At 12:42 am on Wednesday morning, November 9, 2016, the Liberal Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Krugman filed an article for the New York Times titled “The Economic Fallout,” which began like this:
“It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover? Frankly, I find it hard to care much, even though this is my specialty. The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear. Still, I guess people want an answer. If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.”
Well, how did that prediction fare? One year after Krugman lost his ability to “care much,” the Dow was up 28.5%, the best first year after a first election ever. But let’s be fair. That was measured from the midnight low in the Dow futures. Instead, let’s use the election day close in the S&P 500 – before the election results came in. Measured from the close on November 8, 2016, when Hillary Clinton was widely expected to win, the S&P 500 rose 21.3% in the next 12 months. That trails JFK’s first year after his election (+27%) and it ties George Bush Sr. (Bush 41), who also gained 21.3% his first year. More importantly, Trump’s first year (after the election day close) is far better than his predecessors. President Obama’s first year was a ho-hum +4%, despite enjoying the first year of a bull market, while President George W. Bush suffered a horrendous first year, with the S&P 500 down a dismal 24%.
In addition, the U.S. economy is humming along at a much faster rate in 2017 than it did under Obama, contrary to Krugman’s predictions. The next time Krugman appears as a panelist on a Sunday morning talk show, this quote should he displayed and dissected, in the tradition of the late Tim Russert on Meet the Press.
The Fed will likely raise rates this week in their meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), but that was already widely expected before gold declined from nearly $1,300 to under $1,250 over the last two weeks. One reason for gold’s recent decline was a dollar rally but the larger part of it is that some investors have been seduced by the meteoric rise of Bitcoins and the latest surge in stocks. Quite simply, gold demand dried up last week, causing gold to drop below $1,250 once again.
Country Music and Coin Collecting
Last week, my wife Karen and I went to hear Wynonna Judd and the Big Noise in her excellent Christmas show. It got me to thinking of her song “Grandpa, Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days.” My interest in rare coins was sparked by my grandfather, “Red” Lievens, nicknamed for the color of his hair. When I was growing up in Louisiana, starting at age 7, “Red” began giving me an uncirculated silver dollar he got at face value from the bank for every “A” on my report card.
I was intrigued by these old “Morgan Silver Dollar” coins and set out to learn more about them. This started me on the path to a lifetime of pleasure in a career and a hobby that has been a source of endless satisfaction. As time goes by, I’m more and more impressed by my grandfather’s intuitive understanding that coins made of precious metals always trump paper money of equal face value. Dollar bills from the 1960s are still worth $1, but uncirculated Morgan silver dollars are worth $36 or more.
The Judds’ song “Grandpa, Tell Me ’Bout the Good Old Days” won a Grammy in 1987 for Best Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. It was a No. 1 Country and Western hit and gave voice to America’s longing – even then – for the kinder, gentler way of life they’d known in days gone by. Here’s a sample:
Grandpa, everything is changing fast
We call it progress, but I just don't know
And grandpa, let's wander back into the past
And paint me the picture of long ago
The song simply – and fondly – recalled, expressed a heartfelt desire to return to traditional American values – marriages that lasted a lifetime, fathers who were steadfast in supporting their children and families that bonded by bowing their heads in prayer. The silver dollars I got from my own Grandpa were part of that value system – old-fashioned coins whose worth was completely real, not just symbolic.
The same kind of sentiment came from a Merle Haggard song, “Are the Good Times Really Over?”
I wish a buck was still silver
It was back when the country was strong.
...Is the best of the free life behind us now,
And are the good times really over for good?
The dollars Grandpa gave me had the desired effect: I studied diligently in order to earn more A’s – and more silver dollars. As a bonus, I discovered a tremendously fulfilling avocation and vocation that has brightened my life ever since. If you have children, grandchildren or other youngsters who are special to you, I urge you to follow my Grandfather’s example by giving them something with intrinsic value next time there’s a reason to celebrate. You can’t get silver dollars for $1 apiece any more, but they’ll still make great incentives for “A” grades and they’ll likely go up in value a lot faster than today’s dollar bills.
Come to think of it, Grandpa Red also deserves a great big “A” on the report card of his life!
“Tunnels to Towers” Firefighters Return with Toys
Last September, my wife and I hosted eight retired New York firemen in our home for a weekend while they worked full time “de-mucking” ravaged homes in the Southeast Texas area – after we had received 26 inches of rain in one day – double the previous daily record. They were part of the “Tunnels to Towers” program, inspired by the late firefighter Stephen Siller, who gave his life on 9-11. Last week, we joined 36 of these firemen for dinner after they returned to distribute Christmas toys to families in the affected flood areas in Southeast Texas. I wrote about this last September, but the inspiring story of Stephen Siller bears repeating here:
On September 11, 2001, Stephen Gerard Siller was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1. He had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to put his gear back on. Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others. Stephen had everything to live for: a dear wife, five wonderful children and many great friends, but Stephen’s parents were lay Franciscans, so he grew up under the guiding philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi, whose core message was “while we have time, let us do good,” words Stephen lived and died by.
That’s where the phrase “Tunnels to Towers” comes from: Voluntarily strapping on your gear – after a night shift – and running into danger. That’s what these volunteer firefighters did, rushing down to Texas after Hurricane Harvey. I can’t say enough about what they did for our area and also what our many of our staff members did to help relieve the suffering for their neighbors in Beaumont and nearby communities.
In addition, I want to honor the major Houston sports teams for their help in aiding flood victims. Sports Illustrated just named Jose Altuve of the World Champion Houston Astros and J.J. Watt of the NFL Houston Texans as “Sportspersons of the Year,” under the headline “Houston Strong.” Although he was injured in a Sunday night game with the Kansas City Chiefs on October 9, Watt was devoting much of his mid-week time in September to flood relief, raising $37 million for his YouCaring.com relief fund. Jose Altuve, although smaller than any player in the four major U.S. sports leagues, hit seven post-season home runs, won the American League batting title for the second year in a row and dominated the World Series with a .472 home batting average in October and 17 hits at home in the playoffs, an all-time high.
Hurricanes are terrible and destructive, but the human spirit is greater than the power of winds or floods.
Mike Fuljenz is the Official Precious Metals Expert for Townhall Finance