Guest Post: America: The List
Submitted by Brian Rogers
America: The List
If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.
I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.
- Proud To Be An American, Lee Greenwood
America, F*CK YEAH!
Coming again, to save the mother f*cking day yeah,
America, F*CK YEAH!
What you going to do when we come for you now,
it’s the dream that we all share; it’s the hope for tomorrow
McDonalds, F*CK YEAH!
Wal-Mart, F*CK YEAH!
The Gap, F*CK YEAH!
Baseball, F*CK YEAH!
NFL, F*CK, YEAH!
Rock and roll, F*CK YEAH!
The Internet, F*CK YEAH!
Slavery, F*CK YEAH!
- America, F*ck Yeah,
Trey Parker (of South Park)
Coffee Shop at Union Square
I was out having drinks the other night with brilliant financial mind and Wall Street veteran Paulo Pereira. Paulo is a Brazilian-American who's worked on both the buy and sell-side for years and has a long track record covering many of the large natural resource exporting countries. A Yale grad with a degree in music, Paulo brings a unique perspective to finance and economics to say the least.
We decided to meet up at a great restaurant/bar on Manhattan's Union Square called Coffee Shop. Next time you're in NY, I highly recommend you add this cool spot to your agenda. The food is great, a mix of Brazilian and American fare, and you always have a real diverse crowd of folks to mingle with.
But it's the hostesses, waitresses and barmaids that bring in the crowds. You see, Coffee Shop, tends to employ many of Manhattan's aspiring super models and actresses. Let's just say the scenery is impressive and distracting. But I digress. Oh man, do I digress...
Anywho, Paulo and I started tilting back the Stellas and proceeded down the rabbit hole that is modern finance and politics. The usual topics came up that would be familiar to any regular Zero Hedge reader: the Bernank, gold, ZIRP, TBTF, silver price manipulation, BLS data manipulation, China, Brazil, Europe, Australia housing bubble, the upcoming sovereign debt crisis, the hypocrisy of my former idol Warren Buffett, the eloquence of Jim Rickards, the death of the 30-year bond bubble, blah, blah, blah... The list goes on.
But at some point in the evening we started focusing (to the extent that you can focus with 4 beers and 1 very distracting barmaid in the mix) on the way that the very words we use to think about ourselves as Americans have become somewhat, well, meaningless.
For example, Capitalism
First, a definition from the good folks at merriam-webster.com: Capitalism - an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decisions, and by prices, production and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market. (emphasis mine)
A couple of things should instantly jump out when applying even the most basic of critical thinking skills to the definition above.
First, as Martin Armstrong likes to frequently highlight, we now live in a political-economy. Precisely the opposite of a so-called free market. A true match made in hell.
Second, our economic system is currently characterized by a situation where 50% of every business transaction involves the use of a government granted monopoly currency controlled by a private consortium of banks. The good ol' USD.
So far we're falling a bit short on merriam-webster's standard.
Was Adam Smith wrong?
Remember the English dude Adam Smith? Adam was a pretty bright guy and expressed some really novel ideas (novel at the time anyway) which helped usher in a new way of commerce that would help raise millions of people globally out of abject poverty and serfdom.
But remember this, when ol' Adam was scratching out his notes, you had a choice on not only the good or service you purchased or sold, but also the currency or method of payment you could offer or receive. Both sides of the deal had to match or no go.
Today, the government, via the private consortium of banks, aka the Fed, control the currency side of every transaction with an iron fist.
At least they try to. What is the typical result when government tries to control the price of anything? Disruption, confusion, corruption, malinvestment, etc. And yet these guys think controlling the price of money is a good thing or even possible.
Best of luck with that cat-herding exercise. The chart of the USD over the last 100 years speaks volumes more than I could on the subject of currency stability.
Legal tender laws date back to the Civil War. Lincoln implemented them as an "emergency measure" (sound familiar in our post-911 world). He pinky swore that it was only temporary. Fast forward 150 years and we're still wearing that albatross around our neck.
Private decisions indeed.
Back to Coffee Shop, barmaids and "The List"
So besides the basic definition of capitalism, Paulo and I started chatting about other subjects in this country of ours where our perceptions and realities don't quite align.
In this spirit, I'm starting The List.
Let's get it all out there. America's dirty laundry that is. Our family secrets. The skeletons in the closet.
