Doomsday forecast vehicle

John T. Reed comments

The Crash of ’79 by Paul Erdman 1976 fiction best seller, also wrote The Last Days of America in 1981 and The Panic of ’89 in 1986.
The Coming Real Estate Crash by English and Cardiff 1979 book
How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years by Howard Ruff 1979 best seller, previously wrote Famine and Survival in America in 1974 which predicted massive famine as a result of oil crisis of 1973 and urged readers to buy and store food, later wrote Survive and Win in the Inflationary Eighties in 1981, predicted hyperinflationary depression was coming, said sell stocks and bonds and buy gold, silver, platinum, art, and coins; considered running for president; was the Rush Limbaugh of his day as a result of the doomsday book and his TV show Ruff House and newsletter Ruff Times, lost popularity after urging followers to join multi-level marketing schemes Main Street Alliance and FundAmerica
The Great Depression of 1990 by Ravi Batra 1987 best-selling author and economist at SMU Also wrote Surviving the Great Depression of 1990; predicted stock market boom in the 1980s followed by crash in 1990
Bankruptcy 1995 1993 book by Harry Figgie that said the U.S. government would go bankrupt in 1995. It didn’t. Correct prediction. Wrong date.
How to Profit From the Coming Real Estate Bust by John Rubino 2003 book
Cash in on the Coming Real Estate Crash by Decker and Sheldon 2006 book

However, that is not to say financial doom has never occurred. In the U.S., the actual financial doom timeline has been:

1775-1781 Continental currency hyperinflated
1819 Panic
1825 worldwide panic
1837 Panic
1857 worldwide panic
1862 Civil War inflation of Union Greenback Dollars and Confederate Dollars
1866 Panic
1873 Panic
1893 Panic
1907 Panic
1929 stock market crash
1929-1939 Great Depression
1980-1990s Savings & Loan Crisis
1987 biggest one-day drop in U.S. stock market
2000 dot-com crash
2007 subprime mortgage collapse
2008 Wall Street crash, TARP

The problem with financial doomsday books is not that financial doomsdays never occur. They most certainly do and have ruined the lives of tens of millions of people who were not prepared to deal with them. Retirement accounts were wiped out by the 2000 dot-com crash and the 2008 stock market drop. Millions who bought homes in the mid 2000s lost them and whatever equity they had. It is well known that tens of millions of lives were severely harmed by the Great Depression.

The problem is there is a propensity to predict more doomsdays than actually occur and to miss many that do occur. Also, predictors sometimes get the prediction right, but not the date.

1992 Presidential candidate Ross Perot urged a balanced budget and predicting financial doom if we do not balance the budget and keep it balanced. He also said NAFTA would cause financial doom. He was wrong about NAFTA and right about the budget. I do not recall that he claimed the country would go bankrupt in 1992. Rather, he said we needed to start balancing the budget then. He was right about that and the fact that we did not follow his advice makes our current fiscal situation that much worse. Figgie was also correct, albeit premature about the date of the collapse of the U.S. government finances.

There is a business cycle. If you predict financial doom then point to the down part of the cycle as proof you were right, that’s disingenuous. Intelligent people stipulate the existence of the cycle. No books are needed to forecast that. Financial doom goes beyond the cycle.

You need to know that very persuasive books about financial doom have been written. Some have been wrong because they made faulty assumptions like Ruff’s concern that the race riots of the 1960s were the trend of the future. Some have overestimated the financial prospects of other countries like Japan, China, India, or Brazil. All have overlooked new technologies that were unknown when they wrote their books.

But Panglossian optimism about America is not valid rigorous analysis and is extremely dangerous financially as millions of recently foreclosed American homeowners and rental houses investors can attest.

