Tag Archives: Wall Street

Photos of Occupy Wall Street at Zuccotti Park. Looks like a third-world tent city to me.

I was down at Zuccotti Park today where the Occupy Wall Street “protesters” have literally set up camp. I was shocked by what I saw. This does not appear to be some noble protest. Instead, it looked like a third-world tent city–one without privacy, running water, and sanitation–was dropped into the heart of our financial capital.


Also shocking were the restrictions around Wall Street. Vehicle traffic has been blocked on Wall Street and Broad Street in front of the stock exchange ever since 2001, but the barricades have recently been pushed far back for pedestrians as well, given them little space to walk.

Even the famous bull at Bowling Green at the base of Broadway has been cordoned off.

Even though Mayor Bloomberg has been sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street protesters, he and the police are clearly worried about potential violence against these New York landmarks.

The most amazing thing is that you really cannot tell what these people are protesting for or against when you walk by. As you can see by the photos above, there were no banners or placards attacking Wall Street and no list of demands. Instead, to all appearances, it was just a lot of homeless people (whether by circumstance or by choice) who have set up camp in downtown Manhattan. While I know from the “news” that these are noble protesters seeking to right the wrongs of the world, but it certainly looked like a lot of homeless people in tents.

From the perspective of the average American, I cannot understand why anybody would care what these people believe, think, or want. It is a lot of unemployed people (again, whether by circumstance or by choice) who have completely failed in delivering their message, whatever that may be. Like their makeshift camp, the whole movement appears to be a disorganized mess that, in my humble opinion, should be cleaned up both from a standpoint of unsanitary conditions and poor political reasoning.

– Michael E. Newton is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny. His newest book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution, was released by Eleftheria Publishing in July.

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The evil trinity of big government: media, public schools, and government bureaucracy

With Occupy Wall Street in the news, the decline of the American economy and competitiveness, and our growing indebtedness as individuals and a nation, I have been thinking a lot the causes of our current “unequivocal experience.” [Hamilton, Federalist No. 1] Or as Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 15, “We may indeed with propriety be said to have reached almost the last stage of national humiliation. There is scarcely anything that can wound the pride or degrade the character of an independent nation which we do not experience.”

For those who read this blog, my tweets, or my books, you already know that I firmly believe that all problems in government can be traced to the people. No government can stand long without the support–or lack of opposition–from the people, as Hamilton points out in Federalist No. 21 and Madison in Federalists No. 28 and 44.

The question then is not why the government has grown, but why the people have encouraged or allowed its growth from under ten percent of GDP to over forty percent over the past century.

Quite a while ago I came to the conclusion–and I’m sure I’m not alone in this opinion–that there is an evil trinity promoting big government.

  • The media: The print and television media has long been controlled by the left. Only with the emergence of Fox News and talk radio has the right gotten a voice. The Internet has also helped expanded “alternative” viewpoints. Nevertheless, the left still has a dominant market share among casual listeners/viewers/readers. The media has an innate interest in promoting government. The media’s job is to find a problem or crisis and blow it out of proportions to get ratings. On top of that, a story gets even more traction if there is somebody to blame. Who to blame? Well, you certainly cannot blame your customers, even if they are responsible. So, the media blames big corporations, the government, or foreign nations. If they blame a foreign nation, obviously it is the government’s job to protect us from these foreign attacks. If they blame a big corporation, only the government is large enough and powerful enough to rein them in. If they blame the government, they suggest, promote, or demand that the government do more next time to prevent its own mistakes. (Think about government stimulus, which the media says failed only because it was not big enough.)
  • Public education system: Most Americans received the majority of their education from the public school system. Public schools teach nearly 100% of K-12 students. Even in college, many universities are public with tuition subsidized by the states. On top of that, the federal government subsidizes student loans to private universities, which creates all sorts of market distortions. Public school administrators and teachers alike receive their paychecks from the government. They have chosen to work for government and most of them, by choice or mandate, join the teachers union. These teachers and administrators are brainwashed by unions and government education departments and then brainwash their own students to believe those same ideals. When election time comes, they turn out in droves and convince parents through phone calls (I received one the other day) and PTA activities to vote for their candidates and to approve propositions to increase their funding.
  • Government bureaucracy: Currently, seventeen percent of American jobs are in the government sector. On top of that, as I write in The Path to Tyranny, “these employment figures do not include all the jobs created by the 529 billion dollars worth of contracts given out by the federal government each year, two-thirds of which were for defense programs. As of 2006, government contracts to private defense companies employed an additional 1.4 million people.” Just like the teachers and school administrators above, these people want to keep their jobs and generally believe that they are doing more good than bad for the country.

