Wrisley.com
 A curmudgeonly survey of monetary trends and other strange happenings.
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(Caveat Emptor)

News and opinion from all over the political universe. 

Much of it to be taken with several grains of salt.

February 24th, 2020

   Email:  Wrisley.com


    STOCK MARKET STUBS ITS TOE.
Gold, however, shines brighter than it has is 7 years.
    Whom to credit...or blame?
   
    Whenever the DJIA begins trading at a 3 percent deficit blame must be placed, and the logical scoundrel is the highly contagious Wuha virus. It is now popping up well outside of China and is disrupting commercial trade at several levels.

     Will the Federal Reserve step up the money pumps to lift the stock market out its swoon? The Fed doesn't have the clout it used to. Besides, it is already being accused of injecting Quantitative Easing into the financial markets  - although mainstream economists are still debating whether or not that's happening.  With domestic  price inflation edging contstantly upward  it's safe to guess that a lot of spare cash is coming out of thin air thanks to Washington's penchant for spending more money than it takes in from taxes.

      So, with Wall Street having a bad day and gold prices swinging to the upside what do we common folk do?

      Nothing. Let's just sit tight and see what happens over the next few days. The prudent citizen will double check his/her net worth and pay down credit card and other consumer debt. Today's market disruption might just inject a new element into the Democrat S.C. Primary Election debate Tuesday night.(Doubtful. The main interest is not in monetary morass but on whether or not the voting majority is ready to take the government framework into all out Socialism.) 


  We can't escape the fact that if money is plentiful enough it is not valuable enough.
If it is valuable enough to do its job as  primary  medium of exchange it is never plentiful enough.

   That's it in a nutshell. If a central bank floods an economic system with a surplus of purchasing media (currency) the value of dollars already circulating is forced lower resulting in higher prices. (Price inflation.)  The U.S. central bank is the Federal Reserve System and its goal is to maintain price inflation at about 2 percent per year.  It is mostly forgotten that no period of money inflating in all of history has not ended. This one must end, too...probably painfully. 

    It is also forgotten that the U.S. Constitution mandates the substance of money. The provision has never been anulled or amended, yet the instruction from the Founders has been totally abandoned. 

    Is it possible to return to the money system mandated by the Contitution? Certainly. But not until there's a groundswell demanding monetary reform..............................his may not happen for another generation, but one day we-the-people must decide whether the founding charter is totally trashed or re-adopted as the law of the land.

     We have embarked on this new decade in hopes voters will embrace the issue and demand politicians start living up to their solemn pledge to uphold the tenets of the nation's Founding Document. They could start by debating the definition of the dollar. We use it to measure our daily economic transactions but cannot explain its substance.

"All debt must be paid, either by the borrower or the lender."
This ancient Greek philosophy is now no longer believed. Or understood.
<    Neither Democrat or Republican parties have a plan for running balanced budgets.  This leaves a serious vacuum which could be filled by a viable third party structured on a sound money platform.  The voting majority may not be interested in reform but the day will come when we come to grips with the issue of a failing fiat currency system.
Senator Sanders' socialist plan has no proven successes in all of history. President Trump does not display an understanding of the perils of a money system based on overwhelming debt.
  
   Somewhere there must be a Statesman (or woman) who "gets it" and knows how to correct the hazards. He or she may not emerge untill the election contest of 2024.


Long faces at McClatchy News.
The venerable news operation  filed for bankruptcy last wee..
    Especially antsy about the announcement are the many retirees from print journalism who count on their pension checks to help them in their senior years. It was startling to read this quote from board chairman Kevin McClatchy.   “While we tried hard to avoid this step, there’s no question that the scale of our 75-year-old pension plan – with 10 pensioners for every single active employee – is a reflection of another economic era.”

    One of our children is a McClatchy pensioner and we will observe with interest how the promise to the pensioners is handled. 

     Our local daily paper, The State, is McClatchy owned and has already cut out its print edition on Saturdays.  The emphasis is on the digital edition and our emailbox fills each day with items designed to tease us into "going digital."  It doesn't take much imagination to envision the day the local daily will fold its print edition and pour its efforts solely into digital news.  H.L. Mencken would be in a state of apoplexy if he knew of this development, although probably not surprised given the  changes in the news business since his departure from this earth  In January, 1956. 


Mortgage borrowing rose by $120 billion to $9.56 trillion. The rate for a 30-year mortgage has fallen by about 100 basis points over the past year, adding to home purchasers’ buying power. For example, a $500,000, 30-year loan costs about $300 less per month.

