Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

The Terrifying Future For Stocks

No, this article falls outside the category expected. It is not destined to be some foreboding warning about the threats of excessive fiat printing, or monopoly money stock buybacks. Nor are bonds the subject to be promoted as a safe alternative. Those are all great angles, but they fail to seize the goose.

What we’re concerned with is a little different. Over the last several days it dawned on me that stocks might be unsafe from the standpoint of maintaining legal ownership. Forget about the respective firm going bankrupt, or a market downturn burning the green. Might corporations or states one day simply require shareholders to surrender their stake, or, in the former’s case, revoke your assembled stocks completely? 

The idea is not as far-fetched as gullible GOPers probably believe. The State could certainly nationalize retirement and investment accounts to generate more revenue, or perhaps jack up tax rates on any sales/withdrawals. The easiest justification for an act is embodied in Social Security’s fractious position, and the move would be advertised as a question of patriotism.

Corporations on the other hand merely have to follow current social trends. They have already bent over backwards to appease the street-based terrorist group known as BMM, firing people for dissenting opinions and donating millions to “civil rights” despite their property being destroyed. How long until they bow to communist pressure and dilute or withdraw shares held by individuals who do not tow the party line?

But that’s impossible, you will say. Really? The present Supreme Court just barred churches from holding large religious services, and endorsed the undemocratic immigration power grab by an esteemed progressive. If little people stand to lose their financial holdings, would the Supreme Corporate actually care?

Not to interject with a Godwin’s Law moment, but our friend Joseph Goebbels had some great insight on this issue. Writing after his boss moved to snatch up the estates of a less-than-cooperative German monarchy, Joey said: “Real estate is the foundation of economic independence, and economic independence always furnishes a basis for political influence.”

Absolutely, and stocks are similar in nature. Will the likely Biden presidency, free of all legitimate DOJ scrutiny, defend the economic rights of the Right?

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the NASDAQ.

Federal Government · Personal Finance

The War On Cash

I seldom pay with cash. Nothing against Lil George or DJ Franklin, but it is rare for me to have any need, and paying with a credit card actually earns some cash back (mainly in the denomination of Abraham the Creator). Nevertheless, I have a burner phone that is refilled with smacker payments for the purposes of privacy. As I went about completing the transaction today, I snatched a prepaid card, marched to the Wal-Mart self-checkout, and saw the following sign:

Really. Not only the poor spelling, but each register strictly refused to accept cash, leaving me to drop the card by the register shelves and break the rules by exiting through a one-way entrance. For this I received a stern finger-wagging from the staff, who were terrified that I might spread coronavirus to other shoppers. Strangely enough, the store had closed down an entire entrance, as though having everyone enter and exit through the same spot is a clever way to promote public health.

Regardless, the coin question struck me as grimly predictable. The empowered news media is claiming the culprit to be a disruption of supply due to less circulation. I would argue there is a far more to the story. Many of us have been warning about the danger inherent to a cashless society, even as the authorities that preside continue zealously pursuing it. The boldest step in this direction recently came in the form of Flimsy Andrew, whose campaign centered around direct payments from the Fed to Americans, and elimination of the penny. In fairness to Yang, your money would be worth about the same if his policies went into effect, but that is besides the point.

Why do they hate cash so much? Because it is difficult to control. Someone on Craigslist can offer up a service for a flat rate fee, and pocket the cash upon completion, simplifying the process and eliminating the government’s ability to tax. Transactions are very difficult to keep track of without card payments, whether because the State wishes to monitor a person or some corporation wants to use your buying habits for marketing purposes. The only identifying factor on a cash payment receipt would be the time and whatever video footage is available in-store. Nothing else.

So naturally the pandemic is a great excuse to further diminish the freedom of citizens and consumers in everyday life. It is likely that stores will attempt to maintain these policies in the future, and perhaps prohibit cash payments altogether, unless of course they get accused of waycism for the practice. We can only speculate and see.

