Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The London Almanack Revisited

I bought a stack of rather old books at an estate sale some years ago. Within the lot I purchased was a tattered, leather-bound, compendium containing six years of "The London Almanack" running consecutively from 1853 through 1858. Thumbing through its worn and mildewed pages I chanced upon general interest articles of the day, court circulars, ministry staffing, board-listings of companies and their periodic changes, social diaries, etc. What stood out was the ubiquity of The Military in just about every aspect of life, and the wholesale absence of Hedge Fund and Private Equity Managers amongst the notable and glitterati-of-the-day. There were the Royals, of course, followed by land-owning aristocrats and the clergy who were well-represented, statesmen and ministers, and the odd artist mentioned here and there, after which, finally, on the bottom rung, the very occasional dash across a page by a City of London financier or budding commercial scion. But atop the pedestal of admiration, clearly stood the man in uniform (and I do not mean the blazer, blue-oxford & khaki’s of HF/PE issue). Today, of course, the military man is wholly absent, and one would be challenged to find a statesman of note outside the most senior ministers or cabinet officials in the vicinity of the social stratosphere. Now, upon the pedestal of the nation's attention, predominantly sit entertainers (NB: sportsmen are entertainers) and money-men.

Of course, in the era of my tattered Almanacks, Britain was solidly an Empire – one that took more than a few muskets and large-cannoned stinkpots to hold the domain together. But one could argue that today, the US Military is no less important to America’s dominance, given the amount of collective wealth expended by our rulers upon soldiers and their toys, and that the The Generals and their Lieutenants shouldn’t be socially licking the shoe-bottoms of Harvard Law grads trading public company shares upon their materially non-public clinical data, or denied their walk down the Red Carpets of NY or LA. Yet outside of General Petraeus, who will now be remembered for his indiscretion in the bedroom, rather than his prowess in the theaters of battle, one would be challenged to recall a single US military figure outside the serious guy who got so furious at Bush-the-Second for stitching-him-up at the UN. This is not a slur, on General Powell, and is intended as the opposite for was a model public servant taking the bullet for his boss, though I do wish (and I'll bet HE wishes) that he'd shredded the shoji-paper-like evidence underpinning the planned campaign in Iraq, which, if he had, HE might have been America’s first black President. Back on topic, perhaps in some places, the military men still rate in the public's fascination and admiration. But today, both in NY and London, the society pages are equally devoid of uniformed men (excepting those wearing a football kit).

Commerce and trade were hardly admirable pursuits for a gentleman in the days of my London Almanack, whilst the business of money itself, was even lower still, as it was, unsavourily associated with usury. Yet between then and now, finance has not only been rehabilitated from its Shylock-back-street ex-communication during the middle ages, but so entirely transmuted in its peception that it sits at the pinnacle of desirablility. Moreover, I would posit, this is not for what it does or what it is, or its social function, but ENTIRELY for the very real bling and glamour that its pursuit delivers to its disciples. Yes, it sounds genteel, important and purposeful when embedded in the NYT Sunday Society page weddings & engagements blurb that refers to the Groom's activity as a Senior Analyst in the venerable buyout firm of Fiddle-Faddle Leveraged Acquisition Ventures, or a Global Macro CDS Long-Short Portfolio Manager at Diddle Doodle & Daddle Hedge Fund Management. But should it's pursuit and its many faceted pursuers deserve their central place in our admiration? For those waiting breathlessly, this is not today's question and nor, despite the barbs, am I judging, but, rather, observing.

