The Room - 09/26/2008

September 26, 2008

Dear Readers,

What a world I have returned to from my cloistered retreat at the beautiful Vivenda Miranda, scenically situated on a cliff outside of the quaint port town of Lagos, Portugal.

Everything has changed.

Everything is changing.

The storm we have so long tried to help you prepare for is upon us. At this point, I can only hope you have your sails rigged for the storm now breaking, because time is running out.

The violent volatility I warned of when last I wrote has arrived, with towering waves now rising up and smashing into the economy - and as an unavoidable consequence, our personal portfolios -- from all sides.

Overnight the holders of my mortgage, WaMu, failed, the largest bank failure in history. This week, the golf course that I usually play on was taken over by the government... last week it belonged to AIG.

As you don't need me to tell you, that same government now wants to spend over a trillion dollars to bail out Wall Street and to shore up the money market mutual funds - which have so far flown under the radar screen despite portfolios stuffed to the brim with bad paper.

While no one was paying attention, U.S. automakers used their election year leverage to win approval for $25 billion in low-interest loans.

Monetary Base Jumped in Sept 24 Report

As you can see in the chart shown here, the monetary base of the U.S. has surged, a topic we'll have more on in The Casey Report, which will be released next week. Even before the bailout, the government has begun doing what it knows best... pumping up the money supply in a desperate attempt to save the economy from the crash it so desperately needs.

According to Reuters, last week the Fed lent nearly $188 billion per day, on average, to banks and money managers.

Last week, as this fiscal prolificacy was underway, gold surged as we expected it to. This week, it has consolidated, holding its gains but not pushing higher yet.

We don't care.

Owning gold right now is the right thing to do, on multiple levels. Others are now quickly coming to that same understanding. This week, I have had two calls from people I haven't heard from in years, asking me how to buy gold. And then there's this...

From a correspondent in Switzerland...

    We live outside of Fribourg. We called three banks and a coin dealer in town - no gold bullion; no silver bullion. Only numismatic coins. We were referred to a bank in Bern.

    So, we call Bank Cantonale Bern. The Cantonale Banks are like BofA in the States - it's a huge retail banking company with branches in most towns. We learn, yes, they have limited bullion for gold but no silver.

    The surprise came when we arrived at the bank this afternoon. The bank has a teller window, segregated off to the side of the others, with a sign above the window that read,

    "Change & Gold" (foreign currency and gold coins)

    We had to wait in line. I bought the last of the one-ounce bullion they had - Krugerands. And there were people behind us in line. The woman who helped us said that the demand for gold has been so strong that they made it available via front-line employees, rather than through a bank representative in a private, "behind the counter" transaction. And they haven't had silver for several weeks. She said supplies of silver had been sporadic at certain branches in Zurich.

    So there you have it. A retail bank where you can conduct business in gold just as easy as Swiss francs. A developing trend? One can only hope.

Just a few minutes ago, my dear friend Mr. Watson, whose birthday it was I went to help celebrate in Portugal, tipped me to this... from the Toronto Star.

    The U.S. Mint has temporarily halted distribution of its one-ounce American buffalo gold coins a month after placing limits on the sale of American eagle gold coins.

    Coin dealers from the U.S. to Canada have reported a surge in buying of bullion coins and other gold products as troubles in the financial markets prompt people to seek a safe haven in precious metals.

    "Demand has exceeded supply for American buffalo 24-karat gold one-ounce bullion coins, and our inventories have been depleted," the mint said in a note to its dealers. "We are, therefore, temporarily suspending sales of these coins."

The trading herd will follow the physical buyers. The recent $100 surge was just a precursor. The lag in understanding - and action - is understandable. The global economy is in a true paradigm shift. People don't want to believe what their eyes and ears are telling them. And so, at this point the trading herd is standing en masse, eyes wide open, nostrils flaring, muscles twitching spastically, waiting for the news that will tell them which way to bolt for safety.

While they are only to be used by the attentive, and with great caution, I am now using a variety of options and futures strategies to leverage what's coming. I will never risk so much as to put myself in any real financial trouble. But, with that filter, I am now positioning myself for higher gold prices and a falling stock market (I suspect one more dead-cat bounce after the bailout is passed... then watch out below).

Higher interest rates are a sure thing, but there will likely be a lag between now and then as well. Structure things right, and you can ride through any possible downturn, then earn extraordinary returns as things move in your favor. But the key thing to remember is that, like hot chili sauce, a little leverage goes a long way... and a lot of leverage can burn you, badly.

Knowing where your money is has also become very important. In the upcoming edition of The Casey Report, we'll also be presenting a detailed explanation of how to be sure your bank will be one of those still standing after the storm.

