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Archive for October, 2019

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me, Amen.”

    – Martin Luther

Here I Stand, A Life of Martin Luther by Roland Bainton (New York, New York: Meridian, 1995, 302 pages with bibliography, references, source of illustrations and index).

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Many years ago, when first I began to read about the Reformation, I came across Roland Bainton’s biography of Martin Luther and couldn’t put it down. I thought then, and think to this day, that it is a classic on the subject of Martin Luther and the Reformation.

Born in England in 1894, Bainton lived most of his life in the United States, graduating from Yale University with a Ph.D., where he later served as the Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History. With a background like that, readers it may be tempted to suppose that Bainton’s writing, while scholarly, would have little appeal to the non-specialist. He would be half right. While it is true that Bainton was a gifted scholar, Here I Stand is anything but a dull read.

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“The greatest threat facing middle and working class Americans is our depreciating paper currency.”

    – Ron Paul

Gold, Peace, And Prosperity, The Birth Of A New Currency
by Congressman Ron Paul (Auburn, Alabama: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 2011, 91 pages with index).

There is, perhaps, no more critical subject facing our nation at the moment than the activities of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States of America. But while the Fed’s actions over the past 100 years have had a profoundly negative effect on the lives of nearly all Americans, very few people are aware of the ways in which they are robbed by Fed policy. Even more frustrating from the standpoint of those who believe in sound money is that that there appears to be little desire on the part of Americans to cure their ignorance by studying the machinations of these masters of the universe who run the Fed.

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One of the principle reasons people remain in the chains of ignorance concerning the Fed is the reporting of mainstream financial journalists. The stories one sees in the mainstream press about financial matters – whether in print or on television, it matters not – seem designed more to steer people away from the truth about the workings of the Fed rather than lead them to understanding.

In stark contrast to the long-winded flim-flam one hears on most news outlets about the Fed, Ron Paul’s Gold, Peace, An Prosperity, The Birth Of A New Currency (hereafter Gold, Peace And Prosperity) is a breath of fresh air. In his typical fashion, Paul manages to be both profound and concise in his comments. This book, a short 91 pages including introductions by Henry Hazlitt and Murray Rothbard plus an index, equips the reader with more sound teaching about the problems with our current Federal Reserve system as well as how to fix it than entire shelves full of books by most authors.

Did I mention that this is a short book? Just to give you a sense of what I mean, it can be read in one sitting. When I re-read it for this review, it took me a little over two hours reading at a leisurely pace and taking notes. As John Robbins noted in his exposition of Philemon, many scholars make the assumption that nothing short can be profound. But this is a mistake. Gold, Peace, An Prosperity stands as proof of this.

Worth noting is that this book was first published in 1981. That is significant for the reason that Ron Paul was part of the Gold Commission convened by President Reagan at the time to study the possibility of returning the United States to the gold standard, an option that ultimately was voted down by the Commission. The next year, the Minority Report of the Gold Commission was published under the title The Case for Gold (see here for free pdf and epub downloads), which is considered something of a modern day classic by advocates of sound money. I would by all means recommend reading The Case for Gold, but I think Gold, Peace, An Prosperity is an even better place to start. While The Case for Gold provides more detail than Gold, Peace, And Prosperity, the latter is less technical in its language and much shorter, making it an ideal read for those just starting to learn about sound money, or, for that matter, those who would like a refresher course from one of the few statesmen of recent times who actually understands the monetary problems we face as a nation as well as what is needed to fix them.

In the first chapter of the book titled “Impending Social Strife?,” Paul writes, “We probably will see widespread civil disorder in the 1980s.” Looking back 38 years, some may be tempted to discount Paul’s argument for sound money by accusing him of being an alarmist. “You see,” they will say, “we didn’t have widespread civil unrest in the 1980s, so all this talk about economic collapse in 2019 is just so much conspiracy theory nonsense.”