And prognosticating...by asking a different question: "Will this place on the pedestal continue to be held in the future? Obvious Answer: Probably not. And this isn’t because The People have voted against Bain-like, Romney-esque balls-to-the-wall maximum edge-of-the-envelope extraction in favour of deeper social meaning – the latter being a direction the people are running away from as fast and furiously as possible. Nor is it because we have, over the last decade, seen a more-or-less continuous exposition of what passed as success for what it has all-too-often closely resembled: cheating, tunneling, gaming, corrupting, mis-representing, to the outright frauding, thefting, and private misappropriation-ing at the expense of others and the system a-la Boesky, Scrushy, Frankel, Skilling, Ebbers, Rigas, Lay, Madoff, Rajuratnam, Kozlowski, Cioffi, Waksman, Gupta, Mozilo, and so forth. Rather, it will be for the same simple reason that in 1856, few could have imagined that the day would come that neither Military officers nor Clergy would reign supreme. That, in time, social mores, usefulness and opportunity would not only make their pursuits redundant, but borderline despised. And just as disastrous and grotesquely-brutal wars pursued at public expense undermined the Military's glamour, dishonest financial extraction and exploitation does similar to finance today. And though the moment of knocking finance off its perch clearly is NOT here…yet, Galleon and SAC-like insider-trading scandals, the kind that the typical citizen viscerally feels to be deeply unfair, and that the cognoscenti have little doubt of their veracity however difficult they may be for public justice to fully prosecute and irrespective of how well-lawyered the directly and tangentially associated may be, hasten the moment such pursuits are purged from our collective fascination. The public's distaste results not from some puritanical Scarlet Letter-like prudeness, but rather because fairness, trust, and confidence, are essential to the functioning of institutions and our social system, with corruption and similar venality undermining the its most basic machinery.

* * * * * * * * * *

With each passing day, larger-than-life archetypically-villainous characters diminish in number. Pessimists may rue the state-of-the-world, and the contents of the evening news may, often enough, cause one to hide all sharp objects in the house, yet, ponder, for a moment, of the idealistic though no less prescient vision of the future conjured 35 years ago by the most vilified of recent Presidents, James Earl Carter. Cars ARE now substantially more energy efficient. The use of alternative energy IS increasing, and America is becoming less-hostage to middle-eastern interests for energy. Home thermostats ARE turned lower. Rivers ARE cleaner. The cardigan HAS made a comeback. Faith HAS become more uniquitious (though I have my doubts about the virtue of the latter two). The iron curtain is gone, and an entire generation in Eastern Europe excepting Belarus, knows little to nothing of the bleak totalitarianism that's become a fast-fading memory. In all the lands of the western hemisphere south of San Antonio there is but a single totalitarian regime (Cuba), though Gordon Liddy would have his ideological issues with Chavez as Paul Singer DOES with Christina K. Gone are the Somoza, Pinochet, Torrijos, Noriega, Fujimori, Stroessner regimes, as are those of the Generals in Brazil and Argentina. Gone is apartheid, the larger-than-life Amin, Bokassa, Kabila, Taylor, Babangida, Mubarak, Rawlings, Doe, Kaunda, Toure, Bongo, Mariam, the ben-Ali family, and Qadaffi from Africa changing the face of the continent, and the lives of the people, dramatically for the better. Saddam Hussein is no more. South Korea is a model democracy, and even Pyongyang has turned down the rhetoric and turned-off the centrifuges. The Burmese generals, too, have relented. And while there remain a few stubborn boogers clinging to nose of power, they are noteworthy for their place on the tail of the political distribution, rather than in the center. This was the Carter doctrine, and somewhat miraculously, it’s arrived.

I point this out because it highlights the increasing difficulty that a James Bond-type hero has in finding a villain of such repute outside the cantankerous vitriol of the blind Abu al Hamza, the apocalypticism of Asahara’s Aum Shinrikyu, gluttonous obscenity of ex-Soviet Oligarchs, or anti-social loners like McVeigh or Breivik. All this makes me wonder whether, if Bob Kane and Bill Finger were alive and penning a contemporary version of DCs' Batman, just who, or what the villains might resemble, and what might be that dark motivating force behind a 21st century Bruce Wayne.
"Having witnessed his father brutally bankrupted and humiliated by the purchase of what were rated as 'AAA' securities comprising of sub-prime loans, the elder Wayne was driven to secretly commit suicide in order to trigger an insurance payment so his family could seat, the young Wayne swore revenge on the criminal swindlers, cheaters Frat boys and similar who conjured and sold the bogusly-rated securities...
. or how about
"Wayne was driven to combat financial predation when as a child, a NY vulture fund bought obligations at pennies on the dollar and then held out at debt scheduling causing his father to lose his job and meagre income, forcing him to emigrate to America in order to feed his family, whereupon he died trying to get across the border. Wayne swore never to forget who was responsible ..."