    [Ed. Note: The release date for The Casey Report is scheduled for Wednesday, October 1... but given the uncertainties surrounding the final details of the bailout, we reserve the right to publish a day or so later, in order to assure that our recommendations best reflect the new situation on the ground. Subscribers will be advised, one way or the other. If you are not yet a subscriber, you should be. Try our 3-month no-risk trial now.]

Whatever the final form of the bailout, and I am convinced there will be one - the money may not flow in exactly the way that Wall Street wants, but it will flow nonetheless -- in the medium to long term, the die is cast. The hegemony of the U.S. dollar in international trade is coming to an end (more on that momentarily). Given the lack of a tangible alternative, namely one that is not solely faith based, a new currency regime will arise. It's impossible to gauge from this distance what it will ultimately look like, or who will sponsor it (there is talk of the IMF fulfilling the role), but it's safe to assume it will have to include gold and other tangibles.

We live in dangerous, yet exciting, times. We'll continue doing our part to keep you in the know, and on the right side of things.

Moving along, I want to share a front-seat analysis on this week's congressional hearings on the bailout from Donald Grove, our new Washington correspondent.

The Bailout: Behind the Scenes

By Donald Grove

I went to hear Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testify this morning before the Joint Economic Committee (Chairman Chuck Schumer, D-NY), primarily on the Bush administration's capital markets intervention proposal. I thought I would pass on my observations, which will probably be different than what you read in the mainstream press. Bernanke has had it rough lately. He was testifying yesterday with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and SEC Chairman Chris Cox before the Senate Banking Committee (Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn) and was scheduled to testify with Paulson later this afternoon before the House Financial Services Committee (Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass).

Schumer recalled that Bernanke last appeared before the Joint Economic Committee in April, following the narrowly averted collapse of Bear Stearns. He said "Most of us thought we had just witnessed an event that we were likely never to see again in our lifetimes. And yet, here we are, only six months later, and we are discussing a crisis many orders of magnitude greater." Schumer stated, as did others, that "we must act and we must act soon." Those statements were not without reservations, however, and I would add that not acting may be the more prudent course. There seems to be a compulsion on the Hill to do something, even if it's wrong. I guess that's what legislators think their constituents expect - and maybe they do. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told NBC's "Meet the Press" that "nobody knows exactly what they should do, but anything is better than nothing." Not necessarily so - in fact, probably not so. "Expecting Congress to fix the current financial crisis is like expecting an arsonist to put out the fire he started," said Representative John Shadegg (R-Az).

Schumer told Bernanke that "Americans are furious" and that he and probably each of his colleagues have heard "amazement, astonishment, and intense anger" from constituents. No doubt, but why? According to Schumer, "over the last eight years, we were told that markets knew best, that financial alchemy had reduced risk to an afterthought, and that we were entering a new world of global growth and prosperity. Instead, what we have learned is that we now have to pay for the greed and recklessness of those who should have known better." Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. I personally recall hearing Schumer in a hearing on the Hill within the last eight years demanding that the less fortunate be given access to home mortgages so they, too, could realize the American dream. He was not alone. The former Fed chairman urged Americans to avail themselves of adjustable-rate mortgages. As was often noted during today's hearing, there is plenty of blame to go around. What worried me was the tendency to lay blame for this debacle on the free market.

As I noted above, I think doing nothing may be the best thing Congress can do right now. In fact, if Congress had done nothing in the past, we might have avoided a lot of these problems. It's never too late to stop meddling. Why not start right now? Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) suggested that we just let the free-market system correct itself. Of course the Fed chairman did not agree. He told Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) that we need to figure out what the price should be on complex securities so that private capital can come in and help buy them up so that banks can reestablish capital to make loans. Ron Paul, in prime form, said that most illiquid assets are illiquid because they are not worth anything. He added that price fixing prolonged the Great Depression, and that is what is being proposed now. He said that messing with prices risks socialism. Paul said the Fed is not smart enough to fix prices. Hear! Hear! Nor, I would add, is the Treasury Secretary or Congress. The free market, however, is uniquely able by its very nature to set prices just right, including, by the way, interest rates - the price of money.

Congressman Paul asked where this $700 billion will come from. Not from taxes or borrowing from China. He said it will come from us, presumably through the insidious tax of inflation. He explained that the downturn in housing is because housing is overpriced. Let housing prices come down, he said. He said, "We can't solve inflation with more inflation." Paul asked the Fed chairman where his authority comes from and noted that only 15% of Americans care about the Constitution or the rule of law - and less than that in Washington, D.C.

Bernanke conceded that price fixing was counterproductive but insisted that we have to somehow "discover" what prices are. Duhhh! That's what the free market is for! As to his authority, he cited the Federal Reserve Act ..... "now if you disagree with the Act...." Well, I do disagree, and I think Ron Paul also believes that the creation of the central bank in 1913 was where a lot of this trouble started. Nevertheless, I don't think the Fed has even been complying with the mandate and constraints of the Act.

