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Gold, the Dollar and Obama

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Last year gold went over $1,200 an ounce. Barton Biggs once described gold as a "barbarous relic." While pleasing to the eye, Biggs was essentially right about gold in a monetary sense. Gold as money comes from a time before the Enlightenment when cheating in the coin of the realm was common. Only the look and feel of a proper gold coin conveyed security and trust in a transaction. Paper money came when a government could back it with gold. In other words that relatively worthless paper was backed by something someone would buy no matter what happened. Through disaster of nature or man, gold endured as a store of value. My favorite story about this vein of thought doesn't directly concern gold.

During the 900-day siege of Leningrad by the Nazis in World War II, a woman was confronted with a choice. The city was in a state collapse barely holding off the Nazis, but bereft of food. Over a million Russians would die during the Stygian siege. None would ever be mourned individually as their bodies were dumped in mass graves. Death assumed many guises. Sometimes it appeared instantly through bullets or bombs. Other deaths rose slowly from freezing cold or starvation. The story of a single Russian woman revolves around a dilemma. Should she trade her diamond engagement ring for a sack of potatoes or starve?

Of course, she traded that treasured item. Even on the brink of societal dissolution, this ornament with little or no industrial use had value. Gold is much the same. Admittedly, this is an extreme example, but it shows the persistence of value in something that by all rights shouldn't have any value. In the present day with technological wizardry making value even more quantifiable in everything, gold should have even less value, shouldn't it?

Unfortunately, one thing has not changed from that battle in the Soviet Union many years ago. Human beings are inherently competitive. When this rises to a national level,you have wars. Put it on a cultural level, you have a clash of civilizations lasting decades. The West has been experiencing this with radical Islam since the 1970s. This instability with the threat to mushroom (pun intended) means a persistent store of value remains desirable.

With regard to world monetary policy, gold is experiencing a tailwind as well. Japan recently announced a stimulus program, i.e. a money print. China had a huge one last year. The United States leads the pack by having a ballooning debt and printing more money on top of that for scads of new government programs and bailouts. Recently Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government Ponzi schemes that they are, lined up for — wait for it — "unlimited funds" to stay afloat. Some say the true amount could be $400 billion or more. Who knows? Anyway, that's more than half the size of Obama's much trumpeted stimulus plan. At this point we don't even know how much the health care boondoggle will cost, but Harry Reid during debate let it slip that it was in the $2 trillion dollar range. It's a wonder the U.S. dollar has any value at all.

Perhaps the dollar has taken all the bad news of crazy spending and finally stabilized, but that would assume the spending spree is over. Also, the dollar used to represent more the U.S. economy than the U.S. government, but as the latter encroaches more and more on the former, the dollar will increasingly be representative of Uncle Sam, not Microsoft, Walmart et al . So if the dollar is now a proxy for the government, does the low value of the greenback represent an opinion of the government and those who lead it? If that's the case, do any of the current leaders inspire trust in the "full faith and credit" of Uncle Sam to pay his bills?

Ben Bernanke seems competent enough, but since he's lowered interest rates to zero, there is only one way for rates to move. His course is set and his options limited, but raising rates will hammer an extremely tepid recovery.

Does Harry Reid inspire confidence? Does his slimy buy-off of Sen. Ben Nelson by exempting Nebraska from paying for Medicare constitute effective leadership? Does forking over $300 million to purchase the Senator from Bourbon Street Mary Landrieu highlight a skill all leaders should possess?

Does Nancy Pelosi inspire confidence? Last year she called the CIA a bunch of liars. Last week, seven of those "liars" perished in a suicide bomb attack in Afghanistan defending her right to continue to make vile, moronic statements in pursuit of the crowning prize: dingbat of the decade. She makes me want to ralph.

And what of our president? The self-confessed movie "buff" took in the latest James Cameron movie while on vacation in Hawaii. Doesn't a buff require lots of time be devoted to your area of buff-dom, in this case movies? Don't you have a day job, Mr President? Oh well, I'd rather catch a double feature than deal with Harry Reid as well. I'm with you on that one, Mr. President.

Still, wasn't this the man who promised "not to rest until everyone who wants a job can get one"? With the Hawaiian vacation, I guess that means the 10 percent unemployed don't really want to work. Why should they work anyway? With unemployment and Cobra being extended virtually indefinitely and health care in the pipe, why bother? Unlike Obama, we don't want to push ourselves too hard, do we?

