Former Reagan budget director David Stockman has a new book coming out on Tuesday, and he’s warming up the public with a massive piece in today’s New York Times titled Sundown in America, which basically says the future of America bleak because of massive government debts, crony capitalism, bailouts, megabanks, the removal of the gold standard, and even green energy.
The piece can truly be characterised as Hard Money Buzzword Bingo, as Stockman tries to get in as many scare lines as possible.
Check out this one sentence where he talks about bubbles, Wall Street casinos, the Crucifixion of savers, commodities Main Street, a “Great Deformation”, and a rogue central bank:
Instead of moderation, what’s at hand is a Great Deformation, arising from a rogue central bank that has abetted the Wall Street casino, crucified savers on a cross of zero interest rates and fuelled a global commodity bubble that erodes Main Street living standards through rising food and energy prices — a form of inflation that the Fed fecklessly disregards in calculating inflation.
It just goes on and on like this, but his final suggestion is to run for the hills:
The United States is broke — fiscally, morally, intellectually — and the Fed has incited a global currency war (Japan just signed up, the Brazilians and Chinese are angry, and the German-dominated euro zone is crumbling) that will soon overwhelm it. When the latest bubble pops, there will be nothing to stop the collapse. If this sounds like advice to get out of the markets and hide out in cash, it is.
It’s hard to know where to begin poking holes in the whole thing, but probably the most telling and self-contradicting aspect, is the fact that he traces the original sin of the economy back to FDR taking the US off of the gold standard.
The state-wreck originated in 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt opted for fiat money (currency not fundamentally backed by gold), economic nationalism and capitalist cartels in agriculture and industry.
The problem is that the last 80 years, since then have represented a marvellous time for economic progress in America (and elsewhere). Standards of living have soared, and the tools of modern economic management have meant that we’ve never had another economic crash anywhere near the level we saw during The Great Depression.
Beyond that, the fact that things have gone on for 80 years without the gigantic collapse that Stockman has predicted is a sign that perhaps FDR’s move wasn’t so horrible.
The last few years have been devastating to people with Stockman’s biases.
The dollar hasn’t collapsed. Inflation hasn’t soared (food prices are stable). Total debt to GDP (when you include private debt) has shrunk. The financial sector has begun to normalize as a share of the economy. Housing has come back. US borrowing costs are not exploding. Inflation expectations very far out remain tame… probably too tame.
In fact the big surprised to many in the economic community is how the US — which was already seen as an ageing lumbering giant in the years going into the crisis (2005, 2006, 2007) is now seen as the country in the best shape in the developed world. There’s a widespread view that you have to be long the US in part because of how well we’ve managed our crisis, but also because factors like energy and demographics augur so well for America’s future.
There have been numerous warnings from people like Stockman over the last few years, and the market consistently rejects them.
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