David Buckner is one of the smartest people we know when it comes to the economy and what's coming, so with everything happening in the world today it's no surprise Glenn wanted to meet with him during his New York visit. Are Americans prepared for what's coming...and coming soon?
Let’s start with Davos.
David: Isn’t that a lovely place?
Glenn: I don’t know. I’ve never been there.
David: Nor have I.
Glen: But all of the bigwig jets—
David: Yeah, 1,700 jets, these are people, private jets flying in to talk about global warming.
Glenn: Right, and they’re talking about the world economy.
David: And they’re mostly billionaires talking about the inequality in the market.
Glenn: Correct. So they’re there, and one of these guys, there was a story up on TheBlaze last week, and I actually agreed with everything that he said somewhat, you know, but the fact that he was flying in on his corporate jet and, you know, eating like a $300 hamburger kind of took the taint off, but he was saying that Americans and the rest of the world need to understand you’re going to have to do with a lot less soon. And I saw that, and I thought okay, again, he’s on the corporate jet eating the $400 hamburger, but he’s right. People don’t have any idea that what is coming is going to be dramatically different.
David: He’s right for reasons that you and I may not see the world looking at. We think we need to because we need to be self-reliant, financially prudent, stay within our means. Pay as you go. If you can’t pay, don’t go. That maybe our philosophical view.
His view on doing less, what we need to do more with less is this, first of all, what does America provide? He knows that we don’t produce a lot. Most manufacturing is done in Malaysia and other places. Services, most services have gone to India because India has got English-speaking, well educated, no infrastructure. They don’t produce stuff, but they have services. Where do you find all of the lower cost locations in the world? You can go there, so he knows that. So, we don’t offer production. Two, we’re not offering the dollar much anymore, because if you think about the dollar, that’s for the exchange of oil.
Well, guess what, China signs an agreement with Russia, no longer going to exchange with the dollar, using the dollar. Seventeen days later, Australia signs with China. Australia? No, they’re not part of that fraternity. Australia signs. Seventeen other countries have now signed. They’re not going to exchange using the dollar as the basis for exchange. So what happens when there’s a lot of excess dollars and people have been hoarding because they need it for oil, then no longer need it?
And as oil prices go down, how many of them actually need it even if they do use dollars? So, what happens? Dollars go on the market. So, he knows first of all, the dollar is not relevant or as relevant as it was. We don’t produce as much. We’re not that critical. We outsource everything. We buy things from others. We’ve become an outsourced economy where we transfer any wealth that comes in from rich to poor if we can, the innovators and creators to those that don’t have jobs. Rather than giving them a job, we give them the money, and the third thing that they look at is they say okay, you are invested in America as military weapons producers.
But guess what, what does he know? The next war is not going to be military. It’s going to be cyber. It’s going to be banking. It’s going to be financial. So, all the things that we add value to the world, production, innovation, no longer. We punish innovators, right? The dollar, not really needed anymore, especially if you bypass it, and I’m not talking about creating a new currency. I’m just talking about they just decide to exchange between themselves.
David: And what do we finally have? The reality of it is our big picture of we’re going to make something, we’re going to produce something, we have the dollar, we’re going to have military…we don’t care about your military anymore. We can change one dot, one one or one zero. We can cyber attack, which you’ve shown it all over the place, and America is pretty much less relevant. The only thing we have left over is consumption. We consume. So, we walk in, we’re the fattest person. We walk in, we go, “We want to eat. Prepare food.” “Do you have money?” “No, but we’ll borrow from you.” “Really, you’re just going to run up your tab?” “Yeah, but we consume the most. You need us to stay in business.” So, if others walk through the door and say I can actually pay for it, they’re not going to come to us. You don’t want to be the fattest person.
Glenn: How long?
David: Again, each of these dominoes require a couple of things that the poppy seeds can mitigate, and they only mitigate. They don’t take away. Trust me, if a bank has no money and no ability to make its money, even though you slow down the run on the bank, the bank still has no money. That’s where we are. So even though we can slow this down, as interest rates go up, that’s going to reveal more of what we have. As we won’t produce, we’re not going to manufacture.
Glenn: They’re talking about negative interest rates now in the United States.
David: They are, but that’s more like when you think about deflation and things like that, you’re talking about at a point in time where they want people to take things. But let me be clear, regulation will probably protect us from negative interest rates for a season. Dodd-Frank and many of these others are so restrictive that nobody can get loans. Any money that’s going in right now that you want to borrow, it’s not being loaned here.
It’s actually hurting the poor, because if you are able to allow a natural bank to increase interest rates so people can deposit and lenders could borrow, now the poor who hold cash put their money in there, and they’re getting half a percent. You get to negative, all the elderly, all the pensioners, all the cash holders, all the poor who hold cash…
Glenn: Would you agree this is the biggest theft in the history of the world, what’s going on right now around the world?
