What if They're Wrong?
On climate... on inflation... on the economy... on how best to run YOUR life?
(Source: Getty Images)
Bill Bonner, reckoning today from Poitou, France...
Yesterday, Massachusetts signed onto the Great Transition crusade. The Washington Post:
Described as a “landmark bill,” the Massachusetts climate legislation notably includes a provision — the first of its kind for the state — that would allow 10 municipalities to legally ban fossil fuel infrastructure in new and major construction projects. With this policy, certain cities and towns in Massachusetts could soon join others across the country that have taken similar steps to change local building codes to block the use of fossil fuels, such as natural gas — meaning many people who want gas stoves or furnaces are probably out of luck in these places.
What if they’re wrong? What if trying to change the earth’s climate is a wild goose chase?
The Pentagon was in the news yesterday too. In what ‘CovertAction’ calls the “Most Bloated Military Budget in History,” Democrats and Republicans joined hands to deliver defense contractors an $850 billion payday – a $45 billion increase.
Supporters say the US needs to spend such huge amounts of money to counter the many threats they’ve managed to stir up – Russia, China… terrorists… gender inequality!
A Lifetime Setback
But what if they’re wrong? What if all that spending actually weakens the US economy… frightens foreigners… and causes potential enemies to ‘gun up’ themselves?
Terrorists… Chinese… Russians – aren’t we pushing them to find new forms of money… new weapons… new friends?
What does it matter if you’re wrong?
Marry the ‘wrong’ person, for example, and you might dread every breakfast.
Making the wrong career choice, too, could be a lifetime setback.
In matters of public policy, the consequences of wrongness are directly proportional to the ambition of the undertaking. Generally, the grander the project, the greater the damage. Many public policies are just reflections of a consensus – drive on the right… don’t throw trash out the window – and do little damage.
Otherwise, they are threats to life and property. They impose the fads of the ruling class upon everyone else and divert time and resources from what ‘the people’ actually want.
Does that make sense? We hope so; if not, we’d have to revise our entire weltanschauung.
And now… you are faced with a choice. You can believe the ‘inflation has peaked’ narrative… for example. If it is true, the Fed can now ease off of its ‘tightening’… and soon return to doing what it does best – inflating.
If so, you might want to load up on stocks now… counting on a repeat of the money-printing, interest rate falsifying, bubble extravaganza of the last 13 years.
But what if you’re wrong?
Of course, you could be wrong in either direction. If you stay out of stocks, you could miss another big upswell. But if you jump in, you could get whacked… losing half your money. Maybe more.
That Which We Do Not Know
Here at Bonner Private Research, we have no idea whether stocks are going up or down in the short term. Nor do we know what will happen to prices of consumer items. But we do not sweat the small stuff…nor fret about things we cannot know. Will we be happier if we lower carbon emissions? Should the people of the Donbass be free from Ukrainian control? Will bitcoin go back to $30,000? Darned if we know!
What we aim to do here is to look at what OUGHT to happen. We connect the dots to see a bigger pattern – the Primary Trend. If we get that right, we won’t worry about the ups and downs along the way.
Since the late 90s, the primary trend has been driven by two things. First, Fed liquidity boosted asset prices and queered the entire economy. Second, globalization (or more particularly, the entry of hundreds of millions of Chinese into the world’s manufacturing economy) helped to keep consumer prices down.
Now, it looks as though both of those things are played out. There are not many more peasants moving to the cities to find work… and the feds seriously disrupted output with their Covid lockdowns, stimmie checks and other measures. Those drinks have been poured; they’re not going back into the bottle anytime soon.
This puts the Fed in a tight spot. It’s ‘inflate or die.’
It can’t ‘inflate’ because it would risk runaway inflation. (Gasoline, for example. Even after the price decline of the last month, it is still 50% higher than it was last year. Producer prices “in the pipeline” are still going up at nearly 10% per year.)
Since it can’t inflate, the bubble must die. And the Fed is puncturing it, with tiny daggers… 50-75 basis points each. The Fed Funds rate is still about 600 basis points (6%) below the CPI (now 8.5%). It needs to get ahead of inflation… not tarry 600 basis points behind. Otherwise, it has no rates to cut in the face of a recession.
And if it stops raising rates, or even reverses course as the recession deepens, consumer prices will go up… and the whole system risks going into an Argentine-like chaos.
Either way – killed by inflation or by rate hikes – the Primary Trend of the last 35 years is a goner.
It will be a long, slow, on-again, off-again, confusing show. Stocks will slump. Then they will bounce up again. Consumer prices will go up… down… and up again. “Experts” will be right… and wrong.
Only years from now will we see the new primary trend clearly.
Joel’s Note: Speaking of schizophrenic consumer prices (what BPR investment director, Tom Dyson, calls “inflation volatility”), there was one number lost amidst all the “peak inflation” celebration this week – Producer Price Inflation (PPI) was up 9.8% year-over-year.
“It was only July's drop in energy prices that made the month/month figure a cause for celebration,” observed Dan Denning. “Since when is 10% inflation in wholesale prices something to cheer about, much less cause to think the Fed will soon be cutting rates?”
As usual, there’s plenty more to the numbers than meets the eye. Dan’s weekly market note, out this afternoon, takes a look under the hood of all that and more. If you’re not already receiving his weekly updates, as well as Tom’s Wednesday market note, plus the Bonner Private Research monthly report, stock watchlist, private briefings and all the rest of that good stuff, you might want to grab a subscription right here.
Finally today, a few readers wrote in to ask whether Bill’s latest video presentation, “The Day America Dies,” is available anywhere else other than our Substack page. Why yes, it is! You can see it our page, here… or on YouTube, below. Don’t forget to share far and wide. Your friends can thank you later…