With such a large percentage of Americans working for the government, either directly or through public schools, with the media’s influence on the American mind, and the public school system’s stranglehold on our children’s education, the left has been able to advance their agenda with little opposition. There should be little doubt as to why government’s size has more than quadrupled in the last hundred years and now eats up almost half of our GDP (with the cost of regulation added on top of that).

A fourth group may possibly be included: welfare recipients. Back in 2009, I wrote about this in The Path to Tyranny, but the situation has worsened since then. Here is what I wrote then:

In the first quarter of 2009, Social Security, Medicare, welfare, and other benefits provided by the government accounted for 16.2 percent of all personal income, a record high. Americans have become dependent on the government, something the Founders did not intend. After paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into Social Security and Medicare, only the very rich would be able forego the benefits promised them. Every election, retirees and people approaching retirement vote for candidates who promise not to touch their retirement or health care programs. This has made fixing the structural problems behind these programs virtually impossible, but it has accomplished the goal of modern liberals and socialists of making Americans dependent on the government.

Nevertheless, I do not include these welfare/benefit recipients because they are people from all walks of life who do not represent a singular group. Though they certainly skew elections and public sentiment, there is no way to infiltrate, attack, and convince them as a group; we can only do so as individuals. The other three are institutions influencing government; this one is a loose collection of individuals. The left uses the apparatus of the left within the media, public education, and government bureaucracy to influence others. In contrast, those dependent on government are a symptom of big government more than a cause, though they certainly seek to maintain their benefits and this makes shrinking government more difficult. But these people do not necessarily promote big government. In fact, many oppose government’s actions to increase welfare because it may threaten their own benefits. Thus, welfare/benefit recipients are not including among my evil trinity.

Topic to be continued…

Occupy Wall Street: A return to the chaos of ancient Greece and Rome

In Occupy Wall Street: The Return of Shays’ Rebellion, I wrote about how the Occupy Wall Street protesters, like the participants in Shays’ Rebellion, demand debt relief or forgiveness. But I must point out that this demand for debt relief predates the United States by at least a couple of thousand years.

The ancient Greek and ancient Roman historians and philosophers warned against debt relief and those who demand it.

About 2,300 years ago, Plato warned the ancient Greeks:

And is it not true that in like manner a leader of the people who, getting control of a docile mob, does not withhold his hand from the shedding of tribal blood, but by the customary unjust accusations brings a citizen into court and assassinates him, blotting out a human life, and with unhallowed tongue and lips that have tasted kindred blood, banishes and slays and hints at the abolition of debts and the partition of lands.

In ancient Rome, Cicero warned:

And what is the meaning of an abolition of debts, except that you buy a farm with my money; that you have the farm, and I have not my money?

They say that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. With the return of the demand for debt relief, we clearly have neglecting our study of history.

– Michael E. Newton is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny. His newest book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution, was released by Eleftheria Publishing in July.

Occupy Wall Street: The Return of Shays’ Rebellion

One of the demands by the Occupy Wall Street protestors is student loan relief. According to a report by CNBC:

It may be hard to pin down exactly what the Occupy Wall Street protesters want, but one of the sources of their frustration seems clear. Many of the demonstrators are drowning in student debt.

[…]

One proposed list of demands for the Occupy Wall Street movement includes “free college tuition” and “immediate across the board forgiveness” of student debt. While neither demand may be very realistic, the student debt problem is very real.

[…]

Of course, if some of the protesters get their way, with free tuition and debt forgiveness, the problem might go away. Rose Swidden, the agriculture student-turned-protester, acknowledges the demands may be far-fetched, but said it is worth a try.