Actually, there are more concrete actions which can be taken. Consider starting (or building on) a stash of precious metals. I would stay away from the SLV and GLD trusts, which have unclear guidelines as to the physical ownership of the metal. APMEX is a reasonable option, and there is of course Bezosmart. Be careful with pawn shops or gold stores, as they tend to jack up prices compared to online.

Some things just glitter and shine.

Culturalism · Federal Government

What Happened To Liberal Values?

Since January 2017, we have been subjected to a deluge of hand-wringing over liberal ideas and constitutional freedoms. Such lamentations have certainly existed before, but never with the same obsessive dedication as in the age of Trump. It is almost as if people believe these principles are suddenly at stake, while under prior regimes they remained safe.

But there is one problem: they have never meant anything, or least not in the way most people think. Sure, one can cry about the Constitution and the Rule of Law, yet neither amount to much unless they are defended, unreservedly. Spectators seem to think we can somehow maintain the general concepts absent any substantial sacrifice, and in the process invalidate all which is at stake. The battle is lost in their thoughts, and thus nobody lifts a finger.

The most evident indictment on this question is that of private property. While liberalism can lay claim to allowing a certain degree of social barbarism in the name of free expression, its adherents have no place to flee on the matter of individual sovereignty over possessions. America was founded largely on this basis, with our Constitution borrowing heavily from the writings of John Locke, perhaps the greatest advocate of property rights known in the Western world. In his own words:

“Every man has a property in his own person.  This nobody has any right to but himself.  The labor of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his.”

The very notion of being able to own something without threat of feudalistic seizure by some petty monarch has become sacrosanct in the broader liberal world, despite attempts to erode through acts such as eminent domain. Crimes of trespassing are still regularly enforced, and theft is considered a serious crime in most jurisdictions.

Until now. For all that the liberal republican system has promised to safeguard rights, the riots and looting of the last several weeks shows its agnostic opinion of self. Businesses or cars immolate and merchandise streams from the shelves unpaid, as scarcely soft murmurs escape the lips of the liberty-promoters. Police cannot respond, soldiers are warned against reacting, and politicians condemned for trying to bring order. Yet somehow, we are still implored to believe in the existence of these principles.

Even anti-skeptics must admit it is nearly impossible. The very essence of liberal religiosity requires that people can live without fear of losing their “pursuit of happiness” to the enraged mob of our current year, and edgy suspicion grows every day, with atheistic reactions not far behind. A spiritual awakening seems necessary to stem the tide, if only it can come. Of course such a development requires the will to act, and the liberal order has not anything close.

So softly the Republic burns.

Culturalism · Federal Government

The Saudi Wall Collapses

Saudi Arabia is the poster child of draconians. Across the world, it serves as the perfect example of extreme traditionalist order – either good or bad – depending on who is speaking. Regardless though, the pummeling desert regime appears invincible and assured.

But times are changing. Recent data suggests Saudi divorces spiked by 30 percent during the Coronavirus pandemic as wives began discovering the hidden spouses kept by their husbands. While Saudi numbers remain low when compared to the West, the shift is remarkable if we account for its harsh and restrictive laws impacting women.

Of course this is nothing new. Observers noted long ago that Saudi Arabia has a large and burgeoning homosexual population, a fact confirmed by Osama bin Laden’s relative in her book. What’s especially interesting about that piece is how she describes women who are assumed to be conservative and submissive Muslims actually sparking relationships with members of both sexes—even while maintaining the illusions of marriage.

This leads us to an obvious conclusion: the behavior is probably more widespread in Saudi Arabia, and their legal strictures are really about satisfying radicals instead of ensuring female social order. There is also the gender ratio problem, with around 57 percent being men, an imbalance that implies women can afford to be highly entitled – and men will dance the jig, even if that means sharing her with other dudes, or even girlfriends.

