Porter and Buck have a laugh over the recent news of Chase’s Jamie Dimon trying to convince the world that Bitcoin is a fraud. They reveal the real reason behind Dimon’s panic, and why Bitcoin and blockchain technology is one of the most significant risks central banks will face in the near term.
President, Tice Capital
Announcer: Broadcasting from Baltimore, Maryland and New York City, you're listening to Stansberry Investor Hour. Tune in each Thursday on iTunes for the latest episode of Stansberry Investor Hour. Sign up for the free show archive at InvestorHour.com. Here are the hosts of your show, Buck Sexton and Porter Stansberry.
Buck Sexton: Welcome, everybody to Stansberry Investor Hour. I'm nationally syndicated radio host Buck Sexton and with us the founder of Stansberry Research himself, Mr. Porter Stansberry.
Porter Stansberry: Hi everybody. I'm watching Jose today, Buck. Do you know who Jose is?
Buck Sexton: Is this one of the many hurricanes that just seem to be popping up time after time now?
Porter Stansberry: Jose is off the coast of Ocean City. You guys might recall I put my fishing boat Two Suns in Ocean City. Luckily, we avoided the big hurricane down in Miami, but now we're getting lashed by Jose.
Buck Sexton: Well, we'll have to see. There's another one, isn't there? Isn't there another one?
Porter Stansberry: Maria is the next one.
Buck Sexton: Maria. Yes.
Porter Stansberry: It's a very active season.
Buck Sexton: Apparently so. Lots of talk about whether climate change has a role in this or not, and I should note, maybe we'll get to this, Porter, whether that could have an effect on your pocketbook on the marketplace because there are a bunch of swindlers out there who wanna say that climate change means there has to be really reparations. There needs to be climate change reparations.
Porter Stansberry: Yeah. We talked about the guy at Google who wrote that great essay that explained the link between Marxism and radical environmentalism and I think it's a great point. People should be aware of it. But you know, when it comes to the economics of "climate change" – by the way, I love how it used to be "global warming" but now we're not sure that it's actually warming, so now it's just change we're fighting. We're tired of the seasons. We want the temperature to stay the same, so no climate change.
But I like what Warren Buffett says about climate change, and Warren Buffett is a pretty liberal guy. If he could, he'd find a way to be a progressive about this I'm sure, but he runs an insurance company, one of the world's biggest. And he says very simply, if climate change were real we would see it in the insurance markets. We would see pricing that's different than we see. So there has been no increase at all in catastrophic-insurance pricing over time, and the bigger thing Buffett says, if it's happening it's going to happen so slowly that the economy will evolve around it no problem.
This is the difference, Buck, between political problems and economic problems. Another political problem you might recall from 15 years ago was peak oil, which never made sense to any legitimate economist because even if we were running out of oil, the rising cost of oil would have led to more supplies, and then as we ran out would've led to replacements. So think about it this way. The phone network didn't stop growing because there weren't enough operators to plug in the RCA inputs. You see what I'm saying? The technology will get created as the price rises for these sorts of things and there's a replacement that goes on.
So this idea that we're going to have any kind of economic collapse from global warming is not because of the idea that we're ever gonna run out of oil is complete nonsense. There's a lot of things that are designed of course to scare you and to sell you books and magazines and heaven forbid newsletters, but most of it's just nonsense. The thing I think you should be afraid of, and we're gonna talk to David Tice about all this stuff in a second, is a very large and very ominous debt cycle. A big credit-default cycle is coming and it may have just kicked off this week with the default of Toys "R" Us. But we're gonna get to that later. What's first, Buck?
Buck Sexton: Well joining us this week will be perma-bear David Tice, and Tice has been warning investors about the dangers of investing near the end of a secular bull market and has debated nearly every bullish Wall Street strategist on CNBC, Nightly Business Report, and in his various writings for Barrons. He'll be here today on Stansberry Investor Hour to give us his latest thoughts on how much gas is left in the tank of the bull market and what signs to look for when it starts to crack.
If you haven't already, by the way, please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, on Google Play or Stitcher or wherever you find the podcast for that matter. Leave us a review or comment, please. Your feedback – and we've gotten some great feedback recently, Porter is excited about it – your feedback is essential to helping us grow the show and we appreciate it.
Remember you can get transcripts from Stansberry Investor Hour, additional information about our guests, and be notified each Thursday when we publish a new episode by going to InvestorHour.com and entering your email. That's InvestorHour.com. When you sign up for free today you'll get an account on the Stansberry Research Website so you can access everything you need to get the most from the Stansberry Investor Hour. And with that, sir, we can go to all kinds of stuff out there, by the way. Two very interesting admissions and then rescinded admissions at Harvard University.
Porter Stansberry: Rescinded admission?
Buck Sexton: We can go there right away. I was gonna get into the UN and North Korea 'cause Porter's North Korea comments get the folks fired up.
Porter Stansberry: Yes.
Buck Sexton: Harvard offered a fellowship of some kind to Chelsea Manning. So Chelsea Manning was going to be a scholar, an adjunct lecturer at Harvard University. That got pulled because you had people from the U.S. government including former CIA director who came out and said, "Look, I can't be at Harvard if you guys are gonna do this nonsense." So that got rescinded, and then you also had a woman who – and this got much less attention. She served a 20-year prison sentence of 50 years because she beat to death and abandoned her four-year-old child.
She then studied sociology in prison for a while and history and was accepted into Harvard's prestigious PhD program in American history and American studies, and people were like, you know, she served her debt to society, but she beat to death her four-year-old child, so maybe that's a problem. Her name was Michelle Jones. And Harvard had to rescind that one too. So it's been a rough week in the higher reaches of academia.
Porter Stansberry: How do you know all this stuff, Buck?
Buck Sexton: It's all I do, man. I gotta do three hours of radio a day. I'm just going around everything on the Internet looking for it.
Porter Stansberry: I'd like to make one point about Chelsea Manning. I have no opinion about the poor woman who beat her child to death. I can't imagine anything that horrible and I'd rather never think of it, but the Chelsea Manning thing I think is interesting because I have a viewpoint that I haven't heard anyone else take before. I think this might be a unique viewpoint. I think Chelsea Manning should be in jail and I think Wikipedia should win the Nobel Prize. Sorry, not Wikipedia, Wiki Leaks.