“Sometimes if you shoot for the moon, you land in the stars.”

This is not the first time the United States has seen these demands for debt relief. The same demand was made 225 years ago during Shays’ Rebellion. As I describe in Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers:

Daniel Shays was one such army veteran disappointed by how the government treated veterans. Shays, who returned to farming after the war, was also angered by how creditors treated farmers who had borrowed money. As delegates from five states met in Annapolis in 1786 to try to fix some of the defects of the Articles of Confederation, Daniel Shays led a rebellion of 1,200 men against the Massachusetts government.

General Henry Knox wrote to George Washington explaining the objectives of Shays and his followers: “Their creed is, that the property of the United States has been protected from the confiscation of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore ought to be the common property of all; and he that attempts opposition to this creed, is an enemy to equity and justice, and ought to be swept off the face of the earth… They are determined to annihilate all debts, public and private, and have agrarian laws, which are easily effected by the means of unfunded paper money, which shall be a tender in all cases whatever.”

While Shays’ Rebellion was put down quite easily, it could have easily led to civil war (from Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers):

Shays’ Rebellion was put down in January 1787 by a well-armed force of 4,400 men. Alexander Hamilton noted how close America came to civil war: “Who can determine what might have been the issue of her late convulsions, if the malcontents had been headed by a Caesar or by a Cromwell?”

In fact, although the rebellion itself was stopped and no Caesar or Cromwell emerged, the story did not end there (from Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers):

The rebels were pardoned and they succeeded in elections the following year. The new legislature passed the debt relief that the rebels demanded.

Shays’ Rebellion was all about debt relief, which is a major demand of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

We surely should heed the words of General Henry Knox and Alexander Hamilton and swear off this idea of debt forgiveness. Debt forgiveness is nothing more than stealing from a large number of people to satisfy the demand of a small but vocal minority.

– Michael E. Newton is the author of the highly acclaimed The Path to Tyranny: A History of Free Society’s Descent into Tyranny. His newest book, Angry Mobs and Founding Fathers: The Fight for Control of the American Revolution, was released by Eleftheria Publishing in July.

Favorite quotes from the best book every written on investing: “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator”

Even though it was written way back in early 1920s, Reminiscences of a Stock Operator is still the best book ever written about investing/speculation/trading. Here are my favorite quotes:

“The professional concerns himself with doing the right thing rather than with making money, knowing that the profit takes care of itself if the other things are attended to.”

“They say you never grow poor taking profits. No, you don’t. But neither do you grow rich taking a four-point profit in a bull market.”

“Stocks are never too high to buy or too low to sell.”

“The speculator’s chief enemies are always boring from within. It is inseparable from human nature to hope and to fear…. The successful trader has to fight these two deep-seated instincts. He has to reverse what you might call his natural impulses. Instead of hoping he must fear; instead of fearing he must hope. He must fear that his loss may develop into a much bigger loss, and hope that his profit may become a big profit.”

“And right here let me say one thing: After spending many years in Wall Street and after making and losing millions of dollars I want to tell you this: It never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It always was my sitting. Got that? My sitting tight! It is no trick at all to be right on the market. You always find lots of early bulls in bull markets and early bears in bear markets. I’ve known many men who were right at exactly the right time, and began buying or selling stocks when prices were at the very level which should show the greatest profit. And their experience invariably matched mine—that is, they made no real money out of it. Men who can both be right and sit tight are uncommon. I found it one of the hardest things to learn. But it is only after a stock operator has firmly grasped this that he can make big money. It is literally true that millions come easier to a trader after he knows how to trade than hundreds did in the days of his ignorance.”

“A loss never bothers me after I take it. I forget it overnight. But being wrong—not taking the loss—that is what does the damage to the pocketbook and to the soul.”

“The only thing to do when a man is wrong is to be right by ceasing to be wrong.”

“It was very curious how, after suffering tremendous losses from a break of fifteen or twenty points, people who were still hanging on, welcomed a three-point rally and were certain the bottom had been reached and complete recovery begun.”