According to the AP, Obama was briefed two hours after the al Qaeda Christmas attack. The briefing lasted fifteen minutes and then Obama skipped off to the gym. You wonder if he even inquired if there were signs of any more attacks. Does this devotion to duty inspire confidence?

The usual lapdog press said nothing. Hey, would you jeopardize your Hawaiian vacation by pointing out the emperor has no work ethic? Can you imagine what the press would have said if George W. Bush had gone mountain biking when they nabbed the shoe bomber? With an inexperienced, indolent, PC dilettante holding the reins of power, the U.S. is in for a rough ride for the next three years. I hope the dollar gets better and the economy recovers, but I'm not counting on anything from this guy. As Ben Franklin said, "He that lives upon hope dies fasting."

After an unprecedented time in U.S. history, individuals may want the security of something not associated with individuals who are intent on reviving Marxist-Leninist thought. Gold or any other commodity is one avenue. This doesn't mean value will be exactly preserved. Commodities are extremely volatile, emphasis on extremely again.

Democrats in the past have understood that commodities can be a haven for value and have tried to tax or confiscate such forms of value. FDR ordered the confiscation of gold. Carter slapped a "windfall profits" tax on U.S. oil and gas operations making them even less competitive with the Arabs. Obama is trying something similar. Cap and trade is a stealth way to get utilities to collect taxes for Uncle Sam. For now, there is little to stop him, but 2010 is an election year. Should gold remain high or soar, and the dollar remain moribund, these will be shorthand signs people do not trust this President and the errant fiscal course he has vowed to keep.

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About Mr Dock Ellis

  • Glenn Contrarian

    This article is yet another wonderful example of a conservative knowing some history, but not only does he know less than he thinks he does, what history he does know, he does not understand.

    Tell you what, Dock – why don’t you do some honest-to-goodness research and find out exactly what was done to help America recover from each and every recession since at least 1900? Even Reagan and Bush 41 had to abandon their oh-so-fiscally-responsible tendencies and do what several other presidents had done before in order to bring the country out of recession.

    But I’m just wasting my time – facts mean little to conservatives when those facts interfere with their rhetoric, no matter how false their rhetoric may be.

  • Ruvy

    The tried and true mantras don’t work, anymore Glenn. There is no recovery on the way because there is no value and no production on the way. Your once mighty nation has been sentenced to fast on hope – and fast it will. That is change you can believe in. Once the “stimulus” money is recycled out of the market – the money keeping your market at artificially rates now – the market will fall once again. And the dollar will fall with it.

    You have a year to get your ass in order before the crack-up comes. Enjoy it and make hay while the sun shines!

  • Ruvy

    Artificially high rates – Glenn. Artificially high rates. That is what the stimulus money is doing right now.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Ruvy –

    IMO, much depends on whether the West can get China to allow their currency to float with the rest of the world, rather than their government continuing to arbitrarily set the value of the yuan.

    That said, I think American worldwide influence and power has been in decline relative to the rest of the world since the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush administrations slashed regulations and allowed our manufacturing base to wither as the manufacturers moved overseas. In all honesty, though, the relative decline of U.S. power may have at least as much to do with the growth of the rest of the world than to the loss of our manufacturing base…and in any case, the rise of the rest of the world is a GOOD thing in the big picture of human civilization and progress.

    So is Obama accelerating the decline of American power relative to the rest of the world? Hardly. He’s been in damage control mode since 1/20 of last year, thanks to the utter mismanagement and power-hunger of those within the previous administration. At least Obama understands the necessity of diplomacy, whereas all the Rabid Right knows is “do what we say, or we’ll bring democracy to you, too!”

    On the economy, Obama is essentially doing what has been done to get America out of every recession/Depression since 1900…and yet you vilify him for it. If ‘stimulus packages’ destroy economies, then China’s would be in far worse shape than ours, because the stimulus THEY used to get out of this recession was (relative to their GDP) larger than ours, and their economy is NOT as resilient as our own, no matter what anyone tells you.

