“A Normal Country in a Normal Time”

  • Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago — why is America still mobilized for war?
  • The military-industrial complex Ike warned about is now the MICIMATT
  • $5.9 trillion just for the “War on Terror” as the empire of debt teeters
  • Trade deal optimism fades (but we still see a deal coming soon)
  • Fed balance sheet swells again, questions linger
  • Boom business for boom times — marriage proposal consultants
  • Arming up for a new American civil war? A report from Texas.

The Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago tomorrow.

As it crumbled, so too did the scourge of Bolshevism that created misery and death for tens of millions across seven decades.

The event made such a powerful impression on your editor as a young man that I bought this poster and had it framed…

Berlin November 1989

It’s stayed with me through several bachelor apartments as well as the homes I’ve shared with my bride in big cities and small towns alike.

Not only did the fall of the Wall signal the end of the Soviet brand of Marxism, but it also marked the end of a Cold War that cast a shadow over the entire globe for decades.

For the United States, the end of the Cold War was a chance to start fresh and reclaim our heritage of liberty. And our leaders blew it.

There was a time when America would go to war… and then demobilize when the war was over. That was true even for a brief period after World War II.

But with the Truman Doctrine in 1947, Washington began to adopt a state of permanent mobilization for war.

The “conservative” movement’s thought leaders insisted the values of individual liberty and limited government had to be thrown overboard in service to the cause of defeating Communism.

William F. Buckley, Jr. made the case in early 1952: “We have got to accept Big Government for the duration — for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged, given our present government skills, except through the instrument of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.”

Thus, he went on, we must endure “large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington — even with Truman at the reins of it all.”

(As it happens, Buckley wrote that article during a two-year stint on the CIA’s payroll. Conflict of interest much?)

When the Soviet menace withered away, America’s military-industrial complex refused to do likewise.

If you’re of a certain age, you might remember Jeane Kirkpatrick. She was Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the United Nations. She was one of Reagan’s hardcore hawks when it came to the Soviets.

Perhaps she was most famous for a speech she delivered at the 1984 GOP convention and this line: “They always blame America first!”

Blame America First

She also coined the term “San Francisco Democrats” during that speech.
Kirkpatrick died in 2006 at age 80

A few months after the Wall fell, Kirkpatrick published an essay in The National Interest titled “A Normal Country in a Normal Time.”

How did she see America’s role in the world once the evil empire had dissolved?

“The end of the Cold War frees time, attention and resources to American ends,” Kirkpatrick wrote.

“The United States performed heroically in a time when heroism was required, altruistically during the long years when freedom was endangered. The time when America should bear such unusual burdens is past. With the return of ‘normal’ times, we can again become a normal nation.

“A good society is defined not by its foreign policy but by its internal qualities… Foreign policy becomes a major aspect of a society only if its government is expansionist, imperial, aggressive or when it is threatened by aggression. One of the most important consequences of the half century of war and Cold War has been to give foreign affairs an unnatural importance.”

And she issued a warning going forward about the elites who had become so powerful during that half-century: “It has become more important than ever that the experts who conduct foreign policy on our behalf be subject to the direction and control of the people.”

Alas, it was too late. Over the last 30 years, the “experts” went rogue. The aim, as two of their leading scholars put it, was “benevolent global hegemony.”

They embarked on “democracy promotion” in Iraq and Afghanistan — even as they coddled dictators in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

They put U.S. military bases in more countries than ever before — 70, by one conservative count. (There are only 195 countries in the world.)

Incredibly, they even expanded the NATO alliance that had been formed for the sole purpose of containing the Soviet threat — stirring Russian fears of encirclement.

The military-industrial complex has metastasized into what former CIA analyst Ray McGovern calls the MICIMATT (pronounced mickey-matt) complex.

That’s military, industrial, congressional, intelligence, media, academia and think tanks. The MICIMATT has subverted all the “internal qualities” of our “good society” — at staggering cost.

Years before he coined the term “military-industrial complex,” President Dwight Eisenhower feared what permanent mobilization for war really meant: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

That’s not a plea for welfare-state socialism. It’s basic economics: Every tax dollar that’s extracted from the productive economy for the military is a dollar you and I can’t spend bettering our lives. Ike even ran the numbers in that speech: “The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete pavement.”

The “War on Terror” alone has cost $5.9 trillion, according to research from Brown University.

That’s not just the direct war-fighting costs, but also all the ancillary costs — including future health care for veterans and interest on the debt incurred to pay for the wars.

$5.9 trillion is more than the entire national debt that was racked up by the Uncle Sam in the two centuries before Sept. 11, 2001.

“Thus we arrive at the real problem for the American empire,” wrote Agora founder Bill Bonner and Agora Financial executive publisher Addison Wiggin in their 2006 book Empire of Debt.

“It has by far the strongest military in the world. It has no serious challengers beyond its borders. Hence, it had to become its own worst enemy. All empires must pass away. All must find a way to destroy themselves. America found debt.”

And now as 2019 comes to a close and the total national debt tops $23 trillion, the MICIMATT has grown so powerful it can ignore the commander in chief: He orders troops out of Syria, and instead they’re there for the duration.

