- Any functioning adult? Seriously?!
- (Redux) New American Civil War…
- … but what’s the fundamental issue?
- Outraged Americans’ really raw deal
- Dirty freaking hippies and three-piece suits unite
- As goes Europe, so goes the U.S.
- Small business’ quiet riot
And so it’s here, The Most Important Election of Our Lifetimes™…
Talk about a low bar. Any? Also, define “functioning.”
Alas, that choice isn’t on the ballot — at least if you’re talking about the major-party presidential candidates.
Which is why it’s passing strange that so many people are so emotionally invested in the outcome.
Judging by one opinion poll, 55% of Americans believe today will be “the most stress-filled day of their lives.”
More stressful than, say, the sudden death of a parent? More stressful than learning one’s spouse is unfaithful? More stressful than learning one’s child harbors an addiction?
“I’m going to vote like my life depends on it,” a woman in Philadelphia tells The New York Times. She’s going to die if the outcome doesn’t go her way?
Clearly, many people have lost sight of a truism — albeit one that’s widely misattributed…
“The worst thing Donald Trump has done is he’s gotten people interested in politics again,” said Addison Wiggin, the founder of this e-letter, over lunch one day.
It was the spring of 2017, not even three months into Trump’s term. At the time, Addison and I weren’t sure how or in what ways that phenomenon could get worse.
But here we are on Election Day 2020 and our favorite political reporter Michael Tracey says we’re subjected nonstop to “comically overheated emotional appeals about the supposedly apocalyptic outcomes that will befall the nation should either Trump or Biden win the election…
“While the U.S. is certainly on a downward slope of terminal decline, the idea that Donald Trump represents the last guardrail against the collapse of Western Civilization is a hilarious joke. So is the idea that Democracy Will Be Destroyed if he wins again. The fact that we’re flooded with such overwrought stupidity 24/7 is almost enough reason unto itself to simply abstain from the ridiculous process.”
Which he says he did — casting a ballot in New Jersey but leaving the presidential portion blank.
Which happens to be something at least 1.75 million people in 33 states and the District of Columbia did in 2016, according to a Washington Post article a few weeks after the election.
Near as we can tell, no one bothered to get the total, final figure — probably because it would have only further undermined the “legitimacy” of the system.
And so we come to the conclusion today that if a New American Civil War is on the way… the election will not be the spark. It’s not really about Donald Trump. It never was.
Oh, don’t get us wrong. Precautions are in order, just in case of dis-order…
But follow along with us here… because we’ve been thinking about a New American Civil War since the trouble in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
And to be clear, we’re not talking about a replay of 1861–65 — masses of troops lined up in formation against each other. “This is about people burning down their neighbors’ houses and businesses, to run them out of town, over ideological differences,” as the prepper writer John Mosby described it.
“Look at the Balkans in the early 1990s. This is about a group from one side, murdering the entire family — Dad, Mom, brother and baby Sister — of their neighbors, over political differences.”
But for these three-plus years, a question has nagged at us: What would be the defining issue of this conflict?
What would be tantamount to slavery in the 1860s or independence from Britain in the 1770s? (The Revolution was surely a civil war, after all.)
Because it isn’t going to be about “Donald Trump says mean stuff.”
Border walls? Supreme Court nominations? Those too struck us as weak tea… and indeed, no one actually followed through last week on threats to “burn the m——-f——- down” when Republicans successfully installed a new Supreme Court justice before the election.
And so we come back to a thesis we first explored after the trouble in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014… and again after the riots that swept dozens of cities this spring. To wit…
All of the culture war BS is surface stuff — covering up for a profound economic insecurity that’s been building for decades.
It comes back to a chart we’ve shared several times since 2013, brought to our attention by the inimitable Marc Faber of the Gloom Boom & Doom Report.
“If I were to look at the average family income, excluding capital gains, adjusted for inflation between 2002–2012, it is clear that 90% of these families experienced a decline in real income and another 5% experienced hardly any gains.”