Imagine the variety of sub-plots, and characterizations of the villains – “….the unscupulous and corrupt hedge fund titans driven by meglomanic visions of world political and financial domination through the hoarding of riches and creation of unlimited Super-PACs to push the evil agenda of environmental devastation and human slavery and.....” Abusrd hyperbole? okay, I got a bit carried away, but the thought of Batman hunting down a Fuld-like or Mozillo-like villain BEFORE havoc has been wrought in order to foil their gestating plots, or crashing a fundraiser at the Hudson Institute BEFORE their or the API's millions are employed on unleashing anti-climate change myths on the unsuspecting citizenry, or taking out vigilante justice upon the perps of a Chinese gang of miscreants reverse-mergering their P.O.S into some shell-co. with a US listing, or helping Alfred use the bat-computer (with some help from his friend Mitnick) to hack into the bank accounts of seemingly amoral HFT predators (and their programmers) in order to empty them into the bemused but thankful hands of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Sea Shepherds or UNICEF, would bring a smile to the face of those who honestly and unrewardingly play by the rules, and, perhaps provide subject matter for DC’s next generation of 21st century super-hero storylines.

I am well-off on a tangent now, and will veer back on point, I cannot help wondering whether, in our annals, we will appear (to future generations) so parochially-minded, and whether a century from now, Dick Fuld's, Paul Singer's or Steve Cohen's grandkids or great-grandkids will take public pride in the source of their patrimony. That is of course if the down-trodden hungry masses of the future continue to have the munificence to allow their offspring - who will have done nothing to earn it - keep their inheritance, with its attendant place in the pecking order reflected in the then-prevailing Almanack.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Dear Jeff

Dear Mr Gundlach

First congratulations on Doubleline passing the $50 billion mark. I've been told by others that the "first 50" big handles are the tough ones, so you must be breathing easier now. I've yet to encounter such quality problems myself, but trust your growth will continue with your performance.

Secondly, I noticed from your Ira Sohn presentations that you have been attracted to rather off-the-wall serendipitous "pair trades" of assets that reside decidedly in the counter-trend side of recent performance. I don't know what your risk manager or VaR has to say about these trades, but I, for one, nonetheless admire your willingness to stick your errr ummm trading blotter out and position yourself contrary not only to momentum aficionados, and all manner of feedback-trading trend-followers, but famous fund managers, pundits, financial journalists, whinging academics, and so it would seem, the entire world. As a human being, this isolation is enough to make anyone uncomfortable and question the wisdom of one's actions, but as an investor, seeking contrarian return, it likely results in elation, and you must find it difficult to not do "more of the same" at each and every opportunity.

Thirdly, it has not escaped my notice that a number of these have paid rather well and rather quickly without the attendant spankings many contrarians are known to suffer at all-too-frequent intervals. This is quite an achievement as any bottom-smarting, blue-arsed contrarian can attest, and one which should be both acknowledged and admired.

Undoubtedly, you must now be on the prowl for additional trades that exhibit similar properties of assets trading at opposite ends of the relative value and performance momentum spectrums, and where potential short and long candidates respectively are almost, without exception, universally-loved and detested. And so in case you've overlooked it (or are still in the position of putting on the trade and therefore not yet interested in advertising the trade to a wider and now-more-attentive audience (despite all the academic momentum research), I would suggest you have a look at "Gold vs. Japanese Stocks" and "Gold vs. Softs".

It is not worth wasting too much of your precious time on the details that you undoubtedly will research yourself, but suffice to say that Gold is "expensive" to almost every asset and asset class, owned in spades by the largest and most fickle speculatibve investors, and that dissing Gold makes one more unpopular than an Orangeman marching down the Falls Road in West Belfast. On the other side, as and when the JPY trades back towards 125 vs. the dollar, company growth, income statements, balance sheets, and forecast revisions will look a lot different (and rather more attractive) than they have since JPY traveled FROM 125 to the silly levels its been inhabiting for the past few years. Few Japanese, let alone foreigners remain long Japanese equity, the equity brokerage business is almost non-existent, and even most large investors have moved their regional equity desks from Tokyo to Singapore or elsewhere in Asia. Of course I needn't tell you to insure you hedge the FX.

