The Stupid Index
April 18, 2011
Some time ago a friend called me asking what technical indicator he should use to trade gold. I told him he should not even consider trading gold – he should simply buy it and hold it.
He was confused, because gold had been very active and because he had a trader’s mentality: “What goes up must come down, at least for a while.”
The technical indicator he was looking for would be something on a gold chart that would tell him when to go long (buy) and when to short (sell) gold. He knew that I had taught technical analysis (chart reading) internationally for many years, and figured that if anyone knew the best indicator to use, I would.
I told him bluntly that anyone who shorted gold was looking to have his head handed to him. I said that gold would continue to rise because of forces that were much bigger than any technical indicator, and that shorting gold was like standing in front of a moving freight train.
He seemed to hear me – for the moment. But a few days later he was back on the phone with the same question. I explained again the futility of betting against gold, and once again he seemed to understand. But he is a trader, and traders like to trade. They don’t like to buy and hold. It’s too boring for them. So over a period of weeks he kept bugging me for a way to know when to buy and sell gold.
I finally became a little impatient and, without really thinking about it, blurted out, “If you have to have an indicator, use the Stupid Index.” After a pause he asked, “What’s the Stupid Index? I’ve never heard of it.”
Simply put, the Stupid Index is the accumulation of stupid government actions that combine to destroy our economy. Here’s the equation:
Government Spending which Exceeds Revenues = Deficits = Increased National Debt = Decrease in the Value of the Dollar = Inflation = Rise in the Price of Gold
Take a few minutes to absorb it, and you will see that it makes absolute sense – if you have common sense. Unfortunately, the government has brainwashed most of us to the point where common sense is not very common on this subject. They have most Americans believing that debt is good.
We home school our daughter, as do many of the people in our church. Home schooled kids are taught to think critically, so one Sunday after the morning service, I decided to try an experiment. I gathered the teens and posed this to them: Suppose your parents called a family meeting and said, “Kids, we have a big problem, and we think you should know about it. We’re so deep in debt that we’re about to lose everything, including our home. We’ve maxed out all our credit cards, and have even been using some credit cards to pay off others.
“But we think we have a solution. Uncle Lou has agreed to loan us a lot of money, and we plan to go out and spend it like crazy until we’re out of debt.” I asked the kids what they would think.
They said, “We’d think our parents were nuts.” Then I asked, “What would you say if I told you that our government thinks the way to solve our debt problem is to borrow more money and spend like crazy?” They said, “We’d think the government was nuts.” Out of the mouths of babes...
The point is that most Americans understand that on a personal level, or in their businesses, they can’t spend more than they make forever. Eventually they have to pay the piper. There are consequences to stupidity.
But the US government has convinced us that it can defy the law of gravity in perpetuity. Listen to Ben Bernanke, when asked how we could afford Obama’s monstrous multi-trillion dollar “stimulus” packages: “The U.S. government has a technology, called a printing press, that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at no cost.” Bernanke, then Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, was actually saying to the American people, “Your money is worth nothing!”
The problem is that we cannot just keep printing money. Imagine you owned a blue jeans factory, but blue jeans went out of style and people started buying khakis. You could keep on making blue jeans for a while, but if people weren’t buying them, they would start stacking up in your factory. Eventually you would have boxes of blue jeans everywhere and your workers would have no room to move and manufacture more. Production would cease.
That is what is happening with US “production” of dollars. The nation can only print them when someone is willing to buy them in the form of US debt instruments. Not too many years ago 70% of US debt was bought by US investors, and 30% was bought by foreigners, mainly foreign governments. Today most US investors have gotten wise to the fact that our nation is essentially bankrupt, and the tables have turned: 70% of the debt at US Treasury auctions is bought by foreigners.
But now that is changing. Blue jeans are going out of style. China has been the biggest purchaser of US debt over the last decade, but now it has switched to buying khakis – gold. Japan was the second largest purchaser. Even before the earthquake disaster they had begun purchasing fewer US securities. Now, with hundreds of billions needed to rebuild their nation, they will not only stop buying US debt – they will become net sellers of our debt, further depressing prices.