Faber laid blame where it belongs — at the feet of the Federal Reserve. “The Fed’s monetary policies have failed to boost the real incomes of most people but have had an enormously favorable impact on just 0.1%, or the ‘1%,’ as they are commonly referred to.
“In fact, I would argue that the Fed is fully responsible for the fact that 90% of U.S. families have had declining real incomes (inflation adjusted) over the last 10 years or so (as money printing raised the prices of energy, food, education, transportation, health care, insurance, etc.) and have experienced a decline in their net worth. After all, it was the Fed that repeatedly and deliberately created and continues to create bubbles, which benefit only a minority, while hurting the majority.”
Of course, few everyday Americans grasped that cause and effect. They merely knew they were getting a raw deal.
And so the ones who were outraged enough to take to the streets cleaved into two factions — the tea party movement and Occupy Wall Street.
Nearly a decade ago, we shared a Venn diagram of the two worldviews and how they intersected…
We did so to illustrate how the power elite had disenfranchised diverse groups of people — and how the two movements had more in common than either side was willing to admit. (Eventually we’d run it just to jerk the chain of our tea party readers who resented being lumped in with those dirty freaking hippies.)
By 2016, the two movements morphed into support for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders — each of them an avatar for everyday Americans’ frustration with the decades of destruction wrought by the Bushes and Clintons and their lot. (And the Fed, of course.)
But so far, the power elites have continued to exercise a brilliant divide-and-rule strategy to stay atop the heap.
They’ve successfully diverted the masses’ attention away from the systematic destruction of the middle class and toward — well, anything else. As long as people are fighting over white privilege or gender-neutral pronouns or whatever mean thing Donald Trump just tweeted, there’s no threat to the Establishment.
“Trump is really not the deep structural cause” of a divided America, says Peter Turchin, evolutionary anthropologist from the University of Connecticut.
Turns out there’s academic research to back up our intuitions and hypotheses.
A BuzzFeed article sums it up in layman’s language: ”The most dangerous element in the mix, argue Turchin and George Mason University sociologist Jack Goldstone, is the corrosive effect of inequality on society.
“They believe they have a model that explains how inequality escalates and leads to political instability: Worsened by elites who monopolize economic gains, narrow the path to social mobility and resist taxation, inequality ends up undermining state institutions while fomenting distrust and resentment.”
Indeed Turchin predicted a decade ago that matters would come to a head around 2020: “In the United States, we have stagnating or declining real wages, a growing gap between rich and poor, overproduction of young graduates with advanced degrees and exploding public debt,” he wrote in the journal Nature.
“Historically, such developments have served as leading indicators of looming political instability.”
So if Trump and the elections are only the superficial source of division… and the economic pillage of everyday Americans is the real problem… what becomes the defining issue of a New American Civil War?
We don’t know, but we’ll hazard a guess.
Recall what we pointed out last week about how Italy’s trajectory of COVID-19 cases consistently leads that of the United States by three–six weeks.
And recall further that when Italy went back into near-lockdown conditions last week, protests and even riots broke out. We spotted them in real-time because we follow the foreign press closely. They went oddly underreported in the United States until a few days later.
Or maybe it’s not so odd after all — if the media gatekeepers fear a portent of what’s coming here in another three–six weeks.
Over the weekend, The New York Times began wringing its collective hands: “Italy has become emblematic of a despair, exhaustion and fear that is spreading throughout the Continent.”
It’s not just Italy — but France and Germany, too: “Acceptance of restrictions is fading and some small businesses are refusing to cooperate,” says The Wall Street Journal.
On the front of the New Diego Caffè in the northwestern Italian town of Rovato, a bar is defiantly staying open until 8:00 p.m. “I am not shutting at 6. Arrest me.”
Already we’re sensing early signs of resistance building across these United States.
Have you heard about the updated restrictions on private gatherings in California? “Gatherings are defined as social situations that bring together people from different households at the same time in a single space or place,” says the California Department of Public Health.
The restrictions — which presumably will apply to extended families over the holidays — are summed up in this infographic from San Diego’s KUSI-TV…
How exactly this will be enforced, we wonder? Is the health department counting on legions of “Karens” to call 911?