There's so many Wikis out there I get them confused. Country Club Guy corrects me. I'm talking of course about Wiki Leaks and the leader of Wiki Leaks who we have had at our conferences in the past, Julian Assange. I don't know why my brain is on about a five-minute delay. Julian Assange I think is a great hero and should be lauded and I think that Chelsea Manning should be in prison. Now how can you say that, Porter? Because of course it was Chelsea Manning's reveals, the data that she stole from the army that led to the big success at Wiki Leaks and got them a lot of attention, because they were spreading secret State Department cables and other things like that.
Buck, I know you know all this. Remember the video of the helicopter shooting the poor journalist that the army didn't want anyone to see and Chelsea Manning put out there? But here's why I believe this. Chelsea Manning had a fiduciary obligation to the U.S. armed forces because she took an oath when she agreed to join the army that she would follow orders and that she would lay down her life for the country and she freely and voluntarily made that commitment, and she had not relinquished that commitment at the time she stole those documents.
In my mind that's a very, very simple clear cut black and white thing. She broke the law and she broke the rules and she broke her oath, she goes to jail. I got no sympathy for her whatsoever. The Wiki Leaks guys on the other hand are doing what great journalism should always do, which is publish the facts as they find them. Wiki Leaks did not steal that data.
That data was delivered to them the same way that the Pentagon papers were delivered to the New York Times and it really bothers me that there are Americans who don't understand that our society is made up of various competing interests, and it's the role of journalism to provide access to the facts so that we the people know what the government is actually doing. That's its job.
Journalism's job is not to handle the nation's defense. That's the army's job. The army's job is to keep its secrets and journalism's job is to spread as much of the facts that they can find. That doesn't mean that journalists get to break the law, but they didn't, and I don't like the witch hunt that Julian Assange has had to put up with because he did his job as a great journalist. What do you think about that, Buck? I know you have probably a different opinion.
Buck Sexton: Well there's actually no legal exception to journalists publishing classified information under the Espionage Act, which even some journalists don't know… which I think is always interesting. So they really just live at the whim of the Justice Department, meaning it is DOJ policy. It is not in fact a legal issue. There's no law to point to. Nowhere has Congress ever said that if you're a journalist you can share whatever you want, any information you want.
So I think that's interesting especially because I've come across some first amendment lawyers who get all huffy and puffy about that, but it is in fact true. Assange; I mean my problem just comes in when you talk about the targets of his truth-seeking or truth-telling as it were, and look, you see this with a lot of conservatives. There are some conservatives who – in the media I'm talking about now – who went Assange was part of Wiki Leaks and they were releasing all this stuff about the U.S. military and U.S. diplomacy he was a traitor and a bad guy, or I mean he's not an American citizen, but he's a bad guy. He's harming U.S. national security.
Then when the Hillary emails came out and Wiki Leaks all of a sudden is letting us know that there was in fact an internal democrat political civil war between the Sanders and Clinton camps, then all of a sudden he's like a truth teller and he's great. Most people aren't consistent on this. I find it shady at best that there's so little information that Wiki Leaks is able to find about, oh I don't know, Russia for example, or other countries out there that have a whole lot of corruption and really bad stuff happening. I know we asked Julian about that and he said that they have published stuff, and I would've pressed him more, but I didn't wanna be rude.
This is one of my problems always as an interviewer. I'm too polite. But look, I think that Manning served time in prison. The only reason the left is holding him up now as some kind of hero is because of the whole transgender issue. They had really forgotten about Manning until Manning came out as trans and now there's a hero worship around this figure. Look, it's one thing for somebody to have paid their debt to society and do their time.
I know I mentioned the terrible case of the woman who got in the PhD program and what she had done, but with Manning, Harvard is telling a lot of other people who didn't betray their country, "You don't get to be here. You don't get to be a fellow." This is an elite status situation and I just think it's interesting that the academy is so leftist and so crazy that they would celebrate these kinds of people and that's what's going on. People with backgrounds, like criminals.
That's the new frontier, and this also ties into the ANTIFA stuff. I've read the ANTIFA handbook, by the way, which is that now it's not enough merely to lift up the dispossessed or the downtrodden of society. They actually wanna lift up those who are criminals and they view as – I mean this is now a much more complicated sociological discussion than we have time for on this podcast but people that have transgressed, they now wanna hold them up as heroes.
Porter Stansberry: This is the jubilee. It's approaching. We'll get to that in a second. You said something, Buck that I cannot back down off of.
Buck Sexton: Here we go.
Porter Stansberry: You said that there is no law that protects the press from reporting on classified material, and you said that journalists who believe they are free to do that are actually only protected by the whim of the Department of Justice.
Buck Sexton: That is a fact.
Porter Stansberry: And then you named the Espionage Act. Well I just wanna go on the record of saying that there is a far more important law than the Espionage Act. It's the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and I just would like to quote it here so you can see there's no wiggle room. The Constitution says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. So Congress cannot make any laws about your right to exercise religion.
Then it goes on. "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press." It's black and white. The Espionage Act is clearly unconstitutional as it applies to the press. There's no question about that, and that's why the DOJ doesn't bring those cases because they don't want that to become case law as well as constitutional law, 'cause now they got a big problem. They can threaten and they can jail and they can cajole and then they can make a deal with, because of course the poor journalist doesn't know how it's gonna come out in court either.
Maybe the Supreme Court can't read. I think we make a big problem when we mistake the government for our country, and if you join the armed forces, by the way, you swear an oath to the Constitution and so I think there would be some people in the army and in the leadership of our country that would be very pressed if they ever tried to put a legitimate journalist in jail for telling the truth. What do you say to that, Buck?
Buck Sexton: Well, I agree with you that the Espionage Act is in parts unconstitutional, and the moment that you look at the government's claims for itself, the government will claim that even information that is public domain can somehow still be classified, right? So even something that you walk around on the street and everybody knows and everybody thinks can still be classified, which means that there can be people who would theoretically fall under the prosecutorial power of the federal government for saying what literally everybody knows. So they're operating in a gray area all the time because as you pointed out they prefer that.