“Mortgage originations, including refinances, increased significantly in the final quarter of 2019,” Wilbert Van Der Klaauw, vice president at the New York Fed, said in a statement.

Mortgage loans for young adults age 18 to 29 rose to a the highest level since the third quarter of 2007. Originations for 30-year-olds rose to $210.1 billion last quarter -- the highest level since the end of 2005.

Total debt for people ages 18 to 29 rose to a record $1.04 trillion.

Student debt increased to $1.51 trillion from $1.46 trillion at the end of 2018. More than $100 billion in student debt is held by those age 60 and over. Auto loans rose to $1.33 trillion, while credit card debt rose to a record $930 billion.

Auto debt, which has risen for 35 consecutive quarters, increased $16 billion from the previous quarter. Almost 5% of auto loans are 90 days of more delinquent. This is the highest percentage since the third quarter of 2011.

Credit card delinquencies rose to 8.36% an 18-month high.  See DEBT.

Dull stuff, we admit.  Wrapping one's mind around debt running into billions and trillions of dollars is a tall order for most folks.  It helps to remember one billion represents 1 million times 1,000. 

We're reminded if the advice of an early 20th century South Carolina banker to a young man seeking a loan.  Colonel Wylie Jones said "It's easy to run into debt, but if you get out you do so at a walk."  (Not the sort of thing modern bankers would tell would-be borrowers.)



 
"What makes you think that?" 
   We overheard an NPR interviewer this week ask a Wall Street Journal reporter "What makes you think THAT?"  We had not been paying attention to the conversation but sensed it was another in the continuing series of a liberal interviewer quizzing the occasional conservative NPR guest.

    What an interesting question.  Why do any of us think what we do about anything?  Why does Bernie Sanders think so highly of communism and its step-child, socialism?  Why do so many people agree with him?   Why does Elizabeth Warren hold big business in such low regard when it provides such a high number of the jobs that keep the U.S. economy ticking?  A high percentage of would-be voters appear to think her Robin Hood approach to banking and other businesses is just the thing. 

    And why do so many complain that President Trump is brash and ill-mannered yet are pressing for his re-election to the presidency in November?  The nation seems to be split right down the middle on every social question and political issue. 

    The quotation box in the upper left of this page may hold the answer.  Henry Thoreau once observed that most people busy themselves hacking at the BRANCHES of the tree of evil while only one is hacking away at the ROOT.  Maybe it's time to dig down to the roots of our misgivings and disagreements and haul them out into the bright light of reason and truth and settle the quarrels.



    Whoops!  Missed another Oscar night.
    Call us out of step with the times, but we and the Misses go out of our way to avoid show-biz prize givings.  When we were young,  going to movie theaters had a greater attraction for the middle and lower classes than they do now.  The "Oscar buzz" each year was a big deal.  In recent years it has become an excuse for  recipients to preach their  personal political bias to a national audience.   The occasional winner will skip the  preaching and merely thank the Academy and  go off stage, but the majority seem to think the awards are invitations to tell the world of their opinions on political and social issues.  We have the impression the journalist brigade dominates this activity and entertainers ought to stick to what they do best....entertain.
   


       Came across a chart drawn from projections by the Congressional Budget Office concerning the federal public debt and  Gross Domestic Product. At the moment the debt accumulation is rapidly approaching 100 percent of the GDP and the economic impact of the conoravirus hasn't been factored into the world trade data yet.  Thirty years from now the projection lifts the debt well above the 150 percent level of GDP. Not a healthy state of affairs by any measure. 

    Notice that the debt spikes since our present government framework was adopted occurred in times of war. 


The 1930 U.S. dollar has purchasing power today of 7¢.
That's a cumulative inflation rate of 1,430.9 percent.
   Our younger sister celebrates her 90th birthday in early May and we've been researching her birth year, 1930, for data that reveals how work-a-day life was back then. When she was born the nation was sliding into the Great Depression and dollars were scarce. A dollar in one's pocket in 1930 would compare to $15.31 today!

   Today the dollar is but a shadow of its 1930 value. And we should note that 90 years ago the U.S. dollar was officially defined as 1/20th of a troy ounce of gold. It has long since been officially disconnected from gold, but if one wishes to own some one dolllar will buy about 1/1,555th of a troy ounce of the precious metal. 

