Monster or Mozart?
BALTIMORE – Investors seem to be holding their breath, like a man hiding a cigarette from his wife. It’s just a feeling, and it’s not the first time we’ve had it… but it feels as though it wouldn’t take much to send them all running.
Meanwhile… we’re coming to a deep (and to many readers disagreeable) conclusion. Yes, we are closing in on profundity, struggling to hold on to the rim lest we fall into the well.
It has to do with Mr. Trump’s plans and how he really could Make America Great Again – and how nations and individuals should conduct their lives, including their financial lives: not by guessing about the future, but about doing the right thing in the present.
Each day brings new headlines. Trump does this. Trump does that. Good? Bad? Now we have a formula to judge.
“Trump Plans to Undo Dodd-Frank,” said The Wall Street Journal recently. Win-win? Or Win-lose? The answer is simple: Win-win! How do we know? Because Dodd-Frank was not voluntary. You couldn’t say “no.”
What a mouse trap would look like if it were designed like Frank-Dodd. It probably wouldn’t catch the mouse, but it might explode and send small shrapnel that used to be your house into orbit…
Cartoon by Marshall Ramsey
How about this, also from the WSJ: “The Trump administration is set to impose fresh sanctions on dozens of Iranian entities.” Win-win? Or Win-lose? You know the answer: Iran has no choice – win-lose.
Should You Invade Russia If You Think You Can Win? Should you shoot your neighbor and sleep with his wife if you think you can get away with it? Should you force interest rates down if you think it will stimulate the economy?
We have seen that only win-win deals add to the world’s satisfaction. And we’ve seen that there is only one criterion you need to ask: Did the parties – like bride and groom – enter it of their own free will? They may or may not get what they are looking for, but they’ll certainly get what they deserve.
Of course, any union is as likely to bring forth a monster as a Mozart. But we can’t sterilize every female or hold the future at bay. Tomorrow always comes. And it is always full of surprises – aborted missions, dead bodies, and unexpected losses.
Mozart in the thick of things.
Photo credit: AMLF
A representative from a dirt-poor region in Greece makes an impassioned speech in the assembly… the hot air gushing from his mouth collides with the cool breeze coming from Mount Olympus… and torrential rains cause flash floods in California.
All we know – only imperfectly – is what kind of deal is going down today. Win-win? Or is it win-lose? Is it consensual? Or is it rape? Is it “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Or is it merely “do unto others”?
“Doing unto others” has its delights, as Genghis Khan noted. You could burn Hillary Clinton at the stake during halftime at the Super Bowl. At least 100 million Americans might gawk in pleasure. Many would believe it was a good thing.
Genghis Khan was known to eschew luxury and generally was held to be a man of simple pleasures, as exemplified by this quote: “The greatest happiness is to scatter your enemy, to drive him before you,to see his cities reduced to ashes, to see those who love him shrouded in tears, and to gather into your bosom his wives and daughters.”
Photo via history.com
The U.S. government puts the value of a human life at $10 million. The ad revenue alone might make that one of the best investments of all time. But win-lose deals do not add to real wealth. And once you go down that road, you are headed to poverty, if not to hell.
As we have seen, regulation, legislation… crony deals and zombie payoffs financed with fraudulent money – have hit the heartland hard. “Flyover” America loses; the winners are in the coastal swamps. So, let’s look at a couple more of “The Donald’s” proposals.
He’s proposed a tax cut, for example. On the face of it, that’s a win-win. The feds take less of your money. You have more left over for win-win deals. Wait – you say he’s also proposing to take away the deductibility of business interest? Darn! Win-lose.
So, let’s move on – to bridges, dams, roadways, and docks. The president says he wants to spend more on infrastructure. Will it pay off? Who knows? Some projects will be useful. Some won’t.
Politicians, contractors, and insiders will surely benefit. Some people who use the facilities will benefit by accident. Everyone else pays for things they don’t want or don’t use.
But we don’t have to guess. We only have to ask: Can we just say “no”? If not, it’s another boondoggle for the swamp critters – and a bamboozle for the rest of us.
Can’t win against the swamp critters, at least they seem to think so…
Illustration by Stan Woch
Charts by: StockCharts, SentimenTrader
Chart and image captions by PT
The above article originally appeared at the Diary of a Rogue Economist, written for Bonner & Partners. Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.
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