“Speculation is a hard and trying business, and a speculator must be on the job all the time or he’ll soon have no job to be on.”

“Nowhere does history indulge in repetitions so often or so uniformly as in Wall Street. When you read contemporary accounts of booms or panics the one thing that strikes you most forcibly is how little either stock speculation or stock speculators to-day differ from yesterday. The game does not change and neither does human nature.”

“A man has to guard against many things, and most of all against himself – that is, against human nature.”  Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

“When I am wrong only one thing convinces me of it, and that is, to lose money. And I am only right when I make money. That is speculating.”

“Tape reading was an important part of the game; so was beginning at the right time; so was sticking to your position.  But my greatest discovery was that a man must study general conditions, to size them so as to be able to anticipate probabilities.”

“Among the hazards of speculation the happening of the unexpected–I might even say of the unexpectable–ranks high.”

“The big money was not in the individual fluctuations but in the main movements—that is, not in reading the tape but in sizing up the entire market and its trend.”

“There is the plain fool, who does the wrong thing at all times everywhere, but there is the Wall Street fool, who thinks he must trade all the time. No man can always have adequate reasons for buying or selling stocks daily—or sufficient knowledge to make his play an intelligent play.”

“They say there are two sides to everything. But there is only one side to the stock market; and it is not the bull side or the bear side, but the right side. It took me longer to get that general principle fixed firmly in my mind than it did most of the more technical phases of the game of stock speculation.”

 

Yes, that’s quite a few quotes, but it’s such a great book that is full of great lines. (I will have to reread it for the zillionth time once I finish the book I am currently writing.)

We need more savings, not more spending.

Just the other day, I wrote:

Spending money is not what creates wealth. To create wealth, one must save, invest, and produce items that had not existed before or items that do exist but of higher quality or at a lower cost.

Contrary Investor Subscriber Report analyzed this in more detail and included some nice charts. They clearly show that as spending rose and savings fell, the economy grew at a slow rate.

Federal Reserve blames Congress and President for problems

Marketwatch reports in a story titled Fed says Congress needs better growth plan: Central bankers urge tax, regulatory reforms, pro-trade policy:

Top Federal Reserve officials on Monday said the central bank has done everything it can to help a weak U.S. economy. The rest is up to Congress and the White House.

The Fed is correct here. Not only have they “done their part,” they’ve actually done too much. Our current economic problem is not something the Fed can fix. There’s no shortage of money. There’s no credit freeze. There’s nothing the Fed can do. (So why don’t they stop their quantitative easing?)

The economic problems come from the fiscal side. High taxes and unpredictable government interference has scared away capital and risk taking. The report continues:

In separate speeches, three senior Fed executives said Washington needs to fashion better tax and regulatory policies that encourage businesses to invest in the U.S. and create jobs.

“It is absolutely imperative that the Congress and the president attack the long-run budget problems the nation faces,” St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said in a speech to Wall Street financial analysts in New York.

“The Federal Reserve cannot and should not do it alone,” he said. “Other policymakers must bear their burden and do their part to encourage more-robust economic growth and establish the conditions for stronger employment.”

In a speech Monday in San Antonio, [Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard] Fisher warned that the Fed’s credibility could be lost if global investors perceive that the U.S. is trying to inflate its way out of debt.

All three said U.S. lawmakers have to figure out ways to boost the nation’s competitiveness and develop better long-term growth policies. They urged Washington to streamline regulations, simplify the U.S. tax code and pursue more free-trade deals to open foreign markets to American goods.

Fisher said fewer businesses want to invest in the U.S. because they can get a better return on their investment in other countries.

“The remedy for what ails the economy is, in my view, in the hands of the fiscal and regulatory authorities, not the Fed,” Fisher said.

The question remains though: Who is most incompetent? The Federal Reserve? Congress? The President? They are all so totally incompetent that there is only one way out of this mess: the government, that is all three of the above, has to get out of the way. Stop interfering in the economy. Reduce taxes. Reduce spending and return a large portion of the economy back to the free-enterprise system. The economy will not thrive until they do so.