The Room – 05/22/2009
A dose of sanity returned to the markets this week, starting with cracks beginning to show in the U.S. dollar. Consequently gold, the not-so-barbaric relic, seems to be attracting an awful lot of attention. Instead of falling, as so many pundits have been predicting it should, it has begun to string together a number of impressive up days. Another run at $1,000 in the weeks just ahead is not out of the question.

Also this week, the U.S. stock market hit a pothole on the road to Happy Days Again, helped along, apparently, by massive selling by corporate insiders...

    " the last couple weeks, company chief executives and chief financial officers have gone from big buyers to heavy sellers. According to, two weeks ago there was a slight bias towards selling, while last week turned in the biggest disparity of sellers to buyers — more than 1.2 sellers for every buyer — since September." (WSJ)

In addition, the chart for long-dated U.S. Treasury bonds this week – shown here – resembles a steep cliff. It appears that the U.S. Treasury Department's irrational exuberance for every bailout program that lands on its desk is finally beginning to raise doubts about the government's ability to repay its many obligations. Ahead of us on the curve, the sovereign debt of the UK is thought to be a tea cozy away from being downgraded from the AAA status normally assigned to a respectable country's sovereign debt.

While no one likes to be the bearer of bad news, this week's market action is a welcome confirmation that just maybe we haven't lost our minds here at Casey Research. I can't begin to recount the number of times I woke up in the morning wondering if we were missing something really, really big regarding the current crisis. After all, both the dollar and the stock market have held up remarkably well in the face of what appears to be irrefutable evidence that the U.S. currency and economy are now racing down the fast track to a devastating collision with the reality that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Despite many opinions to the contrary, the government cannot "fix" an economy as massively broken as ours. At least the fixing involves throwing out some magic combination of regulations, jawboning, newly created money, and backroom deals with fiscally irresponsible and financially bankrupt cronies.

We are, I would opine, at the crossroads of a new paradigm in American history. We have to be, because the path we have recently traveled to get here has been wiped out by an avalanche of bad policy and institutionalized self-dealing on a biblical scale. We are not going back to the bubble years anytime soon, any more than the Japanese have or will in our lifetimes.

That is not to say that America is doomed or that we should begin eyeing the ground for roots and berries. Rather, the citizenry of this nation – and the world, for that matter – are going to have to adapt their personal outlook to the way things are, and not the way network television has portrayed them these many years. Not everyone is going to have a new car every couple of years.

Of course, it's going to take awhile for this notion to sink in. Humankind, and Americans in particular, are forever looking forward to a bigger and brighter future. To the extent that said view of the future includes ever larger high-definition TVs, the latest gadgets, and an ATV parked in the backyard right next to the trampoline and above-ground pool, expectations will have to change. Probably in conjunction with the simultaneous receipt of one's first unemployment check and one's first unpayable credit card bill.

Illuminating these post-apocalyptic thoughts, just below is the text of an e-mail I received yesterday from Dominick, a valued subscriber and correspondent of some duration.


    I spent some time this past week in northern Ohio. I was born and raised in the industrial city of Lorain, Ohio. When I left in 1973, the city had a population of 100,000, with the largest Ford assembly plant in America, and the United States Steel plant was the largest producer of steel pipe. Both are gone now. The city has a population of 60,000.

    My old neighborhood is littered with boarded-up houses. The city has no money to repair the streets from the winter's mauling (I nearly lost a wheel in one of them). The local high school (the Nobel writer Toni Morrison's alma mater) is being closed and torn down after 95 years, because the city can't afford to repair it. Many friends and family members who still live there have recently been laid off or let go from jobs they held for over 30 years (including healthcare workers, the supposed defensive play). Then I drove to the Cleveland Clinic in downtown Cleveland, passing block after block of boarded-up warehouses, shuttered homes, etc.

    Yes, this decay began decades ago, but the rot has become palpable.

I heard an interview on National Public Radio this week with a bunch of graduates from the college class of 2009. They universally lamented the fact that there were no jobs of any description available. Experts and various callers chimed in with their suggestions for the unlucky class. One graduate with a degree in nursing complained that contrary to expectations, there were no nursing jobs on Long Island where she lived. Apparently a lot of the hospitals in the area have closed or are closing. One caller helpfully suggested that she might want to move to another part of the country where nurses were still in demand. Her reply was along the lines of "No way," and that it wasn't fair. In other words, she was entitled to her job exactly where she wanted it.