What shall we say to this? Does the fact that widespread civil unrest did not occur in America in the 1980s refute Paul’s argument against the Fed and for sound money? No, it does not. While it may seem odd to many today that there was serious consideration of a return to the gold standard in the early 1980s, one has to remember the context. America had just gone through the terrible stagflation – stagflation was a term coined in the 1970s to describe a situation where there was simultaneous inflation and little or no economic growth, a state of affairs that the standard Keynesian economics of that time could not account for – of the 1970s that followed hard on the heels of President Nixon’s decision to take America off the Bretton Woods gold exchange standard in 1971. Just to give you a sense of the inflation of the 1970s, gold went from $35 dollars and ounce in 1971 to around $800 an ounce at its peak in 1980, a surge of roughly 2000%.

Second, all the problems that Paul identified in 1981 with the Fed are still with us today and are far larger than what they were when he first wrote. On October 22, 1981, 38 years ago almost to the day, the federal debt first topped $1 trillion. Today in 2019, it stands at over $22 trillion. According to this CCN article, the 2019 federal deficit – the deficit is the yearly amount by which federal spending outstrips tax revenue; the debt the total of all previous budgetary shortfalls – was $984 billion. Stop and think about that for a moment. It took the federal government over 200 years to accumulate $1 trillion debt, an amount it’s now adding on a yearly basis.

What Ron Paul did not foresee in 1981 was the cunning ruthlessness of the central bankers and the politicians to not only maintain the corrupt system, but also to expand it. In 1981, there was no Plunge Protection Team. No one had ever heard of Quantitative Easing and if anyone had spoken of negative interest rates, he would have been laughed to scorn. Yet the bankers, politicians and news media have managed not only to sell the public on all this financial flim-flam, but they make it seem downright normal. This was possible largely because the American people did not take to heart Paul’s warnings from 1981.

Ron Paul was right on target when he wrote, “The greatest threat facing middle and working class Americans is our depreciating paper currency.” This was true in 1981, and it’s true today in 2019.

I highly recommend Gold, Peace, An Prosperity. Not only is it a great primer on the dangers of the central banking, paper money and the importance of sound money, reading it makes me want to shout the title of a more recent book by Paul, End the Fed!

Chapters include: Foreword by Henry Hazlitt; Preface by Murray Rothbard; Impending Social Strife?; The People are Demanding an End to Inflation; Depreciation is Nothing New; “Not Worth a Continental”; The Best Medium of Exchange; Cross of Paper; How Our Money was Ruined; The Stage is Set; Is Business to Blame?; Are Banks to Blame?; Are Unions to Blame?; Inflation and the Business Cycle; The Guilt of the Economists; The Alternative to Inflation; Money and the Constitution; Morality and Transfer Payments; Citizen Control of Money; Day of Reckoning; Free Market Money?; Legal Tender Laws; An Historical Precedent; The End – or the Beginning; Index.

 

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Financial Crisis

A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.

    Proverbs 22:3

It was back in August that we began our look at the ongoing 2008 financial crisis. The immediate occasion for my writing on this topic was the sudden plunge in the US stock indices following the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates in late July. The market sold off hard, but managed to stabilize, or more accurately, was stabilized by the powers that be after a phone call by President Trump with three major bank CEO’s.

This was a similar situation to what happened around the end of the year in 2018. On December 23, the day before the Dow and S&P indices had their largest ever declines on Christmas Eve, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin placed individual calls to America’s six largest banks – Brian Moynihan, Bank of America; Michael Corbat, Citi; David Solomon, Goldman Sachs; Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan Chase; James Gorman, Morgan Stanley; Tim Sloan, Wells Fargo. When the market re-opened after the Christmas break on December 26, the Dow closed up 1,086.25 points, the largest single day gain in the history of the index. This huge day was after a terrible December and in the absence of any news that would have caused a market surge.

