GUALFIN, ARGENTINA – Today, we have no jokes. And we won’t try to fool you with some April Fools’ gag.
Instead, we’ll let the ghosts speak.
Ask the Ghost
Our generation is, of course, the most fabulous group of people who ever walked on two legs… with a more keenly honed sense of right and wrong than any other, before or after.
We not only care about our fellow man… we also care about the blue-tailed horned tree frog… and about the earth itself.
Not only that, but we have an incredibly learned view of how economies work. We can avoid the downswing of the business cycle, almost indefinitely, and run up such mountains of debt as previous generations would have regarded with alarm and disgust.
But compared to us, those who came before were morons… and those who will come after will be idiots. No doubt about it. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be undoing the works of the past… and spending the money of the future.
We know what we think of them – those poor slobs of past generations and the hopeless dumbos yet unborn – but in the spirit of mischief, we thought we’d ask the ghosts what they think of us.
Today, we let a shade from the past speak. Tomorrow, we will give the podium to a phantom from the future:
“Uh… thanks for the opportunity, I guess. Gosh, nobody ever asked what I thought… I mean, speaking from beyond the grave and all. So here goes.”
“I don’t mean to sound critical, but right off the bat I notice some big differences between what we did and what you are doing.
“Let’s begin with money. I died in 1960. The federal budget was balanced when I checked out. It’s not that we didn’t know about debt. We ran huge debts in WWII.
“But we were fighting a real war. One we could lose. Not some phony-baloney war with people who didn’t have a country, an army, a navy, or an air force. ‘Terrorists’ you call them. Ha ha.
“And then, when our real war was over, we sent the troops home, cut the military budget, and began paying down the debt. Isn’t that the right way to do it?
“But you didn’t have any war to fight… and when your only adversary – the Soviet Union – threw in the towel, instead of cutting back on the military, you actually increased it. Geez, what were you thinking?
“Spending more money on ‘defense,’ even though you don’t have any enemies you needed to defend against? I don’t get it.
“And you increased spending on domestic giveaways, too – medical care and social security pensions, mostly. And I’m not going to bother with all those crazy agencies and departments that spend a few billion here and a few billion there… and nobody knows what the heck it is for.
“And the result is that, now, you’ve got a debt of $22 trillion that you can’t possibly pay. They still taught arithmetic when I was in school. And I see you’re spending 38% of GDP, but you’re only collecting about 17% of GDP in taxes.
“And this is in a time of peace. And prosperity. What’s going to happen if you ever have a real war? Or a real depression? I’ll tell you; those numbers – bad as they are – are going to get a lot worse. And you’re going to have a real crisis on your hands.
“What kind of financial management is that? And you’ve got a Fed that is manipulating interest rates to encourage people to borrow more. I don’t get that, either.
“And you think you’re so smart… with all those PhDs at the Fed. Well, let me ask you something. We got 5% growth… throughout the 1950s. You’ve barely got 2% for the last 10 years. We did it while paying down the national debt. You added $13 trillion. How come?
“And our wages went up – for working people, as well as managers and executives – year after year. Your wages (except for the rich) have been flat for 40 years. Why is that?”
Geniuses and Saints
“But let’s switch to politics. We had some heated political debates in our day, too. But people were still usually polite and dignified. And their private lives were generally off limits.
“And compared to the candidates you vote for, ours were geniuses… and saints. I voted for Eisenhower, a guy who led the largest successful seaborne invasion of all time. Whom did you vote for?
“Honestly, in a nation of 330 million people, couldn’t you find any better candidates than a big mouth draft-dodger… or a person who says he’s a ‘socialist’? How can you claim to be an American and support either one of them?
“And your president, who never saw a single day of military service, seems to think it is his duty to tarnish the reputation of a dead man who spent five and a half years in a prisoner-of-war camp. He says he likes soldiers who weren’t captured.
