Trump Derangement Syndrome

We have once again preserved our tradition of a peaceful transition of power and a new president has been sworn in, but the Washington bubble has not even begun to comprehend what has actually occurred. It has been with some amusement that I have watched the machinations of the media trying to put together complete sentences without betraying either their utter contempt for middle America or their stunning obliviousness.

 

My personal thoughts on Trump are as yet not fully formed, but on day 1 it seems sporting to give him a chance. We still haven’t quite hit on the right term for the collection of people who have been so dismayed by the election results that they are still sputtering sneering sophistries two months on; bubble inhabitants, coastal elites, and Washington insiders each leave something to be desired.

 

Of course we all knew this group would include most of the liberal ‘mainstream media’, but what a disappointment to see how many of the more conservative pundits have seemed to have lost their lucidity in their rush to judge the new man at the helm. This serves as another reminder of just how far the chattering classes have gone off into their collective delusion.

 

Trump said:

For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left, and the factories closed.

The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation's capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

And…the media blathered, froth foaming from the mouth, not even realizing that they themselves had just been called out for their part in the damage that has been done.

 

So what is this damage? It has been repeatedly reported over the past few days that unemployment is low, the markets are up, and the Donald’s poll numbers are so low that there ‘clearly’ must be ‘no problem’. But anyone outside of the bubble knows what is wrong, and anyone who knows something about statistics knows that there are ways of cooking the books.

 

I know many people don’t want to think about math and statistics and there is a little danger of getting lost in the weeds here, but let us delve into the numbers just a bit to see what exactly I mean when I say “cooking the books”.

Unemployment

First of all we have unemployment. Here is the graph all of the media want us to see:

 

 

 

At the left side we see the effects of the 2007-2008 financial and housing crash with a huge jump in unemployment. Then from about 2010 forward we see a slow steady decline in the unemployment rate back to under 5% today. Looks great, doesn’t it?

 

But what about this graph depicting the labor force participation rate?

 

 

There has been a major drop in the percentage of the population that is working since a high in the late 1990s. Here is a closer look at just the past ten years of that graph:

 

 

There has been a slow and steady fall of the percentage of the population that is working. Well, you may say, this must be due to the aging population and all of the retiring Baby Boomers, right? Well…maybe…but if that were so would we not also expect to see these effects consistent across multiple data sets?

 

Take a look at the next few graphs – first, here is the US population:

 

 

…then we have the raw number of employed people in the US:

 

Now let us look at the upper right corner of these two graphs. I have taken the curves and scaled them in order to plot them together, but the raw numbers have not been changed. Feel free to try this yourself with the data available from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We see that something really funny happened around the time of the Great Recession. All of a sudden, the graph of employed people took a big stutter step down and it has not returned to the historical average line. The ‘renormalization’ of the data explains much of the funny business in the unemployment numbers, and when the BLS says it is all due to population shifts you can just drop the L from their acronym: BS.

Markets

Now we go to the markets. Here is a quick snapshot of the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the past thirty years or so:

Looks great, doesn’t it? Fantastic growth! Wow! And big growth during the Clinton and Obama years! How can you dispute that? Well, if you are someone like Paul Krugman, you don’t, you simply pass on the lies and get applauded by the clueless for ‘astute observations’.

 

But disputing the graph is simple, if you dig below the raw numbers. Let’s take a look at the components of the DJIA towards the end of the Reagan era:

1987

Allied-Signal Incorporated Eastman Kodak Company Navistar International Corporation
Aluminum Company of America Exxon Corporation Philip Morris Companies Inc.
American Can Company General Electric Company The Procter & Gamble Company
American Express Company General Motors Corporation Sears Roebuck & Company
American Telephone and Telegraph Company Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company Texaco Incorporated
Bethlehem Steel Corporation International Business Machines Corporation Union Carbide Corporation
The Boeing Company International Paper Company United Technologies Corporation
Chevron Corporation McDonald’s Corporation USX Corporation
(fmr US Steel Corporation)
The Coca-Cola Company Merck & Co., Inc. Westinghouse Electric Corporation
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company F. W. Woolworth Company

 

Some big companies there…lots of manufacturing…aluminum, steel, cars, tires, airplanes, paper, utilities…companies that make things.