Refreshingly, retiring Senator Jim Saxton, ranking member on the Committee (R-NJ), noted that it would be nice if we could go to a safe at Treasury and take out about 5% of GDP to bail out financial institutions, but we can't. We have to borrow it, he said (albeit probably surreptitiously from our unborn progeny). I am always heartened to see that someone on the Hill realizes that. Unfortunately, I suspect that a majority of Americans do vaguely suppose that there is something like a big safe with real money in it that the government taps to pay for things like this - kind of like believing that the Social Security Trust Fund is bundles of hundred-dollar bills stacked up in a cool, dry place.

Vice Chairman Carolyn Maloney (R-NY) asked if this proposal to intervene in the credit markets to the tune of $700 B would affect inflation and wondered if the Fed might have to raise rates. Bernanke said that this was not a stimulus. He said that if it helps the economy grow, the Fed may have to raise rates sooner, but the he did not expect it to have any effect on inflation. I'm speechless! Of course it's inflationary. I also have to wonder whenever I hear a comment like this, whether he actually believes that an expanding economy causes inflation - like some mysterious act of God - and that it is the Fed's role to counter that by raising rates.

He explained that this would not be an expenditure. He said it would be "acquisition of assets." If there is a loss, he said, it would be much less than $700 B. I think I agree with Ron Paul. We are basically trying to pretend that the real estate bubble never popped by saying that the debt instruments based on those inflated values still have value. Several legislators expressed their frustration over the fact that Hank Paulson added other toxic waste to the mix this weekend - car loans, student loans.

Congress is trying to add its own unique signature to this boondoggle. For example, there is talk of coming up with the money by placing a surcharge on those making over a certain amount per year (I think $1M). There is also a move to restrict the compensation of financial institution executives. Amy Klubuchar (D-MN), said, "There should be a limit on what you can make when taking our money." Bernanke said there has to be an incentive for risk taking. "For this to work," he said, "we need a wide range of participation. If we stigmatize institutions that participate, they won't participate." Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) suggested a $200 B tranche with Warren Buffett at the head of the board of some administering organization to "get these institutions functioning again." Bernanke noted that Buffett had invested $5 B in Goldman Sachs and that the Oracle of Omaha had said that we "go over the precipice if Congress does not act."

There was also a bright side to proposals from legislators. Kevin Brady suggested that Congress look at a holiday on the capital gains tax or temporarily lowering repatriation road blocks since taxes now make it too expensive to bring capital home from overseas. He noted that three years ago, $300 B came home when the tax barriers were lowered. Bernanke said these actions alone will not solve the problem. Again, I am not holding my breath - more likely that we will see exchange controls.

Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) noted that although Bernanke says he will be "acquiring assets," he has asked Congress to raise the debt limit to do it and is acquiring the assets because they are toxic waste and we don't know what they're worth. "In Texas," he said, "we say ‘those chickens are coming home to roost.'" Then he thought better of it and said "vultures are coming home to roost." He said we have a bankrupt ideology. I'm not holding my breath waiting for taxpayers to get their $700 B back. Ron Paul later said that after Doggett's comments, he can't tell who the conservatives are.

As is often the case in exchanges with the Fed chairman, there was an emphasis on market psychology, not real sound money practices. The whole concern seems to be for creating the illusion of economic stability as if stability could not actually be achieved, so the illusion is the best we can do. For example, Schumer asked whether a $150 billion installment, with the rest to come later, wouldn't be enough to assure markets that Congress is serious. Bernanke agreed that it is about psychology and said $700 B is what the administration thought it would take to provide psychological reassurance. Representative Carolyn Maloney asked where he got that figure. He said it was not science. It's about 5% of the $14 trillion in outstanding residential and commercial mortgages, on which the loss rate is about 5 %. I couldn't help thinking that returning to the gold standard would certainly show the market that Congress was serious and would allow real financial planning instead of trying to guess at the unintended consequences of clumsy government intervention in the free market.

There was a lot of discussion of the technical aspects of getting banks lending again - putting taxpayers first, strong congressional oversight, enticing financial institutions, including foreign institutions, to participate in the auction of these troubled securities, fire sale vs. hold-to-maturity prices, the Fed paying a premium for them. Senator John Sununu asked if firms would be willing to sell at below book value. Bernanke said (apparently now agreeing with Ron Paul) that "over time there is no way to hide the real value of an asset." I think that was a "yes," but I found myself wondering whether the objective here isn't to pay above-market value for these securities with taxpayer's money. I think it is.