   Disconnecting the currency from gold and silver was not done by the lawful means of amending the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution was simply ignored and the dollar became a promissory document - evidence of debt - instead of the bit of metal established by the Constitution and defined in the Coinage Act of 1792. Today the money muddle is as confusing as a Democrat presidental caucus in Iowa. 

   The chance of this cropping up in the political election debates this year is practically nil. But we can hope.  Doing business with currency that is supposed to carry value across time, but doesn't, is a promise of eventual social catastrophe.  ~JW


    THE FLAG PLEDGE

   The original flag pledge composed for recital in American school classrooms in 1892:  "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands - one nation,  indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." 
   
     By 1923 Congress concluded citizens, especially young ones, might not know which nation's flag they were saluting despite the fact they were facing the United States flag at the time of the saluting exercise.  So the phrase "...to the flag of the United States of America" was inserted  to clarify matters.  By 1954 President Eisenhower pushed the idea of putting "In God We Trust" on the paper Federal Reserve Notes, Silver Certificates, etc.  The motto already appeared on U.S. coins.  He also wanted "under God" added to the flag pledge.

      Today the reference to THE REPUBLIC still remains in the flag pledge but has long been absent to other referenes to the style of government under which we live.  In our own youth politicians often talked of "preserving our republic for posterity."  Now they only speak of  "our democracy."

      Professor Walter Williams has recently dashed off a column about it.  Here's the link:  DEMOCRACY AND TYRANNY

Note:  The motto "In God We Trust"  was not put on U.S. coins by the Founders.  It began appearing on some coins in the 1860s.  The phrase did not appear on the one cent  coin until 1909.  It did not appear on any printed currency until 1957. 


Gold has cracked through $1,600. Cause for celebration? 
     If you paid $800.00 some years ago for a troy ounce of gold and you note that it has now doubled in price, you might feel like popping the cork on a bottle of champagne.   
 
     But wait a sec. What is this price gain telling us about the condition of the U.S. dollar?  In terms of gold it's falling like a rock.  Consider. . . a U.S. dollar  was, by definition,   1/20th of a troy ounce of gold when FDR called in  gold  coins  and gold-backed  paper currency  in  1933.  Today (Feb. 20) a U.S. dollar buys only 1/1,620th of a troy ounce of gold. 

     It's not fashionable to speak ill of the dollar, but in terms of gold money it's only a shadow of its former self.  That's why we must pay $1.50 or more for a nickel cup of coffee or $3.50 or more for a 10 cent loaf of bread.   The troy ounce of gold has not changed.  It still contains 480 grains of the precious metal.  But the Federal Reserve Note is losing its purchasing power at a very rapid rate. 

      To the question "Should I buy an ounce of gold ?" It depends on the relative strength of the U.S. dollar.  If you think higher monetary inflation is likely,  prices of most things will rise.  The dollar price of gold could easily double. 

       But remember - there has never been a period of monetary inflation that
did not one day end.






"It is imperative that we put our country on a responsible fiscal path." 
~Rep. Steve Womack (R. Ark.)


   
   Believing that excessive debt leads to the undoing of nations as well as corporations and individuals, we post the above as a reminder of the enormity of the Federal Debt.
The budget imbalance of fiscal year 2019 was more than a trillion dollars.  The graph shows the accumulated debt approaching $24 trillion! 

   Wallowing in debt seems to us an immoral method of running a nation purported to be as grand and mighty as these United States.  Annual shortfalls of a trillion dollars or more are now baked into the fiscal cake and this monumental debt is being forwarded to the future.  No wonder American youth are uncomfortable as they examine their future.  We are burdening our posterity with a stupendous debt burden. 

    The 1979 federal fiscal shortfall was $50.8 million compared to the previous year.  The 1979 total federal debt was $776.6 billion.  The total national government debt did not cross the trillion dollar mark until 1982.  Today it is about $24 trillion and is not discussed in political campaigning because "what the heck, we only owe it to ourselves."  This is not true, of course.  A large share of of U.S. debt is held by trusting nations and individuals around the world. 

    The onus to preserve the status quo is the burden of the Federal Reserve System.  It must flood the economy with sufficient cash to keep the economy from imploding.  They do it by lending fiat currency into existence, holding interest rates low enough to encourage borrowing.  However, low interest rates is a discouragement to savers who find it hard to park their spare currency where it will even keep pace with inflation let alone produce a small gain. 

     Commentators and the popular news media  give  little attention to the  money muddle, although it seems to be involved in the roots of most human disputes.