I don’t just think he hates me. He truly despises me. In fact, he does everything he can to put me out of business.
Take the taper, for example. If I am right and he doesn’t end quantitative easing, then my model-trading portfolio goes through the roof. If he does, it will crater. Many other independent analysts agree with me, including several Fed governors. But is he giving me any hints? Not any chance. I might as well flip a coin.
He could have let me off easy by announcing some minor back door easing, like ceasing interest rate payments on deposits from private banks, or even a token taper of $10 billion or so.
It’s not that I am not an all right guy. I am kind to children and small animals. I donate generously to many charities. I just sent my mother a card for her birthday, even though she is 85 and not expected to last much longer. I even occasionally escort little old ladies across the street, although this is a holdover from my days as an Eagle Scout.
It’s just that Ben Bernanke and I don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of important issues. He wants stocks to go up. As a hedge fund manager who plays from the short side more often than not when the economy is growing at a paltry 2% rate, I want them to go down.
He wants bonds to go up too, as he clearly elicited with his recent announcement. I, on the other hand, want bonds to sell off because I know that when the bill comes due for all of this monetary easing, the crash will be momentous.
These are not the only matters we differ on. He wants to create jobs. He can wish this until the cows come home, but he’s not going to get them because of the gale force demographic headwinds the country is now facing and the massive deleveraging by the public and private sector. The 6 million jobs we exported to China are never coming back.
However, all he has to do is make a mere mention of his desires, or even just mention the letter “Q”, and asset prices skyrocket, forcing me to stop out of my shorts at losses. This is why I was in such a foul, acrimonious, and detestable mood over the weekend, after stocks started to rally again for the umpteenth time.
My problem is that Ben Bernanke isn’t the only person who dislikes me. President Obama doesn’t think much of me either. And it’s not because I refuse to buy a cold chicken dinner at his St. Francis Hotel fundraisers for $35,000 or $70,000 if I bring a date. He talks about jobs too. He frequently speaks about the need to improve our education system, even though I know he is poised to slash the budget for the Department of Education as part of some deal with the Republicans. Ditto for Social Security and defense.
Fortunately for me, I wrote off any prospect of getting a retirement check a long time ago and have made other arrangements, like becoming a hedge fund manager. Either the payments will be too small for me to live on, subject to a means test that excludes fat cats like myself, or they will be made in worthless Zimbabwean dollars.
I got along with former Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, OK, who keeps me on his “must see” list whenever he stops in San Francisco. But we go way back. There are not a lot of people around who read my first book on the Japanese financial system when it was published 30 years ago. There are only four people in US history who can discuss Japanese monetary policy of the 1920’s in depth, and do it in Japanese just for laughs (it was clearly too easy, but they had to reflate after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Some things never change).
Two of them, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana and Harvard professor, John K. Fairbank, died ages ago. So he is kind of limited in his choices. Besides, there are not a lot of people out there who can give him a 40-year view on the global economy, and I am one of them.
There are plenty of others who don’t think I am so hot. Try making a fortune in a market crash when everyone else is losing their shirt. While others in the locker room at my country club are slamming doors, tearing their hair out, and breaking golf clubs in half when they see the price feed on CNBC, I am chirping happily away about selling short at the top. I might as well be letting out a loud fart in Sunday church service. This explains why I stopped getting invitations to social dinners ages ago.
It’s not that my relationship with Ben Bernanke is totally hopeless. When the demographic picture turns from a headwind to a tailwind and individuals and corporations cease de-leveraging and return to re-leveraging, we’ll probably be reading from the same page of music. But according to the US Census Bureau, the earliest this can happen is 2023. By then, he probably won’t be the Fed governor anymore and I won’t care if he likes me or not.
There are other Fed governors who are not in the least bit interested in all this quantitative easing malarkey. They are much more similar in philosophy to Herbert Hoover’s Treasury Secretary, Andrew Mellon, who popularized the “let the chips fall where they may” approach to economic policy. “Liquidate, liquidate, liquidate”, he said. Kick the props out from under this market and all of a sudden Dow 3,000 is on the table, as argued by Global strategist and demographics maven, Harry Dent.
They might even go as far as unwinding the Fed’s hefty $3.5 trillion balance sheet. That would give the Chinese, who hold $1 trillion of these bonds, a heart attack. But who cares? It would create the mother of all trading windfalls for me. Hell, they might not even care if I torture small animals, beat children with a switch, and strand little old ladies in the middle of onrushing traffic. I think we would get along just great.
Screw Social Security, and Ben Bernanke too.