Bernanke said this is the most significant post-war economic crisis for the United States and the world. He noted the hardships for those on Main Street if banks can't lend - consumer credit dries up, car and small business loans are unavailable. Baron Hill (D-IN) asked Bernanke what he should tell his constituents who asked if their stock portfolios and 401(k)s were going to lose value. Bernanke said "yes," they would lose value if Congress does not act. He said the credit system is like plumbing that permeates the economy. He said choking credit takes the life blood out of the economy. That may be, but perhaps it should not be. It occurred to me that there are two components to interest: opportunity cost and risk of lost purchasing power. If you take away the latter, I think the credit system becomes quite simple and we don't have to go through all these contortions, and probably don't need the Federal Reserve. Inconveniently, the government would have to live within its means like the rest of us.

Bernanke said the pain on Main Street would be very significant if Congress does not authorize this plan. He urged Congress to solve this problem now and come back later and look at reforming regulation. As Representative John Shadegg said, however, you can't expect an arsonist to put out the fire he started. There is no way we are going to avoid pain at this point. It seems to me that each time Congress tries to avoid it, the inevitable pain gets worse. Let's bite the bullet and get it over with and for God's sake, no more regulation!

Jim DeMint (R-SC) said that unbridled capitalism is not at fault. He said this problem was caused by the government and its implied guarantee. He said we removed accountability for risk from the enterprise system and that this was a failure of government intervention, not a failure of the free market. Bernanke tried to clarify that he was not talking about heavier regulation, just reformed, smarter regulation - maybe even less regulation. I'm afraid I have evolved from a libertarian into an anarchist and find not the slightest comfort in those words. I was happy to hear DeMint point out that some of the institutions that Bernanke found too big to fail were government-created GSEs. He said that none of these programs support free-market activity. He noted that the Sarbanes-Oxley "monster" chased capital off shore but failed to tell us about Bear Stearns. He concluded that "no amount of government regulation will eliminate corruption if risk is removed." Bravo!

Rep. Phil English (R-PA) was troubled by the extraordinary power this proposal would give to the Treasury Secretary, an unelected official. He suggested that this was the path to "Crony Capitalism." I will add that the next Treasury Secretary will inherit this power and will not only be unelected, he or she has not even been named.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) observed that Bernanke and Paulson went to the White House with this problem last Thursday but had to have known about it before that. He wondered why Congress had been kept in the dark. Bernanke cited efforts taken to correct the problem, including the discount window, CDSs, and the market's natural healing process. Hinchey said he was skeptical in April when Bernanke and Paulson told the Committee that the economy was growing and that our financial institutions were healthy. He said there was motivation to keep this under cover and that we are seeing manipulations and distortions of the mortgage market. Bernanke cited the sharp interest rate cuts in January. Apparently he was still hopeful that they would work in April and did not want to alarm the Committee. He suggested that Congress "should look at substantial regulatory reform." He suggested a "1-2 punch. Stabilize and then fix it so it does not happen again." Again, I say that fixing it will take more than adjusting a few dials or fine tuning some regulations. The overhaul necessary to fix this I suspect no one on the Hill has the guts for except Ron Paul, maybe Tom Coburn.

In conclusion, I would say it sounds like this bailout may not be a done deal. Constituents are ringing phones off the hook, telling their legislators "don't do it." Many are suspicious that it came up so quickly and that they are being asked to act so quickly. Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) told CNN, "There are those in the public debate who have said that we must act now. The last time I heard that, I was on a used-car lot. The truth is, every time somebody tells you that you've got to do the deal right now, it usually means they're going to get the better part of the deal."

Always the optimist.

Regards, Don

More Views on the Bailout From the Washington Post...

    The director of the Congressional Budget Office said yesterday that the proposed Wall Street bailout could actually worsen the current financial crisis.

    During testimony before the House Budget Committee, Peter R. Orszag -- Congress's top bookkeeper -- said the bailout could expose the way companies are stowing toxic assets on their books, leading to greater problems.

    "Ironically, the intervention could even trigger additional failures of large institutions, because some institutions may be carrying troubled assets on their books at inflated values," Orszag said in his testimony. "Establishing clearer prices might reveal those institutions to be insolvent."

    In an interview later yesterday, Orszag explained using the following example: Suppose a company has Asset X, whose value is recorded on the books as $100. Because of the current economic decline, Asset X's real value has dropped to $50. If the company takes part in the government bailout and sells Asset X for $50, the company has to report a $50 loss on its books. On a scale of millions of dollars, such write-downs could ruin a company.

    Such companies "look solvent today only because it's kind of hidden," Orszag said. "They actually are insolvent" already, he said.

From Ron Paul...

    Dear Friends,

    Whenever a Great Bipartisan Consensus is announced, and a compliant media assures everyone that the wondrous actions of our wise leaders are being taken for our own good, you can know with absolute certainty that disaster is about to strike.

    The events of the past week are no exception.

