Pearl Harbor Day.
The strain of trying to figure out what Donald J Trump will mean to the US economy and its markets has worn us out. So today, we have some bits and pieces…
‘It’s too bad our father is not still alive,’ said a sister recently. ‘He would have enjoyed going back to Pearl Harbor.’
Master Sergeant Bill Bonner, your editor’s father, was a Pearl Harbor survivor. He lied about his age to join up early (it was better than working in the steel mills of Donora, Pennsylvania, he thought).
And then…what luck! He was sent to that vacation spot in the Pacific, the Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.
Had he lived long enough, he might have enjoyed going back for the anniversary of its bombing…and perhaps catching a glimpse of Japan’s prime minister, the first to visit since the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force paid a call in 1941.
‘What was it like?’ we asked more than once.
‘Confusion,’ began the succinct reply. ‘It was early Sunday morning. I was still in bed. I heard explosions, but I first thought I must have one helluva hangover. Then, when we realised what was going on, we rushed to get our rifles. We thought they were going to invade. Probably a good thing they didn’t.’
Our father was soon on the trail of the Japanese Army, along with thousands of other soldiers. From one island to another, he hopped across the Pacific. The war ended for him in the Philippines, where he was preparing to invade the Japanese home islands.
‘Probably a good thing that didn’t happen, either,’ he concluded his wartime resume.
‘Good men marry one of the Hepburn girls.’
We were out at dinner when the conversation turned from economics and politics to love and marriage. This was a welcome change from ‘The Donald’ and the economy for us.
So, we listened up. Besides, it sounded as though it might be fun.
‘Yes…you either marry Katharine or Audrey,’ continued a friend. ‘I tried Katharine. Almost got married to her. But she was too much trouble. Instead, I went with Audrey. Much easier to live with.’
The conversation went around the table of four men and one woman. All the men agreed that they had married one or the other.
‘Katharine,’ your editor replied when asked, with no trace of doubt or regret.
‘What about you?’ we turned to the only woman there. ‘Which are you?’
‘Oh…it works the same way with us,” she explained. ‘We’re either Katharine or Audrey. I’m Audrey.’
Once in our cups, in a warm restaurant and digging down toward the soul, we didn’t stop.
‘You know,’ said another of our group, ‘the key to men, women…and everything else…is testosterone.’
‘How so?’ we wonder.
‘It’s all there. The guy with the most testosterone wins. He wins at business, sports…everything. And that’s the guy women want. They can tell. I can tell, too. I walk by a bar in London, for example, and I can feel the testosterone. It tells me to stay away because there’s going to be a fight.
‘It’s not that way in Italy. I go into a bar and I can’t feel anything. Different levels of testosterone. Italians aren’t competitive in the same way.
‘But guess what? You take two men with equal levels of testosterone. One gets married. One doesn’t. 20 years later, the one who got married will have half the amount of testosterone.’
‘Why is that?’ we ask.
‘Testosterone is all about winning. By then, he’s lost so many arguments that his testosterone has been cut in half.’
And more drivel from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)…
According to the number crunchers, the unemployment rate in the US has fallen to only 4.6% — the lowest it has been since 2007.
Yes, 178,000 people found jobs last month. But wait…what’s this? A total of 446,000 people did NOT find jobs…and were dropped from the unemployment rolls because the BLS thinks they should stop looking.
The resulting figure — the 4.6%, not the 446,000 — is one of the proofs offered in support of a Financial Times headline: ‘Trump to inherit strengthening US recovery’.
The Financial Times is, of course, wrong about nearly everything. Here again, it is off the mark, not by a hair…but by a mile.
There are now 95 million adults in the US without work. More than 110 million get some form of means-tested (that is, help designed for poor people) benefits from the feds…
There are 1.2 million fewer people working today than there were 16 years ago. And transfer payments (aka someone else’s money) equal 40% of all wage and salary income…
Both the feeble ‘recovery’ and the phony bull market (fuelled by artificially low rates, stock buybacks, and the hope of fiscal stimulus) are past their sell-by dates…
The bond market — the foundation of America’s capital structure — just saw its biggest selloff in 26 years…
Debt levels are higher than ever. And the new administration — hoping to add more debt — is walking into a maelstrom of budget chaos, including a $20 trillion federal debt before inauguration day…
Yeah…maybe…except for the cancer…the heart failure…the diabetes, and the ingrown toenails.
Finally, we have not fully described what we see ahead…
How does the ‘bond rout’ doom the next administration’s plan to reflate the economy?
Find out tomorrow…
For Markets and Money, Australia
From the Archives…