Boomers Again? What Another “Scorched Earth Generation” President Means For Gold by Peter Diekmeyer, Sprott Money
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s acceptance as Republican and Democratic parties’ nominees for President sets the stage for the contest to begin in earnest.
Both Trump, who is 70, and Clinton, who is 68, were born in the post-war Baby Boom era. So were their vice-presidential back-ups, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, as well as all U.S. presidents since Bill Clinton.
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Gold investors thus need to consider the implications of a member of one of the most delusional, spendthrift, and amoral generations in history, occupying the White House for another four years.
After “the greatest generation” … “the scorched earth generation”
In his best-selling book “The Greatest Generation,” Tom Brokaw profiled Baby Boomers’ parents’ generation, which he described as “American citizen heroes, who came of age during The Great Depression and World War Two … united by common values – duty, honor, economy, courage, service, love of family and country.”
In their youth, Boomers, who were born between the mid-1940s and the early 1960s, stated loudly that they wanted to be nothing like their parents before them.
Andrea Yalnizyan, of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, has described this privileged group, which replaced religion with consumption, as “the scorched earth generation.”
Not surprisingly, the records of U.S. leaders from the Boom generation have been disastrous.
Starting with Bill Clinton, through George Bush the Younger (who though born in 1943 was a child of a returning WW II veteran) and Barack Obama, Boomer presidencies have been characterized by increased government spending, borrowing, and money printing. More recently, they have introduced a new innovation: perpetual war.
Trump and Clinton’s pronouncements suggest if either were to take office, they would follow the paths of previous Boomer presidents. Their administrations would thus almost certainly be characterized by:
Boomer Presidents have presided over what Chris Hedges characterizes of an “Empire of Illusion,” where image and spectacle trump (forgive the pun) reality. That includes governments that:
- Produce phony numbers (unfunded liabilities, off-balance sheet debts, massaged government statistics). Trump’s personal financial statements, which suggest that his personal brand name alone (excluding real assets) is worth more than $3 billion, provide a taste for what is in store.
- Extend and pretend, refusing to deal with current problems, ranging from insolvent financial regimes, bankrupt pensions and healthcare systems to climate change, but instead passing on the growing problems to their successors.
- Support captured regulatory bodies and oversight authorities (these include debt rating agencies and auditors who rubber stamp the most egregious misrepresentations, if their checks are big enough)
Baby Boomer presidents have all acted on the belief that there is no problem that cannot be solved by more government. The Clinton Administration was one of the first to use off-balance sheets liabilities in a material way, to disguise the unsustainable costs. George Bush the Younger nearly doubled the national debt and Barack Obama did so again.
Both Trump and Clinton look set to instigate continued government spending increases when they take office, this time financed with an innovation suggested by another Baby Boomer Ben Bernanke: helicopter money.
More wars from the Chicken Hawks
Millions of Boomers served the United States nobly in wars of questionable value, such as Vietnam. However, prominent Boomer leaders almost all ducked active military service. Calvin Trillin, of The Nation magazine, describes such folk, many of whom were active in promoting wars that others would fight, as “Chicken Hawks.”
These include George W. Bush (who avoided Vietnam by using family connections to get assigned to a National Guard unit, where he could get pilot lessons for free). Bill Clinton ducked military service by studying in England. Hillary Clinton was able avoid active duty because she was a woman. Donald Trump ducked out by getting a medical deferment.
In office, both Trump’s and Clinton’s avoidance of military service will put enormous pressure on them to “look tough.” Both will almost certainly buckle to such pressure. Clinton, for example, who in her early days on the scene was regarded as a dove, has been forced by political pressure to actively support almost every military action that the U.S. has ever undertaken.
The first generation to leave behind less than what they inherited
Both Trump and Clinton presidencies thus look set to continue favor the “Empire of Illusion” policies described by Hedges.
Under either’s stewardship, unless things change, Boomers will cap a dubious performance: they will be the first generation in U.S. history to leave behind a weaker country than the one they inherited.
In that climate, investors’ priorities need to be to minimize the damage to their portfolios. Return of investment, rather than return on investment, needs to be the main focus.
A sound investment strategy, in such an environment, would almost certainly be overweight in hard assets, which are grounded in the reality-based community.
Peter Diekmeyer is a business writer/editor with Sprott Money News, the National Post and Canadian Defence Review. He has studied in MBA, CA and Law programs and filed reports from more than two dozen countries.