    Economically speaking, Obama’s doing at least as well as any president has following a recession since 1900…and if we start having positive job growth before August (we almost have it now), then the American unemployment rate will have begun improving faster than after any other recession since 1900, despite the fact that this is the worst recession since the Depression.

    But I suspect that none of this matters to you since you believe that Obama’s out to destroy Israel.

  • Ruvy

    Glenn,

    I don’t think Obama is out to destroy Israel – any thinking Israeli can see he is out to destroy this country, along with the Jew-hating scum in Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and a good part of the rest of Europe and the Arab world.

    But that is not the issue in this article, is it. The issue is “the economy, stupid”. Your economy and how it is cracking up because the artificial stimulation – or one should say “alleged stimulation” is based on money that has no value. This was not true in 1933, 1961, 1976, 1981, or even in 1993 when deficit spending was indulged in in a major way to pull the US out of a financial panic. And when that reality – the lack of value of the dollar because it has absolutely no backup at all – finally hits the economy and the market, you are sunk. This is only a temporary example of financial gravity working against central bank actions to float a worthless currency.

    The money line in this newsflash from Arutz Sheva: Despite the Bank of Israel buying $300 million in US dollars in order to strengthen the American currency for Israeli importers and exporters, the shekel-dollar exchange rate fell to 3.736 shekels to the dollar.

    This stuff begins slowly and sneaks up on you like a mugger in back alley. By the time you realize you are in danger, it is one second before the pistol smacks your head, or the knife goes into your ribs.

  • zingzing

    ruvy: “I don’t think Obama is out to destroy Israel – any thinking Israeli can see he is out to destroy this country, along with the Jew-hating scum in Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and a good part of the rest of Europe and the Arab world.”

    that sentence makes no sense. maybe “thinking” is in the wrong place. or something. maybe you’re missing a word here or there. but i think i understand the point you are trying to make.

    and just because someone doesn’t agree with every damn fool thing your country does, it doesn’t mean that they want to destroy you. i don’t agree with my best friends on everything. if you have an argument with your wife, are you going to rip her arms off and beat her to death?

    besides, going through your life convinced everyone is out to destroy you is just sad. or, at least it’s no way to spend a life, methinks.

    on a side note, there was an insert in the newspaper today. pretty much a mini jewish newspaper for the neighborhood i guess. one of the editorials asked the question “if anyone treated us like we are treating the people in gaza, what would we do?” it’s a fair question, but one that i don’t think you can honestly answer, or even attempt to.

  • mrdockellis

    Glenn and Ruvy I’m going to have to separate you two

    But seriously, Glen you don’t provide even a general fact to back up any of you claims about Bush/Reagan etc. . .

    I completely cede that W. started the money train, but Obama has dangerously accelerated it.

    Your “hope” for the economy to improve faces two rather large hurdles. One, once the recovery starts the Fed will raise rates hammering the housing sector yet again. Two, next year Obama will defacto raise taxes by letting the Bush cuts expire. Obama is also raising taxes through his health care monstrosity. These will hit the economy again and again.

    Now, if you believe as apparently Oblahblah does that you can always spend more and raise taxes and the economy will continue to produce, then I suggest you read the story about the goose that laid the golden egg.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dock –

    Didja hear about the Second Great Depression? The one that lasted throughout the 1950’s while the top marginal tax rate was at 91%, rather than the mid-to-high thirties that it is now?

    No, you haven’t, because there WASN’T one. High taxes do NOT harm an economy as long as those taxes are used to continue building the infrastructure of that economy. Low taxes, on the other hand, DO harm the economy, because the lowest points for the top marginal tax rate came in the late 1920’s, in 1981, and in 2001…each just before the three worst economic periods of turmoil in American history since the Civil War, and each low point of said tax rate was initiated by a Republican administration.

    And do you really want to claim that Reagan didn’t start the deregulation craze? It’s Reagan’s deregulation of the business community – which was accelerated by Bush/Clinton/Bush – that enabled our manufacturing base to easily move overseas. You really didn’t know this? If not, let me know, and I’ll give you a bunch of references. Good references.

  • STM

    What many Americans don’t realise is that a fall in the value of the dollar would actually be good for America.

    While the lunatics on Wall Street loved spruiking “King Dollar”, that was only so they could get rich.

    What they forgot to mention was that it buggered up America’s chance of competing with any other nation.

