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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The US Economy: Rise of the Grim Reaper Crowd

Buy canned goods, ammunition, bottled water and batteries. Capitalism is over and the United States of America will soon become a socialist state, with scattered regions of anarchy and bloodshed. At least, that’s what you’d think by reading the newspapers. And what’s causing all this? In a word: uncertainty.

Wall Street hates uncertainty (read “change”) and loves to worry about it. And the current administration is, well, changing things. There is talk of financial regulation, limiting CEO pay, changing healthcare, changing education, and more. And it isn’t just in the United States, either. Formerly democratic countries like England are talking about raising educational standards, improving infrastructure, and combating climate change. Aargghh!! So much change!

Hard-core industrialists cannot fathom why anyone would purposely reduce corporate profits merely to achieve such vague goals as “clean air.” In the Jan. 2010 edition of Resource World, a Canadian mining investment magazine, Leonard Melman writes: “It would appear that the public will not tolerate the abandonment of their favourite social, environmental, medical or educational goals, just to create industrial efficiency or financial balance.” I’m not making this up.

Reality is slightly more benign. Home prices in the U.S. have finally dropped back to prices affordable for the average family. Personal savings rates (and the repayment of debt) have improved to levels not seen in decades. Interest rates are low. Stock prices are reasonable. Bank spreads are glorious. And to top it all off, huge amounts of frightened personal cash is still sitting in savings accounts, GICs, and money market funds. The United States has taken its necessary dose of suffering, and is fully poised for a comeback.

Nevertheless, it’s fun to be scared. Recent blog posts on CNBC use talk like, “America is not coming back,” “The political class exists to create and extend ‘war’ between groups of Americans,” and “I am worried about the plotocray we have become.” I’m not sure what a plutocray is, but it must be bad.

All this talk of regulation and rules… If Henry Clay Frick were here, he’d know what to do: he’d send Pinkerton’s into Congress and be done with it.


""Tell him I'll see him in hell, where we are both going." Henry Clay Frick, to Andrew Carnegie on his deathbed.