You will not find today’s Daily Reckoning much to your liking. Because it creeps upon an idea that will probably make you feel uncomfortable. At least, that is the effect it has on us.
But first, the latest news from the world of money.
Yesterday, the Dow fell 12 points. Gold shot up $30. And oil is headed back towards $100.
Gold refuses to go down. Stocks refuse to go up. But over the last ten years, gold has gone up big-time, while stocks have gone nowhere.
Why? Because America topped out in 1999.
We went to church on Sunday. The church was built in the 1860s by a group of Maryland Episcopalian planters who were breaking away from a pro-Union parish. Physically, it is a marvelous example of ‘carpenter gothic’ architecture from the mid-19th century.
Since we had been living in Europe for the last 15 years, we had few opportunities to attend our local church. But it once played an important role in our lives. Our family went every Sunday, and your editor was an altar boy for several years.
So, he put on his Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes – coat and tie – on Sunday morning, returning to the church he knew as a child, and took his place in a pew in the back of the church.
The first thing he noticed was that he was the only one wearing a tie…or a coat. The rest of the congregation looked as though it was ready to order foot-long hotdogs or spread out beach towels. A man who must have been 55 years old came in a pair of baggy shorts – the kind you would normally dip in soapy water and use to wash the car. Over his broad stomach he wore an olive-drab tee-shirt of the sort worn by Tennessee auto mechanics. This was a level of informality we had never before seen in an Episcopal church. Or any church, for that matter.
We were reassured when the choir appeared at the back of the church. It looked normal. Clad in bright red and blue, traditional vestments. With the cross going before them. But wait…there were two flags flanking the cross. One was a flag for the Episcopal Church. The other was the stars and stripes of the USA. Politics and religion – the state and the church – marched side by side up the aisle, as the choir pumped out a joyful hymn.
This church had become very pro-Union! Later, the choir sang two patriotic songs – “God Bless America” and the purely secular “America the Beautiful.” Never before had we heard praises to Caesar sung in a church.
But it didn’t seem to bother anyone. Christ and Caesar, Caesar and Christ… Most people like to see them together; they are as happy serving one master as the other. They like it even better when they have two of them.
It didn’t bother us either. After all, the morrow was the 4th of July. Maybe they did this only once a year….
Meanwhile, on the Internet, a site called “Economic Collapse” anticipated the high spirits of Independence Day with a list of 20 “not-so-great categories” in which the US really is Numero Uno. Its author first assures us of his loyalty:
I love the United States. I love the American people.
Then, he opens fire:
America is like an aging, bloated rock star that has become addicted to a dozen different drugs. America is a shadow of its former self and it desperately needs to wake up before it plunges into oblivion.
If you do not believe that America is in bad shape, just read the list below. The following are 20 not so good categories that the United States leads the world in….
#1 The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and the largest total prison population on the entire globe.
#2 According to NationMaster.com, the United States has the highest percentage of obese people in the world.
#3 The United States has the highest divorce rate on the globe by a wide margin.
#4 The United States is tied with the UK for the most hours of television watched per person each week.
#5 The United States has the highest rate of illegal drug use on the entire planet.
#6 There are more car thefts in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world by far.
#7 There are more reported rapes in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world.
#8 There are more reported murders in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world.
#9 There are more total crimes in the United States each year than anywhere else in the world.
#10 The United States also has more police officers than anywhere else in the world.
#11 The United States spends much more on health care as a percentage of GDP than any other nation on the face of the earth.
#12 The United States has more people on pharmaceutical drugs than any other country on the planet.
#13 The percentage of women taking antidepressants in America is higher than in any other country in the world.
#14 Americans have more student loan debt than anyone else in the world.
#15 More pornography is created in the United States than anywhere else on the entire globe. 89 percent is made in the USA and only 11 percent is made in the rest of the world.
#16 The United States has the largest trade deficit in the world every single year. Between December 2000 and December 2010, the United States ran a total trade deficit of 6.1 trillion dollars with the rest of the world, and the US has had a negative trade balance every single year since 1976.
#17 The United States spends 7 times more on the military than any other nation on the planet does. In fact, US military spending is greater than the military spending of China, Russia, Japan, India, and the rest of NATO combined.
#18 The United States has far more foreign military bases than any other country does.
#19 The United States has the most complicated tax system in the entire world.
#20 The US has accumulated the biggest national debt that the world has ever seen and it is rapidly getting worse. Right now, US government debt is expanding at a rate of $40,000 per second.
The truth is that America has changed. Most of us don’t even say hello to our neighbors anymore.
The United States was once the most blessed nation on the face of the earth, but now we are literally falling to pieces.
Does anyone have any ideas about why this could be happening?
Well, yes. We do have some ideas. But don’t think for a minute that we’re going to give you earnest advice on how to make the country a better place. There are approximately a million civil servants who are paid to do that! You can see for yourself what a good job they have done.
No, we’re just going to explain how America became a country of fat poor people who – when they’re not watching TV – are murdering and raping their fellow citizens.
In fact, we already have. It’s in a book. About 5 years ago, with Addison Wiggin, we wrote Empire of Debt. We predicted how America’s imperial mission would evolve. And we said it was unstoppable. Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the budget cuts. Forget the idle ranting and raving, posturing and pretending…this Bozo is going bust! Congress has raised the “ceiling” so often – 94 times in the last 94 years, the Capitol might as well be an open-air building. We wrote:
“The imperial spirit has gotten the best of her. She no longer plays a role that she can understand and control. Now, she is an imperial power: she must read from the script that has been thrust in her hands. She must provide security for the entire world… Someone has to do it. It is her turn to wear the purple, whether she wants to or not. Thus did she become the dictatress of the world; but no longer ruler of her own spirit – or her own finances.”
Like a clown shot out of a circus cannon, America’s trajectory is fixed. Just look at the “Number 1” items above. They are the marks of an imperial power in decline. Overseas, the imperial garrisons squander her military might. At home, the masses degenerate, squandering her wealth.
And here’s the worst part: America will continue in this direction until she falls on her head.
For Markets and Money Australia