These attitudes, too, will be changing in the weeks and months ahead.

There was a day, albeit a day long ago, where Americans were far more adventurous and willing to take on risk than they are today. They were also, if the need arose, willing to roll up the sleeves and put in a hard day's work. None of that spirit was in evidence among the callers to this particular program, whose default mode seemed to be to take a job with government and/or move back in with their parents.

So, how are the coddled generations going to cope with the world as it is, as opposed to the world they want it to be?

We are going to probe deeply into that, and a number of related topics, in the upcoming edition of The Casey Report, which will include an interview with Neil Howe, the author of Generations and The Fourth Turning (among many other works on generation research). Meanwhile, I have some general thoughts...

A continued resurgence of socialism. Socialism is really just a softer-looking form of communism. Few people will go so far to suggest that they are active communists these days. But if you properly phrase the question, I suspect that a majority of young Americans, and maybe a wide majority, are socialist in attitude. Many would even overtly identify themselves as a believer in that form of collective, a clear sign of societal amnesia, given all the lessons that history has provided about that system's shortfalls. Consequently, the world will set about relearning the lesson that you cannot build a productive society by punishing the productive elements of society. Joe Biden's public retort when a woman asked him what she should tell her friends who were unhappy about having their taxes raised, was, "It's time to be patriotic, that's what you say to them."

Watch this clip of then-candidate Biden defending this point of view, and see if you can spot the direct correlation between his words and the concept Marx expressed in his "from each according to his abilities, to each according to their needs."

Also note the obvious passion he brings to the topic. This is not simply campaign jargonizing but a deeply held conviction.

I may be hoping for too much, but I wish that Americans of any income range would be able to look past their personal bias to spot the clear fallacy of this approach. Strictly speaking from a fairness perspective, it wasn't the business owner, successful or otherwise, who led us into this dead end – it was the government and the many special-interest groups firmly latched to the teats of that government. To get a bit metaphoric, it wasn't the fellow owning a chain of dry cleaners who drained the well of American wealth and then replaced the water of enterprise with quick-hardening cement. Again, that would be the U.S. government.

And yet, according to Biden et al., the patriotic thing to do is to take your hard-earned money and give it to the government to give to the needy, whose ranks are currently swollen with the bumbling executives of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JPMorgan, and similar Wall Street institutions.

But those comments are based on the notion of fairness. Let's forget fairness for a moment. Forget that letting the Bush tax cuts expire already amounts to the largest tax increase in history, and let's get entirely practical.

Who does the public think is ultimately going to do the heavy lifting needed to bring the economy back into some sort of equilibrium?

As I don't need to tell you, it will not be the government. Thus, every new tax and regulation or insane government dictate simply add more bricks to the wall that entrepreneurs must climb in an attempt to build a sustainable economic recovery.

Which brings me to a second prediction -- the creation of a new wave of quasi-state companies. If you like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, then you'll like the new wave of Franken-businesses that will morph out of enterprises that the government decides are too important to fail. Need to prop up a unionized car company? No problem. Just have the USG take a lot of taxes from unpatriotic taxpayers and hand them over to the "new and improved" car companies – companies that are building the next generation of cars, whether people like them or not. For a picture of what's coming, look no further than Amtrak, which has shown an unblemished track record of almost 40 years of losing money. The losses are now exceeding $1 billion a year.

To quote Amtrak's February 2009 independent auditors report...

    The Company has a history of substantial operating losses and is dependent upon substantial Federal government subsidies to sustain its operations. There are currently no Federal government subsidies appropriated for any period subsequent to the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009 ("fiscal year 2009") as discussed in Note 2 to the financial statements. Without such subsidies, Amtrak will not be able to continue to operate in its current form and significant operating changes, restructuring or bankruptcy may occur. Such changes or restructuring would likely result in asset impairments.

So, what does the government propose? To build a series of high-speed bullet trains to crisscross the country.

I could go on, but I'm a little short on time this morning, given that Doug Casey and all of our senior editors and staff are gathering at the office here today for a rare in-person management meeting.

