Who are we? Why are we here?
For those of you who've recently discovered the online universe that constitutes the Daily Reckoning, you might be wondering what it is exactly we're all about. In case you missed it, founder Bill Bonner lays it all out in yesterday's edition:
The Daily Reckoning began in the summer of 1999. We were convinced then
that the tech bubble – centered in the U.S. NASDAQ market – was about to
Naturally, many readers were annoyed with us. They insisted that
breakthroughs in communications technology were making us all smarter –
for now we all had access to the worldwide web, and with it came an almost
unlimited supply of INFORMATION.
Here at The Daily Reckoning we argued that more information was not
necessarily a good thing. Like manure, information can be helpful. But
pile too much of it up in one place, and it begins to stink.
"You just don't get it," they replied. To which we let the market respond.
Six months later those who "got it" got it good and hard. The tech bubble
collapsed…taking many earnest investors with it.
"You don't get what you expect from the investment markets," we remarked,
with a superior air. "You get what you deserve."
The stock market was then going down…and the economy was going down too.
But it was not much later that a tiny group of fanatics scored what must
be history's most successful surprise attack: they brought down two of
Manhattan's greatest buildings and twisted America's entire foreign policy
– which had there-to-fore been clumsy, but not absurd – towards a
preposterous 'War Against Terrorism.'
Under pressure from the delusionary threat of terrorists under every Arab
head wrap, and a recession that looked as though it could go the way of
Japan's then 12-year slump, the Feds responded with the biggest stimulus
of cash and credit in history. Tax rates were cut. Spending was increased.
The Fed's key lending rate went down to less than half the rate of
inflation and stayed there for two years.
Now, it is time for others to have the last laugh. We didn't think it
would work. Americans were already too far in debt, we said. You can't
solve that problem by lending them more money at better rates.
Professors of moral philosophy surely approved of our logic. We hope they
didn't bet money on it. Lower lending rates set off a new bubble – this
one in residential real estate. Suddenly, houses were rising in price at
the fastest rate ever. Homeowners were feeling rich and sassy. They wanted
to borrow…and now they had something to borrow against. So, it was off
to the races, with the biggest run-up in the housing market in 100 years
(and the biggest increase in consumer debt, ever).
Meanwhile, the Bush Administration drew Tony Blair into its confidence and
the two decided to attack Iraq. French president Jacques Chirac tried to
warn them off their project; it was too risky, he said. We agreed with
Chirac…and wrote a book, with Addison Wiggin, to describe what we saw as
America's imperial over-reaching, entitled "Empire of Debt." In Paris at
the time, U.S. readers responded by saying they hoped American bombers
dropped a bomb or two on us, and Chirac too, on their way to blow up
targets in Iraq.
The U.S. housing bubble began to lose air in 2006. Mortgage companies had
lent billions to homebuyers who couldn't pay them back. Suddenly, the
lenders were in trouble…and the U.S. housing market was, too.
Again, our logic was unassailable: The U.S. economy…and by extension the
world economy…depends on American consumer spending. Americans depend on
rising house prices to give them the money to spend (there has been no
real increase in average wages in the United States in 30 years).
Therefore, stagnation or, god forbid, a slump in housing would cause a
Not so far. But a housing market correction takes time. Sellers are
reluctant to cut prices; while buyers take each small cut as an
opportunity. They are all convinced that the correction will be slight,
and quickly put behind us. But in the first quarter of this year, U.S. GDP
growth slid to just 0.6%, annualized. That is well below the rate of
population growth in the United States, meaning that if the country
continues to prosper at that rate, Americans will eventually be as rich as
Bengalis or Zimbabweans.
Where from here? There is more, much more. Read. Enjoy. And welcome.