Who’s Betting On America?

Strategies, Technical Analysis, U.S Investments

I read Bill Bonner’s Diary regularly. Bill cuts through the smoke and mirrors, and explain things in understandable, matter-of-fact terms.

He recently wrote, Don’t Bet on America.

“Never, ever bet against America,” says the Oracle of Omaha (Warren Buffet), perhaps exaggerating.

Countries, like individuals, make mistakes. …. It was a bad idea to bet against America throughout most of the 20th century….

But this is the 21st century. America’s capital industries are losing value. Its GDP growth is slowing. Its government – technically insolvent already – prints $1 million PER SECOND to cover its deficits. …. Its men folks’ life expectancy is falling. Its Swamp is rising.

And its people are dependent on government handouts. They seem ready to panic whenever any threat – no matter how implausible or remote – presents itself.

…. Here’s The New York Times stoking the panic:

Rural towns that one month ago were unscathed are suddenly hot spots for the virus. It is rampaging through nursing homes, meatpacking plants and prisons, killing the medically vulnerable and the poor, and new outbreaks keep emerging in grocery stores, Walmarts or factories, an ominous harbinger of what a full reopening of the economy will bring.”

Bonner concludes:

“Someday, sober historians will look back and wonder: What were they thinking? But for now… the country Buffett won’t bet against looks like a bad bet.” (Emphasis mine)

He adds more fuel to the fire:

“Economist Gary Shilling puts this into perspective:

This pandemic is likely to be the most disruptive financial and social event since World War II, with equally long-lasting consequences. Many will no doubt restrain spending in future years to rebuild savings, (Emphasis mine) especially since the crisis caught them at a time of high debts and short financial reserves.”

Bonner concludes with a question about small businesses:

“…. A new survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that 52% expect to be out of business within six months.”

Whoa! Have the feds put half of America’s small firms out of business?” (Emphasis mine)

Jim Rickards piles on; Don’t Believe the Happy Talk:

“Nothing like what we’re witnessing has ever happened before. Even the savviest analysts cannot yet internalize what happened.

…. Comparisons to the 2008 crisis or even the 1929 stock market crash that started the Great Depression fail to capture the magnitude of the economic damage of the virus.

…. Unfortunately, the economy will not return to normal for years. Some businesses will never return to normal because they’ll be bankrupt before they are even allowed to reopen.

Businesses like restaurants, bars, pizza parlors, dry cleaners, hair salons and many similar businesses make up 44% of total U.S. GDP and 47% of all jobs. This is where many of the job losses, shutdowns and lost revenues occurred.”

“If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.” – Ronald Reagan

I kept waking in the middle of the night, haunted by their remarks. I grew up as a flag-waving kid, believing in America. I’ve traveled the world and believe, despite many warts, America is still the greatest country on earth.

We build fences to keep people out, not to lock our population in. Are they giving me a wake-up call? I’m afraid for future generations. I avoided writing about the subject, not wanting to promote doom and gloom.

Events that followed

I believe the adage, “when the student is ready to learn, the teacher shall appear!” My wife Jo sent a link to a powerful presentation by Admiral McRaven (of Make Your Bed fame) about conquering your fears. It is the epitome of the American spirit and hope.

While Bonner concluded that “But for now” America is a bad bet, I am not willing to throw in the towel and give up the American Dream

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Place your bets!

My first job was working at a race track. When you bet on a horse, you are betting against all other horses in the race. Professional gamblers look at many factors; competition, how long is the race, past history of success and current conditions. Are we betting on America turning on a dime, decade, or century?

If America is a bad bet, who are you betting on, China, Russia, the European Union, Japan?

This Heritage Foundation article, The American Spirit, explains the American Dream:

“Are America’s best days behind her? Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, seems to think so. “The American dream is a myth,” he writes in a recent column….

Negative thoughts like this are nothing new. It stands to reason that tough economic times will breed pessimism. Sometimes, though, we need to remind ourselves of the principles this country was founded on, and reconnect with the genius that created the United States of America, the only country founded not on identity, but on ideas.

…. Consider the phrase, “the American dream.” The words themselves reveal something extraordinary. In all the history of man, there has been only one country with the word “dream” attached to it. There is no French Dream, Russian Dream or Chinese Dream. …. From 194 countries, people have come to America to pursue this dream.

…. In America, you can start from anywhere, …. and make your own way and your own life. At any time, you can decide to change and do something completely different. Your life is yours to chart.”

American Spirit always finds a way.

Many local sheriffs stood up to their superiors, not enforcing very questionable executive orders. How many small businesses continued to serve their customers, defying government dictates? I noticed all the TV pundits managed to get their hair done.

Prohibition bred an entire industry of bootleggers, and their drivers ended up spawning NASCAR.

Remember the stupid 55-mph speed limit? How soon before you owned a Citizens Band (CB) radio? If a cop appeared on an interstate, within a couple minutes everyone within 20 miles knew, “There is a bear heading northbound at the 261-mile marker. 10-4 good buddy!”

How about past success?

A message from friend Snow C. hit my inbox:

“It’s a mess out there now. For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900.

On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits and continues until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 million.

On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

When you turn 39, World War II starts. On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.

Smallpox was epidemic until you were in your 40’s, killing 300 million people during your lifetime.

At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish. From your birth, until you are 55 you dealt with the fear of Polio, experiencing friends and family being paralyzed and/or dying.

At 55 the Vietnam War begins.

During the Cold War, you lived each day with the fear of nuclear annihilation. On your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, almost ended.

When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends. 4 million people perish in that conflict.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How did they endure all of that? Let’s try to keep things in perspective.”

Past success? That generation not only endured, they also set the foundation for the most prosperous country in the history of the world.

American Spirit is saying, “enough is enough.” Americans will find a way to work around ridiculous, over-zealous government regulations and immoral government employees. Americans survived the social unrest of the 60’s, progress was made, and we will survive stronger once again.

Recall the prediction, “Many will no doubt restrain spending in future years to rebuild savings.”

The parents of baby boomers lived through the Great Depression. They learned the value of saving and living within their means. Is that a bad lesson for the current generation to learn?

“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because their trust is not on the branch but on its own wings. Always believe in yourself.” – Unknown

What about all the small businesses failing?

For a country to recover from economic despair, it requires citizens to accept the challenge. Small business owners are entrepreneurs, depending on their personal ingenuity and efforts to survive. Are they going to just give up? Of course not! They will pick themselves up and do what they do best.

I’m betting on America. The race will not be a sprint; it will start slowly and pick up steam. The economies and debts of the rest of the world are worse than ours; America is the odds-on favorite. There is still enough of the American Spirit and Dream alive to recover and thrive.

One caveat. If the government repeals the second amendment and attempts to take away Americans’ ability to protect themselves, all bets are off. Our nation will split apart. Let’s hope it does not come to that.

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