They prefer people to just always be looking over their shoulder than to actually test the constitutionality of the Espionage Act. That all said, what I said still stands which is that there is in fact no specific law that exempts, and you could say oh, well the first amendment, but it also says freedom of speech, right? Well if Chelsea Manning stood up in court and said, "Yeah I talked about all this stuff or I emailed all this stuff, but I have an unrestricted right to free speech" people would say, "No, there are additional" -
Porter Stansberry: Of course not. She was not exercising her freedom of speech. She was violating an agreement she had made with the army. It's that simple. It's not a free speech issue whatsoever, absolutely not. I mean for example, we don't do that in our company, but in many companies, you agree that whether you're employed or you're not employed you will not reveal trade secrets of the company. You will not talk about how we do our marketing or how we do our pricing or how we create our newsletters because those are trade secrets of our company and you agree not to reveal them or you don't get your paycheck.
So you trade away your Constitutional rights all the time, and there's nothing wrong with doing that voluntarily. What's wrong of course is being forced to do it, which is what they've done to Julian Assange. I know he's not an American. I get that. I understand. I still believe that our country should not punish people for speech and they shouldn't punish journalists.
Buck Sexton: I mean the U.S. more or less claims universal jurisdiction for every violation of U.S. federal law against anybody, right? People talk about extraterritoriality of the taxation system. It's true of federal law as well.
Porter Stansberry: What size black bag do you wear? I'm gonna go get fitted for mine now so that when they come for me, when they black bag you, when they -
Buck Sexton: I still, I can't believe we interviewed Assange, man. They're gonna be sitting with me and be like, "Buck, come on, after all the training, after all those years, really? You're gonna talk to Assange?" I'm gonna be like, "But Porter is such a persuasive fellow and I thought we should sit and chat with Assange 'cause Porter thought it was a good idea."
Porter Stansberry: Wait a minute though, I'm actually talking to a black bagger. Buck, what's that like when you put the hood over somebody's face?
Buck Sexton: Oh man, I've done none of that stuff. I wrote a lot of tightly worded memos. I was making lattes and spreading freedom one clause at a time.
Porter Stansberry: All right, let's move on. Let's get to something which is even more fun, which is how much did you love seeing Jamie Diamond try to convince everybody that bitcoin is a fraud? Keep in mind, there is no more grave threat to JP Morgan's power than bitcoin's ability to undermine central banks. Without central banks, JP Morgan goes away immediately.
Can you see the panic in his voice when he made these comments? By the way, I wish we had a clip of it we could play because it was outrageous in my mind for someone of his stature to use that kind of language to describe something that really he should have no particular opinion about. It shouldn't matter to him at all.
Buck Sexton: From a layman's perspective, which I take on all financial matters, still figuring out where I should put my 401K investments, this show is very helpful for all that. You see when he talks about this he says money or bitcoin is based on nothing, right? It's made up out of thin air, and a lot of us sit around and go, "Show us the U.S. dollar." This is where it gets really weird, right? Bitcoin is just stuff on a screen that's moving around.
I'm like, well I'm pretty sure that I just paid my credit card bill via Bank of America and not a single physical object transferred anywhere at any time. How does he get around that? Even from not a particular expertise in this area, just from somebody who's paying attention you'd say I don't understand. Explain that one to me, Mr. Diamond.
Porter Stansberry: He can't, and I think that's something that's very important. The way he said it was way more telling to me than what he said, and I think anyone who knows much about monetary theory thinks that bitcoin is a brilliant idea. I can't speak about the price of bitcoin, but it's certainly something that deserves all of our respect and we should all understand it, and his comments were so clearly panicked. I loved seeing it.
The other thing I would love to ask him is, "So Jamie, you're the head of JP Morgan Chase. Let's go back over the last 15 years and see how much bullshit equity you sold to investors over the years." Anybody remember the Internet stock bubble? How many of those worthless IPOs was JP Morgan pushing out the door and how many of those were you personally involved in? Trust me, you do not have a platform to talk about worthless investments. You specialize in worthless investments.
Buck Sexton: And speaking about the digital world and everything going on there, Equifax chief intelligence officer, we've been talking about technology recently. In fact, in American Consequences I believe I wrote an essay about cyber security and how this is a big issue now. So Equifax loses, what is it, over 160 million plus people's data is at risk?
Porter Stansberry: Whoops.
Buck Sexton: And we are told that the Equifax chief information security officer has the equivalent of a BA in like women and gender studies or something, fine arts or something like that. That doesn't seem like a good role for somebody when you're talking about an organization that has all the personal and financial data that the major credit reporting companies do.
Porter Stansberry: Well they should, but I think you're mansplaining here, Buck. I think you're unfairly targeting this woman because she is a female, and I think that – what this reminds me of, the other day I got a delivery from a FedEx driver who didn't have any arms. Listen, more power to him, but he had two hooks. I don't know how he was driving the van and I don't know how he picked up packages all day long, but I think that you can say, look, it was very impressive. He is free to do whatever job he can get. My point is perhaps there's another job that would better utilize his existing talents, and I think the same is true for this woman and her, what was it, MFA in creative writing that she has?
Buck Sexton: She has a BA in music composition and an MFA in music composition.
Porter Stansberry: See? I know. She's a songwriter and she is guaranteeing the security of all of our most important private information. Perfect.
Buck Sexton: Yeah. She can compose catchy tunes about what it's like to be somebody who has identity theft because Equifax lost all of your information.
Porter Stansberry: I gotta reference it one more time. You gotta read the essay from the Google engineer who talked about the fact that, you know -
Buck Sexton: James Damore.
Porter Stansberry: James Damore. You gotta read this essay. It talks about how people are naturally suited towards various roles. Sometimes those are related to gender. I don't think you're gonna have a lot of male body builders who want to be preschool teachers. I think that generally speaking, women who have experience rearing children are better at that job and I don't think that means I'm a sexist, and I think it's crazy that our society has gone that far that I can't say something that obvious without having to worry about offending someone or being hounded out of the media for saying that maybe a guy with no arms shouldn't be driving a FedEx truck. Just maybe. I just don't think that's really the best idea I've ever heard.
Buck Sexton: But maybe he is driving it really well and has overcome his disability and is doing a fantastic job, Porter.
