IntroductionSince I last wrote to you, in early May, several interesting opportunities fell in my lap. First, I was contacted by two members of this audience requesting that I call-in on their radio shows after they received my latest essay. However, I have a poor history with public speaking so I deferred their offers to a later date. Anticipating more of these types of situations coming my way, I’ve made a conscious decision to work on developing some strategies and aids that lets me work around these weaknesses while gaining some confidence. In response to these requests, I shot my first video to give this audience another means by which to connect with me that black ink on white paper doesn’t offer. When you read someone’s work or talk to them by phone it often conjures up all sorts of notions and even fantasies of what that person looks like. Usually, the image in your mind never matches up with reality. After six years, I hope that I live up to your fantasies!Weeks later, I received a third offer. At first glance, the email request looked similar to the previous two. The assistant to economist, college professor and editor Mark Skousen contacted me about doing a possible interview for his upcoming conference scheduled for July 10-13, (was) at Caesar’s Place, (moved to) Planet Hollywood, in Las Vegas, NV for The Huffington Post. Months earlier, I connected with Mark through Linkedin. At the time of the initial email, I didn’t know anything about him other than he was an economist. I quickly wrote back and accepted their offer after all I had a lot to say so I thought. Hours later upon re-reading the email, I realized to my horror what the email actually said. I had gotten it all wrong. Mark’s assistant was proposing that I interview him about FreedomFest, billed as the “world’s largest gathering of free minds” for a story on The Huffington Post.
I subscribe to the philosophy that “Great writers write what they know” and Mark wasn’t one of them. I write on subjects that I’ve being following for years and even decades where I’ve had repeated exposure to. This long-term study leads to a depth of knowledge from which I drawn from when I write. I didn’t think that one interview with Mark and some research would deliver the results that I’ve come to expect of myself. I didn’t want to disappoint or be under the pressure to please, both, Mark Skousen and The Huffington Post. The next day, on Saturday, I wrote back and withdrew my acceptance to their offer with this explanation. On Monday, after a few more email exchanges and some badgering from his assistant, Valerie, I agreed to interview him for this audience. They quickly accepted. In doing some research for our interview, I found him to be very accomplished. There are many videos of Mark on YouTube including talks to think tanks, TV and radio interviews, as well as, footage from previous FreedomFests.
One interesting fact is that he’s an eighth generation descendant of Ben Franklin (He even looks like him minus the long hair.). Mark holds a B.A. and Master’s in economics from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in economics from George Washington University, 1977. He served as an economic analyst for the CIA, 1972-1975. Mark’s been an economist for 36 years during that time he was a consultant for IBM and Hutchinson. From 1997 -2001, Skousen was a weekly contributor for Forbes magazine and he has also contributed articles to The Wall Street Journal. He’s been a special speaker at economic conferences and guest lecturer at think tanks. From 2008-2010, Mark was a weekly contributor for CNBC’s Kudlow and Company and also made appearances on C-SPAN Book TV and Fox News.
As a college professor, Mark has taught economics and finance at Columbia Business School, Barnard College at Columbia University, Mercy College in New York and Rollins College, in Winter Park, FL. In 2005, distance education provider Grantham University renamed its online School of Business “The Mark Skousen School of Business”. He has served as editor in chief of Forecasts & Strategies, since 1980.
Skousen’s books include: The Complete Guide to Financial Privacy (Simon & Schuster, 1983); High Finance on a Low Budget (Bantam, 1981), co-authored with his wife Jo Ann; Economics on Trial (Dow Jones Irwin, 1991); Scrooge Investing (McGraw Hill, 1995); The Making of Modern Economics (M.E. Sharpe, 2001, 2009) named the 2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title and #2 in the “Top Ten Must Read Books in Economics”.
FreedomFestwas to be held for the first time at Caesar’s Place. To celebrate the move, this year’s theme is We Are Rome? (See powerful trailer.) However, do to double-booking of Caesar’s convention hall, it’s been moved to Planet Hollywood. Keynote speakers include Senator Rand Paul (KY-R), he’s the only politician invited. Steve Forbes, investor Jim Rogers, Art Laffer will also be there… Freedom-related topics being presented include – shaking up education, common core and education, higher education, energy, freedom and capitalism in literature, personal finances, investing, jobs, social media, space and travel, science and evolution… Both, C-SPAN and Fox Business News’ John Stossel will be in attendance and videotaping the event.
Anthem Libertarian Film Festival will open with Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike. While the theme of the festival suggest war and violence…“most of our documentaries highlight the unintended consequences of that war, including the war against nations, war against business, war against free speech, war against conservatives, and war against drugs. These documentaries are insightful, and even inciteful.” As of last week, Mark told me that he had 1,800 people who were registered and had paid-in-full. While there were plans to webcast the event, they’ve decided to hold off until next year. If you want to attend FreedomFest, rooms at Planet Hollywood and tickets to the conference are still available. Visit FreedomFest’s website for further information.
