Bill Bonner

Let’s focus on the good news. Well, our first item is good news if you were fool enough to follow our “Trade of the Decade.”

We suggested that buying Japanese stocks could be the best investment you can make in the next 10 years. We immediately heard from dozens of friends and enemies. The friends were concerned because they thought we’d made a bad bet. Enemies were delighted that we’d lost our grip completely. After all, they remarked, who in his right mind would buy Japanese stocks?

Well hardee, har, har… Guess what market is leading the world so far this year? That’s right… Japan. (Here, colleague Alex Green explains why Japan hasn’t been such a bad bet after all.)

We’re six weeks into the new decade, we’ll claim victory now…and change the subject. Who knows what will happen in the next 514 weeks.

Meanwhile, here comes more good news: the US federal government may not go broke after all. Rep. Paul Ryan, who hails from the sovereign state of Wisconsin, has come up with a solution.

Before we get to the solution, however, let us take a minute to describe the problem. In short, the feds are spending too much money they don’t have. The Obama administration says it doesn’t see any balanced budgets anywhere in America’s future. The Congressional Budget Office, a far-sighted group if ever there was one, looks all the way to 2080. It sees no hint of fiscal equilibrium either. Just deficits and debt. By its estimate the US budget grows to 50% of GDP and the official US debt rises to 7 times GDP.

This exercise by the CBO is not a forecast. It is merely an extrapolation. If present trends continue, that is where we would end up by the time your author is 131 years old. Of course, there is no way present trends could continue that long. Even at 2 times GDP…debt cannot be sustained. It would cost more than half of all America’s tax revenues to the pay the interest on such a large debt. Already, depending on how things go in the economy, as much as 30% of the money borrowed by the US could soon be necessary just to pay the cost of past borrowing.

Fortunately, Mr. Ryan has a solution. He calls it a “Roadmap for America’s Future.” After studying it for all of 30 seconds, we’re convinced that Mr. Ryan should get a GPS. His roadmap is a series of squiggles, dodges and twists to US tax laws…along with a few torques to the spending side too… that leads the country to a dead end. Most of his effort has been concentrated on bringing health care outlays under control. No effort is made, on the other hand, to cut military spending. Typical. Weak, limp, pusillanimous. The benefits now; the costs later. That’s why America’s residual respect for Congress is just about exhausted. The institution is incapable of correcting its own mistakes. Instead, it just makes them worse. Even with Mr. Ryan’s roadmap, America drives in the wrong direction for the next half a century. It is only sometime after 2050 that the federal budget deficits finally stop.

Any solution that doesn’t pay off until we’re all dead is no solution at all. It’s a way of avoiding a solution…which is what Congress desperately wants to do. A real solution will come. But not from Congress. Instead, it will come unbidden. And unwelcome. Like the plague.

At least, that’s our reading of history. Once the system tips out of control it stays out of control until it finally blows itself up.

It would be fairly easy to get the budget under control…that is, if there were no political system to prevent you. The US government shouldn’t be in the business of giving out drugs or regulating heart transplants. It also shouldn’t be in the business of telling the rest of the world what to do. The solution is simple: abandon the imperial agenda…let people take care of themselves, both at home and abroad…and downsize the federal government.

But that is not going to happen. We may be on the road to ruin…but too many people are enjoying the ride. We’re not going to stop any time soon. More than 40 million people on food stamps…thousands of military contractors…millions of government employees… People who want the government (other citizens) to pay for their gall bladder operations. People who pay no taxes. GM executives. AIG bondholders. University administrators. Lobbyists.

It is a wholly rational and completely foreseeable trend. People always seek to improve their wealth and status in the easiest way possible. What’s the easiest way? Take wealth from someone else. That’s why criminals are still in business…after thousands of years of trying to stop them.

But common criminals lack status – except in the ghetto. So, the smarter, better connected and better educated of their ilk go into government. Or they use government for their own ends. That way, they get other peoples’ money. But they also get respectability…even an elevated social status.

Congress is supposed to confront the problems of the nation…and solve them. But with more people getting something from the government than supporting it, Congress is not likely to change course. It responds to the perverse will of the people…and to its own corrupt predilections. We are all victims of democracy now…

The government grows…deficits become unstoppable…and the empire sinks under the weight of so many parasites.

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success and garnered camaraderie in numerous communities and industries. A man of many talents, his entrepreneurial savvy, unique writings, philanthropic undertakings, and preservationist activities have all been recognized and awarded by some of America's most respected authorities. Along with Addison Wiggin, his friend and colleague, Bill has written two New York Times best-selling books, Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. Both works have been critically acclaimed internationally. With political journalist Lila Rajiva, he wrote his third New York Times best-selling book, Mobs, Messiahs and Markets, which offers concrete advice on how to avoid the public spectacle of modern finance. Since 1999, Bill has been a daily contributor and the driving force behind The Daily ReckoningDice Have No Memory: Big Bets & Bad Economics from Paris to the Pampas, the newest book from Bill Bonner, is the definitive compendium of Bill's daily reckonings from more than a decade: 1999-2010. 

Recent Articles

Laissez Faire
How Bitcoin Can Simplify Your Dinner Plans

Jeffrey Tucker

The best use of a new technology is to solve an old problem you never gave much thought to. It's these problems that become so common, people naturally come to accept them. Now Bitcoin is doing just that, by helping to solve some of the simplest (and most common) problems people face... like splitting a dinner bill. Jeffrey Tucker explains...


Get Ready for Coal’s Big Comeback

Greg Guenthner

Over the past three years, few investments have performed worse than coal. Investors hate it because coal stocks bring them nothing but pain. Environmentalists hate coal because it pollutes. And the list goes on. But recent price action suggests that some of those attitudes might be changing. Greg Guenthner explains...


Bill Bonner
An Easy Way to Avoid Pig-Headed Mistakes

Bill Bonner

Taken individually, most people perform relatively well in their daily lives. They get up, drive to work and interact with various other people, largely without incident. But when big groups of people get together, they can be incredibly pig-headed, demanding "action" when the best course of action would simply be inaction. And before you know it, chaos ensues. Bill Bonner explains...


Attack on America’s Most Important Pipeline

Byron King

America's most precious resource isn't oil, natural gas, gold or any other commodity. But it travels through an extensive pipeline that, if severed, could signal an unprecedented breach in U.S. security. What is this pipeline, and why is it so imperative that the U.S. take steps to protect it? Byron King explains...


Extra!
Where You Can Make $56,000 a Year Delivering Pizzas

Jim Mosquera

US unemployment rates are some of the most dubious and debatable numbers in economics. And when you look at how the government fudges them it's easy to see why. Today Jim Mosquera attempts to make sense of them, and includes an insightful commentary on another controversial topic: minimum wage. Read on...


3 Critical Correction Warnings

Greg Guenthner

The S&P 500 just clocked a new closing high last week, while the Dow and the Nasdaq both fell just short or their previous highs. But under the surface, you'll find a few bits of evidence pointing toward lower prices. And right now, there are seeing several warning signs that could point to market weakness. Greg Guenthner explains...