With regards to Gold vs. Softs, I would suggest looking more specifically at Cotton. Gold presently buys more cotton than it has for as long as the charts I can find represent. Cotton remains the benficiary subsidies. This cannot, nor will it, last. All the necessary supply-side inputs are up since the early to mid 1970 - most of them dramatically land prices; fertilizer prices, GMO seed stock, pesticides; diesel and fertilizer feedstock prices; transport, labour. Water has become scarcer and more precious. Yet Cotton remains the odd nail sticking out, hovering at mean avg prices prevailing thoughout the 1970s, (and 80s and 90s and most of noughties). There remains precious little in a human's present-day non-tech shopping basket that (in USDs) remains available for purchase at anywhere near 1970s prices and little as ubiquitious or important or utilizing inflated inputs. This ignores the imminent impacts of climate change, the increasingly-attractive substitution many farmers will be induced to make as higher prices make alternatives more attractive. And in the event of deflation, and convergence of everything else towards cotton stationary price-level, one need only imagine where the price of gold might end-up (Hint 2008 deflation scare = $650/oz = -63%). But check out the long term chart for yourself. Of course OJ, Sugar, Coffee and Cocoa are also attractive, but none as attractive as cotton I think.

Wishing you success in your investment endeavors and your boldly-imaginative and brave counter-trend pecadilloes, I am,

Yours truly,


NB Full Disclosure - I have interests in industrial-scale cotton properties

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Over-Cooked and Thrice Lucky?

Note to self: this feels similar to that unlikely moment of Bold Imagination which speculated where the Fat Tail (left) of he EUR/JPY was in 2007. Of course, that doesn't mean that one imagined it OFF THE CHART given that it now sits at, well somewhere  down
down... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... down sort of like **HERE**.  That was just luck - and don't think it was anything but. However, the determination of where was not.

Being presently agnostic and unemotional (unlike the visceral feelings I shared coinciding with the half-baked EUR/JPY above), I can't help but believe that the JPY is, in kitchen parlance, over-cooked.  Well-done. Scalded. Trop Cuit. Burnt to Crisp. That said, a similar Post Fukushima premonition in Spring 2011 was flat wrong by any reasonable measure. And one cannot forget that I thought (again erroneously) that the break in February earlier this year was "the move", and was more than "a trade', though fickle shorts were puked again.

Now, for the third time (a dozen stabs less than Kyle Bass), I believe that the "the move" is here and upon us - one that will take USD/JPY back from whence it came - to 125 and beyond, and JPYEUR back to the middle of the page. That is a 50% move. This may initially be due to "risk-off" or yet another whipping of the DGDF (dollar goes down forever) meme dear to the heart of FRB conspiricists, but once this proverbial ball gets rolling, we will look back upon this pretty chart as "the mother of all bases", or the most pronounced inverted head & shoulders ever seen in a major currency pair. Of course multitudes of reasons will spring forth to explain, in hindsight, why; and people with the position will grace the cover of Barron's (and their roundtable) touting the trade, their genius and prescience. But most of this will be fiddle-faddle, or dubious rationalization to fill airspace and column inches. For all of importance that will matter is that the herd will have been seen to turn, and leave, and the feedback loop will reinforce itself in all the wondrous and joyous ways speculators have learned to love.

It's uncomfortable (for me) in general to join the chorus, but in this case, I must open the hymn book and sing... Sayonara baby...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Spread 'Em


"We bend over backwards to bend you over forward"

Our testimonials speak for themselves....

Before I opened a GI-Index Spread betting account, I was just another real-estate agent. Now, after spending my lunch hours and evenings punting the Euro-Yen cross I've seen more action than a Green Beret after a third tour in Afghanistan! GI offers me the 1000-to-1 leverage and that satisfies my thirst for turbo-charged thrills! If in doubt about what I've got to show for it, just look the satisfied smile on my face!!!

