”America's commitment to collective defense under Article 5 of NATO is a sacred obligation in our view—a sacred obligation not just for now, but for all time.”— Joe Biden
Note from Addison: We return to Bill Bonner today for a third behind-the-scenes installment of our Empire of Debt update.
While Bill moves on from Trump to the “octogenarian Caesar,” we tackle three specific trends in The Great American Shell Game, right here, that promise to make 2024 the most turbulent—for the economy, politics and society—in decades.
This afternoon, we kick off another season of The Wiggin Sessions with what promises to be an interesting conversation with Libertarian candidate for president, Mark Rectenwald. More about Mark and his battle with the NYU administration after 10 years as a professor there over “woke” policies on American university campuses. We’re going to find out from the inside what he thinks about widespread pro-Hamas demonstrations.
We are recounting the story of the 21st century, as told by a sinner.
Yes, according to many Dear Readers, we have erred and strayed like a lost lamb. We failed to see how the internet and dot.com companies would make us all rich. And then, we wouldn’t stand up and cheer when the Bush administration announced its invasion of Iraq.
If you don’t get fully on-board with the latest popular delirium, you risk getting labeled a ‘denier’…a traitor…or an anti-Semite. In 2002, for example, everybody knew Saddam Hussein was a son-of-a-bitch. And he had ‘weapons of mass destruction;’ everybody said so.
But he didn’t. And it wasn’t the first time the American public was misled by its own government and its propaganda press.
At the beginning of WWI, Americans were told that the Huns were spearing Belgian babies with their bayonets, raping nuns en masse (so to speak), and cutting off hands by the thousands.
Naturally, the public was quickly riled up against all things German.
But when a commission was sent to look into these charges, it could find no one missing a hand and no credible reports of rape or infanticide.
Likewise, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, outrage in the US reached a fever pitch as a young girl reported that she had seen Iraqi soldiers take premature babies out of incubators and throw them on the floor to die.
It later turned out that it wasn’t true. The Kuwait government had hired US consultant firm Hill & Knowlton to spin the story for the benefit of the US media. The propaganda press went to work with it, providing a reason to bring the US into the war; again, mission accomplished.
Last month we were told that terrorists had beheaded Israeli babies. Joe Biden confirmed it. The Times of Israel:
Netanyahu’s office releases horrifying images of infants murdered by Hamas
The PMO said the photos released were some of what was shown earlier Thursday to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, adding that they are “difficult-to-see images of babies murdered and burned by the monsters of Hamas. Hamas are not human. Hamas is ISIS.”
What actually happened? Reuters said the photos showed no beheaded babies. Forensic experts noted that when you blow things up, you also blow off heads as well as arms and legs. Snopes.com concludes a report on the subject:
In part, many questions about the violence remain unanswered because journalists have limited access to many parts of Israel and Palestine due to safety threats and military brigades.
Among the few who have gotten access, however, was Oren Ziv, a reporter with the left-leaning Israeli news organization +972 Magazine. … he shared on X a different account of what he heard from soldiers. Of the reports about decapitated infants, he said, “we didn’t see any evidence of this, and the army spokesperson or commanders also didn’t mention any such incidents.”
What to think? What to believe?
In the Trump years, many Dear Readers were bent out of shape by our failure to see how great the president was. They thought he was making America great again; he had said so himself. But whatever the obiter dicta of a windy prima donna, Trump’s policies were opposite to those we needed. America had problems. But they weren’t problems that could be solved by more firepower and more debt.
And then came Joe Biden. For all the sturm and drang of US politics, the remarkable thing was how little policies actually changed. Every branch of government continued more or less as was before, unmolested by the new regime. Military spending went up – no matter who was in power. And deficits (despite a pause after the Covid Panic receded) increased.
In 2022, the US finally goaded Russia into a war with the Ukraine…and then blocked a negotiated peace between the two of them. This year, it turned its attention to the Eastern Mediterranean, where it ‘stands with Israel’, and resists calls for a ceasefire.
In the view of the US mainstream press – and many of our Dear Readers – the US was merely fulfilling its role as leader of the free world. But the dots were not lining up for us. It looked more like the degenerate empire taking another big step towards a disgraceful end – inflation and war, besmirched by war crimes.
By this time, the US had been on the downslope for nearly a quarter of a century. People had learned their parts. Members of the House no longer pretended to balance the budget. They didn’t bother with budgets at all. They simply lurched from one debt ceiling…and one stopgap spending bill…to the next. Senators, meanwhile, no longer debated the pros and cons of our overseas garrisons, but ceded their responsibilities to an all-powerful executive elite. The Biden Administration – aided and abetted by lobbyists, donors, and the media – made the decisions.
Generals returned from their failures—in Iraq or Afghanistan – and were treated as military sages. Come each artillery barrage, they went before the cameras to explain why more firepower, more spending…and more meddling…were in the national interest. Then, they collected their checks from Raytheon or General Dynamics…and awaited the next flare up.
The role of the masses was merely to stand up, hoot and howl in approval.
Everyone played his role as best he could. Even the cynics and naysayers have their parts to play. Marcus Tullius Cicero in ancient Rome, opposed the Empire, with its far-flung wars abroad and concentrated power in the emperor at home. There was another sinner; he made enemies of the rich and powerful by insisting on sticking with traditional republican values. For his pains, he was exiled and later executed—and beheaded!
Someone should read the script. It doesn’t have a happy ending.
Bonner Private Research
P.S. Billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller revealed he has a massive but in short-term Treasuries with a warning about the U.S. economy in 2024. Among other concerns, Druckenmiller cites reckless spending by the federal government that will lead to some tough decisions in the coming years, including potentially making deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
We’ll take up the particulars of Druckenmiller’s argument tomorrow. In the meantime you can prepare yourself by reviewing Shell Game and becoming a member of our premium service, The Essential Investor, here.
P.P.S. As always you can share your thoughts, by responding, here.