"Uh...thanks for the opportunity, I guess."Gosh, nobody ever asked what I thought...I mean, speaking from beyond the grave and all. So here goes."I don't mean to sound critical, but right off the bat I notice some big differences between what we did and what you are doing."Let's begin with money. I died in 1960. The federal budget was balanced when I checked out. It's not that we didn't know about debt. We ran huge debts in WWII."But we were fighting a real war. One we could lose. Not some phony-baloney war with people who didn't have a country, an army, a navy, or an air force. 'Terrorists' you call them. Ha ha."And then, when our real war was over, we sent the troops home, cut the military budget, and began paying down the debt. Isn't that the right way to do it?"But you didn't have any war to fight...and when your only adversary – the Soviet Union – threw in the towel, instead of cutting back on the military, you actually increased it. Geez, what were you thinking?"Spending more money on 'defense,' even though you don't have any enemies you needed to defend against? I don't get it."And you increased spending on domestic giveaways, too – medical care and social security pensions, mostly. And I'm not going to bother with all those crazy agencies and departments that spend a few billion here and a few billion there...and nobody knows what the heck it is for."And the result is that, now, you've got a debt of $22 trillion that you can't possibly pay. They still taught arithmetic when I was in school. And I see you're spending 38% of GDP, but you're only collecting about 17% of GDP in taxes."And this is in a time of peace. And prosperity. What's going to happen if you ever have a real war? Or a real depression? I'll tell you; those numbers – bad as they are – are going to get a lot worse. And you're going to have a real crisis on your hands."What kind of financial management is that? And you've got a Fed that is manipulating interest rates to encourage people to borrow more. I don't get that, either."And you think you're so smart...with all those PhDs at the Fed. Well, let me ask you something. We got 5% growth...throughout the 1950s. You've barely got 2% for the last 10 years. We did it while paying down the national debt. You added $13 trillion. How come?"And our wages went up – for working people, as well as managers and executives – year after year. Your wages (except for the rich) have been flat for 40 years. Why is that?"But let's switch to politics. We had some heated political debates in our day, too. But people were still usually polite and dignified. And their private lives were generally off limits."And compared to the candidates you vote for, ours were geniuses...and saints. I voted for Eisenhower, a guy who led the largest successful seaborne invasion of all time. Whom did you vote for?"Honestly, in a nation of 330 million people, couldn't you find any better candidates than a big mouth draft-dodger...or a person who says he's a 'socialist'? How can you claim to be an American and support either one of them?"And your President, who never saw a single day of military service, seems to think it is his duty to tarnish the reputation of a dead man who spent five and a half years in a prisoner-of-war camp. He says he likes soldiers who weren't captured."In World War II, we had 120,000 men who spent time in enemy prisoner-of-war camps. Four out of 10 of those captured by the Japanese died in their horrible camps. The rest came back heroes. And if any politician had dared to say anything against them his career would have been over."What happened? What changed? What's wrong with you?"But I'm not finished. That's just politics and economics. I see, in Baltimore, and many other cities, you're taking down the monuments to Confederate soldiers...and to a Supreme Court judge."And you can't listen to Amos 'n' Andy...and some schools want to ban Tom Sawyer. You say we were 'racists.' You say we were 'homophobic,' whatever that means. And we didn't have special bathrooms for 'trans' people, whatever they are. And you say we were all 'misogynists.' You can't even ask a girl out, without risking a federal case."But what makes you think our fathers and grandfathers were any more nasty or mean-spirited than you are? They put up those monuments – to soldiers of the North and the South in the War Between the States – because they wanted to honor men who did their duty, as they saw it, and died for a cause they believed in."And now you come along and tear down those statues. Who do you think you are? What do you know about their suffering? What do you know about their sense of honor...or right and wrong...and what is worth remembering?"And you think you're making progress? You think you've made a better world? Well, it doesn't seem better to me. Back in my day, we could laugh at each other...and ourselves. Now, you can't laugh at all. You take everything deadly serious. You tell a joke and your career is over."And there were a lot of things that were just better back in my day. We didn't need no damned wall with Mexico. We got along with the Mexicans just fine without a wall."We didn't have any federal welfare program, so those who came across the border came to work and we were happy to have them. By the way, you spent $22 trillion on anti-poverty programs over the last 50 years. And guess what? The percentage of poor people when you started was about 15%. And it's still 15%. Good work."We didn't have a drug war, either...so we didn't have all the violence you have. Didn't you learn anything from our Prohibition program? It was a disaster. And we could have told you that your prohibition on drugs would be a disaster, too."You spent $1 trillion on your campaign to eliminate illegal drugs – while simultaneously promoting legal drugs, which often turned out to be more dangerous."And now you're spending $100 billion per year. What do you get for it? The rate of drug use remains about the same...but you arrest 1.5 million people per year on drug charges. Good work, again."And we didn't need a trade war, either. We had the strongest economy on the planet, with trade that was in balance. Of course, we also had real money back then – a Dollar that was backed by gold...so neither trade nor debt could get too far out of whack."I'm not saying we were perfect. Of course, we weren't. But we weren't any worse than you are."So how can you be so sure we were wrong...that we were so awful?"Do you think we didn't care about right and wrong...and didn't try to separate good from bad...in our own way? Do you think you're so smart...so pure...so sure you're right about everything that anyone who ever had any different ideas must have been either evil or stupid?"That the thousand generations that came before you had learned nothing...and had nothing to teach you? So that you can ignore everything they told you?"You think that, don't you? Well, I think you're a fool."
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Bill Bonner is founder and owner of Agora Inc., one of America's largest consumer newsletter publishers. Best-selling author and globe-trotting correspondent since 1999 for the Daily Reckoning email, he is chairman of family-wealth advisory Bonner & Partners, and co-author with his son Will of Family Fortunes: How to Build Family Wealth and Hold Onto It for 100 Years (Wiley, 2012).
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