Tata: The Name You See All Over India

Yesterday was another dull day on Wall Street. The Dow rose 2 points. Oil held at $81. Gold didn’t move enough for us to remember, one way or another.

The recovery continues…or so says the mainstream financial press. But the economy is still losing jobs…and people are still getting poorer.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – The percentage of American workers with virtually no retirement savings grew for the third straight year, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The percentage of workers who said they have less than $10,000 in savings grew to 43% in 2010, from 39% in 2009, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual Retirement Confidence Survey. That excludes the value of primary homes and defined-benefit pension plans.

The American economy has apparently peaked out. Its labor is too expensive. Its consumers are tapped out. Its government is going deeper and deeper into debt, with no way out. In other words, the US economy is yesterday’s news. We’re here in Mumbai learning more about tomorrow’s news. We sat down with a group of 12 analysts trying to understand what is going on in India, generally. Of particular interest was Tata Motors… Our investment team at the family office recommended it last year. It went up 468% over the last 12 months…

“Sell it now,” said an analyst here who follows the automobile sector.

You see the Tata name everywhere here in India. Autos (the family owns Jaguar), coffee shops, hotels, insurance, airlines, chemicals – you name it. Tata seems to own the whole country. Just about everything seems to have a Tata company behind it.

But who is behind Tata? The company is run by Ratan Tata, graduate of Cornell and Harvard, who is unmarried. With no children.

“The family is part of a tiny minority in India,” a colleague explained. “They are Zoroastrians…which we call Parsees. They are a disappearing group because they don’t believe in getting married and having children. And if a Parsee marries a non-Parsee neither of them can continue to be a Parsee.”

They sound like the Japanese. On the road to extermination. But this dead-end is peculiar to the Indian Zoroastrians. Other groups of Zoroastrians accept converts…some even recruit them.

The word ‘parsee’ or ‘parsis’ was the term applied in the state of Gurajat, in Western India, to anyone coming from Persia. The Zoroastrians were originally from Persia, where they were pushed out by the Muslims. Now, they are a small religious minority, with a few recruiting centers…including one in Los Angeles.

“Parsees believe in playing an active role in the world. They fight for good against evil and try to establish order against chaos,” says our informant.

We don’t like to criticize anyone else’s religion, but it sounds a little flat to us. Where are the body thetans? Where’s the crucifixion? Where’s the bread transformed into the body of the savior? That’s probably why the Zoroastrians have lost market share. Not enough magic and mystery.

But we’re not here to improve the world’s religions. In fact, we’re not here to improve anything. We’re just watching…wondering…and waiting for the next absurd thing to happen.

Hey…here’s something. Page one of the Times of India. It says that the president of France and his new wife, Carla Bruni, are both having affairs. The president is said to be doing a little hootchi kootchi with his minister of ecology. And if you believe the report, the first lady of France is now living with another guy.

Oh well…those French!

Back to our beat…money. Money doesn’t cheat. It doesn’t lie. It doesn’t run around. It is interdenominational and ecumenical.

Well…real money doesn’t cheat. You can trust gold. On the other hand, those paper dollars, euros and rupees are completely faithless. They say they’re worth a certain amount one day. The next, it’s a whole ’nuther story.

Lately, the dollar has been doing well. The bond market has held up…despite the extraordinary demands placed on it by the world’s governments.

In February alone, the US government ran a record deficit of $221 billion. And February is a short month. Annualize that and you’ve got about $2.5 trillion in excess spending.

That money has to come from somewhere. And even if you took 100% of America’s savings…it still wouldn’t be enough.

If you’re married to the dollar…it’s time to see a divorce lawyer.

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning