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"WHAT'S PAST IS PROLOGUE"

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THE RIDE THAT NEVER ENDS

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                        Source: Shutterstock      Ray Dalio, CEO and former co-chief investment officer at hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, has  spent decades researching and writing about the political and financial cycles that have recurred throughout history. His book " The Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail " is not just for historians. It is essential reading for investors. He finds that the rise and fall of major powers follow a predictable template. Armed with this knowledge, we can plot where we are in the current cycle.

IT'S ABOUT TIME!

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                                                 "Time" is a hard word to define.  Does Merriam Webster's "a non-spatial continuum that is measured in terms of events that succeed one another from the past into the future" help you wrap your arms around the concept?  If this definition is correct, it would suggest that tripping and falling or touching a hot stove and getting burned is "time." A curious thing about time is its apparent elastic quality. As a child it felt like an  eternity between birthdays or while having to sit quietly at grandma's dinner table while the adults droned on about topics we did not understand. But when we are immersed in a good book, it seems to fly by. Often time appears to stretch forever into the future like the rail tracks above.  But as we get older, we begin to appreciate the insight of singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt who wrote:       Time, she's a fast moving train.  She's here and she's gone and

"WINTER IS COMING!"

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       If you watched the popular series "Game of Thrones" you will recognize the warning. It cautioned that when winter comes to Westeros, it is unspeakably brutal and denizens must be prepared if they have any hope of surviving.  This is periodically true in the investment world.  Markets move in both short and long-term cycles. An investment strategy that is successful during the bull (summer) phase of a long term cycle is unlikely to be suitable for the bear (winter) phase of the cycle.  While all winters (down cycles) are tough, some are horrific. 

CAN CENTRAL BANKERS ORCHESTRATE "SOFT LANDINGS" FOR THEIR ECONOMIES

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     Fed chairman Jerome Powell assures the world and nervous Americans that after flooding the US economy with $8 trillion of freshly minted money (causing the highest price inflation in forty years) the Federal Reserve Bank is fully capable of remedying the crisis without triggering further inflation, a stock market crash, recession or high unemployment. Believing that requires one to disregard its sorry history of trying to micro-manage the world's biggest, globally interconnected, infinitely complex economy. It also requires one to ignore the fact that it has never managed to avoid precipitating a recession once price inflation exceeds 5%. Today's government-calculated inflation rate is 8.5% (it exceeds 16% if calculated as historically done). 

JEROME POWELL FINALLY GETS SERIOUS, CHRISTINE LAGARDE AND ANDREW BAILEY DITHER

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President Biden, Jay Powell, Christine Lagarde (head of the European Central Bank), Boris Johnson and Andrew Bailey (head of the Bank of England) all vow to fight surging inflation. None will succeed over the long term. If investors understand why this is the case they will be far better positioned for what comes next. As is often the case, the best indicator of the future is the past. When we fail to take note of history we continue to be surprised by recurring events. History tells us what we need to know about government finance and its impact on prices and markets. Every financial crisis differs in some respects from others, but most have a common denominator. That is excessive individual, corporate and governmental debt resulting from maniacal central bank money printing.

WAR, SHORTAGES, RAMPANT INFLATION, POLITICAL AND MONETARY DYSFUNCTION

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We humans have always faced an endless series of disasters. Many are manmade: wars, inflation and social deterioration. Some are served up by nature: viruses, extreme weather, and large meteor impacts. Not infrequently, humans and nature conspire to create catastrophes: forest fires, bursting dams and earthquakes beneath poorly designed nuclear power plants. Today’s major problems include the war in Ukraine, supply line disruptions, inflation and political dysfunction. Each of these is brought to us by the world’s “elites.” We do not use that term in a flattering sense suggesting great leadership and wisdom. To the contrary, the “elites” include sociopaths (Vlad Putin), arrogant grandees (Emmanuel Macron), rules-for-thee but not-for-me (Boris Johnson) and teleprompter-reading talking heads (Joe Biden).

THE SUFFOCATION OF THE MIDDLE CLASS

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We have written frequently about the harmful effects of government policies on the middle and lower classes throughout the Western world. Wage gains never keep pace with rising inflation. Ever more authoritarian controls over the public constrain their freedoms and limit their opportunities. No one in politics takes responsibility for these outcomes. Rather, those in power appear to be doubling down in their efforts to further enrich the elite at the expense of the workers who produce the goods and provide the services. A LendingClub report found that nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population now lives paycheck to paycheck, up from 61% at the end of the last year. Bankrate.com reports that three-quarters of respondents say that price hikes have hurt them financially. It is not their imagination. The US government admits to soaring inflation through their consumer price index (CPI) reports but the real numbers are far worse.