    The bailout package that is about to be rammed down Congress' throat is not just economically foolish. It is downright sinister. It makes a mockery of our Constitution, which our leaders should never again bother pretending is still in effect. It promises the American people a never-ending nightmare of ever-greater debt liabilities they will have to shoulder. Two weeks ago, financial analyst Jim Rogers said the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac made America more communist than China! "This is welfare for the rich," he said. "This is socialism for the rich. It's bailing out the financiers, the banks, the Wall Streeters."

    That describes the current bailout package to a T. And we're being told it's unavoidable.

    The claim that the market caused all this is so staggeringly foolish that only politicians and the media could pretend to believe it. But that has become the conventional wisdom, with the desired result that those responsible for the credit bubble and its predictable consequences - predictable, that is, to those who understand sound, Austrian economics - are being let off the hook. The Federal Reserve System is actually positioning itself as the savior, rather than the culprit, in this mess!

    • The Treasury Secretary is authorized to purchase up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets at any one time. That means $700 billion is only the very beginning of what will hit us.
    • Financial institutions are "designated as financial agents of the Government." This is the New Deal to end all New Deals.
    • Then there's this: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." Translation: the Secretary can buy up whatever junk debt he wants to, burden the American people with it, and be subject to no one in the process.

    There goes your country.

    Even some so-called free-market economists are calling all this "sadly necessary." Sad, yes. Necessary? Don't make me laugh.

    Our one-party system is complicit in yet another crime against the American people. The two major party candidates for president themselves initially indicated their strong support for bailouts of this kind - another example of the big choice we're supposedly presented with this November: yes or yes. Now, with a backlash brewing, they're not quite sure what their views are. A sad display, really.

    Although the present bailout package is almost certainly not the end of the political atrocities we'll witness in connection with the crisis, time is short. Congress may vote as soon as tomorrow. With a Rasmussen poll finding support for the bailout at an anemic seven percent, some members of Congress are afraid to vote for it. Call them! Let them hear from you! Tell them you will never vote for anyone who supports this atrocity.

    The issue boils down to this: do we care about freedom? Do we care about responsibility and accountability? Do we care that our government and media have been bought and paid for? Do we care that average Americans are about to be looted in order to subsidize the fattest of cats on Wall Street and in government? Do we care?

    When the chips are down, will we stand up and fight, even if it means standing up against every stripe of fashionable opinion in politics and the media?

    Times like these have a way of telling us what kind of a people we are, and what kind of country we shall be.

    In liberty,

    Ron Paul

Quotes from the Quislings

Not to be indelicate, but the working title I had chosen for this next section was "FCUK YOU!"... that, by virtue of my feeling that strong words are in order for the quislings who purport to be free marketers and who have been lined up to support the government's bailout.

Here's my Rogues List...

    Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Laurence Fink, chief executive officer of fund manager BlackRock Inc., said the U.S. Treasury's bailout of financial companies can succeed without taxpayers bearing the costs.

    "If this plan works, taxpayers are not going to be out money," Fink, a pioneer of mortgage-backed securities, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

    ... Based on current prices, buyers of distressed debt, including the government, will earn "strong returns over the next five to seven years," said Fink, who declined to say whether his New York-based company will bid on contracts to manage the proposed Treasury fund.

And there's the well-regarded Mr. Buffett...

    Sept. 24 (Bloomberg) - Billionaire Warren Buffett, calling turmoil in the markets an "economic Pearl Harbor," said his $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is an endorsement of the Treasury's $700 billion bank rescue plan.

    "I am betting on the Congress doing the right thing for the American public and passing this bill," Buffett said on cable channel CNBC today. "I certainly have a vote of confidence in Goldman and vote of confidence in Congress."

Of course, Buffett didn't mention how much money his company stood to lose if the government failed to rush into the breach. Or how much extra money he'd make by trading his good name to Goldman for a sweetheart deal that will form a footnote in all future books on financial topics... but only if the bailout goes through. Among other kisses, Buffett's coup includes perpetual preferred shares that pay a 10% coupon. Simply, that means if the U.S.G. bails out Goldman, Buffett will collect $500 million a year on his $5 billion investment, and his payments will come before those sent to any other shareholders. He also gets under-the-market warrants on another $5 billion worth of shares.

Goldman never would have agreed to this deal unless their feet were roasting in the coals of calamity. One can hardly blame Buffett for making his move (it's not like he couldn't withstand the loss of $5 billion, should the worst come to pass), but now that he is so handsomely positioned, his cheerleading should be viewed as the disingenuous self-dealing that it is.

And then there's this, from the Washington Post, quoting mega-bond manager Bill Gross...

    "The Treasury proposal will not be a bailout of Wall Street but a rescue of Main Street, as lending capacity and confidence is restored to our banks and the delicate balance between production and finance is given a chance to work its magic. Democratic Party earmarks mandating forbearance on home mortgage foreclosures will be critical as well. If this program is successful, however, it is obvious that the free market and Wild West capitalism of recent decades will be forever changed. Future economic textbooks are likely to teach that while capitalism is the most dynamic and productive system ever conceived, it is most efficient over the long term when there is another delicate balance -- between private incentive and government oversight."