Before I rush on, however, I would like to underscore the point I am trying to make, because I think it's an important point. At this stage of the crisis, the government is doing almost everything exactly wrong, the exact opposite of what they should be doing. And the public, correctly scared as they are of the dark and threatening skies overhead, are scurrying under the government's hastily constructed tent.

We shall come out of this just fine -- though we won't come out of this anytime soon, unless there is a 180° shift in government policy, the sort of shift that traditionally only occurs as a result of a popular uprising of strong emotions, expressed eventually at the ballot box. Since the majority of the emotions now swirling around are very much oriented towards more, not less government, we are nowhere near the end of this thing.

As investors, therefore, that is how you have to rig your portfolio -- and that is how we are rigging the portfolio recommendations made in our various letters.

For a final word on the subject of where we are in the economy, I would like to turn the platform over to Howard Davidowitz, the outspoken chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a company that provides strategic consulting to the retail industry.

What Davidowitz is currently telling his clients, and what he'll tell you in the video clip you can view here, is best summed up in his comment, "If the consumer isn't petrified, he or she is a damn fool."

Crime Scene

As a matter of personal taste, not policy, no one in our household watches network television anymore -- with the exception of Survivor, which never fails to entertain by celebrating humankind's remarkable capacity for self-delusion. Even so, when watching that program, one is forced to sit through trailers for an apparently very popular genre these days -- grisly "true life" police dramas, including any number of geographical derivations of something called Crime Scene Investigation, conveniently abbreviated to CSI. The trailers alone are sufficiently gruesome, but I warn the kids to avert their eyes, which they do willingly.

This week anyone paying attention would have seen a real-life crime scene every bit as gruesome. A U.S. House of Representatives committee passed new greenhouse gas legislation, legislation that includes a cap-and-trade system.

If it were socially acceptable to swear in print in polite company, I would do so right now. Instead, I will express my continued belief -- though maybe it is just a forlorn hope -- that there is no way cap-and-trade legislation can make it into law at this point in time (hopefully at no point in time, but especially at this point in time).

Even so, it boggles the mind that, with everything else going on, the government would spend any time at all on this issue just now. So why are they? A couple of reasons...

First, thanks to a misplaced road sign, over the past couple of decades, millions of young people mistakenly wandered onto the path of "environmental remediation" and related academic pursuits, versus something far more useful and productive. This despite the fact that the world has never been cleaner and is clearly on the trend to get cleaner still.

How did this massive misallocation of time and resources come about? I have read a defensible argument that the entire green movement, which initially cropped up in Germany in the 1970s, was funded by the Soviet Union as a clever attack on the underbelly of capitalism. Given academia's natural attraction to socialism – the attraction to a worldview that seeks to bring down businesses based on the inevitable waste that they must produce in their production processes – it is understandable. But this is a topic for another day.

However, there is something more to the rushed passage of this latest round of government meddling in the affairs of business here in the U.S. It is, if you believe the polls – or just your common sense – that the average American is ignorant of exactly what "cap and trade" actually means. And I quote...

    Rasmussen Reports

    Monday, May 11, 2009

    The gap between Capitol Hill and Main Street is huge when it comes to the so-called "cap-and-trade" legislation being considered in Congress. So wide, in fact, that few voters even know what the proposed legislation is all about.

    Given a choice of three options, just 24% of voters can correctly identify the cap-and-trade proposal as something that deals with environmental issues. A slightly higher number (29%) believe the proposal has something to do with regulating Wall Street while 17% think the term applies to health care reform. A plurality (30%) have no idea.

    Democrats are pushing the legislation on Capitol Hill, but Democrats around the country are a bit less likely than Republicans and voters not affiliated with either party to know that the concept has something to do with the environment. This helps explain why some Democratic pollsters have advised the president to back away from the term cap-and-trade to describe what he wants to accomplish.

    There is always political danger when major legislation is enacted without engaging the public in the debate. The New York Times reports that Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who is pushing cap-and-trade legislation, is now facing challenges from within his own party on the issue and that many want to "turn the Energy and Commerce Committee's attention over to health care."

    That is clearly the direction most American voters would like to go. Sixty-nine percent (69%) say health care issues are more important while just 15% say global warming is a higher priority.