Porter Stansberry: Let me tell you what, there was a guy, I don't interface with him anymore 'cause I moved, but back when I lived on Falls Road I had a fantastic mailman, and I used to write about him in the Digest, and I'm pretty sure he was an alcoholic which makes him a great mailman. He doesn't even care if it's raining or snowing. He doesn't even know what's going on, and I'm not kidding, Buck. He used to bring me fresh road kill. So he'd bring me a bag full of deer meat, the hindquarters and things like that, and I'd say, "Where did this come from?" He's like, "Oh, I got it off the road yesterday. It was fresh, don't worry."
Buck Sexton: I mean unless you hit it yourself, how are you gonna know if it's fresh?
Porter Stansberry: I don't know. Well he drives up and down Falls Road all day long, so he's very aware of when the bodies appear.
Buck Sexton: He's up on the road kill game. He knows what's happening.
Porter Stansberry: Yeah. I realized later that he was giving me the deer meat because he was stealing my firewood and he thought it was an exchange. I didn't know anything about it.
Buck Sexton: I mean, barter is the basis of finance, or the basis of economics.
Porter Stansberry: Anyway, if you are an alcoholic, think about joining the post office. It's a great career for you. No one really cares about how fast you get your job done and it's gonna rain on you a lot.
Buck Sexton: Well here we go, Porter. It looks like the middle class is cool again, or at least in this piece "rocks again." That's what he writes. The middle class is back, or so it seems. This is by Robert Samuelson. That's the message from the Census Bureau's latest report on income and poverty in the United States. The news is mostly good. The income of the median household rose to a record $59,039.
The two-year increase was a strong 8.5%. Meanwhile, 2.5 million fewer Americans were living beneath the poverty line which is $24,563 for a family of four. The census report reinforces Gallup polls that Americans have re-embraced their middle-class identities. People are now, Porter, saying that they self-identify as middle class and this is now a point of pride. What do you think about this both in terms of economic reality and the perception that goes along with all this?
Porter Stansberry: Beats me, Buck. I think the middle class is the sheep and they get sheared. It's better than the poor, but yeah, I'm sorry, the only thing I wanted to do with the middle class is escape it is what I said earlier and I stand by that. You've got to want more for your life than to be in the middle. Hopefully it's a transitory stage for you. That's my only comment.
Buck Sexton: It's a good thing you're not running for office because on both sides of the aisle the two things you have to say you love if you're running for office are the middle class and the military. Those are the only things that both democrats and republicans at least ostensibly have to agree on. All right, now it's time for David Tice. He is the president of Tice Capital and is known for running the Prudent Bear fund. He sold the fund which depends on market pullbacks for profits to federated investors just as the financial crisis was unfolding in 2008.
Despite his ursine nature, Tice showed a more nuanced stance on the stock market in a recent interview with CNBC, even going so far as to caution investors about the potential perils of betting against stocks. Has David changed his tune in light of the renewed charge of the bull? Let's find out. Please welcome everybody, David Tice.
David Tice: Glad to be with you guys.
Porter Stansberry: So David, I reached out to you when I saw you on CNBC probably a month ago, maybe six weeks ago. I'm sure you remember the interview I'm talking about. You said very complimentary things about our firm. I appreciate that, but I also noticed that you were surprisingly bullish for someone who is such a famous bear. What's going on?
David Tice: Well actually, Porter I was pretty moved by Steve Sjuggerud, your long time partner's thoughts about "The Melt Up" and actually I read that in some detail and it's interesting reading. I've been reading Stansberry Research for a while and the interplay between you and Steve, you guys going back to high school, it's a very interesting story and about how you've been pretty bearish. Just reading it sounds like you're kind of on Steve's side but still very, very scared and really I'm of the same mind. I believe that one of the things that he said when he talked about the conference board leading indicators has not really rolled over, we have not had the massive speculation that you normally have at the end of bubbles.
I've always felt like we bears tend to be right but we tend to be too early, and we tend to underestimate the degree to which our policymakers will kick the can down the road in order to make frankly stupid mistakes that's going to make things worse in the longer term, but they keep it going longer. Really if you look at markets, the way they act and the madness of crowds, etc. I think Steve is likely right that this can go on 9 to 15 months, but when it ends, and I think I share your view there, that it's gonna end very, very, very badly. And so you better have one foot kinda out the door.
As a fiduciary, I always had trouble with the greater fool theory and betting on I think George Soros said the best way to make money is to find a false premise and go ahead and ride it until people decide to get off, and getting off before everybody else does. I've always felt like I've always had trouble with that because especially with somebody else's money, you also have to think about if you're already rich. You only have to get rich once. Do you really wanna take that risk? So I'm still kinda torn, but I think that really the way that the evidence is, it has a few more months to go.
Porter Stansberry: I agree with virtually everything you said, and I've been working very hard to understand the timing of when this market will turn. You know I've written a lot about the problems I see in the corporate debt market and the student loans that have been made and the autos, and I've been right about those things. Ford stock is down 50% since 2014 when I started warning about it. I've been wrong in that the problems in the credit markets which first emerged in late 2015 didn't cause the market to rollover, and since then the credit markets have become even more inflationary.
So I've been right about it in some ways, I've been wrong about it in some ways, but in the big way I've been wrong which is that the stock market hasn't begun the bear market that I expected and neither have the corporate credit markets. I know that during the mortgage bubble you guys did a great job at talking about the growth and credit and the issuance as it continued to expand, and the one thing I'm certain about is you're not going to see a bear market as long as credit is growing substantially which it still is. Do you have a favorite indicator for the credit markets that you follow?
David Tice: Well I think you do have to look at credit growth, and I think credit growth has started to slow down. I'm not as attuned to all the statistics that you guys are at Stansberry Research, but I think we just went to -1% in one of the credit growth measures and so it is starting to slow down but not very much. We know we have problems in the auto market and you guys have done a great job pointing that out. We know student loans are a big problem. Those are the two terrible areas.
We know you guys have also pointed out about the propensity of more of the investment-grade debt to be at the lower levels of investment-grade, and we know also in the auto finance area a high proportion of the auto lending has gone to subprime borrowers. So we know all those problems are there, but we have all this largess from central bankers around the world and we have now Bill Deadly talking about the balance sheet rollback and talking about taking $1 trillion to $2 trillion out of the Fed's balance sheet by 2021 or so, but at the same time we still have China's Central Bank, the ECB, everyone else, and Japan continuing to flood the system and therefore we've had all this liquidity that's covered a lot since.