On that last bit, I feel it's worth mentioning that Freddie and Fannie may have "enjoyed" more government oversight than any other two institutions on the planet.

If there is one certainty, and there are several related to this fiasco, it will be that the free market will be made the patsy, and the result will be a public outcry for more, not less government.

In the end, now that the government has broached the topic, the $700 billion is going to get spent... whether it starts by going into the pockets of the Wall Street, or is cycled back into the public pocket through the vehicle of FDIC guarantees, or making the money market funds whole, or giving millions of householders a free ride on their mortgages... or simply writing checks to consumers... it, and a lot more is going to get spent.

For my money, and it is my money (and yours), the best argument for the bailout was offered by none other than President Bush, who succinctly opined in a meeting yesterday of congressional leaders, "If money isn't loosened, this sucker could go down."

Unfortunately this sucker, aka the economy, is going down no matter what they do at this point.

At this point, all we can do is to wait and watch. Focus on liquidity for your personal portfolio and prepare for the worst. It's coming.

About Those Foreigners...

In all of the frenzy, the U.S. Government seems to be largely ignoring the foreign holders of our many trillions of dollars. This is also, as we have repeatedly said would be the case, because foreigners don't vote, and if they do decide to dump their dollars - as we expect they will (and actually are) - they will only hurt themselves. Or, so runs the logic of desperate policymakers, relying on MMAD (Monetary Mutual Assured Destruction) to rationalize their massive unleashing of dollars.

If you've voted for any of the clowns running our country for the last 40 or so years, you might want to take a moment to apologize to your children and, if you have them, your grandchildren as well. (Ron Paul supporters, you can take a pass on this.)

That's because, as I mentioned above, the U.S. Government has managed to squander the unbelievable advantage of being the suppliers of the world's de-facto reserve currency... an advantage made almost miraculous given that it was backed by nothing.

All the bureaucrats had to do was show even modest restraint and occasionally take a few moments to remind themselves of the principles of self-reliance and open opportunity that made this country what it is. Instead, the political class, cheered on by the voting public, fell in love with virtually every perfect-world social program, every new make work, corporate suck-up and pork barrel program waved in front of their snout-bedecked faces these many years. In the process, they have traded away something that no nation will again enjoy... a global blank check.

Bud Conrad is assembling the eye-opening hard data showing the trend reversal in foreign investment in U.S. dollar assets for the next edition of The Casey Report.

In the meantime, the anecdotal evidence is beginning to mount, an example being this item from MarketWatch this week..

    HONG KONG (MarketWatch) -- Chinese regulators have asked domestic banks to stop lending to U.S. financial institutions in the interbank money markets to prevent possible losses during the financial crisis, the South China Morning Post reported Thursday. The China Banking Regulatory Commission's ban on interbank lending of all currencies applied to U.S. banks, but not to lenders from other countries, the report added, citing a source.

I don't need to tell you that the Chinese government operates on group-think. For an official arm of the government to take this step is a howitzer shot across the bow of the U.S. ship of state.

Meanwhile, the current administration has managed to almost entirely alienate the Russians with our persistent meddling overseas ("Avoid foreign entanglements," said George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. "Take over the world," answered a succession of modern politicos). Not shy about giving as good as they get, the Putinistas are moving game pieces closer to home ground.

    (Mineweb) Gazprom, Russia's leading company and the world's largest exporter of energy, has signed an undertaking with the Venezuelan government to take a 15% stake in the development of two offshore oil and gas zones in the Caribbean.

    The memorandum was signed on Monday in Caracas, as a Russian Navy squadron, including the heavy cruiser Peter the Great and three escorts, set sail from St. Petersburg to join Venezuelan vessels in the first show of Russian naval power in the American hemisphere for many years.

    They have been preceded by the Russian Air Force, which dispatched a pair of long-range bombers to Venezuela for the past week. A Russian naval spokesman told Mineweb the squadron will operate in the Caribbean, and will enter the sea from the Atlantic Ocean.

And the official mouthpieces of the Russian government, this one from the Russian News and Information Agency, are firing torpedoes at the U.S. dollar. This excerpt from an article entitled "Time for a gold rouble" published yesterday...

    At first sight, Russia's role in the international financial system does not seem very large. However, as a major exporter of hydrocarbons, her role in the world economy is actually very important. As the age of the dollar draws to a close, Russia will have to consider selling her oil and gas not in the devalued American currency, but instead in the euro used by most of her customers. It is surely unnatural for two geographical neighbours to do such large volumes of business using the currency of a distant and now ailing nation.