    While the public view is clear, opinion among the Political Class is more evenly divided: 45% say health care is more important while 38% name global warming. Seven percent (7%) of Americans belong to the Political Class, and another seven percent (7%) lean in that direction.

    Earlier surveys have shown a steady decline in the number who believe that human activity is the primary cause of global warming.

    Broadly speaking, cap-and-trade proposals involve having the government set limits on what pollutants can be emitted. Then it auctions off permits for certain emissions and allows companies to trade the permits as needed.

In other words, if the Democratic leadership is going to make good on its promises to its many environmentally oriented supporters, it's going to have to do so pretty darn quickly. At some point the public at large will catch on to the crime that is about to be committed through the cap-and-trade legislation. Under the best of circumstances, it will be a huge waste of time and resources. Under even moderately bad circumstances, it will result in further hardship and taxes dumped onto the back of American enterprise.

There is something else pushing Congress from behind on this issue: a massive lobbying effort by "rent seekers," who are now well positioned to earn big profits from this legislation. Below is a link to a very informative article from the Wall Street Journal. While the author, Bjorn Lomborg, is a fairly rabid socialist himself, I give him credit for at least being honest in his critical analysis of his colleagues in the environmental movement. You can, and should, read his competently constructed critique of the goings-on at the World Business Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen that is opening this weekend.

As you will read, what is happening behind the scenes is not just shameful but, in my view, a criminal fraud.

Read Lomborg's article, The Climate-Industrial Complex here.

Just So You Know

This week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, concerned about talk that the U.S. government could lose its AAA bond rating, clarified his goal for government deficits in the years just ahead.

Just so you know, the government expects the deficit to be about 13% of GDP in fiscal year 2009. As we see it, that understates reality by a wide margin. The actual number is likely to be closer to 18%, or $2.5 trillion.

For fiscal 2010, Geithner forecasts the deficit will drop to 8.5%, or about $1.17 trillion. If the government's projections are as far off next year as they are this year, the actual 2010 deficit would ring in at about $1.6 trillion, or about 11.5% of GDP.

For fiscal 2011, the deficit according to Geithner will fall to 6% of GDP, or $840 million. But again, applying the same margin of error for the forecast as we expect to see this year would put that number at about 1.15 trillion. That's still almost three times the prior record of $436 billion, set by George Bush in 2008.

Of course I can't help but comment that the government is out of touch with the reality it is creating with its out-of-control spending, and that the vast majority of the money is going down a rat hole. But it is also important to try and look past the blunt numbers to some of the consequences of this fiscal insanity.

For instance, taking as our starting point the current U.S. debt of $11.3 trillion and adding in the projected additional deficits just discussed, the country will end fiscal year 2011 with a total debt of $16.5 trillion, or about 46% higher than it is today.

That would mean total federal debt would be about 120% of total GDP. That's almost exactly the previous record set in the concluding years of World War II.

One of many tangible consequences of this accumulated debt will be a staggering burden of interest payments. At just 4%, the government would be forced to pay on the order of $660 billion per year in interest payments.

But what happens when interest rates rise to 10%, let alone the 20% Doug Casey feels they are headed for? While it's hard to get one's mind around the latter number just now, the former is certainly within the realm of possibility, given the current trend.

So, how does the government cover $1.65 trillion in annual interest payments?

The answer is, it doesn't.

All of which is to say that we are racing toward a situation where the government will have absolutely no other choice besides massive inflation or an outright default. The stirrings this week suggest that Mr. Market is starting to come to the same conclusion. That means he will also come to the conclusion that interest rates must go up -- either to offset the pending inflation or to compensate for the growing risk of a default.

I'm sure economists have some fancy term for this situation, but vicious cycle will suffice for now.

By the time the politicians stop dithering around with the deck chairs, the ship of state will have sunk, with the survivors clinging to the wreckage. It is our intention – in fact more than that, it is our firm goal -- to make sure our subscribers have a comfortable seat in the lifeboats.