Porter Stansberry: Yeah. I'd be willing to make a large wager that the Fed is never able to materially reduce its balance sheet. If you know the history of paper money, that virtually never happens absent some other form of monetary growth. I don't know how they're going to be able to do that. Another comment, did you see this week, I think it was actually yesterday that Toys "R" Us finally filed for bankruptcy, and for us that issue was a bellwether in our minds of the kind of really overleveraged corporate low quality bonds that are out there.
This is not of course investment-grade, this is junk credit, but the fact that two years ago Toys "R" Us was able to roll all this debt forward was shocking to me and was evidence that we are heading towards a big train wreck in corporate credit. I think in time we will look back at the Toys "R "Us bankruptcy filing this week as the canary in the coal mine or the bell that was ringing at the top of the market because there are – I could probably go out right now and find you three dozen other issues that have all the same credit dynamics that haven't gone bankrupt yet but are on their way.
So you combine the problems we've seen with oil and gas junk bonds, and I was gonna get to oil 'cause I know you're a Texan, David. You see the weakness in junk bonds relating to energy and now you're starting to see the weakness in junk bonds relating to retail and there's going to be a lot of losses. Do you have any sense of that living in Texas? Have you seen strains yet in the local economy related to the oil and gas weakness?
David Tice: I can't say that I have, but I'm not really that close to it. So I know one of your competitors I guess, Jim Rickards, works for Agora who I know you guys are all friends with has talked about the massive amounts of subprime credit to the oil and gas business. I think that number might've been bigger than – not as big as Jim talked about, but maybe is slow-developing. It's hard to say. I've been a big bull on commodities, but I've been more agnostic even over the last ten years about oil just because I think that longer term the demand is shrinking and more and more efficiency and still encroaching with other forms of competition, etc.
I think that I really haven't figured out oil and I don't think oil is going to do a lot either way, but I'd say the threat is gonna decline. In terms of your corporate debt comments I couldn't agree more, and about your Toys "R" Us and the creeping of poor credit decisions. I'm a big Austrian so I believe in the malinvestment thesis and I believe in just the overall culture of when you don't have declines in the economy, frankly having economic recessions every now and then is really good for the economy because it cleans up lending decisions and the longer these economies go, the more you promote bankers who are less sensitive to risk. Everybody just feels like, oh, well nobody is gonna have any losses, and therefore the lending standards just continued to decline and it creates a problem down the road.
Porter Stansberry: I think one of the most extraordinary things about this particular boom is the way that credit has replaced profit. So I'm mostly speaking of Amazon but not only Amazon. If you look at the entire lifetime history of profits at Amazon, I did the math recently and I think I found that they had total retained profits of $3 billion, which that's a lot of money but not considering that they've got $140 billion a year in sales.
So you're talking about an enormous company that operates virtually without profit. I think on their retail operations – not talking about their Web Services which is very profitable, but just their retail operations – their idea is something like a 0.14% operating margin, I mean just making a little bit more than a penny on every transaction, which is insane. So how can a company like that continue to operate? Well, it has to raise cash somehow, either equity or debt, and you saw that Amazon went out and spend $13 billion for Whole Foods. Where did they get the money?
Well David, I'm sure you know they went out and raised money in the credit markets and they're paying virtually nothing in interest. The fact that the Fed has been able to have interest rates so low has allowed companies like Amazon to expand radically in the absence of profits or cash flows. I can't recall ever seeing that before in capitalism, and I have a feeling it's going to lead to some pretty weird outcomes. I'll give you another example. Netflix should be an enormously profitable business. They have 100 million subscribers paying $10 a month.
That's a lot of money, and yet they're losing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in cash because they're spending so much money to create programming. Well, Netflix is creating more programming than anyone can watch. Amazon is creating more programming than anyone can watch. People are spending four or five hours a day on Facebook. My kids play videogames for as long as I will let them. There is so much free content and dirt-cheap content, I can't figure out how all these investments which have all been funded by debt both on Amazon, Netflix, how all this is gonna work out.
And then you look and you see the football ratings are down double digits year-over-year because people's attention is diverted to other things, and you know they've spent billions and billions on those rights for football games. So my fear – and I just wanted to get your comment about all this stuff is – isn't it a sign of a true debt mania when companies believe they can continue to operate with no profits and funding all of their capital investments with debt?
David Tice: Oh, that's exactly right, Porter. You were very eloquent in articulating that, that if you can borrow at very, very low rates I mean why do you need a profit? As long as you have trust and belief that you will be able to make money someday or they'll be able to continue to pay back, and so the whole system is really Ponzi finance. We have Ponzi finance at the central bank, we have Ponzi finance with people believing that the U.S. government will pay back the $20 trillion. We have Ponzi finance recognizing Netflix and Amazon, etc. The thing is it's all very, very dependent upon that confidence remaining, and if that confidence flows out, bar the door, look out.
Porter Stansberry: Yeah. I wanted to get your opinion about something that I think most people are afraid to talk about, but I don't think you'll be too wary to at least offer an opinion about it. Bridgewater did a great presentation. Ray Dalio put up a video I wanna say in 2015 that shared his version of how the economy really works, and I would recommend anyone to Google "Ray Dalio economics video." It's about 30 minutes long and it's really a great education for anyone who wants to understand how a guy who manages $100 billion or so thinks about the economy. But one of the things that he said that really struck me is that every deleveraging always consists of four parts in some measure.
So there's the obvious way that debts are eliminated which is default, and everyone knows what that means. You go bankrupt. Your creditors divvy up your assets and everyone moves on. The other way that happens is inflation. Debts can be inflated away by the central bank printing money, and of course we saw that a lot in 2009 and the years that followed. The government guaranteeing everybody's debt, printing up a whole bunch of high powered treasury reserves, and lowering interest rates to try to inflate the debt away. And then the other way that's very important is repayment.
Sometimes people do actually repay their debts. I don't expect that to be the case in much of the corporate bond market, and I think, David you're right to recognize that the big problem in corporate bonds is not gonna be junk bonds where it normally is. The big problem in corporate bonds is going to be the enormous amount of investment-grade bonds that become downgraded, that become fallen angels, and the amount of that debt is going to be record setting and so will the losses associated with it. We're talking about losses just from that quadrant alone of probably close to $500 billion in my estimate over the next five or six years when this cycle turns.