“In World War II, we had 120,000 men who spent time in enemy prisoner-of-war camps. Four out of 10 of those captured by the Japanese died in their horrible camps. The rest came back heroes. And if any politician had dared to say anything against them his career would have been over.
“What happened? What changed? What’s wrong with you?”
“But I’m not finished. That’s just politics and economics. I see, in Baltimore, and many other cities, you’re taking down the monuments to Confederate soldiers… and to a Supreme Court judge.
“And you can’t listen to Amos ‘n’ Andy… and some schools want to ban Tom Sawyer. You say we were ‘racists.’ You say we were ‘homophobic,’ whatever that means. And we didn’t have special bathrooms for ‘trans’ people, whatever they are. And you say we were all ‘misogynists.’ You can’t even ask a girl out, without risking a federal case.
“But what makes you think our fathers and grandfathers were any more nasty or mean-spirited than you are? They put up those monuments – to soldiers of the North and the South in the War Between the States – because they wanted to honor men who did their duty, as they saw it, and died for a cause they believed in.
“And now you come along and tear down those statues. Who do you think you are? What do you know about their suffering? What do you know about their sense of honor… or right and wrong… and what is worth remembering?
“And you think you’re making progress? You think you’ve made a better world? Well, it doesn’t seem better to me. Back in my day, we could laugh at each other… and ourselves. Now, you can’t laugh at all. You take everything deadly serious. You tell a joke and your career is over.
“And there were a lot of things that were just better back in my day. We didn’t need no damned wall with Mexico. We got along with the Mexicans just fine without a wall.
“We didn’t have any federal welfare program, so those who came across the border came to work and we were happy to have them. By the way, you spent $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs over the last 50 years. And guess what? The percentage of poor people when you started was about 15%. And it’s still 15%. Good work.
“We didn’t have a drug war, either… so we didn’t have all the violence you have. Didn’t you learn anything from our Prohibition program? It was a disaster. And we could have told you that your prohibition on drugs would be a disaster, too.
“You spent $1 trillion on your campaign to eliminate illegal drugs – while simultaneously promoting legal drugs, which often turned out to be more dangerous.
“And now you’re spending $100 billion per year. What do you get for it? The rate of drug use remains about the same… but you arrest 1.5 million people per year on drug charges. Good work, again.
“And we didn’t need a trade war, either. We had the strongest economy on the planet, with trade that was in balance. Of course, we also had real money back then – a dollar that was backed by gold… so neither trade nor debt could get too far out of whack.
“I’m not saying we were perfect. Of course, we weren’t. But we weren’t any worse than you are.
“So how can you be so sure we were wrong… that we were so awful?
“Do you think we didn’t care about right and wrong… and didn’t try to separate good from bad… in our own way? Do you think you’re so smart… so pure… so sure you’re right about everything that anyone who ever had any different ideas must have been either evil or stupid?
“That the thousand generations that came before you had learned nothing… and had nothing to teach you? So that you can ignore everything they told you?
“You think that, don’t you? Well, I think you’re a fool.”
Next up tomorrow… what the future thinks of us.
MARKET INSIGHT: FINANCIALS ARE THE CANARY IN THE COAL MINE
By Joe Withrow, Head of Research, Bonner & Partners
The S&P 500 gained 1.8% in March, inching the snapback rally higher. But there was a major red flag…
While most S&P 500 sectors produced gains last month, Financials plunged…
As you can see, Financials – which includes some of the world’s largest banks and financial services companies – dropped 3.1%, despite most S&P 500 sectors moving higher. That tells us this snapback rally is on shaky ground…
As we noted last week, the financial sector makes up 13% of the S&P 500. And it tends to lead the market. That’s because banks and financial services companies dictate the flow of money… Which is the lifeblood of the economy.
But when these stocks fall, it can signal a drop in the broader market. We saw this last year.
Bank stocks peaked on August 8, 2018 and proceeded to fall 27% through December 24.