The goal is to create a list of the many and numerous ways in which our country is deluding itself into believing we are the greatest, smartest, most innovative, freedom loving country that ever was.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not some unpatriotic ne'er do well. I love what the Founding Fathers of our country set out to accomplish, faults and all. I love it so much, I was willing to put my life on the line for this country by serving in a US Marine Corps special forces unit for 8 years (your move armchair patriot).
But we have drifted so far from the original concepts, I believe our current central planning apparatus more closely resembles the USSR than what most people think is the USA.
So I'm going to kick this list off but in no way do I intend this to be exhaustive.
Please, add your own comments and thoughts. Take the list and grow it. Spread it around. Repost it, tweet it, facebook it (whatever that means) and let's start the healing process by admitting what's wrong.
Sort of like a political and economic 12-step program. Hi, my name is Brian Rogers and I'm an asset of the state.
And I want to quit.
1. Money - The US dollar is a currency controlled by a private consortium of banks under the Federal Reserve System. There is nothing "Federal" about the Federal Reserve, it is owned and absolutely controlled by bankers. Sound free?
2. The Federal Reserve System - The Fed is neither under the auspices of Executive, Legislative nor Judicial branches of government. The most important and largest decisions they make cannot be audited by any branch of the US government. Sound free?
3. Presidential authority - The POTUS can these days declare martial law and based on the language of the recently passed NDAA, arrest any US citizen he wants, anywhere he wants and hold them without due process for as long as he wants. All the POTUS has to say is that the person is a terrorist. Sound free?
4. Federal judges - Even in during Rome's imperial years, about half of the federal judges were voted by the people. Today, all Federal judges are political appointment. Sound free?
5. Electoral college - We do not have a popular vote. The masses just simply can't be trusted. We choose special delegates to enact the "final solution" (pun intended). Sound free?
6. Campaign finance - Corporations are people. Seriously. Mitt Romney was right. As long as national elections have an essentially uncapped spending limit, the game of politics will always be about money and who has the most. Those monied interests then become the only real constituent. Everyone else just gets lip service. In the meantime, average citizens everywhere are priced out of even trying to run for office given the exorbitant costs to participate in the system. Read my lips, sound free?
7. Term limits - Nope. We seem to like our political class and want to make sure that we can get the same old idiots year in and year out. They have no incentive to make hard choices, only political choices to keep their career feeding at the government trough. And the good ones, meaning the most political and successful at money raising, become furniture and stay for decades. Sound free?
8. Income taxes (or direct taxation) - You no longer have the right to 100% of the result of your hard work aka wages. The government has decreed that you must share your income with everyone else or go to jail. Ayn Rand once said that the basis for every totalitarian dictatorship was altruism. Sacrifice for the state. I certainly don't blindly follow Ms. Rand like Alan Greenspan did, but on this point I agree entirely. Sound free?
9. Legal tender laws - Don't like the dollar? Wish you could simply eject yourself out of the Federal Reserve System by buying some gold and silver coins and using them to make payment for goods and services? While some merchants may gladly do business with you, the transaction is very much illegal. You MUST use the FEDERAL RESERVE NOTES controlled and priced by the Oracles of Delphi at the Fed. Sound free?
10. "Cost" of money - Modern finance values assets using various pricing methods. All of these, however, share a common theme, they all discount future cash flows using the Risk Free rate which is normally defined as US Treasuries. The Fed is artificially controlling and manipulating US Treasuries. Therefore, every asset on the planet has a price that is artificial as the rates implicit in its price are not market rates. They are what the Bernank and the Oracles of Delphi think they should be. Sound free?
11. Two-party political system - Seriously, do I really need to break down the hypocrisy exhibited on a daily basis by team red and team blue? As Zero Hedge pointed out recently, 50% of the American public votes. About 50% of the public is politically active in the two major parties. Therefore, in any given election, the winner will only represent about 25% of the population. And we wonder why special interests get all the attention. Sound free?
Like I said, this list isn't meant to be exhaustive, in fact just the beginning. Please add your own ideas, improve on mine and pass this along.
In the meantime, it's a beautiful day here in Manhattan and I'm about to take a walk and enjoy it. I can still do that without asking permission or paying a tax so I'm going to take advantage.
Perhaps I'll stroll over to Coffee Shop again at Union Square.
On the way, perhaps I'll run into The Occupy Wall Street Movement at Union Square.
We can heckle the police about how they are working for the "man" while secretly justifying their thug tactics by thinking about the nice pension plan waiting for them at the end of their career rainbow.
The same pension plan that is rapidly becoming insolvent under the Bernank's ZIRP.
America. F*ck yeah.