Chinese Imports Crash & Worst January Export Plunge Since 2009 Sends Trade Surplus To Record High

Chinese imports collapsed 19.9% YoY in January, missing expectations of a modest 3.2% drop by the most since Lehman. This is the biggest YoY drop since May 2009 and worst January since the peak of the financial crisis. Exports tumbled 3.3% YoY (missing expectations of 5.9% surge) for the worst January since 2009. Combined this led to a $60.03 billion trade surplus in January – the largest ever. But apart from these massive imbalances, everything is awesome in the global economy (oh apart from The Baltic Dry at record lows, Iron Ore near record lows, oil prices crashed, and the other engine of the world economy – USA USA USA – imploding).

Rand Paul Explains What The Dollar Is Backed By: “Used Car Loans, Bad Home Loans, Distressed Assets And Derivatives”

Having recently exposed the mainstream media’s lack of objectivity in “slanted and distorted” interviews, Rand Paul has turned his focus to another staple of the status quo – his father’s arch-nemesis, The Fed. As WSJ reports, Sen. Rand Paul unleashed a blistering attack on the Federal Reserve in Iowa on Fridasy evening, calling for an audit of the institution’s books and blaming it for fueling income inequality. “Once upon a time, your dollar was as good as gold,” he explained, adding “then for many decades, they said your dollar was backed by the full faith and credit of government.” Do you know what it’s backed by now? “Used car loans, bad home loans, distressed assets and derivatives.”

Saturday Satire: Getting Serious About Keeping Children Safe

Submitted by Logan Albright via Mises Canada blog,

The following is a work of satire… maybe

A recent outbreak of measles has concerned citizens questioning how we can protect the lives of innocent children from neglectful, or even downright abusive, parents. Some have argued that vaccination should be mandatory, since an unvaccinated child presents a danger to himself and others. After all, what is government for if not to protect life and minimize danger?

Even libertarians, who tend to reject government coercion on the grounds of individual liberty, have begun making the case for mandated vaccines, on the grounds that going out in public with a contagious disease constitutes aggression against others, and that the failure of parents to adequately protect their children constitutes abuse. The small reduction in freedom involved in having a government agent forcibly plunge a needle into a small child against its parents’ will is a small price to pay for the protection of life and liberty for everyone else.

These arguments are very well put as far as they go, but it is a bit baffling that pundits and policy makers seem content to restrict their concern for young life to so narrow an area. The measles outbreak has so far affected only about 100 children, with no reported deaths. If it is worth creating new safeguards against this sort of thing, why is society still unwilling to address the largest cause of accidental child deaths in the country: car accidents.

In 2010, 4,419 children were killed in motor vehicle accidents. The number merely injured, while not reported, is doubtless many times greater. Could there be a more senseless waste of human life? And yet this statistic is rarely reported, it makes no appearance on 24 hour cable news stations, it does not grace the front page of the New York Times or any other paper of note. It goes largely ignored, a travesty, since a solution could so easily be implemented.

I would therefore like to make the modest proposal that very young children, let’s say under the age of three, be banned from riding in automobiles. Think of the lives that could be saved by such a minor reform! Three-year-olds have no school to attend, they have no appointments to keep. Doctors could make house calls if necessary. There’s no reason why a child under three ever needs to ride in a car, when doing so poses so great and obvious a risk to its personal safety.

Of course, there will be drawbacks to this, as any, proposal. Parents will be inconvenienced. One will have to stay home with the child, or else contract with someone else to do it. But who is willing to stand up and argue that these minor annoyances are more important than the life of a child? If we save even one life, doesn’t that make it all worthwhile? After all, you can’t put a dollar value on survival.

I am sure there will be some pushback against this idea from that breed of selfish individualist who thinks that the slightest imposition on his freedom is more important than greater societal concerns, but these descendants of Neanderthals are fortunately still a minority, and if they make a fuss it will be easy to reveal to the media and to the world their callous disregard for their own children, and those of other people. There can be no question, after all, that placing a young child in so dangerous a position is simple abuse, and nothing less.

And while we’re on the subject, I have still another proposal to protect child safety: the outlawing of organized sports for children. There should be no objection to this whatsoever. After all, sports are meaningless pastimes. Whereas automobiles are a major feature of the modern economy, indispensable for maintaining our standard of living, sports contribute nothing except entertainment, which we can easily get from other sources in the modern cornucopia of Netflixes and iPads. Dozens of children die in sports-related accidents every year, with thousands being seriously injured. You’re going to tell me that a youth soccer league is worth all that carnage? Wouldn’t it be better if they just picked up a book instead? I was unable to find statistics on book-related injuries, but I assume they must be very low.