Not everyone can handle 1000-to-1 leverage. But my experience on lunch-room duty at an inner-city high school readied me for anything. With the GI Index mobile-app, I can pretend to be reading my e-mail on my smart phone, when in reality I'm scalping Spot Silver in size with the help 1000-to-1 leverage, always just a knife-edge from getting stopped-out. Nothing can compare to the excitement and potential profit I get  thanks to GI-Index!

Before I got laid-off, I was a flow-trader with a large wire house. I didn't need any fancy technology or software tools because I could just take a chunk outta whatever customer orders came across my desk. Now, thanks to GI-Index, I have four screens full of fast-scrolling colourful charts and blinking lights, that make me feel like I am back on the trading floor. And the 1000-to-1 leverage with guaranteed executions lets me enjoy the full face-ripping retail experience my clients used to get from me!   

"All the upside without any of the downside". That is why I opened a Spread-Betting account with GI-Index. I can trade huge positions in e-Mini's using GI's leverage and know that because I barely have a two-coins to rub together, in reality, I'll only be on the hook for my margin. Sure, I pay across the spreads, and I know I can easily get puked out in a fast market or by an outlier print, but where else can I get 1000-to-1 leverage with that much upside? Finally, I can having a fighting chance to make a big score.

After serving my time for securities fraud and insider trading, no one would open an account for me, let alone offer me 1000-to-1 leverage. GI-Index Spread-betting gave me the opportunity to get back into the markets and trade stocks from both the long and short sides without having to report positions or undergo any pre-trade compliance. Thank you GI-Index!

As a longtime housewife who is now an old-aged pensioner, I'd always relied on husband to make the financial decisions. After he passed away , a nice young man at GI-Index was kind enough to teach me how to trade using  the "10 Most Effective Momentum Trading Strategies" and how to "Day Trade Currencies in 9 Easy Steps". Now, I can drop a yard of yen at lunch-time with 1000-to-1 leverage and cover in time for tea! And GI credited me with a special bonus for introducing some other members of the care home to their amazing service and 1000-to-1 leverage facilities. 

Growin' up as an orphan in care ain't easy, innit?...I'll be first to say 'at. An' trying to catch a break when u've left skool at 16 wivout any exams...is about as likely as winnin' the pools or Lotto. But GI-Index believed in me. They taught me the basics of tradin'-an-all-that "7 Day-Trading Strategies to Trade Like the Pro's", and offered me 1000-to-1 leverage so I could punt Gold and FTSE wiv my dole check tradin' like all those toffs who grew up wiv mums and dads....

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Scrabbling for Solutions

When I reflect upon my life - one perhaps (optimistically) halfway complete, there are few constants from when I was a child, through to the present. Books. The Stock Market. Tacos. Backgammon. Skiing. BBC World Service, and Scrabble. Not the makings of an adventure film or fascinating biography in even the remotest sense.

Scrabble, in particular, has never failed to amuse me. I still have vivid memories from when I was quite young, of playing against my grandfather (the principled one who used to send back his Soc Sec checks because he didn't need them), who while waiting for me to conjure a play, would mesmerize me by performing hesitation-less 3-digit by 3-digit multiplication in his head - without staring off into distant Andromeda or even moving his lips! Despite English being his third language, not a game would pass without his employing an elegantly obscure word, without the assistance of a dictionary, though it was always there when I went to look it up after a challenge.  

I would often play against my mother, too. Unassuming though my grandfather was unassumingly competitive, by contrast, my mom appeared to just enjoy the company - never fussing over some of my more borderline creations - forays that would have sounded like Esperanto, were they to exist at all in any dictionary. As I think about it now, it had nothing to do with her lack intensity or competitiveness, or even intentionally letting me win. In hindsight, it was likely that she was just recognized that despite my precociousness, and unusual attention span for a nine year old, there were limits to how long an adolescent could concentrate, and thus the optimal thing to do was to play fast and let it pass, increasing the chance we'd complete the game to the end.

Today, I find myself playing scrabble much as I write - which is to say it is, entirely, for my own amusement. Just as some play solely to win, one could write soley in a vain attempt to bully an unfortunate reader towards one point of view.   Such a player never leaves an opponent an obvious dangling triple-word score; always minimizes the freebies, rarely opens up the board unnecessarily, and when losing, typically blames his letters. These people are painful to play against, (as well as being tedious to read). Though I like the thrill of a victory as much as the next girl, I do just enjoy the journey, patiently awaiting that precious opportunity to construct an unlikely, yet elegant, crossword-like play that simultaneously creates 5 or 6 different words - even better when one uses all of one's letters in the process. It is an uncommon moment scrabble perfection.