    Second, the Russian leaders might also consider making their own currency, the ruble, convertible into gold. The idea of gold convertible currencies is extremely unpopular among most economists; they dismiss gold as a "barbarous relic" (to use the famous phrase of John Maynard Keynes) and suggest either the present regime of paper currencies or, at best, a link to a basket of commodities.

    Both these solutions are highly artificial and based on the same level of state control which has now just so spectacularly failed. Indeed, which is more "barbarous" -- the reintroduction of gold as an instrument of payment, or the practice of amassing huge quantities of the precious metal to keep it locked underground in the vaults of central banks? The contempt of the Keynesians notwithstanding, it is an indisputable fact that gold does remain the ultimate store of value, which is precisely why states own so much of it.

At this point, even our "friends" are starting to make excuses and reach for their coats. This from a Reuters report on the strong words falling out of the mouth of the German finance minister...

    BERLIN -- Germany blamed the United States on Thursday for spawning the global financial crisis with a blind drive for higher profits and said it would now have to accept greater market regulation and a loss of its financial superpower status.

    In some of the toughest language since the crisis worsened this month, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck told parliament the financial turmoil would leave "deep marks" but was primarily an American problem.

    "The world will never be as it was before the crisis," Steinbrueck, a deputy leader of the center-left Social Democrats, told the Bundestag lower house.

    "The United States will lose its superpower status in the world financial system. The world financial system will become more multi-polar."

It is impossible to fully appreciate, let alone understand, the implications of the loss of the dollar's global reserve status... but it's a topic we'll be digging into. It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.

A Musical Interlude

For something a little lighter, I want to share some of the musical recommendations that were sent by readers in response to my recent solicitation.

Before getting to your recommendations, however, I'll tell you that today I have been listening, repetitively, to the soundtrack from "Once," an excellent film we watched earlier this week. Our own Louis James had first recommended it, followed by another friend, and so I thought I should check it out. It is a simple, beautifully executed, romantic little film... overlaid with powerful music.

The track I'm currently listening to is one of my favorites, "When Your Mind's Made Up." You can listen to it and see a scene from the film, compliments of YouTube, by clicking here. It starts slow, then builds to the point where it pretty much blows me away -- just the kind of music I love.

Okay, so that's my entry this week... now here are yours.

    "Explosions in the Sky is an instrumental band with a dark, atmospheric sound. They have a lot of complex guitar parts and their dynamic range can be amazing. You kind of have to listen to whole albums at once because of the way a lot of their songs flow together, but "The Birth and Death of the Day" and "It's Natural to Be Afraid" (an appropriately named song to listen to while watching the markets lately) on their album "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone" are quite dramatic." Kevin L

My All Time 5 Favorites... Foo Fighters - Pretender - awesome video where they fight the riot police, btw...

KRS1 - Sound of Da Police ...

NWA - F*** Da Police

Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2

Public Enemy - Fight the Power.

As you may have noticed, I like my music with a message... Music to overthrow your government by! Jeff B.

First off, the Isley Bros, in general, are hard to beat. For passion and purity of voice you gotta hear (the late, due to cancer) Eva Cassidy, not exactly rockin' music but well worth the listen. I was delighted to actually find recordings of her live performances on YouTube, though her best album was Songbird.

Other mentionables from assorted categories that are worth a listen and whom you may or may not be familiar with (we're about the same age) are Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks (hippie country rock), Zap Mamma (world), (the late due to dying) Shirley Horn (torch jazz), and early John Mayall (blues).

    At your request for more music, I'd like to suggest you check out my downtempo tunes @ They are non-vocal and pretty mellow - excellent for chill times, especially whilst at the computer. All my music is available for free download (creative commons). My last CD was on heavy rotation on several NPR shows - so don't equate free music with lack of quality.

    Thanks for all the great insights so far. . . James

So here is my must have for you and maybe you are already enlightened... Yo La Tengo. Writing beautiful rock and roll for 20 years. Check Youtube "Today is the day" and listen to the live performance on John McEnroe's show. Then graduate to "Blue Line Swinger" It is a 9 minute song and the first time you hear it, by minute 4 and 20 seconds your foot will be tapping, the second time I think it will be tapping the whole time. John W.

    The piece that you linked by Jesse Cook, I recognized from an album called Gypsy Soul. I believe it is labeled flamenco-classical guitar. The motivation for buying the album was that it contained a song I had long sought after hearing it a few times on the radio: Obsession Confession by some guy named Slash, whom you probably know better than me; he was the front man for Guns & Roses (who I wasn't familiar with either). This rocker taught himself flamenco-style guitar picking and composed the song for some slasher/thriller movie. This isn't the typical guitar music I prefer, but there is something about this song that makes me crank it up.

