At What Cost?

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Steve Betts, www.thestockmarketbarometer.com

Whenever you embark on a significant activity, and it doesn’t matter whether its business or personal, you have to ask yourself two important questions: why and at what cost. In 1913 the United States adopted a central bank system and an income tax, both of which were and remain unconstitutional. At the time the United States was the richest creditor nation in the world and already had the best central banker in the world, gold! The US settled all transactions in gold and in order to spend more, it would need to have more gold. Gold could not be printed or created in some computer hard drive; it had to be dug out of the ground at great personal and financial sacrifice. Even more than this, gold represented real wealth and that’s why a 1913 dollar bought the same thing as an 1841 dollar, and that’s what a store of wealth is supposed to do. This begs the question why you change something that seemed to work almost to perfection. For the answer to that question, you need to go back a little further, to 1907 to be exact.

In 1907 the markets suffered the worst financial crisis in their history, but this crisis devastated Wall Street while leaving Main Street mostly intact. A lot of big name brokers and bankers went down the tubes as a result of the 1907 panic and that inspired the survivors to get together and create a plan that would prevent another such crisis. The group included Morgan, Vanderbilt, DuPont, and Rothschild, and they all ended up as shareholders in the new and private Federal Reserve System. The problem with gold during a crisis is that you can´t increase the supply overnight, so “bailouts” are not possible. Too big to fail banks and brokerages must therefore fail, and that was an unacceptable and intolerable situation for Wall Street. So they created the Federal Reserve and paper money “to facilitate business and the economy”, which would be backed by gold. In an emergency, you could always print paper and then drain liquidity once the crisis had passed. Additionally, they created the IRS with the mission to tax personal income, so the government would have funds to handle any emergency.

Now we get down to the meat of the issue, at what cost? Everything we do in life has a cost, but usually it’s so miniscule that it is seldom noticed. Going back before 1913 the United States had experienced an industrial revolution that led to the development of a strong middle class in America, and that middle class had as a group, accumulated wealth. That wealth served to make the US the richest creditor nation in the world, and it was decided that wealth would be better served if it were transferred to Wall Street for “safekeeping”. After all, they were in the money business. The private Federal Reserve was created with no assets, allowed to print money backed by gold the middle class had earned, and then charged interest and fees to distribute that money. In 1932 Roosevelt confiscated all the gold held by Americans and in 1973 Nixon eliminated the gold standard altogether. Any attempts to interfere with Fed business was dealt with harshly. 

So the idea was to transfer as much of the wealth as possible from Main Street to Wall Street and it would do so through taxation and the creation of a fiat currency, that would eat away at the purchasing power of the middle class. And that is the true cost of the Federal Reserve. The average American has gone from a saver to a debtor, while the US went from the largest creditor nation to the largest debtor nation ever seen. The transition took a century and is now in the final phases and the massive bailouts that we’ve seen are nothing more than an attempt to drain the last cent from the last American before the whole thing goes under. For more than ten years the Federal Reserve has done everything possible to change the primary trend of the markets from bearish to bullish. Although I note the bull market as having topped in October 2007, the real top was back in 1999, but the Greenspan Fed delayed that with massive amounts of liquidity. Now the Bernanke Fed is trying to do the same thing. In modern history no one has every succeeded in changing the primary trend of a major market.

The result of this misguided policy is to postpone the inevitable, but at a cost. The cost is a series of unintended consequences that only now are beginning to float to the surface. Like icebergs, we see only a small portion of the problem until it’s too late. I contend that it is now too late. The ship of the economy is now run up against the iceberg, huge holes are being gashed into the hull, water is pouring in, and all the passengers are passed out in the bar. Any effort to put more punch into the bowl will prove to be futile and the resulting hangover will be debilitating to say the least. The morning after survivors will swear that famous oath of “never again”, form committees, assign blame, and then start the whole process all over again. For the few that will have any money left, and the courage required, stocks will become cheap and there will be a great buying opportunity. For the large majority there will only be misery.