Public policy, like simple scrabble play is all-too-often one dimensional. This is seemingly out of necessity, reflecting the reactionary nature of most politicians, and thus resulting legislation, as well as the lack of consensus and resolve required to agree upon a vision of foresight. And that accurately describes the process in good times. In the dualistic reality of modern America, opposing forces rarely meet in the middle excepting the most banal of legislation e.g. "Banning Assault Weapons in Public Schools" (a bill that itself presumes there remain some private schools where your sprog can tote along his or her trusty Kalashnikov or Uzi).

Wouldn't it be nice, however, if meaningful inroads were made into solving our problems whereupon looking at the final language of a bill, both partisan sides could cast aside their dogma, read it and say "That IS much better than nothing. It could work and provide positive benefits to the non-campaign-contributing majority of my constituents...I can live with that". Something that achieves the most with the least. Something that is a proverbial "Win-Win" for the Public Interest. The political equivalent of an elegant solution - that most gratifying of multi-crossword scrabble play. Could there be such a play in front of us?

Some of the most serious political-economic problems of our times are: income inequality at the upper bound; high cyclical and possibly structural unemployment (and under-employment) with consequential output gaps, diminished consumption, and ballooning counter-cyclical entitlement costs; diminshed monetary velocity and consequential distortionary monetary policy by central banking authorities; household deleveraging; decaying public infrastructure resulting from years of underinvestment; and, finally, sustainable public finance represented by both primary and cumulative government deficits at or near their upper bounds. With the exception of the Koch Bros. and a handful of Randian-Bootstrapping others, most would not find fault in the list. What if a single initiative could positively impact all these problems AND if not be wholly mutually-agreeable then be sufficiently less divisive so as to be acceptable?

We found out last month from Olivier Blanchard at the IMF that Govt spending multipliers have been seriously underestimated in most models. This has profound implications for public policy in general and fiscally-conservative solutions in particular - something about which they have been eerily silent. In a nutshell, spending cuts, rather than narrowing budget gaps, just seemingly exacerbates deficits. And this realization occurs at a time when demand for expenditures - whether for countercyclical policy measures or stabilizers, or for nationwide investment in crumbling infrastructure is critically-elevated.

With spending cuts not viable, perhaps we should raise taxes - and - if so, which ones? Japan, as Richard Koo has pointed out, made a grave error in raising taxes in 1997, extinguishing an otherwise nascent recovery. But admittedly, they were highly regressive consumption taxes. And their GINI was nothing like the US today. It seems that with income inequality so great in the US, the Govt could significantly raise marginal rates (in whatever form) on the wealthiest without effecting consumption in the slightest since the marginal propensity to consume for this strata is so low. In fact, one might argue, marginal income is pooling in ever-larger eddies of safety, concerned not-in-the-least about returns, but just preservation. Yet WE NEED TO SPEND in order to keep the balls of the macroeconomy in the air (i.e. blood of the economy adequately circulating) so as to not induce economy-wide liquidation at a time of high aggregate indebtedness - a event that would cause irreparable and irrecoverable economic losses in output, skills and invested capital - all which are likely to be largely unnecessary. To summarize, we need to spend, but can't, and even though we have the means (in aggregate), we won't (or they who have the means won't), whether out of fear, moral turpitude, or just plain greed, and politically, cannot arrive at a place to mobilize the resources, to invest in what's needed, which creates the virtuous circle of keeping the economy humming by better distributing income, reducing Govt expenditure by reducing the need for countercyclical stabilizers and distortionary monetary policies. Whew.