And then the last way which is what I wanted to get your comment on, David, was the idea of redistribution of wealth. Governments sometimes raise taxes to help pay down these debts or sometimes there's a revolution and the debts get wiped out. If you go back in the Bible in the Old Testament there was even something called the 50-year jubilee at which point all debts would get wiped out so that the society could start over again. so there was a built-in revolution.
And when you look, David at our economy and you realize that we're still about 400% debt-to-GDP total debts, you realize that government deficits are never-ending and continue to grow faster than the economy. I know you're familiar with all these stats. I know you've spent your life studying this stuff just as I have. The question I have for you is do you think it's realistic to believe that there is a material risk of a financial revolution in this country that would see a significant amount of wealth redistribution or a significant write-off of assets and obligations?
David Tice: That's a great question. I have been thinking a lot about jubilees and I really think that's the way it's gonna come down. I mean we can't seem to get an inflation because there are all these deflationary trends. We know all this debt is not gonna get paid back and frankly defaults are gonna be a big, big problem anyway. I think there's going to likely be some reconfiguration of the financial system. I mean we had Bretton Woods, what was it, 50-60 years ago. We had Nixon take us off from gold convertibility in the early '70s.
I think there's just too much debt in the world, and let's face it, the wealthy people including us have made a lot of money and we don't wanna part with any of it. I mean we shouldn't have to part with any of it. I'm not in a Warren Buffett school that says that we should part with it, but I worry about civil unrest in the future. I worry about – Barton Biggs has talked about in his book Wealth War and I forget the last part of it about the need to have a place away from society. I know in one of your podcasts you talked about taking your guns out to your 100-acre ranch someplace.
So I think I share that view, but I'm not exactly sure how it plays out, but maybe it's a Bernie Sanders coming in and saying, "This is what's gonna happen." But I think there's likely to be some kind of a reconfiguration of the system, and I hope it gets back to a gold standard. Frankly, I think so many great things are happening in the world in terms of our technology and what's going on in biotech and what's going on with _____ Diamond's exponential rate of change, etc., that we just need to get the money system figured out, and we have to get this largesse at the central banks.
If we just reset then I think we could potentially have a boom again. Now if our leaders can all get together and if our people in all these countries can figure out how to do that, I mean it will be a massive undertaking and maybe it happens through civil unrest. It's hard to say. But I think there's going to have to be some kind of jubilee.
Porter Stansberry: And for me, I believe that we had a very close call in '09 and '08 that we came very close to losing the whole dollar standard. As you know, I've written a lot about that and I can see that the debt-to-GDP ratios around the world are not decreasing. The deleveraging has been minor at best and is not going to stay. It's gonna come right back.
So the question I have for you is how do you as a reasonable person, we're not wearing tinfoil hats, I'm not gonna go live in a cave, I don't like canned food, but how can a reasonable person structure their affairs so that this risk of a jubilee, this risk of a grand resetting of the social contract and the financial structure of the world, how do you insure against that? I'm asking you personally if you wouldn't mind talking about what you do with your own assets. I think that would be very valuable and I'll of course share and answer as well.
David Tice: So I'm still a big believer in gold. I'm a believer that gold is money and silver and I'm also a believer in income producing assets, and so I think we've got to, like you say, we can't live in a cave. We have to be I think a portion of your portfolio can be allocated to this Melt Up theory that Steve has. But I think you better have, I also love your big trade investment idea where implied volatilities have been knocked down so low as an unintended consequence of all this zero interest rates where people are looking for yield and therefore there's all these put sellers out there that are creating unrealistically low prices for puts and therefore you can put on that protection.
So I mean it's a great thing for people that are _____ and understanding of the risk. In terms of – I think a person should have some money offshore. They should all do this legally obviously, but you should have it outside the banking system. I think you have to protect yourself from the Big Five banks. There's been talk about how some of the big banks have said that if you have gold coins in your safety deposit box, we can't protect you. So I think I'm not a big confiscation guy, but I think you better not have your gold coins in the safety deposit box of JPMorgan, frankly. I think we have to live our life, enjoy every day as much as we can, enjoy our kids, try to make the world a better place, and pray a lot. So that's kind of my view.
Porter Stansberry: Wow. That's dark. But I think that the things that you said definitely cover all the bases financially. For me I just try to buy a little more gold every year and I keep it in a place that I know is safe and that I control. I've said this before in many places, but I'm a huge fan of self-storage locations because they're all over the world and nobody thinks there's a box of gold coins in your old clothes in a dirty sofa. So it's a very simple thing to do and I'd recommend making sure that the executor of your estate knows where that self-storage unit is.
I just don't think you can go wrong with gold, and I've done other things. I'm also a big believer in real estate. I can imagine that the government is going to try to tax you and is gonna try to take things from you at some point to repay its debts, but I think it's very hard for the government to take agricultural properties in particular, very disruptive to the economy. So that's a desperation move that I wouldn't expect.
So timber and soybean farm, corn farms, wheat farms, all those kind of things are great disaster hedges, particularly timber. I think timber is overlooked by a lot of folks, but it's definitely a great disaster hedge, and even more importantly in my mind is real estate in foreign countries. It's a great asset that you do not have to report to the government as long as it is not producing income. So if you just wanna hold a land bank it's a great way of parking $1 million or more in a foreign country. Of course, you face political risk in that country, but think about Argentina.
There's no more political-risky place in the world over the last 50, 60, 80 years than Argentina. How many revolutions have they had? How many devaluations? Paranism, all that crazy stuff which I think is eventually gonna come here, but they've never seized land. So again, it's a way for you to really hide assets and to protect them. One last question, David, and then I know you've got better things to do than talk to us yahoos all day long, but what about bitcoin? Have you bought any? Would you ever buy any? Do you think that these digital currencies are a legitimate asset class?
David Tice: I have bought some. I wish I would've bought more. I think they're gonna work. I really think that I'm scared to death that we have some tulip mania phenomena, but what you do have is you are reducing friction cost for money being moved around the world and that's a great thing. It kind of is a gold 2.0 in that you can move it around a lot more and it's divisional, and you can see it working in Venezuela. You can see it working in various places now.