Of course governments are obliged to throw the public a bone every once in a while, no meat, just a bone. Obama ran on the promise of change and then came in and bailed out Wall Street at the cost of US $2 trillion. He distracted the public’s attention with his proposed health care package that in the end no one wanted. Now he has a new mantra, job creation. He recently put forward the idea of a US $40 billion fund for job promotion and now he recommended the commencement of several nuclear plants that will mean more jobs. Unfortunately the President failed to say that most of the jobs for nuclear plants are high paying technical positions and there aren’t that many required. If you really want to create jobs it’s the small business owner that does it, and he has his back against the wall and it gets worse every month, as you can see in the chart posted above. The number of businesses with cash flow problems is on the rise, meaning they’ll reduce their labor costs instead of hiring new workers.

The question now is what can you do about it? I believe the only solution comes in the form of one ounce coins that contain gold. All markets are barometers of future activity and no market is more sensitive to the qualms and traumas of everyday life than gold. Also, I think it’s fair to say that it has never been this difficult to understand the gold market. The IMF comes out and announces the sale of 191 tons of gold, in an effort to manipulate the price lower, and gold falls, for about an hour. Then the Fed authors a surprise rate hike and gold falls for a couple of hours. One gold guru says the yellow metal is going to US $5,000 while Elliot Wave says it’s going to US $400.00. In one minute gold is up 15.00 and an hour later gold is down 20.00. What do you do and who do you believe? Years ago I took a simple, albeit difficult path, and decided that I would only follow the primary trend. The primary trend in gold turned up in 2001 and has been heading higher ever since. I took my initial position in 2002 and I’ve done my best to add on after significant dips. Sometimes I’ve timed it right and sometimes I haven’t, but the one thing I’ve never done is sell!

Below I’ve posted a monthly chart with respect to the gold bull market and I have some interesting observations. You can see that the current price is right about in the middle of the two ascending bands that define the primary trend. Also, I’ve divided the current bull market into the first and second phases, and I’ve given you a short explanation for each of the first two phases. The question now is whether or not gold has entered a new third phase with the breakout above 1,000.00 and we really won’t know until gold makes the next move. Incidentally, the third phase is highlighted by buying from the general public and there are certainly no signs of that. On the monthly chart gold’s price actually appears to be consolidating for the next move higher. It will continue to consolidate as long as it holds above support at 1,048.90. On the other hand it will require a close above 1,136.70 to bring gold to an upside breakout, and that hasn’t happened yet. On Friday the spot gold closed out the week at 1,117.00 and that’s about a sixteen dollar gain for the five sessions, although it felt like a loss due to the volatility.
So the primary trend for gold is up, it is completely intact and in no danger of being violated, and it appears that we could be close to a break out to the upside. So why is everybody so negative? Part of it has to do with ignorance. The large majority of people view gold as a commodity when in fact it is a store of wealth. These same people view fiat currency as money when in fact it is debt; a “promise to pay” can only be interpreted as debt. Gold on the other hand is the only real money and it says so in the US Constitution. It seems that our founding fathers were a lot smarter than we are!

Over the short run the panorama appears to be improving. Gold recently staged a minor breakout above the upper band of a descending trend line in an effort to move higher. That is a minor victory. The real victory will come when gold closes above the 50% retracement from the December high to the February low and that resistance comes in at 1,136.70.  Until we see a close above that mark, it’s all just a guessing game. Gold had a volatile week with announcements by the IMF and Fed designed to push the price lower and yet it finished higher. The dollar rallied as well and yet gold finished higher, so it would appear that the yellow metal is gaining strength. I have maintained for weeks that the dollar, commodities, and gold are all linked to the Dow over the short run, and I still believe that. Therefore, I won’t get overly excited until I see how gold reacts when the Dow begins to fall in earnest.