    High-value dollar: great for going on holiday to Europe or Asia, but crap if you want export markets.

    Simply, importers outside the US found buying American cost-prohibitive when they could the same quality – or better, in some cases – elsewhere.

    Now the dollar has come down a bit, we’re seeing American products on our shelves. Mt wife buys out of season nuts and cherries, and sometimes citrus fruits, freshly imported from the US and at reasonable prices.

    American cars have been on our roads for the past 10 years, and really obvious in the past five, and they haven’t been seen in any number – read: virtually none – since the 1960s.

    If America wants to get back to old glory days, she needs to do what she’s good at: making (or growing stuff) and selling it.

    As Ruvy and I have discussed in the past, shuffling bits of paper on Wall Street does nothing for the collective wealth of the nation but only lines the pockets of those who dabble in its dark arts.

    And a dark art it is, too, as we’ve seen over the past couple of years.

    As for gold, the gold standard and its problems: study up hard on the Great Depression and devaluing the major currencies relative to gold led to sustained recovery from that other little debacle early-sih last century.

    One day we’ll learn the lesson.

    For prudential good management: Regulate, regulate, regulate …

    But sensibly. Make a quid but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • http://ruvysroost.blogspot.com Ruvy

    Zing,

    I specifically did not discuss Israel because that is NOT the topic on the plate here. If you honestly feel that strongly about it all, WRITE AN ARTICLE HERE (you are a legitimate Blog-Critic, as I’ve been reminded), and I’ll tear apart whatever you say on that forum. It’ll be my pleasure to expose, once again, your astounding ignorance on that topic.

  • zingzing

    it’s still a legitimate question. however, it’s no surprise that you don’t want to address it.

    and you not wanting to discuss israel “because that is NOT the topic on the plate here” is something i’ll strive to remind you of from here on out. you’ve already weaseled around it once on this thread.

    i’ll ask again at a more appropriate time if you like.

  • mrdockellis

    Glen,

    You’ve got everything backwards. Low taxes cause a recession? But I guess in your world only the government causes economic growth, not private enterprise.

    Also, you seem to be wedded to raising tariffs on foreign goods. Even Democrats think Smoot-Hawley was a bad idea. That ship has sailed.

    And gosh, deregulation is really killing the natural gas business in the U.S. isn’t it?

    Still, you have an interesting anachronistic viewpoint and I love history, so it’s amusing to read your posts.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    No, Dock –

    You’ve got everything backwards. Low taxes cause a recession? But I guess in your world only the government causes economic growth, not private enterprise.

    What happens when taxes are too low is that government doesn’t have the funding it needs to enforce regulations, to build and maintain infrastructure, to support education.

    Why don’t you read about the causes of the Great Depression. It’s really interesting reading – and let’s see how some of these causes equate to the early 2000’s:

    – Uniform central bank policies allowed banks with poor lending policies to have easy access to credit—as easy as conservative banks. Austrian theorists hold that the key cause of the Depression was the expansion of the money supply in the 1920s that led to an unsustainable credit-driven boom.

    – During the Crash of 1929 preceding the Great Depression, margin requirements were only 10%. Brokerage firms, in other words, would lend $9 for every $1 an investor had deposited. Compare this to the modern derivatives market.

    – Some of the nation’s largest banks were failing to maintain adequate reserves and were investing heavily in the stock market or making risky loans.

    Sound familiar? But there were things that we did do now that was NOT done at the beginning of the Depression…like the TARP funds and the stimulus package. Milton Friedman noted that “From the cyclical peak in August 1929 to a cyclical trough in March 1933, the stock of money fell by over a third.” In other words, no stimulus was provided to the economy until after Roosevelt took office in March of ’33…and that’s when we began the long road to recovery.

    Many conservatives like to blame the Smoot-Hawley Act…but Smoot-Hawley did not cause the Depression. Why? Because Black Tuesday occurred on 10/29/29, but Smoot-Hawley wasn’t signed into law until 06/17/30 – over eight months later. Smoot-Hawley certainly made things worse, but it wasn’t a primary cause.

    In other words, loose monetary policy, an unsustainable credit boom, and the refusal of an economic stimulus (by the Republican administration under Hoover) largely led to the Depression.

    I’ll let you digest that and respond, and then I’ll begin helping you learn the importance of taxes.