China is trying to clamp down and the big advantage that we understand that all the proponents have said, because it's distributed there's no way any government can shut it down, and if that's the case and we do have a finite supply. I mean that's one thing that we don't have in currencies. Over thousands of years, governments have always debased the currency because they create more of it in order to maintain the standard of living of their constituents. So therefore, there's this great advantage. I think the weight of the evidence is gonna work and it's very, very likely to continue to go up, but it still scares me a little bit because of the tulip mania component of it, but I think it's real.
Porter Stansberry: That's a great answer. I share your enthusiasm, by the way. I think that the idea behind it is beautiful and very Hayekian. It's spontaneous order. It's a natural currency. It's not anyone else's liability. You can take it with you. It has all of these attributes that are similar to gold and I think it's gonna be with us for a very long time. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody eventually comes up with an even better version of bitcoin that's even more trusted, but I don't see that necessarily means that bitcoin would radically lose its value. I think there's probably room in the world for several reserve if you will digital currencies that are widely accepted.
One of the greatest things about it is you can put your key, you can put the passcode to your wealth, your digital wealth onto a tiny micro device and you can take it with you anywhere. It's very hard to beat that. So I think it's a great challenge to governments and I think it's by far the most significant risk that central banking faces in the near term. So those are really important ideas and I'm thrilled, David, to see that you're so completely up to speed on all this stuff. Are you ever gonna really retire?
David Tice: Not really. I had a phase after I sold my company where I actually produced a couple movies. I started a charity and was a private-equity investor, but I'm actually getting back in the game doing some – I actually toyed with starting another fund but then decided that I'd rather kinda hand the ball off to some younger guys, but I'm gonna be doing some capital introduction for some guys that I really, really love because I want to get these guys in front of some friends and contacts of mine because I think these guys are gonna have the idea about where to make money in the future. So I'm gonna do a favor for a lot of people by doing that.
Porter Stansberry: Great. As always, let us know how we can help and thanks for your many years of friendship and all the kind things you've said about the business.
David Tice: OK. I enjoyed it, Porter. I look forward to having a beer with you sometime. Nice to be with you.
Porter Stansberry: Thank you, sir.
David Tice: OK. Bye.
Porter Stansberry: Well Buck, did you learn anything there?
Buck Sexton: I learned a lot. I'm gonna take notes. This is quite an education for a young Buck in the finance world. I'm used to going on shows where I know more than everybody. This is the first time I go on a show where I'm actually just learning all the time. It's fun.
Porter Stansberry: Rock and roll.
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I wanna get into the mailbag 'cause people are excited about Porter's plan for dealing with North Korea. I'm hoping we have some of that in mailbag this week.
Porter Stansberry: You gotta hand it to the U.S. military. You do not want to go up against them. They are some radically powerful deadly soldiers. I mean, Buck, even numbers, who wins in a street fight, U.S. marines or Israeli special forces?
Buck Sexton: Marines, no question.
Porter Stansberry: Exactly. That's badass. I'm a huge fan of the U.S. military. I love how safe we are in our country and I've got no complaints about it. Every now and then we drop a bomb in the wrong place. We dropped a bomb on, what was it, the Russian embassy in Belgrade or something? Oops. Sorry. It was just an accident. Wrong address, sorry about that. You know, mail address, we have a hard time with that in the government. No, I'm a big fan of the military, and let's get to the mailbag, you'll see.
Buck Sexton: All right, let's go. First up in the mailbag this week we have Ben in Texas. "Hey guys, have been an avid listener since the beginning. My wife even asks me, 'who is this Porter you keep talking about and quoting?' Rather than fight a massive Asian land war starting with Lil Kim or trading nukes, what if we installed Porter as the CBD, chief benevolent dictator for North Korea? What would your first three moves be, Porter? We all know Buck would immediately install rooftop pools with signs stating 'bikini tops optional.'" That is from Ben in Texas. Porter, what say you?
Porter Stansberry: Well first of all just for the record, I'm not cut out for government service, so I wouldn't take the assignment. Like Coolidge I refuse to run, and if I'm nominated I will decline the nomination. But if you wanna have good governance in any country, North Korea or anywhere else, you do really three very simple things. First of all you install flat, fair, and low taxes. So you charge everybody 10%. I mean after all, if God can live on 10% – that was the tradition of tithing – certainly the government can make do with it as well.
So you charge everybody 10% to pay for the roads and the military and the other stuff, and then you use gold as your currency so no one gets screwed over. Like the middle class gets screwed over all the time with the paper currency. Then the third thing, of course, is you insist on enforcing contracts. Very simple. You do those three things and North Korea would be as rich as Singapore in about 25 years.
Buck Sexton: All right. Well I mean look at South Korea, for example. It is a good example of what better governance at least can do, but I will leave it there for now. I like this CBD, chief benevolent dictator for Porter. All right, let's get into number two in the mailbag this week on Stansberry Investor Hour. It's from H.T.
"Dear Porter, have you gone slightly crazy in regards to North Korea? First let me say I have read your research for years. I enjoy all the info you share and the education it provides. I'm an Alliance member and appreciate you and your employees' efforts. I'm glad the radio show is back. It's one of my three regular podcasts every Friday, but you are way off in regards to North Korea. Ask yourself why NK isn't threatening Europe or Australia or other Western nations. Well, because they generally don't deploy warships and troops in the North Korean neighborhood, nor do they have a history of attacking non-compliant nations and participating in perpetual unjustified wars around the globe.
If you stop for a moment and consider your comments on how you prefer to simply nuke North Korea preemptively because they pose a threat to the U.S., just think about how ridiculous that line of thinking is. It would mean India, Pakistan, and other non-Western nations should've nuked the U.S. long ago because, let's face it, the U.S. is a major threat to everyone who is in disagreement. If the U.S. moved all their crap back to Guam and simply put North Korea on "ignore" the whole problem would disappear.
I'm all for Islam and cult-like regimes so long as they keep to themselves and don't try to push me into their sick worlds. I would suppose the same applies the other way around. Remember to them we're the whackos and who is to say they're wrong?" H.T. Wow. This is a hydrogen bomb level of wrong, but I'll let you go, Porter first.