It’s time for the senseless death to stop. It’s time we started protecting our children from the endless horrors of the world that surrounds us. Simple and strong legislative action on the two ideas outlined above could save thousands of lives a year, with only minimal reductions in individual freedom. Parents who violate the prohibitions can then be branded as the felons and abusers they unquestionably are, and their children could be placed safely into the hands of the state, where they will be sure to come to no harm.

Anyone who opposes such sensible reforms can only do so for reasons of callous self-interest, or willful ignorance of basic science. Their opinions can safely be disregarded, while the rest of us move forward into a safer, healthier tomorrow.

The End Of The American Dream (In 1 Uncomfortable Chart)

The dream of life in the vassal state formerly known as America is fading fast. As The Bureau of Labor & Statistics (BLS) reported yesterday, there has never been a lower percentage of American men in the workforce. What is even more stunning – given the daily avalanche of “buy-and-hold” for a “safe-retirement” holding hands with your loved on as you stroll the beach at sunset – the percent of Americans aged 65 years or older has lamost doubled in the last 30 years and is near its highest since the mid ’60s.

Michael Pettis On European Policymakers’ “Terrifyingly Low Level Of Sophistication”

Excerpted from Michael Pettis' China Financial Markets blog,

Syriza’s challenge

It is useful to remember this history when we confront the consequences of Greece’s recent elections. Syriza’s victory in Greece has reignited the name-calling and moralizing that has characterized much of the discussion on peripheral Europe’s unsustainable debt burden. I think it is pretty clear, and obvious to almost everyone, that Greece simply cannot repay its external obligations, and one way or another it is going to receive substantial debt forgiveness. There isn’t even much pretence at this point as last week's German newspaper

Greece Gambles On “Catastrophic Armageddon” For Europe, Warns It “Only Has Weeks Of Cash Left”

One of the bigger problems facing the new, upstart Greek government, which has set before itself the lofty goal of overturning 6 years of oppressive European policies and countless generations of Greek cronyism, corruption and tax-evasion is not so much the concern about deposit outflows and bank runs – even though it most certainly will be in the next few days unless the Tsipras government finds some resolution to the dramatic standoff with Merkel and the ECB – but something far more trivial: running out of money.

Recall that two weeks into the Greek elections, Greece was rocked by a dire, if entirely underappreciated development, when its already “tax-paying challenged” population decided to completely hold off paying any taxes in advance hopes that the Tsipras government will “overturn” austerity. We wrote:

… while there will be no official confirmation whether Greece did or did not have a bank run for months, unless of course some bank keels over and dies in the interim, one thing is certain: with an increasing probability they may not have a “continuity-promoting” government in less than two weeks, Greeks tax remittances to the government, which were almost non-existent to begin with, have ground to a halt!

The Death Of The Petrodollar Was Finally Noticed

Three months ago, we wrote “How The Petrodollar Quietly Died, And Nobody Noticed”, in which we explained in painful detail why far from the simple macroeconomic dogma which immediately prompted the macro tourists to scream that “oil prices dropping are good for US consumers”, the collapse in the price of crude is not only a disaster for oil exporting nations – one which will lead to a series of violent “Arab Springs” across the oil-producing developed world – but far more importantly, have a massive impact on capital markets as a result of the plunge in the most financialized commodity in history.

On the death of the Petrodollar we commented that unlike previously, when petrodollar recycling funneled the proceeds from oil-exports into financial markets, helping to boost asset prices and keep the cost of borrowing down, henceforth “oil producers will effectively import capital amounting to $7.6 billion.” We added that “oil exporters are now pulling liquidity out of financial markets rather than putting money in. That could result in higher borrowing costs for governments, companies, and ultimately, consumers as money becomes scarcer.”

The conclusion was simple: “net capital flows will be negative for EM, representing the first net inflow of capital (USD8bn) for the first time in eighteen years. This compares with USD60bn last year, which itself was down from USD248bn in 2012. At its peak, recycled EM petro dollars amounted to USD511bn back in 2006. The declines seen since 2006 not only reflect the changed