Thursday, August 20, 2015
An older note, still timely. TANSTAAFL
June 24, 2015
This summer has been about reflection. Looking back. Feeling what was. This summer marks 20 years since the inception of Native American Advisors, Inc. It seems like only yesterday I was filling out a myriad of forms with the United States Securities & Exchange Commission to do what I do. It’s been a great run, greater than I ever imagined. To do business with so many friends across the world has been a blessed gift. My job is a hobby that I found a way to get paid for. Some people play golf. I come to work. I am lucky to have what I think is the best job in the world. This year I have spent plenty of time looking at my life. How do I want it to end? And what do I want to leave? I think of the many great clients I had the privilege to work with over the years that are no longer alive. I think of the great people I have come to know and how they live their lives. I have learned so much from each and every one of you! And yes, I still read obituaries every week in several newspapers. Life and lives well led are still the greatest learning tools.
The legacy that my wife Pam and I always wanted to provide for our sons, Hunter and Jordan, was to educate them with a set of values and a set of ethics that instill a moral compass and spirituality they can build their lives on. For me, being reliable, being consistent, being disciplined and being present have always been major fundamentals in my business philosophy. Some people called me a dreamer. I’ve had doubters along the way. I have always tried to be a realist. No bullshit. I think I always called it the way I see it.
Rare is the person who is a realist. We live in a world of pretend and lies. Can you fathom that Brian Williams is still making $10,000,000 a year at MSNBC? A couple of weeks ago I was told by somebody that calling yourself a “realist” just means you’re a pessimist who doesn’t want to admit it to everyone. I generally tell people who want to engage in conversation about their financial strategy a simple line of “who knows what’s going on, why worry about it” and it shuts them up. They seem to like that far better than me giving them a quick down and dirty of where we are in the markets and as a nation. It shows me that ignorance really is bliss!
From my perch in front of several monitors I see what is coming. It’s not pretty. It’s realism. Here’s why.
The very structure of life in our world is threatened because bankers have undermined the financial system through the creation of debt instead of wealth. We have collectively borrowed against our children’s future until their very future is in doubt. The U.S. national debt is over $18 trillion and growing at a rate of over $2,000,000,000 each and every day. Does that bother you? It does me.
The Federal Reserve began lowering interest rates in late 2007 from 5.25% to 2% by September 2008, and then .25% by January 2009. Did that prevent a 50% collapse in stock prices? Did it prevent national housing prices from plummeting by 35% between 2006 and 2010? The main reason stocks bottomed in March of 2009 was the FASB (Financial Standards Accounting Board) bowing to their masters and revoking mark to market accounting which allowed the insolvent Wall Street banks to pretend they were solvent. The combination of fraudulent accounting, zero interest rates and round after round of QE money printing has propelled this mania to epic proportions. Total stock market valuation of $36 trillion now exceeds 200% of GDP. Prior to the Fed bubble blowing era, the total stock market valuation averaged about 50% of GDP.
As I write this, the S&P 500 index currently stands at 2,124, fractionally below its all-time high. It is now 300% above the 2009 low and 34% above the 2008 and 2001 previous highs. Most people believe this is the new normal. They are comfortably numb in their ignorance of facts, reality, the truth, and the inevitability of a massive market correction. When the CNBC crowd and market herd is convinced progress and never ending gains are the norm, the apparent stability and normality always degenerate into instability and extreme anxiety. Today, the stock market is as overvalued as it was in 1929, 2000, and 2007.
As you have seen, facts haven’t mattered, as belief in the infallibility of Federal Reserve bankers, has convinced “professionals” to program their high frequency trading supercomputers to buy the all-time high. If central bankers were really smart and low interest rates guaranteed endless stock market gains, then why did the stock market crash in 2000 and 2008? The Federal Reserve’s monetary policies created the bubbles in 2000, 2007 and today. There was no particular single event which caused the crashes in 2000 and 2008. Extreme overvaluation, created by warped Federal Reserve policies and corrupt Washington D.C. fiscal policies, is what made the previous bubbles burst and will lead the current bubble to rupture.
This is not a dire prediction of doom and gloom, nor is it a "bearish" forecast. It is just a function of how markets work over time. This time it is "not different." It’s just being real.
Here are some facts. The government tells you the unemployment rate stands at 5.6%. There are close to 95,000,000 people not working in our country who could be working. You do that math, it’s real simple. After three rounds of massive money printing and doubling the national debt it doesn’t take a genius to get this result. Wall Street has been bailed out by 7 years of nearly zero interest rates and yet the first quarter of 2015 saw our GDP rate contract to 0.07%. You call that growth? Inflation is here and now. Look at two things you need, gas and food for starters. Government tells you inflation is contained. Meat and eggs are two staples I love and gas was $1.86 when Obama took over. I see inflation very well. It’s real.
The mouthpieces for the vested interests on Wall Street and slithering around the halls of Congress roll out their tired storylines about low interest rates supporting ridiculous valuations and corporate profits remaining permanently high because we’ve entered a new paradigm. I have heard it all before. Taking extreme risks based upon false economic beliefs with delusions of never ending gains produced by Wall Street HFT (High Frequency Trading) super-computers will end in tears.
As well, stock market structure has changed dramatically since I first walked onto the NYSE floor in 1983. Most market professionals I meet haven’t even read “Flash Boys”. Sadly, I am still unable at this point to direct order flow to the IEX exchange from my custodian. The real crime of HFT is that Congress, the SEC and other regulators have allowed a handful of Wall Street firms to assemble a set of market rules that few people understand and virtually nobody at the SEC has a clue how they should work. That it’s rather ugly is too kind.
Keeping interest rates low will come home to roost. Their effect on the middle class, retiree savers, and financial market stability is catastrophic and unlike the purported benefits of QE, the negative effects grow (in some cases exponentially). The end result is an entire class of savers devastated by negative real returns (even as the government is able to sustain what would otherwise be an unsustainable debt burden). I talk to people every day that think Social Security will save them and young people unable to pull their heads out of their cell phones. Right, let’s get real, everything is awesome! Really, it’s not!
As we’ve seen time and time again, profits have been privatized but losses have been socialized, (taxpayers bail out the bankers who go on to get even richer) and so when the market distortions created by Fed policies that have served to restore the fortunes of the rich finally blow-up in an even more spectacular collapse, you can count on the fact it will be taxpayers like me, you and Main Street’s John and Sally Lunchbucket that will pay to repair a system broken by the same policies that worked to relegate them to second class citizenship. Put simply: when the bubbles burst, it will add insult to injury for those who suffer most under the financial shenanigans of the Fed.
And let me briefly weigh in on politics. The entire American political system is a con. It’s a sleazy mix of legalized bribes, auctioning off of favors, revolving doors between government agencies and the corporations they enrich. Frankly, I believe it’s a false choice between two parties that are the same poison sold under different labels. I don’t think I missed anything other than the slimy lobbyists that spend almost $10,000,000 every working day on lobbying efforts. And finally, who knew that the central banks, yes, the Fed, would be buying stock markets? Ask yourself why they are doing this when their mandate is not supposed to do anything with the equity markets? Who knew they were buying? The corruption and manipulation is so ingrained into the system that no election will ever bring us back to normal. That’s really how I see it.
In closing, I guess only in economics and politics can facts not matter and fantasy become reality. I hope I am ready for what’s coming when it comes, with my money and yours.
And I sincerely hope this note finds you well in health and spirit, love and family.
With best wishes,