We are in Annecy, a beautiful French city on a lake.
What takes us here?
Business, of course. We travel a lot. But never for fun. That is not to say we don’t enjoy it. We do. But you can’t have much fun by trying to have fun. It has to come into your life, unbidden — like love or hummingbirds.
Here in picturesque France, we think of home. Baltimore. America.
Annecy is not Baltimore, but what is?
As for America, what happened to it?
A new Gallup poll shows freedom is on the wane in the Land of the Free.
Free people? Not with the largest prison population on the planet. Free minds? Not with public schools, TV and TIME magazine. Free markets? Don’t make us laugh.
Money for nothing
The only thing that is still free in America is money.
Yes, the Fed has made it so the cost of borrowing money is less than the real rate of inflation. This free money corrupts every price, every market, and every transaction.
It is part of the reason freedom is disappearing. Free money feeds the zombies. Without super-cheap credit, made possible by the Fed’s central planning, much of the government wouldn’t exist. We couldn’t afford it.
As it is, one out of every six or seven federal employees is paid with borrowed money.
To reduce Americans’ freedom by transferring power and wealth to zombies and cronies. That is not his official job description, of course; it is just what he really does.
According to the new Gallup poll, Americans are number 33 — between Bahrain and Cameroon — in their satisfaction with the freedom to choose what to do in their lives. It is one of the few places where freedom is in decline. Only two of 100 nations registered a larger drop in satisfaction than the US.
This is not surprising. The Obama administration has prosecuted three times as many people under the 1917 Espionage Act as all previous presidents combined.
Edward Snowden is no fool. He knew he wouldn’t be protected as a whistleblower in the US and that he’d go to jail for speaking out.
And it’s not just Snowden who is at risk. We got a new book called Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent. It tells how new securities and technology laws are so vague and open-ended that the feds can prosecute almost anyone they want.
The crime that never was
Another example: This week, a front page article in the Wall Street Journal glorified the efforts of the FBI to entrap some poor schmucks into an apparent violation of SEC rules.
We say ‘apparent’ because we couldn’t see what the crime was.
An FBI snitch pretended to run a hedge fund. He said he’d invest in various small companies, provided they rebate half the money for ‘consulting’.
What’s the problem with that?
Don’t major Wall Street companies collect billions in fees for ‘consulting’ as they help take companies public, organize mergers and acquisitions, and otherwise help the rich get richer by gaming the system?
The paper says it was a fraud on shareholders.
But how so?
Effectively, the hedge fund got its shares for half price. Why shouldn’t it?
Doesn’t Warren Buffett negotiate special deals? Aren’t warrants and options routinely awarded to large investors? What kind of a dopey mom or silly pop would believe he got just as good a deal as a hedge fund with millions of dollars to invest?
Bye-bye, American Dream
But at least Americans are coming to a more sensible view of their own country. In a poll by Pew Research, the percentage of Americans who think the US ‘stands above all other nations’, has dropped from 38% in 2011 to 28% in 2014. Why the lower numbers? USA Today reports:
‘The recession that ended in 2009 ravaged the economic fortunes of many American families, with median household wealth still about 40% lower than it was before the recession.
‘Jobs have finally started to return, but for many workers, pay is lower than it used to be. People feel they’re falling behind, and the data show they’re not imagining things. That’s a loss of economic freedom, which impacts other choices.
‘Many Americans seem to question the basic premise that everybody can get ahead in the so-called land of the free. A recent analysis by USA Today found living the American Dream, loosely defined, costs a typical family of four roughly $130,000 per year. That’s in a country where the median household income is only about $53,000, or less than half of what’s needed for a middle-class lifestyle.’
Our guess is that America is likely to fall further down the ratings, as the feds continue to ‘protect freedom’ by putting more and more people in jail…and prolonging their goofy free-money policies…which make most Americans poorer.
for Markets and Money