The United States has many undeniable strengths:

• location in the generally peaceful Western hemisphere with borders on vast oceans as well as Canada and Mexico
• 3rd or 4th largest country by area in the World (China claims disputed territory that would make them third) and the largest in a temperate climate (#s 1 and 2 are the frozen tundra of Canada and Russia)
• 3rd largest population in the world
• one of two nations of immigrants (Canada is the other) which makes us an all-star team of international malcontents and their descendants
• largest economy in the world by far
• most innovative country in the world by far
• largest military power in the world
• our currency is, for the moment at least, the world’s reserve currency
• our bonds, for the moment, have the lowest sovereign default insurance premium
• our government is the world’s second oldest after U.K. indicating it is relatively well designed

However, those strengths do not make us immune to screwing it up. And there are a number of indications that we have, or are about to, screw it up.

• As recently as the Reagan administration (1981-1989), the U.S. was the world’s largest creditor (lender) nation. In 2006, we became the world’s largest debtor (borrower) nation.
• At the start of the Reagan administration, our national-debt-to-GDP ratio was 31.9%. On May 14, 2010, that ratio was $12.9 trillion ÷ $14.6 trillion = 88.4% and rocketing upward with no end in sight given that Obama’s ten-year budget projection adds another $10 trillion to the national debt, more if past history of government projections in any indication. That’s a $10 trillion ÷ $12.9 trillion = 77.5% increase or 7.75% per year. In the 2000s, the U.S. annual real growth rate ranged between .3% and 5%. About 18% of that growth ends up in the U.S. Treasury as tax revenue available to reduce debt. So a 5% increase in the GDP would be 5% x $14.6 trillion = $730 billion which would mean an additional $131.4 billion in tax revenues. If we held government spending to 2009 tax revenue levels ($2 trililon a year) and applied every penny of additional tax revenue from a 5% growth rate to debt reduction, it would take $12.9 trillion ÷ $.1314 trillion = 98 years to pay off the national debt. And remember that assumes an annual growth rate of 5% per year and never spending any more than 2009 tax revenues ($2 trillion). We have never had anywhere near that much growth for any extended period. And limiting future spending to $2 trillion a year would require cutting $5 trillion off 2010 spending and payment of maturing U.S. government bonds. Such a cut is mathematically impossible without default on the national debt and elimination of fully half of current government spending.
• Moody’s bond rating service has threatened to lower the U.S. government’s AAA rating if current deficit-spending is not ended and reversed. At the very least, that would increase the rate of interest we would have to pay on the national debt, which would make our financial situation even worse.
• Since Roosevelt’s inauguration in March 1933, the U.S. has accumulated an astonishingly long list of anti-growth, anti-business laws and regulations, like the insane Endangered Species Act. I have advocated a miracle growth plan for America which would cost absolutely nothing (except for small amounts for my increasing enforcement of basic laws like those against fraud). My plan simply gets rid of excessive anti-growth laws and regulations. Even a liberal would probably say, “Actually, that would cause explosive growth” if they looked at it. Of course, they would then claim it would be an “unacceptable” cost in terms of snail darters and other idiotic liberal causes. Like the frog who does not get out of the boiling pot because the temperature was raised slowly, we have, over 77 years, allowed leftists to gradually burden our economy with tons and tons of stupid anti-construction, anti-job, anti-profit laws. Leftist claim they love housing, but they hate home builders. They claim to be the prime advocates of affordable housing, but it is precisely they who have made affordable housing illegal. The guys who really want affordable housing are home builders. They would build tons of it in a New York minute if allowed. The same is true in every aspect of our economy. Liberals love jobs, but they hate employers. They love tax revenues, but they hate profits. Etc. Etc. This insanity, combined with the other insanity of trillions in freebie entitlement programs, can and will bankrupt the U.S. government. Most of the biggest developed countries in the world are currently in trouble for the same reasons.

My October 2012 new book How to Protect Your Life Savings from Hyperinflation & Depression, 2nd Edition

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assumes those two financial doomsdays are possible before 2020 and tells individuals how to structure their finances so as to minimize the damage they personally suffer if they occur. The book is more in the nature of a fire insurance policy for your life savings than a forecast. You do not own fire insurance on your home because you think it will probably burn down. You own fire insurance on your home because it CAN burn down and you would be severely harmed financially if it did and the fire insurance policy is relatively cheap.