Consider too that Crown Prince MBS is hardly a prime ascetic himself, reportedly cavorting with prostitutes and cocaine while governing the gigantic sand nation.  If anything, the religious veneer must be a limited application useful for propaganda as others gaze in, but not an indication of the truth. When you tie this to the extremely high foreign worker population in the kingdom, many of whom are not of Muslim origin cultures, the overall strength and durability of the regime becomes doubtful, presenting a dire conclusion.  

The fat sheikh has no clothes.   

#VanLife · Culturalism · Federal Government

Can You Even Survive?

Throughout my life I’ve heard people on the Internet and in-person speculate about an apocalyptic future. They’ll speak in lurid terms of how things will go down, the number of rounds they have stacked, and which battle lines shall be drawn. It usually ends up as some variation of patriots vs. fascists/communists, Christians vs. Muslims, or one race against the other. Everything appears settled, and they employ a princely authority in making these fixed conclusions about the days to come.

Yet something typically gets left out: how long will they actually live under such circumstances? It is easy enough to talk tough, but the realities of such an event suggest far less stringent lines being drawn. Just for starters, does the expectant “freedom fighter” have the following:

  • Reliable transportation that is not too much of a gas guzzler, especially if supplies get cut off.
  • Ability to grow food and pump water without ready access to supermarkets or public utilities.
  • Secure lodgings that are actually defensible (not most apartments or townhomes).
  • Practical hand tool skills to help with fortifications.
  • Knowledge of compasses and maps, in case GPS service is unavailable.
  • Not only a supply of defensive hardware, but at least respectable training with them.

The last point is worth honing in on where the “I’ve got 5000 rounds stored up” fellers are concerned. Despite what Hollywood makes us believe, the typical “gunfight” is short and conservative in nature. People are not spitting off hundreds of rounds while crouching behind cover, Gears of War style, unless they happen to be poorly-trained. Proper education emphasizes the importance of trigger discipline and sight picture, not Rambo mayhem, because it is easier to miss than do justice.

Individual readiness matters because the average joe is liable to be on his own, at least for a while. Apart from family or close friends, the notion that you will quickly enlist in some organized group led by military tacticians who proceed to do all the hard work is fantastically low. Such nodes are likely to be haphazard and nonuniform in nature, while also potentially hostile to the existence of our patriotic liberty-monger.

In short, any dramatic occurrence of that fashion (and God forbid it ever materializes), would very probably weed out the most determined jockstraps in the mix, plus a lot more. Sure, being a Gadsen-toting activist with empowered bumper stickers and opinions might feel great, but when a mob of the historically oppressed and butthurt is bearing down on your location, waving around an oversized piece of equipment in panic will close those curtains quick.

To be fair, I guess everyone just wants to go down like Custer in their own head, even if the reality is quite different.   

Culturalism · Federal Government

Of Masks and Men

Perhaps the most amusing aspect to the coronavirus panic has been the complete chaos in messaging around masks, varying from the fiercest concerns to passive indifference, at least until a change occurs. The government refers to it as “science-based evolution,” but we know better. Now masks are being required to enter public places, as if things suddenly shifted in that direction.

What makes it so fascinating is how authorities adapt and weave to escape responsibility. You might recall that I pointed out back on February 11th how a suspicious number of Chinese were being spotted wearing safety masks in public in response to the Rona. The normal reaction was to claim it was due to their experience with SARS, or simply a sense of precaution.

In the United States, our Surgeon General actually made the following tweet on February 29th:

Adams’ rage can be explained by considering the projected supply shortage, yet at the same time American firms were shipping MILLIONS of masks to China to help with their response. Of course it only took about a month for our man Jerome to produce this video:

Oh so now masks are more effective, or per chance he just wanted to demonstrate his mad KonMari skills with cloth origami. Around the same time, the CDC updated their own guidelines in support of wearing masks, I suppose because production might have picked up by that point.