Was there a relationship between Mnuchin’s call on December 23 and the blast off in the stock market three days later? While this can’t be formally proven, in the opinion of this author it is the most likely explanation. In short, I think that Mnuchin told these CEO’s to buy the market and that they obliged.

If my understanding is correct, this means that at least twice in the period of eight months orders came down from on high to rescue the stock markets. What, I would ask you, does this say about the state of our financial system? What are we to think of a system that requires this level of manipulation to keep from crashing?

Of course, calls from Trump and Mnuchin are not the only sort of manipulation in the financial system. In the short time that I’ve been writing this series, we’ve seen additional extraordinary measures taken by the Fed to prop up the system.

First there was the bailout of the overnight Repo market. Originally, this was to be for a few days in September. Next, they extended it to a couple weeks. Then it got pushed out to the second week of November, then it was January 2020. Just last week, Fed President James Bullard expressed his preference for a “standing repo facility.” By this he seems to mean that he wants the current repo market intervention by the Fed to become a permanent policy tool of the central bank.

And that’s not all. Last week on Wednesday, the Fed started QE4. With this latest iteration of what in 2008 was termed an “emergency policy,” the Fed will by purchasing $60 billion a month in T-Bill (T-Bills are short-term US Treasury debt instruments). Where, you ask, does the Fed get the $60 billion per month to conduct QE4? They get it by a process that, were you or I to try it, we’d be arrested. In short, they counterfeit it out of thin air.

Here’s another question you may want to ask yourself. If the economy is doing so great as we’re constantly being told by the mainstream financial press, why is the Fed running simultaneous bailouts of both the overnight repo market and the bond market, both of which are designed to prop up the stock market? The obvious answer is that, far from being the greatest economy ever, the US, and indeed the world’s, financial markets are a mess and getting messier by the day. All the hype you hear about how great the economy is doing is propaganda designed to keep you locked into the system for the benefit of those who run it.

In light of the enormous lies that are being told to the American people by government officials, by bankers, and by the press, in the opinion of this author it is imperative that God’s people hear the truth about the financial state of the country and some sound advice about how to take measures to protect themselves financially. That is the purpose of this week’s installment.

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Financial Crisis

A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.

    Proverbs 22:3

“How did you go bankrupt?,” Bill asked. “Two ways,” Mike said. Gradually, then suddenly.”

That line from Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises could, I am sure, be repeated by many who have found themselves in serious financial trouble. A man can pile up debt for years with seemingly little consequence, until suddenly it all comes crashing down. Likewise, a scam artist can go on scamming, until one day his fraud is exposed. Think about Bernie Madoff whose Ponzi scheme blew up during the 2008 financial crisis.

One can find examples of the gradually then suddenly principle in the pages of Scripture as well. Psalm 73 records the psalmist’s lament that wicked men can do what they want and never seem to suffer the consequences of the actions. That is, until he understood that God would bring them “to desolation in a moment.”

Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” expounds a passage in Deuteronomy which expresses much the same idea as Pslam 73. “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” In his exposition of Deuteronomy 32:35, Edwards wrote, “It implies that they [unbelievers] were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall; he can’t foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once, without warning.”

Gradually, then suddenly. Was that not also the case with the men in Noah’s day? They were marrying and giving in marriage. Yet all the while they were adding to their sins, until, as Jesus said, the flood came and took them all away. They never saw it coming.

Much the same can be said of the Canaanites. It was told to Abraham in his day the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet fulfilled. That is, God would judge them, but not yet. Some four hundred plus years later, destruction cane swiftly. Gradually, then suddenly.

Or consider what happened to Israel once the nation was settled in Canaan. Despite God’s sending prophets to warn, gradually the people became more and more corrupt, until suddenly they were carried away into captivity. The Northern kingdom in 722 BC when Samaria was taken by the Assyrians, the southern in 586 BC with the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.