 

But that is quite different from the list of companies which make up the DJIA today:

2017

3M Company General Electric Company Nike, Inc.
American Express Company The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Pfizer Inc.
Apple Inc. The Home Depot, Inc. The Procter & Gamble Company
The Boeing Company Intel Corporation The Travelers Companies, Inc.
Caterpillar Inc. International Business Machines Corporation UnitedHealth Group Incorporated
Chevron Corporation Johnson & Johnson United Technologies Corporation
Cisco Systems, Inc. JPMorgan Chase & Co. Verizon Communications Inc.
The Coca-Cola Company McDonald’s Corporation Visa Inc.
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company Merck & Co., Inc. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Exxon Mobil Corporation Microsoft Corporation The Walt Disney Company

 

So when viewing the DJIA graph, you have to take into account that the data points over time do not measure the same things. We are comparing apples to oranges. But what has changed? you may ask and the DJIA would argue that it has normalized company stock values (i.e. fudged the numbers) to try to keep the measure historically consistent and stable. In reality the entire universe might well have changed!

 

We see some things that you would expect. Some of the giants have remained (e.g. GE, du Pont, 3M with a new name, Proctor & Gamble, and IBM), and Coke and McDonalds still make the list. Old merchants such as Sears Roebuck and F.W. Woolworth have been replaced by competitors that helped take them down: Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Some technologies (e.g. Kodak) and habits (e.g. Phillip Morris) have fallen by the wayside and have been replaced by new ones (e.g. Apple, Intel, Pfizer).

 

But what is stunning is that the DJIA is now filled with a bunch of companies that really don’t make anything! American Express, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Travelers, Visa. We could also argue that Walt Disney doesn’t really make much that is tangible, and what about UnitedHealth?

 

Gone are Allied-Signal (aerospace, automotive and engineering, now part of Honeywell and off the DJIA), Navistar International (trucks, buses, harvesters, defense contractor), ALCOA (aluminum), Union Carbide (part of Dow Chemical), Bethlehem Steel, USX (US Steel), International Paper…

 

Yes, yes, I hear you: it’s the ‘service economy’. But most of the so-called ‘service’ of these companies is being done in a call center in Bangolore! And even the companies that build things like Apple and Intel don’t do their manufacturing in the US.

 

So the DJIA is a sham! Nothing more than shells remain where there used to be strong American assets, and these companies are owned and controlled by a tiny fraction of a percentage of our population. Let me be clear: this is the American carnage that Trump spoke about.

 

All of this became stunningly apparent to me after some of the uproar caused by the inaugural remarks. In his speech Trump stated:

“We will seek friendship and good will with the nations of the world. But we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” (emphasis mine)

 

This statement seems self-evident to me – of course this is true. No country could survive long if it did not place its own interests first. But it is high time to bring back Spiro Agnew’s alliteration for the media because this statement was met by a bewildering barrage of buffoonery by the nattering nabobs of negativity.

 

The frenetic fisticuffs included words like ‘racist’ and ‘Hitlerian’ and paltering pundits had the United States withdrawing from NATO, shuttering bases in Korea, and sooner or later nuking Canada.

 

That a statement this plain and simple can ring true to untold millions of real-life Americans yet draw the scorn of the media ‘elite’ lays bare the truth of the disconnect: someone has moved. And I dare say that it was not the American people who moved, but the bubble inhabitants – off into ‘La La’ land.

 

And don’t tell me about the Marshall plan, and the Cold War, and the intentions of the late twentieth century deep state, because I grew up with knowledge of that world and know what it meant. What we are being told today about that the path the country was put on after World War II is a great lie brought to us by the worst generation this country has ever seen – the Baby Boomers, the ‘me me me’ generation that never grew out of its Woodstock dreams and still does not have this country’s best interests at heart.

 

While we are at it can we finally put to and end of the use of the term ‘elites’, whether they be political elites, corporate elites, media elites, or coastal elites? That is to say if we are to take traditional definitions of the term meaning choice, or best, or highest class, there is nothing elite about them.

 

One last thing (and this will really get their goat): Trump has essentially overturned the tables of the moneychangers…I wonder will they kill him for it?

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