The fall in the financial sector was followed by a drop in the broader market.
The S&P 500 fell about 20% from September 20 through December 24…
That’s why last month’s performance in the Financials sector is a big red flag.
If Financials continue to fall, the S&P 500 is likely to follow.
– Joe Withrow
The Money-Losers Go Public
Ride-hailing company Lyft went public last Friday. At writing, the company is valued at $26.4 billion; making it a large-cap stock by most definitions. The only problem? The company is losing money. A lot of it.
And read also…
Why Are Investors Rushing Into IPOs?
IPOs are back. After years of sluggish rates of initial public offerings, several big-name private companies are coming to the public markets. And investors are rushing in. The recent IPO of Levi Strauss was 10 times oversubscribed. None of the investors seem to mind the fact that, historically, IPOs underperform over the long haul.
Here’s What Pops the “Everything Bubble”…
As Bill showed last week, the Fed’s policies haven’t done much for the real economy. And Casey Research’s Nick Giambruno thinks all this “stimulating” has set the stage for something even worse… and when this thing “pops,” it might just take the economy down with it.
Today, readers stick to two of their favorite topics: the monetary system and President Trump. And one dear reader jumps to our editor’s defense…
The major problem with the monetary system is it must continue to expand or it crashes. The producer of the money has only so many ways to get it out there which makes government ever more tyrannical, since it doesn’t have anything to sell or promote but protection, which is the business it is in.
Of course the resulting inflation may make government able to pretend to pay its bills, but that pretense comes at the expense of everybody else who really can’t afford the pretense.
– Mike R.
I agree with most of your positions, but not your tax-cut stuff. Trump’s tax cuts and regulation policies have resulted in a larger amount of tax revenue into the hands of an out-of-control spending government. The real problem is spending and I know you know that. I don’t get why you falsely accuse tax cuts as aggravating the debt, when, with the lower tax rate, the government is collecting more money than it did when the rate was higher. It’s a spending problem!
– Norman W.
One of the things I like best about your newsletter is that you print the most outrageously false complaints from your readers, without trying to defend yourself.
For example, this one, from Helen W.: “Just to let you know, President Trump is the best thing that happened to the USA! All you socialist democrats are a disgrace to the USA! If you want socialism, move to a country that lives it and enjoy it. We, as American citizens, love freedom!”
She obviously sent it to the wrong address. You already moved to those countries after pointing out all the ways we are becoming like them and why we should not do so. She must have been reading someone else.
Further proof of the error: No one has ever heard you be anything other than pro-freedom in the newsletter. It’s also possible, she has the wrong Trump. He took to using power to manipulate (mandates, threats, trade wars, Fed appointees) like a duck to water. He’s so anti-freedom, he’s building a wall to keep us from crossing our own border!
– Sandra K.
And a couple of readers enjoyed Bill’s latest ranch tale as a reprieve from “doom and gloom”…
“Once a Gaucho… Always a Gaucho” was a joyously blessed relief from all of the doom and gloom (albeit accurate) of your usual Diary entries. I empathize with the gauchos who visited your ranch and their desire to maintain contact with their roots. The explanation they gave of the originario situation you face should give you great comfort. I hope you retained the lawyers among them to represent you against those who scheme to take your ranch.
– Dale A.
I really enjoy these articles and dream of the day I would have the guts to move to some place like a remote Argentina. Or even more likely, a place like Medellín, Colombia, where I could live rather cheaply. On remote Argentina, is there room for a guy with just a few hundred thousand and a pension and Social Security check (I know, those may not last) to make a home there?
– Thomas W.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…
Here’s something the mainstream media won’t tell you…
A new technological breakthrough is expected to unlock $12.3 trillion in new wealth, giving it the potential to be the single-best investment opportunity of 2019.
And Jeff Brown, Bill’s go-to tech expert, has discovered the one small company that is perfectly positioned to profit from this mountain of money… but you’ll want to act quickly. Read on here.