinton loss hinged on about 40,000 voters changing their mind from Hillary to Donald in a few states—the exact areas where victory could possibly be secured by someone named "Middle Class Joe" (as he alone calls himself.)

No one loves Joe Biden more than Joe Biden, and there's a relatively convincing case for his candidacy. But we must remember this unquestionable truth: Joe Biden is not good at running for president.

He's a gaffe machine that churns out mistake after mistake, hoping only to have his flubs excused by his unending charisma. But, will that work without the use of his legendary groping abilities? Only time, and a few dozen unnamed women, will tell.

Also, yes. Robinette is really his middle name.

If only Karl Marx were alive today to see his wackiest ideas being completely paraded around. He would be so proud. I can see him now: Sprawled out on his hammock from REI, fiddling around for the last vegan potato chip in the bag as he binge-watches Academy Awards on his 70-inch smart TV. In between glances at his iPhone X (he's got a massive Twitter following), he sips Pepsi. In his Patagonia t-shirt and NIKE tennis shoes, he writes a line or two about "oppression" and "the have-nots" as part of his job for Google.

His house is loaded with fresh products from all the woke companies. In the fridge, he's got Starbucks, he loves their soy milk. He's got Ben & Jerry's in the freezer. He tells everyone that, if he shaved, he'd use Gillette, on account of the way they stand up for the Have-Nots. But, really, Marx uses Dollar Shave Club because it's cheaper, a higher quality. Secretly, he loves Chic-Fil-A. He buys all his comic books off Amazon. The truth is, he never thought people would actually try to make the whole "communism" thing work.

RELATED: SOCIALISM: This is the most important special we have done

Companies have adopted a form of socialism that is sometimes called woke capitalism. They use their status as corporations to spread a socialist message and encourage people to do their part in social justice. The idea of companies in America using socialism at all is as confusing and ridiculous as a donkey in a prom dress: How did this happen? Is it a joke? Why is nobody bursting out in laughter? How far is this actually going to go? Does someone actually believe that they can take a donkey to prom?

Companies have adopted a form of socialism that is sometimes called woke capitalism.

On the micro level, Netflix has made some socialist moves: The "like/dislike" voting system was replaced after a Netflix-sponsored stand-up special by Amy Schumer received as tidal wave of thumb-downs. This summer, Netflix will take it a step further in the name of squashing dissent by disabling user comments and reviews. And of course most of us share a Netflix account with any number of people. Beyond that, they're as capitalist as the next mega-company.

Except for one area: propaganda. Netflix has started making movie-length advertisements for socialism. They call them "documentaries," but we know better than that. The most recent example is "Knock Down the House," which comes out tomorrow. The 86-minute-long commercial for socialism follows four "progressive Democrat" women who ran in the 2018 midterms, including our favorite socialist AOC.

Here's a snippet from the movie so good that you'll have to fight the urge to wave your USSR flag around the room:

This is what the mainstream media wants you to believe. They want you to be moved. They want the soundtrack to inspire you to go out and do something.

Just look at how the mainstream media treated the recent high-gloss "documentary" about Ilhan Omar, "Time for Ilhan." It received overwhelmingly bad ratings on IMDb and other user-review platforms, but got a whopping 93% on the media aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

This is exactly what the media wants you to think of when you hear the word socialism. Change. Empowerment. Strength. Diversity. They spend so much energy trying to make socialism cool. They gloss right over the unbelievable death toll. BlazeTV's own Matt Kibbe made a great video on this exact topic.

Any notion of socialism in America is a luxury, made possible by capitalism. The woke companies aren't actually doing anything for socialism. If they're lucky, they might get a boost in sales, which is the only thing they want anyway.

We want to show you the truth. We want to tell you the stories you won't hear anywhere else, not on Netflix, not at some movie festival. We're going to tell you what mainstream media doesn't want you to know.

Look at how much history we've lost over the years. They changed it slowly. But they had to. Because textbooks were out. So people were watching textbooks. It was printed. You would bring the book home. Mom and dad might go through it and check it out. So you had to slowly do things.

Well, they're not anymore. There are no textbooks anymore. Now, you just change them overnight. And we are losing new history. History is being changed in realtime.

RELATED: 'Good Morning Texas' joins Glenn to get an inside look at Mercury Museum

You have to write down what actually is happening and keep a journal. Don't necessarily tell everybody. Just keep a journal for what is happening right now. At some point, our kids won't have any idea of the truth. They will not have any idea of what this country was, how it really happened. Who were the good guys. Who were the bad guys. Who did what.