Porter Stansberry: Well, I don't believe in multiculturalism. I do believe that America is the shining nation on the hill. I do believe that our country is the great hope for humanity. I think we have been since we were founded and I still think that we are regardless of our parasitic government, which hopefully some day will be taken off of our backs. America is a special place and anyone who doubts that hasn't been around the world or hasn't seen very much in my opinion.
As far as why we should nuke North Korea preemptively, we should only do so as part of a coordinated effort to define how civilization ought to work around the world, and by that I mean I'm not saying just go nuke them tomorrow. I'm saying we should tell them very, very clearly and we should communicate with all of them including the citizens that we find their dictator shooting missiles at us unacceptable. By the way, India has never done that, Russia has never done that. People do not shoot missiles at us ever, and there's a good reason why, because we are the best and the strongest country in the world and we should start acting like it.
So instead of sending in some special forces to try to start a small war, they called the war in Korea a police action, you might recall. Instead of screwing around with any of that you tell everybody on the whole damn peninsula, "Look, we're gonna give you some amount of time, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months to get your act together. Either this guy stops acting like an asshole or we're going to obliterate your country." That's it, done, and then you let them make their choice. But I think it's ridiculous and I think it's stupid that we go into war with the idea that we will not annihilate everyone.
That is what war is about. War is awful. There is no good war. There is no civil war. There is no right war. There is no legal war. War is us killing other people until they stop fighting back. That's what war is. As we try to modernize it and make it like a video game it's just ridiculous. That's not going to give us the safety and security that we spend all the tax dollars for. So in my opinion you don't go to war with somebody. You don't go in Iraq and try to just replace the dictator.
You go in Iraq and you kill every single person that you have to kill until they stop fighting, period, and it's terrible, and it's the worst outcome possible. But when you try to do it this other way, all you're doing is inspiring other people to start a fight with you because they don't believe you're ever gonna fight back, and I think we have to change that. That is what I believe was inherent in the idea of the Powell Doctrine which is really where I get this idea. Don't go to war unless you have overwhelming superiority and you're willing to use it to achieve victory as soon as possible so you can stop fighting.
Buck Sexton: All right, we've got another North Korea question, Porter, so I feel like I'm not even really interrupting the flow here because this will probably just transition to the next one. "Buck and Porter, loved the last episode on North Korea. I thoroughly enjoyed the commentary on North Korea by Porter Rambo Stansberry. Maybe he was sipping on a bit of grandpa's old cough medicine before or during the show. In any case, glad to know he's not afraid to let his comments fly. I'd love to hear a debate on the show between Porter and Hillary-What-Happened-Clinton or Arianna-Hello-Darling-Huffington. Nothing would be more entertaining. Keep up the great work. Paid-up Alliance member, John."
Porter Stansberry: So -
Buck Sexton: Rambo, huh?
Porter Stansberry: So Arianna, what do you think about my willingness to use nuclear weapons to settle disputes?
Buck Sexton: Porter is trying to mansplain and nuclear at the same time. This will make so bad for so many people and you know like I'm always pushing the yoga and the nap times for everyone because there will be no fighting, but Porter just wants to kill everybody because he is part of the patriarchy. Porter Patriarchy Stansberry is his name." Arianna just laid it down. She's not having it this week.
Porter Stansberry: Well I can't top that, but yeah.
Buck Sexton: Arianna kind of got the last word this week on the podcast.
Porter Stansberry: You know, I bet Bill Clinton -
Buck Sexton: We should invite her on, by the way. We should invite her on the podcast just to see if she'd come hang out.
Porter Stansberry: I bet Bill Clinton kinda regrets that he never got to use a nuclear weapon 'cause I think Bill Clinton was the kind of guy who, "Watch this. See what this is gonna do." I have no ability to imitate Bill Clinton.
Buck Sexton: In the Monica case they bombed a pharmaceutical factory in the Sudan, remember? They fired off the missiles.
Porter Stansberry: Yeah, wag the dog, but not with -
Buck Sexton: Not with nukes of course. It was conventional, but -
Porter Stansberry: Maybe Bill has a comment about how he didn't get to use nuclear weapons.
Buck Sexton: I mean if it got them to stop talking about Monica, I would've done anything, man. That was terrible. Hillary was throwing lamps at me. It was crazy. Now she just won't leave me alone. I would've gone to war with anybody, North Korea, South Korea, East Korea, West Korea, anybody. Just make it stop. Bill is not a fan of having to play by the rules as we know. I don't know what we're gonna get next. Do you have any guesses next time around? I'm wondering if people have thoughts on bitcoin for the mailbag. That would be my guess. Also you keep referring to Chelsea Manning as "she" Porter, which I meant to point out to you, which I think is interesting.
Porter Stansberry: Well I believe that people have to right to choose what gender they are. Fine by me.
Buck Sexton: We have a big week coming up soon. Anything you wanna say about the upcoming Vegas situation for Stansberry?
Porter Stansberry: Yeah. You guys, dial into the live webcast and join us in Vegas. You can go to www.stansberryvegasvideo.com . Sign up for the live streaming. Watch all the fun. I'm sure there's gonna be a lot of fireworks and a lot of laughs. Country club guy here does a great job. There will be a bunch of funny skits, and of course we've got great speakers. The headliner is Kevin O'Leary of Shark Tank fame and there's of course tons of investment advice, tons of investment recommendations, but also a lot of fun.
Buck Sexton: Next week it's gonna be all investing and market talk as Porter hosts legendary newsletter publisher and financial market analyst Jim Grant for an in-depth and extended interview. Jim Grant is the founder of Grant's Interest Rate Observer and the author of Money of the Mind, The Trouble with Prosperity, and The Forgotten Depression among other works. Tune in next week to see what Jim has to say about the current path of the Fed, and learn what makes Grant's Interest Rate Observer a must readamong all the top money managers, institutions, and market watchers around the world. All right, Mr. Stansberry, as always, an illuminating session here on the Stansberry Investor Hour with the one and only Porter. Thank you, sir for joining.
Porter Stansberry: Buck, I had a great time today and I hope everybody understood that most of those comments were tongue-in-cheek. Let's not send those clips out to the media. This is just all locker room talk.
Buck Sexton: There you have it from the man himself. All right, everybody. Thank you so much. We will see you next week.
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