Several Saturday’s ago, I connected with an official from the Russian Federation who’s a director general for Russia’s international affairs. I followed up by sending him my essay, “What does it take to make democracy work as it should?” He liked it so much that he wrote back and asked if he could post it on his agency’s website. I said, “Sure!” On Monday, an official with the local Tea Party chapter emailed me asking if she could post the same essay on her chapter’s Facebook page. I gave her the ok, as well. With those two emails occurring within days of one another, I found it a little humorous that I was able to find common-ground among once arch-enemies.
Anthem Film Festival, http://www.anthemfilmfestival.com/
The official website of FreedomFest, http://freedomfest.com/
Wikipedia – Mark Skousen, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Skousen
See attachment — Are the current U.S. fiscal and monetary policies a ticket into the grave?
June 29, 2013
Are the current U.S. fiscal and monetary policies a ticket into the grave?
In college, like many students, I was required to take two courses in economics (macro and micro) as part of my prerequisites. After making two “C’s”, I was just happy to have passed the classes and I didn’t ask how or why. I assumed they were taught correctly and that I just wasn’t good at that stuff. I’ve made little effort since to better understand this subject as it relates to our economy. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m alone. I suspect that most Americans have relinquished any and all authority and understanding to the wizards teaching on our college campuses across the country, working in government or at one of the many Wall Street banks and brokerage firms. Thus, we find ourselves powerless over the subject matter, held captive on a sinking ship and truly at the mercy of our politicians and the economists’ description on what’s happening from the top deck.
After the 2008 stock market crash I started writing about my concerns for our growing national and personal debts, the U.S. and global economic crisis and Congress and Federal Reserves’ $3 trillion global bank bailout. I’ve since argued that our economy wouldn’t turnaround based on current government fiscal and monetary policies alone because something had fundamentally broken down this time in our society’s psyche, our belief system about capitalism, government and justice. The lack of any accountability at the highest levels of our society hasn’t gone unnoticed while the guilty keep trying to whitewash that event by putting the focus on fighting terrorism and growing our economy. The lack of morality has set-in throughout our society, from top to bottom, as seen by the uninterrupted behavior of consumers to feed their addiction while living beyond their means.
Over the past year, I’ve written in disapproval to the comments of Princeton economist and NYT columnist Paul Krugman on several occasions. Each time, I challenged his latest commentary appearing in The Times about the economy and his continued support for Keynesian economic theory that supports increasing federal spending as a logical way to spend our way out of a sluggish economy while allowing our $16 trillion national debt to grow without any worry for the consequences. It sounds like death by suicide. Drawing on my own understanding of dysfunctional individuals, families and systems, America’s conduct looks no different with its dishonest and irresponsible elected officials at the helm, in Washington, their reckless actions that’s led to them digging a deeper and deeper financial hole as Americans lack disciple with their finances and a solid work ethic to produce, earn and save.
Applying this Keynesian philosophy to this particular crisis seems like a recipe for disaster. It’s an alcoholic philosophy on how to spend money that you don’t have, so you buy yourself a new car, a furnished house and closet full of clothes so you’ll be ready for that new job when “they” call and thus allowing you to pay off all this new debt. Of course, you haven’t even bothered to apply for the first job, much less, get an interview. So, you just keep on, keeping on with your spending spree.
I’m not a big fan of theories especially as a guide for living my life, much less, for betting the farm on solving a series of poor choices that’s wrecked a nation. This theory is an indirect approach to solving economic problems or this crisis, which is rooted heavily in the art of guessing. With Keynesian, it sounds like you’re taking a shotgun-blast approach to solving this problem by first assuming that you’re aiming at the target and that some of your shot or all of it will hit the bull’s eye. I would expect the success rate for this kind of approach to be very low, requiring much time, lots of money and effort (many tries).
I’m for using a more direct approach, such as, a rifle and a handful of bullets. Identifying the targets (or issues) and/or the root cause would be the first task. This approach requires honesty to get to the bottom of the underlining problem. With Keynesian, there appears to be no interest in learning about the truth. It’s akin to parents blindly throwing good money at their wayward child’s troubles in hopes that the current crisis will be the last, only to be confronted with the next one some days, weeks or months later.
Until now, I’ve personally supported an approach that caps the growth of the national debt at current levels, to start living within our federal income while raising taxes, if necessary, to cover any gaps. Some might call this approach a form of “austerity”. I’m reminded by my older friends about life during the Carter Administration and the president’s austerity talk, high inflation, the oil embargo and its gas rations along with high interest rates. After reading the definition of austerity (on Wikipedia), I’ve come to see our situation in a completely different light.