But let’s come back to bars and restaurants.
Illinois is once again tightening the limits in many places — banning indoor dining, limiting outdoor seating, cutting back on operating hours. And as in Italy, the pushback has begun.
“Stagecoach WILL be open for INDOOR dining/carry out/and delivery until further notice,” says the Facebook page of a restaurant in Lockport, 30 miles south of Chicago. “We have over 30 employees (most of whom live in Lockport with children) that depend on Stagecoach for their livelihoods.
“We are NOT trying to be rebellious or are anti-masks, anti-people’s health or any of the other nonsense. This is a decision out of survival.”
Further south in Kankakee County, “70 area business owners met Thursday night and agreed to keep serving customers inside their establishments, despite the state’s order that some counties stop indoor service,” reports Chicago’s NBC station.
And then there was your editor’s own dinnertime experience last night in Michigan.
My wife and I had a hankering for Mexican, which we indulged at a favorite spot with a nice view of the water.
The place was nearly empty, so we sat at the bar. The hostess proceeded to hand us a loose-leaf binder with lines to put down name and phone number — the better for contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.
Unbeknownst to us, the orders came down from Gov. Queen of Hearts’ health department last Thursday; yesterday was the first day they took effect.
The orders are as vague as they are extreme. How is the information to be gathered? What’s a restaurant’s liability for sharing that information? Does everyone at the table have to provide their information, or just the head of the party?
“We have had hundreds and hundreds of calls from our members about this,” Justin Winslow of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association tells the BridgeMI website. “The ones not angry are confused. Some are both.”
Washington state tried to pull this stunt earlier this year and had to back down under pressure from the state ACLU. Will the same happen here — or is a showdown coming?
No telling if renewed lockdowns and other limits will be the true catalyst for an all-out conflict. But this morning it seems like a way more likely candidate than the election.
Politicians will do what politicians will do, whatever their stripe. All you and I can do is get the hell out of the way in the interest of self-preservation.
Which is why Donald Trump has not altered our contempt for politics, nor the “antipartisan” nature of this e-letter, now in its 14th year of publication.
Sauve qui peut is the French phrase the aforementioned Addison Wiggin likes to cite as our unofficial motto — “Let he who can, save himself.”
It’s our mission around here — to help everyday folks like you improve your lot in life and focus on the things within your control. We’ve done it for part or all of three presidencies now — and whether or not a fourth is in the offing come 2021, we’ll be here.
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. With our ongoing mission in mind… only a few hours remain in which the information in The 2020 Election Summit will still be timely and actionable.
Jim Rickards and Nomi Prins have laid out a plan for you to survive and thrive no matter the outcome — including one with triple-your-money potential by Inauguration Day.
But soon, the information will be as old as yesterday’s newspaper. The link goes dead at midnight tonight: Here’s one more chance to watch.
Investing legend Jeremy Grantham says: “The thing about a bubble… it can keep going.” Read More
The Federal Reserve’s twice-yearly Financial Stability Report whistled past the graveyard where Archegos Capital Management will soon be interred. Read More
“While China may be the leader in the race to build central bank digital currency (CBDC),” says Jim Rickards, “the Fed has not been caught napping…” Read More
The Central Bank of Russia has been loading up on gold for years. “No one plays the gold market better,” observes Jim Rickards. Read More
If China forces Taiwan reunification, is the U.S. ready to go to war with China? Read More
The mainstream is finally recognizing that a new era of the mom and pop investor has arrived. Read More
“Financial technology (FinTech) — along with some good old-fashioned creativity — has opened an elite market to the masses,” says Zach Scheidt. Read More
“Even prior to COVID, moving to the suburbs seemed to make economic sense relative to higher city prices,” says former Wall Street banker Dr. Nomi Prins. Read More
As the number of American companies dwindles, George Gilder says: “Now [investors] have to find where the new value is really being generated.” Read More
If the mainstream insists on beating this 1999 theme to death, we’ll insist on continuing to push back against it… Read More