I am not kidding or being disingenuous when I tell you that there has never been a better time to be a subscriber to our various publications. The problem, of course, is that we have quite a few of them, and each is geared to helping you to manage various subsets of market opportunities. For gold and other natural resources, the go-to publications are BIG GOLD, the International Speculator and Casey Investment Alert. For energy, it's Casey Energy Opportunities and Casey Energy Confidential. Overall portfolio strategies, which include plays on rising interest rates, are covered by The Casey Report. And for strategically designed options and futures trades, look no further than the Casey Trend Trader.

Any one of these publications can be instrumental in helping you make it through the shipwreck just ahead, but all of them combined will get you through it in especially fine style. To that end, we are now working on a new membership organization called Casey's Club. It allows you to subscribe to all of our publications and alert services with one low initiation fee... and receive all of them, as well as any services we'll launch in the future, for as long as they are published.

The final details are being worked out now. We'll have more on this first-ever Casey lifetime offer soon.

Tar Baby

I will confess to a strong dislike for fundamentalist religions that advocate as part of their daily ritual the murder of innocents or the suppression of women. Thus, I have zero sympathy for the Taliban or similar groups now being chased around Pakistan, Afghanistan, or other corners of the Middle East.

Anyone who chooses to live by the sword is welcome, as far as I'm concerned, to die by the sword.

Unfortunately, the U.S. seems to be the only country that wants to wield the sword with which they will be smote. Is it because we are somehow more righteous than other nations? Is it that it's our destiny to police the world and to make it over in our own image? Or is it something else, perhaps an overriding and possibly even delusional sense of specialness made ever more acute by the world's largest military budget?

Who knows, maybe it's that Israel – a nation whose neighborhood keeps its back against the wall constantly – has for many decades proven effective at lobbying American congressmen for their undying support. That is not an anti-Semitic remark but a verifiable fact. I don't blame the Israelis for manipulating U.S. policy -- if I were in their position, I would do exactly the same. Instead, I blame the systematic weaknesses within the United States government that allow it to be so readily manipulated.

Regardless, as a result of the normal quirks and accidents of history, we have arrived at a place where U.S. boots are once again firmly planted on the ground in an unwinnable war halfway across the globe. Just as we replaced the French in Vietnam, we have now replaced the Ottoman Turks in Iraq and the Soviets in Afghanistan.

Consequently, even with the more "enlightened" Obama in office, the military budget for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is again being ratcheted up. The Senate will pass a funding bill of over $91 billion this week to cover the costs of fighting those wars.

Tellingly, by the end of this year, it is expected that there will be more than twice as many U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan as there were at the end of 2008. The cost of the Afghan adventure will in 2009 exceed that of the battle in Iraq.

As with the antagonist in Uncle Remus' famous parable, we are now well engaged in attacking the tar baby. I suspect the results will be much the same.

Confidence Inspiring 101

I'll admit that I am something of an Anglophile, enjoying as I always have some of the British traditions such as complete British breakfast, afternoon tea, British humor, and a pint of Boddingtons over a game of snooker.

But I do have to wonder whether someone has been slipping something into the warm beer of the British public lately, with a double dose for members of the government over the past decade or so.

There are too many signs of mass insanity to ignore this point, starting with the willing adoption of some of the world's most egregious and intrusive surveillance policies, followed by a rush towards monetary self-mutilation.

For the latest example, the UK Treasury refused to provide the results of the stress tests it had put its banks through. Rationalizing this refusal, the UK Treasury commented that publishing the information could increase instability and result in the government having to undertake even further measures to shore up that country's financial system.

How's that for confidence inspiring?

It shows just how foolish the British have become in dealing with such matters. All they had to do was follow the lead of the U.S. Treasury Department and simply come up with a poorly crafted but well-delivered set of outrageous lies about banks' solvency!

I mean, really old chaps, you can do better.

Random Thoughts

I'm running out of time, well before I run out of topics. So I'm going to go a little wild here, with some quick observations...