When working on a complex problem or crisis, I try to picture it in terms of the natural world to better understand it. Economics as taught in the classroom, by the Federal Reserve chairman or as discussed on the financial news shows is over my head. I think the U.S. financial and economic crisis works well using the following analogy. If our nation is a body, then spending (corporate, federal and personal) is the lifeblood and businesses, Congress, citizens and Federal Reserve play the role of the beating heart and breathing lungs. The U.S. economy is the fat, muscle and tissue. If the body goes into shock you wouldn’t want to cut-off the blood supply (in the form of business, Congress, Federal Reserve and personal spending) out of fear of causing further harm to the patient or killing them, altogether. The heart could slow down and the blood might be redirected to protect the body’s vital organs (in the head and torso) while allowing the extremities to function on little or no blood, at all. Some of the extremities could be lost, if the crisis persists.
So, what are the vital organs in our society and what are the extremities? I would argue that our citizens, parts of the economy and our core government operations are our nation’s vital organs. Citizens getting their benefits and/or paychecks (blood) would be critical during any crisis over feeding the economy and even some parts of the federal government (extremities) with stimulus spending or spending on unnecessary consumer and government wants. If Americans are truly the body’s vital organs needed to survive and thrive after the crisis has passed, one wouldn’t starve them to death as cutting their benefits or pay would do.
The natural ebb and flow of the economy (the fat, muscle and tissue) allows blood to move from the body (in the head and torso) out to the extremities and back, based on the economy’s performance. Being in a crisis mode with a slow economy and high unemployment, one would expect the blood to be protecting the body’s vital organs not feeding the extremities. However, we’ve created an artificial economy prior to or since the collapse of the Soviet Union (1989) which can be seen in the multiple booms and busts in the stock market, in the tech (dot.com) industry, in banking, in real estate and elsewhere.
The real damage was done to personal wealth of the 99% (in real estate and in the stock market) and to this country’s future by our banking, corporate, economic and political wizards as the rich, corporate America and U.S. banks’ sit fat and happy with their coffers are full of blood. For all the attention and blame put on Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda (a nice distraction), this self-infected harm potentially-homicidal and suicidal has never been acknowledged and no ownership has been taken by our presidents, by members of Congress, by corporate America, by Wall Street or by the past and present Chairman of the Federal Reserve. When a single-engine airplane or a commercial passenger jet crashes in the U.S., the National Transportation Safety Board shows up at the crash site, investigates the wreckage to determine the cause and then produces a report while outlining its finding and what safety measures need to be taken, if any.
In criminal matters, the FBI and/or the Justice Department get involved. Nothing has happened in this incident and we have a catastrophe on our hands. I think an apology to the 99% by those at the highest levels of our government and banking is long overdue. Without taking any responsibility, this country can’t heal from these deep wounds much less move forward. We’re (politically) acting like no harm, no fowl was done and that’s what’s driving everyone crazy. Tell any rape victim or wounded warrior to just get over their trauma and wounds and see what their reaction is. This whole country got raped. The rat race is over and the 1% made out like bandits. They’re the victors while the 99% are the losers. Capitalism 1.0 and democracy 1.0 is over.The storm is here and we don’t even realize it. It’s time to “batten down the hatches”. Those with jobs or getting government benefits should be riding it out by buying the basics and putting the rest of their money under their mattress (that’s not happening in America). If this shift in personal behavior was taken seriously it would drastically reshape our economy, overnight. It would take a lot of the luxury goods and services (cars, electronics, smartphones, tablets, homes, vacations, clothes…) off the market, for now, until our government and personal finances stabilize. Yes, some businesses, corporations and industries would go bankrupt, but that’s what happens in storms. Ask anyone who’s survived a hurricane or tornado where they’ve lost a house, a car or their job, or all the above. Instead, this category of pricey goods and services are probably selling pretty well. Washington lacks the leadership required to make this change we so desperately need and thus we continue to stumble down a path towards hell.Today, we’re (government and personal spending) feeding the body’s extremities lots of blood (the economy, corporations are getting the money because we’re not saving while they avoid paying taxes) as seen in our daily obsession with Wall Street’s daily performance, as executive pay skyrockets, watching corporate earnings reports, following the lives of our billionaires and the rest of the 1%,…) at the expense of the body’s starving organs (a balanced federal budget or paying down our national debt, funding governments core functions, citizens turned consumers spending while their personal debt grows, we’re investing money in building fences to keep people out over feeding out-of-work Americans).
The former is a bunch of fat, bloody ticks while the latter are bloodless turnips. We’re slowly dying, we’re bleeding through our extremities and nobody realizes it, yet. The current fiscal and monetary policies are killing this country, not helping it. If one still considers Congress, The White House and The Supreme Court vital organs, even they seem to no longer function properly. Washington appears dead. At some point, our other vital organs, such as, our major cities, rural counties and states will start shutting down due to high crime, homelessness, hunger, sickness, unemployment and violence as they become uninhabitable. Am I the only American spy that sees what’s really going on?Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved. “Are the current U.S. fiscal and monetary policies a ticket into the grave?” by Ted Burnett.