In conclusion the dollar, stocks and bonds must head lower over time. The dollar and the bond are debt, while stocks represent value in some company. That value is grossly overvalued as the excess water must be squeezed out. The Fed wants to prevent that and has been doing everything possible for years to stop it. The primary trends in all three are headed down and the Fed wants to change that. If they succeed it will be the first time anyone has ever done that. I suspect they’ll fail. The cost of that failure will be incalculable in terms of both money and social harmony. The standard of living for the average American will drop substantially. Repercussions will follow. The only way to protect yourselves is to buy gold, and physical is preferable to paper. Store it someplace safe and just wait for the storm to pass. I know you are tired of hearing this, and God knows I am tired of saying it, but you’ll come face to face with this reality before the year ends.

Steve Betts
Stock Market Barometer SA
February 21, 2010

12-9

Obama’s Exit Strategy

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Patrick J. Buchanan

If actions speak louder than words, President Obama is cutting America free of George Bush’s wars and coming home.

For his bottom line Tuesday night was that all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by mid-2011 and the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan will, on that date, begin to get smaller and smaller.

Yet the gap between the magnitude of the crisis he described and the action he is taking is the Grand Canyon.

Listing the stakes in Afghanistan, Obama might have been FDR in a fireside chat about America’s war against a Japanese empire that had just smashed the fleet at Pearl Harbor, seized the Philippines, Guam and Wake, and was moving on Midway.

Consider the apocalyptic rhetoric:

“As commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest …”

“If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake …”

“For what is at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility, what’s at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.”

After that preamble, one might expect the announcement of massive U.S. air strikes on some rogue nation. Yet what was the action decided upon? “I … will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

To secure America and the world, not 5 percent of the Army and Marine Corps will be surged into Afghanistan for 18 months — then they will start home.
Let us put that in perspective.

During the Korean War, we had a third of a million men fighting. In 1969, we had half a million troops in Vietnam. But in Afghanistan, where the security of the world is at stake, Obama is topping out at 100,000 troops and will start drawing them down in July 2011.

“Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America’s war,” said Obama. But if the burden is not ours alone to bear, where is everybody else?

Apparently, the Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Indians and Arabs do not believe their security is imperiled, because we are doing all the heavy lifting, economically and militarily.

The contradictions in Obama’s speech are jarring.

He says the new U.S. troops are to “train competent Afghan Security Forces and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help to create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.”

Thus, we are going to train the Afghan army and police so that, in 18 months, they can take over the fighting in a war where the security of the United States and the whole world is in the balance?

Moreover, the commitment is not open-ended, but conditional. “It will be clear to the Afghan government — and … the Afghan people — that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country. … The days of providing a blank check are over.”

Most Americans will agree the time is at hand for Afghans to take responsibility for their own country. But, if the stakes are what the president says, can we entrust a war to preserve our vital national interests and security to an Afghan army no one thinks will be able, in 18 months, to defeat a Taliban that has pushed a U.S.-NATO coalition to the brink of defeat?

At West Point, Obama did not hearken back to Gen. MacArthur’s dictum — “War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war, there is no substitute for victory” — but to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s, that we must maintain a balance between defense and domestic programs.

Obama was not citing the Eisenhower of Normandy but President Eisenhower, who ended Korea by truce, refused to intervene in Indochina, did nothing to halt Nikita Khrushchev’s crushing of the Hungarian revolution, ordered the British, French and Israelis out of Suez, and presided over eight years of peace and prosperity, while building up America’s might and getting in lots of golf at Burning Tree.

Not a bad president. Not a bad model.

How can we reconcile Obama’s end-times rhetoric about the stakes imperiled with an 18-month surge of just 30,000 troops?

Stanley McChrystal won the argument over troops. But Obama, in his heart, does not want to fight Bush’s “Long War.” He wants to end it. Obama is not LBJ plunging into the big muddy. He is Nixon coming out, while giving an embattled ally a fighting chance to save itself.

In four years, Nixon was out of Vietnam. In 18 months, Obama says we will be out of Iraq with a steadily diminishing presence in Afghanistan.

What we heard Tuesday night was the drum roll of an exit strategy.

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, “The Death of the West,”, “The Great Betrayal,” “A Republic, Not an Empire” and “Where the Right Went Wrong.”

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