As Michelle Obama said. Barack knows. We have to change our history. Well, that's exactly what's happening. But it's happening at a very rapid pace.

We have to preserve our history. It is being systematically erased.

I first said this fifteen years ago, people need clay plots. We have to preserve our history as people preserved histories in ancient days, with the dead see scrolls, by putting them in caves in a clay pot. We have to preserve our history. It is being systematically erased. And I don't mean just the history of the founding of our country. I mean the history that's happening right now.

And the history that's happening right now, you're a problem if you're a conservative or a Christian. You are now a problem on the left, if you disagree and fall out of line at all. This is becoming a fascistic party. And you know what a fascist is. It doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican or an independent. If you believe it's my way or the highway, if you believe that people don't have a right to their opinion or don't have a right to their own life — you could do be a fascist.

Christianity might seem pretty well-protected in the U.S., but that's not the case in many parts of the globe.

On Easter Sunday, suicide bombers made the news for killing 290 innocent Christians in Sri Lanka and injuring another 500. On Tuesday, ISIS claimed responsibility for the massacre. Of course, the Western world mourned this tragic loss of life on a holy day of worship, but we forget that this isn't an isolated incident. Indeed, Christians are discriminated at extreme levels worldwide, and it needs to be brought to light. And whenever we do highlight brutal persecutions such as the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, we need to call them what they are — targeted attacks against Christians. Sadly, many of our politicians are deathly afraid to do so.

RELATED: Hey media, there is absolutely a war on Christians!

A 2018 Pew Research Center study found that Christians are harassed in 144 countries — the most of any other faith — slightly outnumbering Muslims for the top of the list. Additionally, Open Doors, a non-profit organization that works to serve persecuted Christians worldwide, found in their 2019 World Watch List that over 245 million Christians are seriously discriminated against for their religious beliefs. Sadly, this translates into 4,136 Christians killed and 2,625 either arrested, sentenced, imprisoned, or detained without trial over the year-long study period. And when it comes to churches, those in Sri Lanka were merely added to a long list of 1,266 Christian buildings attacked for their religion.

These breathtaking stats receive very little coverage in the Western world. And there seems to be a profound hesitation from politicians in discussing the issue of persecution against Christians. In the case of the Sri Lanka bombings, there's even a reluctance to use the word "Christian."

After the horrific Pittsburgh Synagogue and New Zealand Mosque shootings, Democrats rightfully acknowledged the disturbing trend of targeted attacks against Jews and Muslims. But some of these same politicians refer to the Sri Lanka bombings with careless ambiguity.

So why is it so hard for our leaders to acknowledge the persecutions Christians face?

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, for instance, certainly did — calling the incursions "attacks on Easter worshippers." Understandably, the term confused and frustrated many Christians. Although, supporters of these politicians argued the term was appropriate since a recent Associated Press report used it, and it was later picked up by a variety of media outlets, including Fox News. However, as more Democrats like 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro and Rep. Dan Kildee continued to use the phrase "Easter worshippers," it became clear that these politicians were going out of their way to avoid calling a spade a spade.

So why is it so hard for our leaders to acknowledge the persecutions Christians face? For starters, Christianity in democratic countries like the U.S. is seen differently than in devastated countries like Somalia. According to Pew Research, over 70% of Americans are Christian, with 66% of those Christians being white and 35% baby boomers. So while diverse Christians from all over the world are persecuted for their faith—in the U.S., Christians are a dominant religion full of old white people. This places Christians at the bottom of progressives' absurd intersectional totem poll, therefore leaving little sympathy for their cause. However, the differing experiences of Christians worldwide doesn't take away from the fact that they are unified in their beliefs.

By refusing to name the faith of the Sri Lankan martyrs, politicians are sending a message that they have very little, if no, concern about the growing amount of persecution against Christians worldwide.

Martyrs don't deserve to be known as "Easter worshippers." They should be known by the Christian faith they gave their lives for. Decent politicians need to call the tragedy in Sri Lanka what it is — a vicious attack on the Christian faith.

Patrick Hauf (@PatrickHauf) is a writer for Young Voices and Vice President of Lone Conservative. His work can be found in the Washington Examiner, Townhall, FEE, and more.