    While speaking of songs that get me movin' (and STOP me from working), I might mention one called Orinoco Flow (Sail Away) by Enya. Sounds as if it would be rather staid if you know anything of her, but there again is something about that song... it got airplay at a time when I was training for powerlifting at some ungodly early time in the morning before work. Whenever that song would come on, I would have to wait to start my set, but I was awake and movin' by the end of it.

    How about Classical Gas for a movin' song?

    Country music provides the bulk of the really good guitar playing (and I honestly am not that impressed by most rock guitar playing). Roy Clark has been my favorite since I was a kid (although I don't really care to have him sing). And if they were to map my DNA, I believe they would discover a Boogie gene.

    And on that note, give a listen to an Aussie flatpicking champion named Tommy Emmanuel.

    Now back to work (me, not you). Matt B.

    A tune that is a favourite of mine and in keeping with the problems at present (Chris Rea's Highway to Hell) (listen carefully to the lyrics) for your entertainment. Chris M.

David again, I have many more... and will try to cycle in your recommendations in future editions. But for now, time is running short and I need to move on. Thanks to all of you who have contributed... my musical horizons have been expanded.

McPalin Is Toast

This week I finally found the time to spend a little time, figuratively speaking, with Sarah Palin (encouraged by an article Doug Casey is preparing for The Casey Report on McCain's surprise running mate).

I have to say, I was pretty shocked. As I think many Americans will be, as they watch the candidate in action in the weeks just ahead.

The following quote is from Palin's interview with Katie Couric, in response to a question on the bailout.

    "That's why I say, I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in [fumbling for words to continue] where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh -- it's got to be all about job creation too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that."

Huh? What?

Listen, I know there are McPalin supporters out there and, I will say it again, strictly from a personal perspective - i.e., I really don't want to pay any more taxes - if I were forced to pull a lever, it would be for McCain (because a victory by him would mean gridlock, that glorious state where the government's power to "do good" is curtailed). So, don't get angry or send me emails accusing me of being some sort of commie-sympathizer or member of the left-wing media conspiracy.

I'm sure Sarah Palin is a perfectly wonderful person, but she is way out of her league here. And, shortly, the boomerang effect of her media appearances is going to smack McPalin upside the head.

If you don't believe me, watch the following excerpt from the Couric interviews, this one on Palin's purported experience in foreign affairs. (You may have already seen this, because it's starting to make the rounds on the net... which is exactly the problem.)

At this point, I can't see any conceivable way McPalin wins. Which means, get ready for a serious asset stripping come next year.


    Phyling On... For newcomers to our service, a phyle (the phrase is from Neil Stephenson's classic novel, The Diamond Age) is nothing more than an informal gathering of Casey subscribers who are looking to exchange thoughts with like-minded individuals. (I can tell you that in my hometown, I can count the number of people who see the world through the same lens as I do on a single hand.)

    In any event, Herb in Jacksonville, FL is looking to start a phyle.

    And the next meeting of the Sacramento phyle is scheduled for September 30th with Ron Parratt of AuEx (one of my favorite explorers) as a guest participant.

    And the Toronto group, one of the most active, will be held on October 3... with our own Doug Casey sitting in.

    For more details on any of these get-togethers, or any of the other phyles now up and running (this is all happening organically, by the way... all we're doing is facilitating the introductions of the new members to the organizers), contact Kristen at [email protected]

Well, that's all that time allows for today. It has been a long and immensely interesting week. We are living through a crisis of a magnitude seen only once a century. While one might take satisfaction by being able to say "I told you so" to sundry friends and associates - you know, the ones who have habitually rolled their eyes and parroted the "all is well" mantra of the financial talk show hosts whenever you have tried to warn them about what's coming... the reality is that these are dangerous times. Even for the prepared.

So, be careful. Especially when discussing topics related to wealth and precious metals ownership. Those who "have" could easily become targets for those who "have not" as this crisis unfolds. Mum's the word.

As I sign off, stocks are largely flat and precious metals are up nicely, to $888. If I were to guess what's going to happen next, it will be that an agreement on the bailout will be announced, the stock market will have another dead-cat bounce... after which it is going to start on a sharp slide.

As always, I greatly appreciate you using some of your valuable time to read this column, blog, musings - whatever it is. Your comments and suggestions are always welcomed, and often directly responded to, by writing [email protected]

A final note. If you have friends who you think might benefit from our service, we would take it as a great favor if you'd tell them about our services and suggest they take us up on our 3-month no-risk trial subscription for The Casey Report. The next three months should be particularly important, so now's the time to act. You'll be doing them a favor, if for no other reason that our analysis is unbiased because it is beholding to no one except you, our subscribers.

As for the money managers and other talking heads now cheering for the bailout versus warning the people who listen to them to run for cover... well...

I'll leave it at that...

Until next week,

David Galland

David Galland
Managing Director
Casey Research, LLC.

Posted 09-30-2008 4:34 PM by David Galland