In the past when there was uncertainty in the world, both governments and individuals would “flee to safety” by buying US dollars. Those days are gone. Now those same seekers of safety are buying gold, making it the most reliable barometer of sentiment regarding the US – and by extension, the world – economy.
Why does the US have such an effect on the world economy? A few years ago I went on an 11-day speaking tour of Europe. Everywhere I went people repeated the old maxim, “When the United States catches a cold, the world sneezes.” Remember the Great Depression? Although it was a US depression, it quickly spread throughout the world so that within six months most of the developed nations had been impacted.
The reason the United States has such a disproportionate enormous economic effect on the world is that the dollar is the world reserve currency. After the British Pound Sterling lost that status in 1944 the dollar took its place, making this nation the most powerful economic force the world has ever seen. But that is changing as more and more nations shun the dollar in favor of gold - because of our mounting National Debt.
So why is gold suddenly the safe haven instead of the dollar? The fact is that it has always been – people just didn’t realize it. Gold (and, to a lesser extent, silver) has been used as money in hundreds of civilizations for thousands of years. Even after paper money was developed, it was for convenience, so that people didn’t have to carry heavy gold coins. But the paper money could be redeemed for gold, so it was real money.
Paper money that is not backed by precious metals is a modern development. This type of currency is called fiat money. There has never been a fiat currency that has survived – and there is no reason to believe that the US Dollar, the Pound Sterling, or the Euro will be the first to break that record. In fact the average life span of fiat currencies is only 37 years!
Fiat currency is easily manipulated by politicians and bankers to their own advantage. As they print more and more currency it becomes worth less and less until it becomes – worthless. That’s what inflation is. For the first two-thirds of our nation’s existence we had almost no inflation. Then, in 1933 Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) took us off the Gold Standard, which disconnected the dollar from gold. Until then every dollar had to be backed by precious metals by federal law. After that the dollar became just another commodity, subject to the laws of supply and demand. And because our government has printed so many trillions of dollars, the US dollar has lost 96% of its value in the last one-third of its existence.
This is why gold appears to go up so much in value. It has increased over 400% in price in the last ten years. But its value has remained the same. The only reason the price has increased so much is that the dollar has lost so much of its purchasing power through inflation. As the dollar decreases in value, gold increases in price.
Here’s an example of the difference between value and price. Today, in 2015, the average price of a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in the US was $240,000 – about the cost of 200 ounces of gold. In 1915 the average price of the same house was just $4,000 – also about the cost of 200 ounces of gold at that time, because the nation had not experienced massive inflation yet.
Now, logically, is there any way the 2010 home is worth 60 times more than the 1915 home? Obviously it costs more - but is it worth more? No, of course not. Both are 3 bedroom, 2 bath homes on average size house lots. The only reason the 2015 house costs 60 times as much as the 1915 house is that the dollar is worth 1/60th as much.
By the same token the 200 ounces of gold it took to buy the 1915 home didn’t magically become worth 60 times as much 100 years later. It only cost 60 times as much for the same reason – the dollar is worth so much less. The gold has the same value today as it did 100 years ago, because it still buys the same amount of house as it did then.
I have done considerable research on this subject. Over thousands of years – not just 100 – gold has bought approximately the same amount of goods, services, food, clothing and shelter. It is the ultimate safe store of wealth.
And this is why I advised my friend not to bet against gold. Anyone who looks at the Stupid Index and sees how the US government (along with most Western governments) continues to print and spend money backed by absolutely nothing, must realize that the dollar will continue to slide and gold will continue to rise.
Dr. Tom Barrett is a pastor, teacher, author, conference keynote speaker, professor, certified executive coach, and marketplace minister. His teaching and coaching have blessed both church and business leaders. He has been ordained for over 40 years, and has pastored in seven churches over that time. Today he “pastors pastors” as he oversees ordained and licensed ministers in Florida for his ministerial fellowship.
He has written thousands of articles that have been republished in national newspapers and on hundreds of websites, and is a frequent guest on radio and television shows. His weekly Conservative Truth article (which is read by 250,000) offers a unique viewpoint on social, moral and political issues from a Biblical worldview. This has resulted in invitations to speak internationally at churches, conferences, Money Shows, universities, and on TV (including the 700 Club).
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