What will 2020 bring? For one time only, we’re bringing Bill and Addison back together… along with two more high-powered names we’ll reveal later… for a special event we’ve dubbed:

The 2020 Survival Summit: The No. 1 Money Move to Prepare for the 2020 Elections

We’re still pulling this plan together. Even the date remains up in the air. But it’s a lock for sometime before the end of this month. Watch this space for updates.

So much for the trade war optimism that drove the stock market to record highs.

When we left you yesterday, Chinese negotiators said Washington and Beijing had agreed to roll back tariffs as part of a “phase one” trade deal. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow seemed to confirm it.

And then the president said this morning, “I haven’t agreed to anything.”

With that, the Dow has shed a modest 60 points on the day. The S&P 500 is flat. The Nasdaq is slightly in the green.

What hasn’t reversed is the whacking that bonds and gold got yesterday. The yield on a 10-year Treasury note is a hair above 1.9%. Gold languishes at $1,466 — close to the lows of late September.

We’re still of the opinion — laid out here a week ago today based on a proprietary market indicator of ours — that a trade deal will get done, even if it’s not a deal that settles all issues for all time.

The president wants a “win” that he can tout during his rallies. He wants to keep the stock market aloft near those all-time highs. And he definitely doesn’t want more headlines like this one…

Reuters Tweet

For the record: The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet swelled another $20 billion last week.

As you might recall, the balance sheet has been growing like topsy ever since the overnight lending market seized up in mid-September. Before the trouble broke out with “repo” interest rates, the balance sheet stood at $3.77 trillion. Now after last week’s latest bump, it’s $4.04 trillion.

We still don’t know which of the big Wall Street firms are benefiting from the Fed’s largesse — or why those firms’ liquidity is so tight. The media and Congress appear uninterested in finding out. (We engaged in some informed speculation on Monday.)

But we do know the more the Fed’s balance sheet grows, the more its credibility is at risk. If the Fed has to blow up its balance sheet like this just to keep the financial system’s “plumbing” up to snuff, how much money printing will it resort to whenever the next recession rolls around?

And will it be so much that either 1) Americans come out with torches and pitchforks to object to another huge bailout or 2) foreigners lose all confidence in the U.S. dollar?

But before the next recession rolls around, it’s boom times for a newish line of work — the “marriage proposal consultant.”

“Question-poppers are increasingly turning to professionals to ensure their proposal checks all the boxes without becoming a cog in the great Instagram recycling mill,” reports the Inside Hook website.

There’s an outfit called The Yes Girls that’s the pioneer in this genre — and it’s responding to marketplace demand, it seems. “When you think about all of the Instagram proposals or Pinterest proposals circling the web, there’s really nothing less authentic than copying the rose petals and light-up ‘Marry Me’ sign on a rooftop simply because it looks romantic,” says the firm’s Megan Ellis.

Adds the website: “The company offers multiple proposal packages, from the base-level $400 offering that includes a consultation and two custom proposal ideas to a full-service VIP package complete with a personal on-site coordinator.” Typical budget: $4,000–5,000.

We have nothing to add — other than maybe wondering whether anyone elopes anymore, or if that’s lost its charm in the age of “the gram”…

“I’ve been away for the past week and am just reading the Oct. 29 edition of The 5,” a reader writes.

[***Rummages through the archives… ah, yes, the lively start to a mailbag thread after our exploration of taker states.***]

“Every time you touch on the new American civil war topic, I think about another aspect of why I made the decision 18 years ago to leave Texas for a much more peaceful (and less costly) life in Costa Rica.

“Fortunately, I recently retired from a 30-year engineering career, so I could act on my gut feelings that the USA was heading for financial meltdown (way ahead of the curve) and the growing political divide between the haves and have-nots.

“I still have to go to the USA once a year to pay Uncle Sam his share of the earnings I receive from my U.S. investments, and every year I seem to meet more folks who are preparing to defend their properties.

“Some of these people have small arsenals of guns, etc., with hobbies that have changed from golf to heading to the gun range on the weekend to practice and socialize.

“So I went along, and as I listened in on the discussion, they seemed to cover the many growing problems brought out in The 5, including the impact of the cartel/immigration madness on our southern border.

“So you should include Texas and most of the southern states in the list of rural folks who feel the policies of Washington and the elites are something they are ‘up to here’ with.”

The 5: We haven’t done that much about the border, really.

To whatever extent a crisis exists, it’s the result of previous administrations in Washington meddling in Latin America. Honduras, the source of so many migrants in recent years, was relatively quiescent until Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave D.C.’s blessing to a coup there in 2009. If Trump had any sense, he’d blame the whole thing on her!

Anyway, we always appreciate the ground-truth perspective. Thanks.

Have a good weekend,

David Gonigam

Dave Gonigam
The 5 Min. Forecast

P.S. Next week, we’re going to spin a truly wild new American civil war scenario. It’ll blow your mind. Frankly, I’m scaring myself writing about it…

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam

Dave Gonigam has been managing editor of The 5 Min. Forecast since September 2010. Before joining the research and writing team at Agora Financial in 2007, he worked for 20 years as an Emmy award-winning television news producer.

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