Monday, February 11, 2008

Hasta la vista, U.S.A! American Multi-nationals Kiss Off the United States, Head for Far Away Places

In February 2004 I joined eight other women to monitor various FOX News shows for the documentary OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism. After the film was released, we started a media watch blog called News Hounds. Until January 1st of this year I spent three to five hours a day, seven days a week, viewing and reporting on various FOX News shows, including The O'Reilly Factor, Big Story with John Gibson, Hannity's America, FOX & Friends, America's Newsroom, Your World with Neil Cavuto, the Cost of Freedom financial shows, FOX News Sunday and Special Report with Brit Hume.

I finally could not take it anymore. FOX is a miserable excuse for a news channel and it has been heavenly waking up each morning and NOT feeling pressured to subject myself to GOP propaganda masquerading as news.

Instead, I have been watching CNBC on a daily basis. I find their total devotion to greed to be refreshingly honest. The hosts and guests make very little attempt to mask the fact that it's the bottom line that matters, high net worth that's god and the devil can take the hindmost. (The hindmost tend to be the workers whose labor actually creates the wealth for the stockholders.)

However, within that mindset, CNBC presents a decent sampling of bullish and bearish guests and, wonder of wonders, the hosts actually allow them to finish their sentences!! No more toothsome David Asman slobbering over those who agree with the FOX News viewpoint while rudely interrupting guests who try to tell him something he doesn't want to hear!

Last week the The Financial Times published the stunning announcement that General Electric (ticker symbol GE) is moving the headquarters of its consumer finance division to London. Last year Halliburton (HAL) announced a similar move to Dubai. (Aside: Isn't it quite an interesting coincidence that HAL, the ticker symbol for Halliburton, is the same as the villainous HAL computer in Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey?)

I find this relocation trend to be disturbing. These major companies have used American government, American law, American labor and American consumers to grow into what they are today. Now, it would seem, they are giving us the bird. In a related development, stock experts - even on the flag-draped FOX Business Network - have been urging investors not to put their money into this country but to invest in foreign ETFs, foreign companies and foreign currencies.

Sadly, this doesn't surprise me in the least. However, there are millions of Americans out there who are only now waking up to the realization that they have been had. It is not a coincidence that Barack Obama's support comes from small contributors, including lapsed Republicans like my brother the newly registered Independent, who are plunking down hard-earned nickels and dimes in the idealistic hope that maybe, just once, there's a candidate who will owe his allegiance, not to some company that moves overseas, but to people like you and me.

Several years ago I was reading Original Story By, the autobiography of director, playwright, screenwriter Arthur Laurents. On page 335 he relates the story of his purchase of a lot on the island of Quogue in New York in the year 1954.


"The widow and I stood on her dune, looking out at the ocean. She was a breezy woman, yet sad about the property: she had wanted to build, but her husband had died. She wanted to be sure I was going to build, then warned the lot had cost her $22,000 in the Twenties, a price that was never coming back; beach property had had it. Of course, her ocean frontage, which determined price, wasn't as wide as most, but her dune was thick and strong and the lot ran from the high water mark on the beach, across Dune Road, across the wetlands on the other side to Shinnecock Bay. Five acres in all. A farewell sigh: she would let me have it for $5,000."


Let's do a financial analysis of this seemingly innoccous biographical episode.

In 1929, a five-acre oceanfront lot on Quogue Island cost $22,000.

Twenty-five years later the same lot was sold for $5,000, a loss of $17,000 (77%) to the owner.

In 1974, the widow's property would have sold for close to its original price of $22,000.

By 1984, the widow's heirs would have realized a profit.

In other words, the crash of 1929 was a fifty-year correction.

Here's my completely intuitive take on what happened then and what may be happening now.

In the period after the American Civil War through the early 1920s, manufacturing began its inexorable move from Europe to the United States. This put a strain on the European currencies, which were finally dealt a death blow with the massive disruptions of World War I. By 1929 it became imperative for the markets to tag future trades to the dollar rather than the pound, franc and mark. I believe that 1929 was the beginning of a massive, long-term restructuring of the financial markets as they gradually acknowledged the dominance of the American dollar.

In the past thirty years, from Ronald Reagan through Bill Clinton, the government, acting in collusion with powerful economic interests, has effectively moved 90% of American manufacturing to China and other points west, east and south.

I believe that we are about to experience another multi-year economic upheaval - a depression if you will - as the international markets once again make a long-term shift, this time tagging themselves to the Chinese yuan.

This morning on CNBC a real estate expert made the standardized claim that property eventually returns to its highest value. This statement should be taken with a truckload of salt.

If, as I believe, we are about to experience another huge currency upheaval, anyone who owns property in the United States had better be prepared to leave it to the grandchildren, since it may not reach its current value again until 2058!

One wonders why the mind of man cannot devise a better economic system.

This boom-bust approach is a massive loser all the way around.

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