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Welcome to the 1970s

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I am old enough to remember the 1970s.  They were my formative years.  For most people, it’s just ancient history.  Maybe Sansabelt pants with plaid patterns will come back in style.  I graduated from high school in 1980, just as Reagan was taking control of the White House.

For a hint at the mood of the country, I suggest you watch the movie “Network”.  Cities all over the country had high crime.  Comedians made jokes about not being able to walk through Central Park in New York City.  Cities were dirty messes and people were continuing to flee to the suburbs.

Jimmy Carter was President during my formative years after Nixon had resigned and Ford had an uninspiring two-year term.  Reagan was elected in November of 1980. He changed the direction of America.

The years from 1974-1980 were not good times in America.  We were in what Carter himself described as a “malaise”.  Much of it was Carter’s own doing.  I don’t believe Carter’s missteps were intentional.  He was just wrong.

We are seeing history repeat itself today.  A new malaise is spreading, and it’s intentional.  Joe Biden is the figurehead.

In the 1970s, we had high inflation and you couldn’t easily get a job. We had an energy crisis. We had unrest in the Middle East, enabled by the bad policies emanating from Washington DC. Sure, Jimmy Carter had the sham Middle East peace accord with the showmanship of Arafat and Begin at Camp David. But, nothing came of it.  Why? Because Jimmy Carter tried to appease a terrorist. You cannot appease them as Churchill correctly lectured us about back in the 1930s.

When I entered college, one of the selling points behind going to a service academy was a guaranteed job when you graduated. Another selling point was “Mobilization Day”. Cadets got cars during their junior and senior years. They were able to get a 3.5% government loan to pay for them when short-term interest rates were 19% or more. You read that right. 3 month T-bills went as high as 21%. The T-Bill futures pit was one of the busiest pits on the trading floor at CME.

When I visited the CME floor two years later in 1982, the craziest pit on the floor was the S+P pit. T-bills were still happening, but the energy wasn’t there.

Why?

Because Reagan enacted pro-growth, pro-private industry policies where Jimmy Carter was totally focused on enacting government control over the private economy.

We are witnessing the same thing today. Biden has had the worst first 100 days as a President since possibly Lincoln.

Yesterday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm quipped that if people had an electric car, they wouldn’t be affected by over 30% of gas stations being totally out of gas.  Her “Let them eat cake” attitude is the attitude of the current administration.  What about the over-the-road trucks?  If there isn’t enough diesel to power them in three days grocery stores will be out of supplies.  I don’t think there are electric 18 wheelers and frankly, electric cars can only travel around 200-300 miles before they need a “rest”.  I just drove from Las Vegas, NV to Rochester Minnesota, and couldn’t have done it in three days with an electric car.

The Democrat’s real agenda is to starve the energy economy.  One of the first things Biden did was sign an executive order to ban fracking and oil exploration on government land.  Democrats live in a green energy fantasy world where wind and solar can supply it all.  The world doesn’t work that way.

Our Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen doesn’t see inflation.  I guess she can’t read futures prices.  Lumber is up 500% year over year.  Corn and beans are at price levels not seen since 2012.  It is possible inflation is being caused by bullwhip effects due to Covid wrecking supply chains, but it was government policy with forced shutdowns which enabled it.

Our Federal Reserve chair thinks they can stave off inflation.  Plenty of room.  However, the history of the Fed shows they are always late to the party.  To me, it looks like the beginning of a bear market.  Wild swings up and down daily are indicative of two things in my experience.  Either the market is building a base to go up.  Or, it’s wildly gyrating around a top and will trend a lot lower.  The Fed needs to raise short-term rates now.

Looking at the CPI number today, I am reminded that many of the things not included in CPI are the things that affect our daily lives but impact the cost of living our daily lives. Housing, lumber, food, and energy are examples of that.  Labor costs are through the roof, not because of demand.  It’s because of the government transfer payments that are basically paying people not to work.

The continuous stimulus is actually acting like a tax.

I was reading an article about how to defend your portfolio in an inflationary bear market.  The writer suggested buying stocks that had pricing power, like utilities.  I haven’t seen anyone recommend utilities since 1974.

Inflation, higher taxes, world unrest, and more government intervention into the private economy aren’t in the ingredients for a raging bull market.  But hey, we got rid of mean tweets.

The post Welcome to the 1970s first appeared on Points and Figures.


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