Imperial Tribute

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Since June of 2001, the Rest of the World has poured the mind-boggling sum of just over $1.4 trillion net into financial assets in the US.

But does anyone out there realize just what it is they are getting for their money? Not a stake in future prosperity, such as it could not realize at home, that’s for sure.

To see what their hard-earned savings have really been buying consider that, in that same time, Corporate America (adjusted for net equity issuance) has built up $172 bln in net financial assets — helping fund America’s Non-Corporate Businesses’ $56 bln shortfall and the domestic financial sector’s net $26 bln need, with $90 bln left over to finance its own customers’ insistent lifestyle demands.

America’s profligate householders (and house-buyers), meanwhile, have required another $270 bln (for a $360 billion total, or around twenty-three bucks per family a week) from their foreign suppliers to keep them in the manner to which they have become accustomed, but which they decidedly no longer earn.

This means that, effectively, 80% of all foreign monies being poured in are now going straight to the Imperium — two-thirds of them ($960bln) to the Feds and the remainder ($185bln) to the lower orders of government.

This is bad enough, but, when we note that cumulative (on budget) defense spending has totalled $1,270 bln in this period (roughly as much as the rest of the planet put together spends on such matters), we can see that, for every $1 worth of excess goods & services the hard-sweated Chinese, the entrepreneurial Thais, and the inventive Japanese supply to America, they render 90c directly back unto Caesar in order to do nothing less than to keep the Legions fed and armed, prowling their sea lanes, itching to build bases on their territories, and planning to occupy the very heavens over their heads.

In fact, with net exports amounting to an almost identical in magnitude, if (sadly) opposite in sign, — $1,230 bln in this period, the Military Keynesians (I almost typed ‘Reaganites’, but one may not speak ill of the Gods) in America wouldn’t have to give up any Butter, at all, for the nation to live within its means and so remove one of the greatest potential sources of global financial instability (among the other kinds its policies generate), simply its Guns.

But then, the leaders of today’s US pay less attention to Eisenhower in his admonitions about the threat such a state of affairs posed to the Republic, as they take to heart what Emperor Septimius Severus told his sons on his deathbed (as we have mentioned before):

“Rule together as brothers, enrich the soldiers, and forget about everybody else.”

Sean Corrigan [send him mail] is the Investment Strategist at Sage Capital Zurich AG and co-adviser to the Bermuda-based Edelweiss Fund. The views expressed are, of course, his own.

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