January 4, 2016
On September 4, 1993, President Bill Clinton spoke about the American Dream in a weekly radio address.
He told his audience that “in America, the idea is that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll be rewarded with a good life for yourself and a better chance for your children.”
That’s what America used to stand for, and indeed much of the Western world. Freedom. Truth. Hard work and fair play. Building a better life.
But those ideals have all but faded now, displaced by a new normal of war, debt, government surveillance, freedom-killing bureaucracy, and a monetary policy that decimates responsible, hard-working people for the benefit of a tiny elite.
In his end-of-year commentary in the Washington Post, writer George Will summed up 2015 citing example after example of government overreach and excess–
- The value of property seized by the US federal government through Civil Asset Forfeiture exceeded the value of property stolen by burglars and thieves
- Florida police raided a Mahjong game played by four women aged 87 through 95 because they were *gasp* betting with their own money
- New Jersey police arrested a 72-year old retired schoolteacher for illegally carrying a firearm– a 300-year old flintlock pistol he had purchased from an antique dealer
- A 9-year old in Florida was threatened with sexual harassment charges for writing love notes to a girl saying that her eyes sparkled like diamonds
George Will’s list, of course, barely scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg.
2015 was the year that the middle class was officially vanquished in the Land of the Free, with its share of the population falling to just 50%.
US federal debt reached nearly $19 trillion in 2015, an increase of almost $750 billion during the calendar year.
The US government published over 80,000 pages of new regulations, making it nearly impossible to understand ‘the rules’, let alone play by them.
2015 also saw the passing of incomprehensibly terrible laws, including the USA Freedom Act, which restored many of the worst parts of the PATRIOT Act that were set to expire.
Then there was the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, passed at the end of the year, which officially turns the Land of the Free into a gigantic information-sharing surveillance state.
And of course the 2015 spending bill, which as of 3 days ago, allows the US government to strip you of your passport if they believe in their sole discretion that you owe them money.
These are hardly the actions of a solvent, trustworthy government, or a nation that’s on the right track.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this story doesn’t have a happy ending.
We can pretend that this time is different, that this country is different, that there is some special sauce that allows this government to run massive imbalances forever.
But deep down we all know the truth… and where this is headed.
I’ve read no shortage of apocalyptic predictions suggesting that 2016 is the year of the dollar collapse. Or the global economic collapse.
Or something else that invariably ends in the word ‘collapse.’
I don’t believe that. First, no one can credibly answer the question “when?”
Governments have surprised us all with their uncanny ability to kick the can down the road and delay the repercussions of their folly.
But I don’t really think the question of ‘when’ is relevant.
Nearly every major western government is insolvent. Entire monetary and financial systems are insolvent.
Governments have destroyed their own middle classes, giving rise to the greatest wealth gap that has existed since the Great Depression.
The risks are obvious. And you either stick your head in the sand and ignore them, or you take steps to reduce their impact on your life.
It’s like anything else– if you live in a wildfire zone, you get fire insurance. And you’ll never be worse off for having good coverage on your home to protect your family.
Having a Plan B just makes sense, regardless of whether a major disaster occurs in 2016, next year, or never.
We can’t see the future, we can only see the risks today. Develop a Plan B that addresses those risks, and you’ll never have to worry about the future again.
PS. Financial markets are certainly no exception to the adage that “history repeats itself”. My friend and colleague Tim Price dives back over four decades of stock market history to demonstrate that the market is severely overvalued right now.