David: It is probably the largest on scale illusion. I’ll put it that way, and I want to be careful here because banking is an illusion. Investment relies upon illusion, but I don’t believe that it relies on trust. I call this an illusion. There’s a difference between trust and an illusion. President Reagan used to say trust but verify, okay? Same kinds of things, trust is based upon you and I could actually put it out there, show that we’ve got it, we’re good to go, okay?
David: Illusion is you don’t need to see it.
Glenn: Don’t ask.
David: You don’t need to see it.
David: And as long as you believe it, you’ll never need to see it. That to me is the most terrifying part of it.
Glenn: So, let me switch gears. Pat and I were talking over the weekend, and I said I think it’s time we take our family to Europe and see Europe, because I don’t know if it’s 1933 or 1939, but the world is going to change, and it might be 1950 before we could get back there. If I would have said in 1933, you know what, let’s go see Germany, no, let’s wait. Come back in 1950, it’s not the same place. With the way things are shaping up with ISIS, with the Fascists all across Europe, with the Communists now coming to play, am I wrong to think that maybe it’s time to go see things that you might not see again?
David: I think you’re right, full stop, period, okay? But I will tell you this, there’s a fundamental problem that Europe has that it can’t fix, which is why you go. Europe has this egalitarian approach to everybody’s got to be equal. There is no fiscal responsibility from the top. Even the Central Bank doesn’t have the control, so when one child steps out of line or one child is not perfectly aligned with the others, and you just saw it in Greece. You’re seeing a far move in Greece.
All of a sudden, the other countries are saying wait, you do that, you destroy the whole family picture. You can’t tell me what to do. That creates huge stress within the family of the euro zone, so that point you’re going to start seeing the drachma is going to come back. I start seeing that the euro as a currency, the system as an organized everybody will be equal—
Glenn: You also have Dugin in Russia who is pushing…I mean, that’s why Le Pen is being pushed and financed by Russia. PEGIDA is on this, and it is nationalism. It is you’re Germans, you’re Italians, you’re Frenchmen, and stand up for that, which again, Fascism, the Holocaust came from those.
David: If you can isolate and make them smaller.
Glenn: It tears everything apart.
David: It does. The fabric tears. You have no tapestry, and not that the tapestry is elegant, but when you divide, it’s why NATO was formed, not that it’s good, bad, or indifferent, but why it was formed to say look, you mess with my brother, I will be there to help the best I can.
Glenn: What’s going to happen to Europe, David?
David: Europe has got a severe challenge in the future, because the storm is going to be there, and they can’t fix it because they can’t agree. So, while the United States can isolate, we can stop, and we can look externally, which we haven’t done. We can look externally and protect ourselves. They can’t.
So, I candidly believe that Greece has its moment coming where the drachma, you’re going to see a pushback. Italy then is going to have to say how do we get bailed out from all the debt we’ve given them? France, Spain, all the others that our debt-ridden are going to have to say how do we do it? And one way they’re going to try to do it, and this is what might be interesting in the United States, is they woo our businesses for safe havens like Switzerland once did, and they bring us there. Whether companies really want to do that or not, that may be their only way, and we may be foolish enough to be pushing our people that way by saying we’re going to tax our way into prosperity. It can’t work.
Big picture is they’re going to have to break apart. There’s going to be some isolationism, and they’re going to see arduous battles in that community to try to figure out can the overall EC group keep it together or are you going to have those people breaking it apart? And that’s where all these isms, where the isms come in. It gets really scary because you can have an ism in a community. It’s hard to have a guaranteed ism across a large organization.
That’s the balancing of isms, but you get one little ism here, you’ve got Greece doing what they’re doing, you have Italy that may go this way, you have France this way, all of a sudden these little isms, and you have fiefdoms and kingdoms that start battle. Then it gets really scary.
David: China is a fascinating place. I love the people in China genuinely. The problem is my time when I meet with them and I talk about markets and I talk about business and I try to explain how markets work, many of them while embracing conceptually have been so raised in an environment where planned and state-owned enterprises control everything. You drive in from Pudong Airport in Shanghai, there’s tall buildings that are empty. The plan is elegant. I mean, you see the roads mapped out, but they’re empty. There’s no efficiency there. You ask people, and they go, “Well, they’ll fill them some time.” And so there’s a false economy because you can’t really see supply and demand. It makes it unpredictable.
Glenn: How clear is it? I saw some pictures. This morning we were looking at how bad the environment is over in China, and we couldn’t believe some of the pictures we saw.
David: You would be stunned.
Glenn: I was stunned.
David: I go to Beijing in January and February. I was there last year on the worst…you’re supposed to have so many particulates per, and it was thousands above it. People walk around, you know, everybody’s got the masks, and they even have these that they buy with little kitty things. It’s a fashion accessory. You walk out, and you smell, it feels like you are at the back of a jet engine. It’s pretty strong.