Now, heartier peoples on the planet, during times of financial crises, have inhaled deeply before paying-up as the Koreans did in 1998 contributing family silver to national treasury for the greater good. Or, like the Germans, during good times, increasing the VAT to increase the likelihood of sustainable public finance. But in America, for whatever reason, contemplating such demands causes one to be associated with Mao and Stalin, rather than Gandhi, Rowntree, Cadbury or Raiffeisen. This, in itself shouldn't prevent the better policy from being pursued. Undoubtedly, too much blood-squeezing demands for revenue (as with draconian cuts in expenditure) are likely to yield negative returns (remember that "50% of a goldmine is better than 100% of nothing"). And there ARE negative wealth effects even if this is a Miser's illness, as well as potential emigration outflows and diminished immigration even before considering the possibility of virtue in Libertarian philosophical opposition to higher taxes. Yet where-ever one falls in this debate, this MUST be reconciled with the above if we are to begin to make inroads towards a viable and sustainable solution - and have that solution be generally considered just and fair by most citizens - including sufficiently large numbers of wealth creators.

To break the impasse between the means and the will, I propose that we mandate that some reasonable percentage of marginal income be mandatorily "invested" in a non-political non-governmental investment company that funds/invests in infrastructure and infrastructure renewal across the entire capital structure. The resulting debt, equity, leaseholds, revenue therefrom, or claims on resulting or related revenue streams that result will accrue to the contributors. Mandated investment might for example begin at 5% above $200,000 rising to say 20% above for example $500,000 - on a scale eventually governed by Schiller's suggestion of tying marginal rates to the GINI itself). Importantly, by design, these "investments" would have a broader mandates, longer time-horizons, lower hurdle rates of return - much lower than ludicrous PFI schemes in the UK, but which nonetheless are analysed and vetted as investments and not gifts, or transfers, resulting in an asset - be it a school, a bridge, urban subway system, housing, claims on future road or gasoline taxes, smart-grid, etc. It effectively forces recirculation without outright sequestration, while respecting accounting conventions.

This is structurally important, and would contribute towards solving (though obviously not completely solve) all the aforementioned problems simultaneously. Some key features are that it would:
(1) recognize that the eddying pools of capital, with lowest MPC, seeking safety are, beyond a point, stultifying to the economy;
(2) that by spending it or more accurately, forcibly investing it, creates skilled jobs with virtuous multiplier effects throughout public and private sectors;
(3) In the process, presumably creates long-life asset values to which value will be preserved (and grow) over the longer term since many quality infrastructure investments have productive lives much longer than their depreciated values (just look at the embarrassment of cash flows of NY Port Authority or NJ Turnpike Authority);
(4) through the creation of employment and productivity-enhancing infrastructure constructively REDUCES the Govt deficit by reducing the demand for countercyclical stabilizers;
(5) maintains integrity of property rights as ultimate ownership interests in the resulting asset values, potential future cash flows and/or return of invested capital, remains with the investor, resembling a closed-end fund.
(6) such interests could (and should) be traded in a secondary market. The market would discount these - at times heavily - but they remain an asset for patrimony and NOT a tax sequestration making them philosophically more palatable and diminishing potential negative wealth effects.
(7) Management should be beyond BOTH politicians, and investors control. Think Bernard Baruch. Investment and funding goals should be codified and agreed by the board of trustees - itself appointed from multiple constituencies else it be captured by Govt OR Investors. All investments and contracts should be completely transparent. Oversight by Trustees addresses fears of government largesse or inefficiency.
(8) Investments will likely yield further taxable gains (though initial investments if/when returned could left untaxed due to the quasi-social purpose.

Now, I have little doubt there are criticisms from all sides, and many shortcomings.
The proverbial devil is always in the detail. What precise objectives? What rates of return might be acceptable? How to allocate? Who to allocate? How to negotiate? Will it not just result in further regressive transfers of wealth from poorer to wealthier when it is progressive redistribution that is called for? How would it balance the Public's interest in most benefit for least returns, with the investors' hope/desire for most return for delivering least benefit? How will elections effect outcomes? How can it avoid/escape overt political pressure? Will it just spawn self-perpetuating bureaucracy? All valid, and so many more questions. Yet, I cannot help but think it could be a "scrabble-solution" to the difficult problems confronting us, overcoming the inability of opposing forces to meet in the middle.

(I would like to thank Steve Randy Waldman for his critical thoughts in the concept)