On Gold... Everyone seems to like gold these days, including top-performing hedge fund manager John Paulson. The majority of his holdings are now invested in all things gold. Here are his current top portfolio holdings:

Top 15 Holdings (by % of portfolio)

  1. SPDR Gold Trust (GLD): 30.37% of portfolio

  2. Wyeth (WYE): 13.96% of portfolio

  3. Rohm & Haas (ROH): 13.44% of portfolio

  4. Boston Scientific (BSX): 8.4% of portfolio

  5. Gold Miners ETF (GDX): 6.81% of portfolio

  6. Kinross Gold (KGC): 5.87% of portfolio

  7. Philip Morris International (PM): 3.42% of portfolio

  8. Petro-Canada (PCZ): 2.96% of portfolio

  9. Schering Plough (SGP): 2.26% of portfolio

  10. Mirant (MIR): 2.22% of portfolio

  11. Gold Fields (GFI): 2.21% of portfolio

  12. JPMorgan Chase (JPM): 1.65% of portfolio

  13. AngloGold Ashanti (AU): 1.15% of portfolio

  14. St Jude Medical (STJ): 0.91% of portfolio

  15. Embarq (EQ): 0.81% of portfolio

The Russians Also Like Gold. "MOSCOW, May 21 (Reuters) - Russia's precious metals and gems repository plans to quadruple gold purchases this year to about 3 percent of national output to help miners survive the economic slowdown, a source within the organisation said on Thursday. The repository, known as Gokhran, plans to buy 5 tonnes (160,754 ounces) of gold from about 15 enterprises this year, up from 1.2 tonnes in 2008, the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"...Gokhran was founded in 1920 with the aim of centralising and storing Russia's supplies of precious metals and gems. Today, the body is subordinate to the Finance Ministry and its total reserves are a state secret."

The Chinese Don't Like Dollars. This week the Chinese and the Brazilians began working in earnest on a new regime that would allow each country to use each other's currency in intrastate trade, bypassing the U.S. dollar. Actions speak louder than words, and the Chinese have been saying a lot with their actions of late.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp – Next Up for Bankruptcy, I Mean, Bailout. According to our own Bud Conrad, PBGC, the government entity that guarantees the pensions of some 44 million Americans, is in deep trouble. You can read this story of epic self-dealing by America's favorite investment banks and its government stooges by following this link...

Tech Talk

A software that I find particularly useful, is SnagIt (learn more here). It allows you to very easily capture any image on a computer screen and then paste it into another document. For those of you who like to blog, SnagIt is an essential tool.

The following came in from subscriber Steve H. While I haven't personally had a chance to try out the software yet, I plan on it...

    Hello David,

    A bit of technology that I cannot live without is I use it as my main to-do list. Anytime something comes to mind, be it while driving or somewhere where paper & pencil aren't available (or even if they are), I speed dial my cell phone to Jott. Jott answers, I say "Jott notes," and then leave up to a 15-second message (30 seconds with premium service). Jott uses speech recognition to convert my message into text and sends me an email of what I said. I delete the emails as I also use Jott express, which places an application on my desktop of all of my Jott notes. I.e., my to-do list is on my desktop. If the speech recognition botched the translation, I click on the speaker and hear my own voice of what I said. I can send email or text messages from my phone to anyone or any group of people I have set up. It does much, much more than what I use it for. I have been using it since it was a free beta service, and as I said earlier, I can't live without it.

Do you have a technology you like to share with others? Or any comments at all about this edition of The Room? If so, send them my way at [email protected]


Oil Spills? Bring ‘em On... Check this out.

A bit of British Humor. A moment ago, I mentioned my fondness for British humor. Follow this link to a car review from a British newspaper, hands down the funniest car review I have ever read.

Joe Cocker. A subscriber this week reminded me of Joe Cocker, an artist whose name is largely faded from memory, but who was certainly unique in his time. You can view a funny "translation" of Joe's wild performance at Woodstock by pasting this url into your browser window: Viewing that video made me wonder, "Whatever happened to Joe Cocker?" Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I found that he is still alive and well and maybe even coming to a town near you soon. Check out his rather fancy website here,

And that, dear readers, is that for this week. Even though I started well before the crack of dawn, I am now running late and ready to sign off. A quick glance at the screens tells me that the Dow is up 26 points and gold is holding steady at $957 per ounce.

Until next week... thanks for reading and for being a subscriber to a Casey Research publication.

As dire as the outlook may be, quoting Joe Cocker, together we'll get through all of this, "With a little help from our friends."

David Galland
Managing Director
Casey Research, LLC.

Posted 05-22-2009 12:57 PM by David Galland