Week 19 of the Quarantine
I see the bad moon a-rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightning
I see bad times today
Don’t go around tonight
Well, it’s bound to take your life
There’s a bad moon on the rise
– Creedence Clearwater Revival
SAN MARTIN, ARGENTINA – Yesterday, the cows came down from the ranch. It takes two days to get them here.
The first day, they are driven across the ranch to a corral at the foot of the pass. The second, they are pushed through the pass and down into the valley below.
Here, you see them coming down from the mountains:
Coming down from the pass
Cows arriving in the valley
They’ll spend the next four months here… eating, gaining weight… and with luck, getting pregnant. Then, assuming it rains in December, they’ll go back to the high pasture.
The tough cowboys, meanwhile, spent the night wherever they could find a spot to lie down. Today, they’re back on their horses, headed back up to the ranch.
Charm of the Pampas
Here in Argentina, economists see the baddest moon in two decades. The Lockdown and the return to power of the “Kirchneristas” have caused the worst financial crisis since 2001.
For reasons that are obscure, Argentina has some of the strictest clampdown rules in the world.
“I tried to go to [a small nearby town] yesterday,” reported a friend. “The police stopped me and asked what I was doing. I told them I was just going to buy some pastries. They wouldn’t let me enter. They said they had a new case of the virus in town. It’s now closed.”
Some provinces are open. Some are closed. And much of the economy has been shut down for more than four months.
But even if your business has no revenues, the government insists that you continue paying employees. The result? Widespread bankruptcies, defaults, closed businesses, and job losses.
The government, too, is in bad shape, with collapsing tax revenues. What can it do? It has to do the same thing as the U.S. – print more money.
But the charm of the pampas is that people are used to crises. They know they can’t trust their government or its money. They expect corruption, vicious power struggles, inflation, devaluations, protests, and defaults.
Just two weeks ago, a key witness against the Vice President in a bribery case was murdered, the day before he was supposed to testify.
Bad Moon Rising in America
But back in the USA, teeth are growing longer. At night, you can hear howling in the suburbs… werewolves, witches, and hobgoblins dance around a fire… and a bad moon rises.
For the moment, Americans are enjoying a sudsy inebriation of naivete, delusion, and printing-press money.
Protected by two vast oceans, they have never been seriously invaded, bombed, or occupied (we put aside the flukey War of 1812).
Nor have they ever had to live under communism… or fascism… or a murderous dictatorship. Nor have they ever had a seriously corrupt government… nor ever expressly devalued the dollar.
And now they live in a bubble. “It can’t happen here,” they say to themselves.
At the time of the founding of the U.S. Republic, however, people had seen what “paper” money had done to England and France, earlier in the century… and what their own “continentals” had done during the Revolution.
The “continental” was a paper money created to fund the Revolution. But by 1780, it “expired without a groan,” having lost as much as 99.9% of its value.
So, when the founders wrote the Constitution, they included a clause designed to protect us from “printing press money,” specifically requiring that nothing “but gold or silver” be used as money by the states.
The states issued their own currencies back then. Now, the feds themselves issue the dollar… with not a speck of gold or silver in it.
We’ve been exploring how this counterfeit money makes counterfeit public policy… and ultimately destroys an economy, a society, and a political system.
In a nutshell, when you think you can just tap a few keys of a computer to create real money, you’re ready to believe anything.
As we saw yesterday, you may think that it is okay to shut down your whole economy. Why not? You can cover the losses with “money from the government.”
But the “money” from the government is counterfeit.
Real money is part of the real world. It is limited. Like time. You can’t create more of it just because it would be convenient to have an extra hour’s sleep.
And if the feds want to fund one project… with real money… they have to take the money from something else.
That’s why gold is so useful as money. Gold is limited, like time itself. Each ounce of it has to be discovered, dug out of the ground, processed, and stored…
It takes time, investment, skill, and resources to produce gold, in other words – just as it does to create any other kind of wealth.
In this way, gold connects “money” to the real world of time, sweat, toil, and risk.
In that real world, any decision… any choice… must be considered in light of tradeoffs.
How much time will it take? How much resources will be required? What does it take away from the other things we want or need?
Normally, these questions are reduced to a single one: How much does it cost?
But did anyone bother to ask that critical question as the COVID programs were rolled out – the Lockdown, the Rescue, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and bonus unemployment comp?
The lunacy of the unemployment bonus is obvious. The average recipient actually earned more money from unemployment comp than he did on the job, where he was creating real wealth.
And how about when Kanye West announced his million-dollar bonus for a woman who has a child? Did anyone look at the price tag?
But why bother? In a world of counterfeit money, prices are meaningless.
Even when the programs are quoted in dollars – a $3 trillion bailout… Biden’s $7 trillion “Build Back Better” plan… Republicans’ $1 trillion relief package – these are just numbers.
They no longer represent real costs, real sacrifices, or real trade-offs. It is assumed that no one will ever pay them.
A $3 trillion bailout should come with a $30,000 tax surcharge for every federal taxpayer.
The War on Terror should have been charged to each taxpayer at the rate of about $70,000 each.
This year’s federal budget deficit, the number was $4 trillion. But what taxpayer got a $40,000 addition to his tax bill?
Today, there is no price too high, and no program too lunatic.
Because everyone knows the money is phony… the programs are fake… the economy is counterfeit… the stock market is fraudulent…
…and a bad moon is rising.
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