Now that all is well in the world, we can go out, only face masks have become a requirement at most stores, because science. The same science that had no evidence before, but now does, because the government decided it exists. Maybe the next advisory will recommend wearing Trojans over the tongue to prevent ingestion of particles from a TikTok celeb.

Do you still trust science?

Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

That Kind of Hertz

In an eleventh hour weekend move, the car rental company Hertz filed for bankruptcy, sending its shares for a lovely ride:

“Give you a lift?”

I’m curious what stands to follow, especially as many states continue their draconian frighten in place orders despite the economic bleeding. The travel industry and airlines might raise particular concern, but even some restaurants could hit the chopping block due to their brick and mortar ways. And that’s all excluding oil, which has a lot of livelihoods attached to it throughout various parts of the U.S.

If nothing else, this crisis should inform politicians of how fragile the financial web remains in our country. Sending over thirty million to the welfare rolls in order to save them from the invisible enemy strikes the mind as nanny state idiocracy, which we surely don’t have in America. After all, this is the greatest country on earth.

Right?

Federal Government · investing · Personal Finance

Can Free Market Healthcare Work?

One of the silliest debates in the last ten years has been that surrounding healthcare. Progressives screech about the need for broader Medicare coverage, and conservatives extol the virtues of “free market reforms” to bring down medical costs. In both cases, they miss the mark by fixating on the delivery of insurance rather than an elimination of health issues in the first place.

For the purposes of this post, let us consider conservative arguments. They will typically join libertarians in advocating a rollback on insurance regulation and hospital restrictions, along with less government intervention in the economy. Many will note that in 2013, government spending was already 48 percent of the total for healthcare, and yet costs do not seem to be coming down. They might even point to the historical example of Nelson Rockefeller, who tried to expand government coverage of people under Medicaid, but had to abandon the program after it became too expensive.

These are all valid concerns, yet we run up against several problems. To begin with, as long as hospitals find it difficult to deny care to those who cannot pay, fellow travelers will end up footing the bill. Private insurance already acts like a placeholder of sorts for the government in these situations, but they simply amp up premiums on others to support the weaker links. Further complicating matters on the insurance side is the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, which granted sweetheart exemptions to the insurance industry from federal antitrust laws, making it harder to prevent price gouging.

At least for the purer conservatives and libertarians, antitrust restrictions are a troubling question, appearing to some as a needless restriction on liberty. Others term them “anticompetitive,” and claim such legislation was only implemented to benefit industry actors who were losing market share. The front is thus not unified, although the House did vote overwhelmingly to approve a repeal of McGarran-Ferguson in 2010, only to see it die in the Senate.

The bigger issue being left out of the free market argument is the effect which lifestyle has on personal health. It’s easy enough to note that people must take responsibility for their own diet and exercise regimen, but this view fails to acknowledge contributing health factors sourced in other areas. If we fail to properly regulate food production, for example, we might well have hog waste getting into the water supply, if not the ham itself. The consequences have been algal blooms and massive fish casualties, yet who knows how many humans might already be affected.

Permitting high levels of added sugar in cereals or snacks is another problem. Sure, people are responsible for their own actions, but children will be capricious over what they want. In some cases, those kids might have been raised consuming junk, and not know any different. The mere availability of unhealthy foods might also result in them being consumed because of convenience, particularly if there is no existing market for healthier alternative in close proximity.

Sensible regulation is an obvious solution, with the EU providing baselines, but conservatives and libertarians will often come out against any further government control – while also demanding free market healthcare. Clearly this poses a problem. If people are eating garbage products because “it’s good for the economy,” then they will likely drive up costs after developing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Unless care is entirely individualized, with people “only paying for what they need,” and those unable to pay getting denied service, even private sector insurance will end up subsidizing them through risk pools and higher premiums. In other words, everyone gets charged more.

Thus we are left with a conundrum. Either we must overhaul food production and environmental protections to prevent disease in the first place, or make everyone pay out of pocket for their needs alone. As long as insurance plays a leading role however, the latter idea remains a wistful thought.