So many of my colleagues that are really dear friends genuinely that I’ve met there, they’re the people, you know, have lung problems and challenges. It is so…Beijing specifically, where I’ve been, that’s the place that is the worst that I’ve observed. Shanghai can be, but it’s got, you know, but it is so sad because the pollution just settles in. It’s winter. It gets cold, but the laws and things that they’ve got for environment are not in keeping, and with that it’s not just the laws, even if they worked. State-owned enterprises, you know, it would be less productive if they have to regulate as much.
It’s really significant. It’s the only place I’ve ever been where I woke up in the morning and go, “Wow, that’s a lot of fog. Where’s the river?” No, it’s fog. Really? You can’t see. It’s the only place I’ve been where it is outside looking out, you don’t see it.
Glenn: Yet these are the ones that the people in the United States say lead us.
David: They may lead us in the ability to replicate and produce, but they don’t lead us in environment.
Glenn: Oh no, talk to Al Gore.
David: I understand. I’m telling you, they don’t lead us.
Glenn: I know.
David: In fact, I’m telling you they don’t. We both know this.
Glenn: Well, I saw the pictures.
David: I breathe it. Anytime in the winter, anybody will tell you as lovely as that wonderful city is and the people, the pollution that just socks in and stays there, and there’s not much they can do. When they had the Olympics there, they had a moratorium on cars and people coming in, you know, the number of cars that could come in. Even now they have if you have a car, you only have certain days you can drive, and even with that regulation, the pollution just is outrageous. It’s a sad situation to see because they’re good people that are experiencing disease.
Glenn: I talked to Peter Thiel, a pretty wise guy, and he said I think we make it to the next election, but whoever becomes president the next time, he said you can only have this poppy field for so long. He said you can only hold onto this illusion before it just completely falls apart. You agree with that?
David: I agree that politics plays into the illusion or the trust. The trust is we can verify or the illusion is don’t worry about it. I believe that an election, after up to the election, everything gets clouded for me. It bothers me because I’m a practical person. Just tell me what’s true. I don’t care if you’re an ism on the right or an ism on the left, tell me what’s true. Tell me the truth. And leading up to the election, we get too many photo, you know, ops. We don’t get truth. No one talks about investing, government investing, with truth. Governments don’t invest. They transfer. They can’t invest. They don’t create anything. It’s inherently inaccurate to say that, and yet during the elections, we’re going to invest in the people, we’re going to invest in schools.
So, we’ll get up to that election, we’ll get past the election, if there’s an exuberance for a candidate, somebody that may come from behind and says this is great, and people like him, charismatic, you know, central enough to satisfy some, far enough to one way or the other—
Glenn: Like Elizabeth Warren.
David: Yeah…wow, I thought you were talking about Greece for a moment there. You took my breath away on that one. But if you get somebody that people go, “This is great…,” I mean, I have to go back to where I was a child. Ronald Reagan, like him or hate him, people go, “This is great!” The Hollywood, Californians liked him.
Glenn: I don’t think anybody who has announced or skating around, I don’t see anybody that everybody—
David: There’s no romance in it right now, and the problem is you’ve got a lot of people that go well, it’s the Hillary thing, you know? I don’t think there would be great romance even for those that are embracing her right now. I don’t think there’s romance. It’s a known quantity. Even when they talk about Jeb Bush, well, it’s a known quantity. I mean, they’re talking about known quantities. Why can’t America be innovative? Why can’t we go out and say somebody who has ideals, who, by the way, when in office will be my president?
I’ve told my son 100 times, he goes to school, I say you need to understand Barack Obama is my president. I want you to know that. We are Americans. I want you to recognize that. I would say the same thing with George W. Bush, he’s my president. And then we talk candidly about real issues and where things align and don’t align because I want my children to understand there’s a necessity to be loyal to my country, but the flipside of that is if we don’t get that, there’s no romance.
There was some romance because of firsts, but if there’s no sense of real, practical, verifiable, you know, principles with integrity and tell me the truth…I just want to know the truth. Don’t tell me what I want to hear, and guess what, I’m going to pay my way, and yet, you’re going to give me a chance to innovate, and I can succeed. If you don’t have anybody say that, we get into that next election, that perfect storm, the fear I have is a perfect storm happens to us, and we don’t take control of where that perfect storm goes, and that’s the worry I have. That’s where he’s right.
It could hit that moment, we get past that election and then go okay, no hope, no confidence, let the weather happen, and it just hits us. We have interest. We have dollars that don’t matter. We don’t produce anything. All of a sudden, the rest of the economy and the world says, “What do you guys do anymore? You used to be America. Now you’re and also-ran, you know?” Yeah, the big eaters, and that to me is the most unnerving part of where we’re going to go.