Gradually, then suddenly. These ideas can be applied to America in our own day. A nation born out of the Protestant Reformation has gradually forgotten its roots, has gradually turned away from the source of its strength. And what are we to say about such a nation? What will be its end? If the Bible, and even secular history, are any guide, unless the Lord grants many repentance, quite obviously it is headed for a fall. Likely a sudden one at that.

But a sudden fall for America, if in fact it comes, and the West more generally, does not mean that American Christians or Christians in other Western nations have no defense and no hope. We shall look at this further in a few moments. But before we begin our discussion of practical pointers for Christian preppers, I would like to point out a couple of noteworthy announcements last week relative to the financial markets.

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Financial Crisis

A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.

    Proverbs 22:3

In Part 8 of this series, we began formulating a Biblical theory of prepping. In Parts 4-7, we had looked at some examples of prepping in Scripture. While the examples of Noah, Lot and Joseph clearly establish that God approves of prepping, it seemed good to me to begin to articulate some of Christian prepping’s main components with an eye to defining the term.

In last week’s post, I closed by asking the question, For whom do we prep?, and answered, in part, that we prep for ourselves. It may seem strange to say that we prep for ourselves. After all, isn’t that just obvious? Not necessarily. The unchristian idea of altruism has so tainted many Christians’ thinking that some believers think that it is somehow sinful to think of their own interests. But although it is common to hear Christians deny they have a self interest, this is not a position consistent with the Scriptures.

Today, I’d like to continue, and hopefully conclude our discussion of the Biblical theory of prepping by exploring the other parties for whom Christians prep apart from themselves. But before we do that, I’d like to briefly review the financial news from last week.

When I began this series a couple of months ago, the stock market was recovering from a serious downturn in early August that was, apparently a reaction to the Fed’s decision to lower interest rates and the inversion of the Treasury yield curve. The Plunge Protection Team (PPT), apparently, saved the day once again, pushing the major stock indices out of correction territory. But even though the stock market has been stabilized and, at least on the surface, things seem normal, there are abundant signs that all is not well on Wall Street.

Just last week (September 29 – October 5), there were more signs of major problems in America’s economy. First, as MarketWatch reports, the Chicago Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) dropped in September for the third time in four months. The expected number was 50, but the index reported 47.1 in September. So what does all that mean? When it comes to the PMI, any reading above 50 means the economy is expanding, any reading below 50 indicates economic contraction. Not only did the September number come in well below expected, but it actually was the worst reading since 2009, around the time of the last financial crisis.

Second, the ongoing “repo madness.” Not only has the Fed been bailing out the overnight repo market to the tune of $75 billion every night, but last week pledged to continue the bailout. Originally, the Fed was going to supply funds to the repo market just for a few days. This was then extended to October 10. Friday, the New York Fed announced that it will “continue to boost liquidity in money markets [the repo market] into November.” Fund manager Dave Kranzler said of the repo operations that they will eventually morph into outright money printing. With every extension of the Fed’s repo market intervention, Kranzler’s evaluation comes closer and closer to being realized.

Third, the chances of a Fed interest rate cut in October are going up. The reason behind this seems to be the previously mentioned bad September PMI reading, which was not limited to just the US, but extended to other industrialized economies as well. Please keep in mind, the Fed cuts rates when it sees economic activity slowing down, either in an attempt to prevent a recession or to pull the economy out of one. If the US economy were really as strong as the Trump Administration would like people to believe, they would not at the same time be pushing the Fed to lower interest rates.

Fourth, layoffs. As was widely reported last week, Hewlett-Packard (HP) announced that it plans to cut its workforce by up to 16% and expects to cut between 7,000 and 9,000 jobs from its global workforce of 55,000. Kroger, America’s biggest grocer, announced plans to lay off hundreds of workers last week, as question arose about its turnaround plan.

In summary, last’s weeks economic news provided further evidence that the US and world economies are slowing down. It has been in anticipation of a significant economic shock that I undertook to write this series on prepping several weeks ago. Let us now continue to look at what the Bible says about prepping.

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