It was January 28th, 1986, and our 2nd grade class was buzzing. Ms. Barrett rolled the TV stand in to watch NASA send a teacher to space-
Suddenly, the shuttle explodes midair. The boosters whirl off in opposite directions and flame out.
“Where’s the teacher?”, we turn to Ms. Barrett in unison.
She fought back tears, a flood of emotion. Ms. Barrett didn’t know what to say. Even the newscasters were speechless. No one could utter the words.
They’re all dead.
It was the first time anything ever went terribly wrong in our little eyes. We had only an unshakable confidence in country and government.
Life then was pure innocence. We rode bikes, caught fireflies, and put our hands over our hearts each morning to pledge allegiance to the flag.
America, the beautiful.
Operation Desert Storm came next. The locker-lined halls in middle school bustled with T-shirts featuring Patriot missiles or the American flag over the line, “These colors don’t run”.
Saddam was the bad guy, and we were the good guys. What a feeling, to be certain, like living inside a Hollywood movie. It was our own little Truman show.
God shed his grace on us, we thought, walking tall for six weeks as we bludgeoned the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait, truly a cakewalk if there ever was.
We stood with goosebumps for the National Anthem, pausing from hotdogs at baseball games, our grandfathers beside us, the same ones who defeated the Nazi’s and saved the world-
Land of the free, and home of the brave.
It was the end of history, and we were the chosen ones, witnessing in our formative years the new American Century. We watched, unsurprised, as the Berlin Wall fell, and the Soviet Union collapsed.
Of course it collapsed. What took it so long?
The Cold War ended during social studies class on a Thursday in 6th grade. Crowned the victors, we stood ever so tall, principled, righteous, and benevolent, carrying that confidence through our teen years.
The unraveling begins.
We graduated college in May of 2000, just as the dot-com boom turned to massive bust. Classmates made, then lost, small fortunes in tech stocks like Yahoo or Sun Microsystems.
Hired and only partially trained by a national investment firm, corporate headquarters promptly shutdown our local office, laying most of us off.
Frankly, it was baffling.
How could the masters of the universe, running the greatest country in the world, be so blindsided by mania?
Next came 9/11. My childhood home sat 25 miles across Long Island Sound from the World Trade Center. On a clear day, you could see the twin towers from my bedroom.
Now 23 and relocated, I couldn’t see the towers anymore, but the place – New York City – was always close to home. Like you, I watched in horror on live TV as the second plane hit 2 WTC.
The massive skyscrapers, symbols of American finance and power, just swallowed the planes whole, people on both sides incinerated on impact-
It was surreal.
President Bush — visiting a 2nd grade class in Sarasota, FL — tried to keep composure by reading aloud to the children as the disaster unfolded.
Every home and office glued to the broadcast, people like us – dads, moms, sons and daughters – starting their workday on a beautiful September morning, now jumping from 100 floors up, prospects for survival measured against the searing pain of burning jet fuel.
First-responders ran inside and up, while everyone else ran down and out, bloodied and covered in soot. The towers then fell, one at a time, into their own footprint, almost in slow motion.
Ms. Barrett, what’s happening? The boy inside me wanted to scream.
“They hate us for our freedom”, President Bush replied. I wanted to believe him — we all did — but it was hard to swallow. We weren’t in grade school anymore.
The nation slipped into shock. At least two from our 2nd grade class of 18 joined the Marines and shipped off to war in Afghanistan, then Iraq, an endless war on terror.
Billions were thrown at boondoggles and body scanners, the TSA, and Homeland Security. The surveillance state was born, breastfed, coddled and christened.
We supported the troops, if nothing else, as political, social and economic wedges began to widen.
Becoming a provider, and a family.
Ashley and I got married in 2008, soon with a baby in tow. We said “I do” as the sun set over Balboa Park, a gorgeous Columbus Day weekend in San Diego-
All was right in the world, if only for a moment, even as the second massive financial bubble in less than a decade was imploding before our eyes.
It was the worst weekly decline in stock market history.
A thoughtful investor with an economics degree and successful sales career, I knew all the mainstream financial advice. It didn’t matter.
Our condo was under water, and our portfolio in tatters.
Our jobs were safe, thankfully; not so for many. Stalwarts of American manufacturing and finance begged for bailouts as they laid off workers in droves.
Our leaders sprung to action, like busy little bees, but were clearly lost, “abandoning free-market principles to save the free-market system”.
Um…Ms. Barrett? I don’t get it.
Barrack Obama swept in like a summer breeze, polished, well-spoken, and riding a message of hope and change, just what the country needed most.
Once elected, he continued the bailouts, expanded America’s drone strike program (“death from above”) by a factor of 10, then leveled another country in the middle east.
Eventually, even the staunchest of patriots stops buying the bulls—.
Here I was, joining the grown-ups, watching the O’Reilly Factor, learning the scripts, carefully taking sides on the issues. I stood in line each November to vote, trotting off with my sticker.
But it was never about defending the indefensible.
We modeled the generation ahead of us, learning the party-lines, because we thought they knew the material, carefully putting their playbooks together for success.
The truth is, they didn’t know what the f— they were doing.
The ineptitude of our domestic policies was only supplanted by the bungling of our foreign misadventures, of which 9/11 was the disastrous consequence.
If the previous 10 years were about “buying in”, the next 10 were “opting out”.
We started over, pealing back the onion to uncover the story behind the story. With more kids on the way, blind faith in institutions with track records of failure was no longer a strategy.
We had to learn to survive and thrive in a world unlike the one they prepared us for. The American Dream was no longer packaged that way.
Our focus was on finance, power, and crowd psychology.
Reading, reading (and more reading), we had to understand what drives policy choices, and foresee the indirect consequences, especially in the context of supporting a family.
History proved a better guide than the endless barking on cable news.
In all our work, we found something astonishing. The biggest problems now plaguing this country (and the world) share the same root cause.
Financial bubbles, student debt, the job market, the environment, class warfare, cost of living, healthcare, the wealth gap, growing homelessness, endless wars… These problems don’t seem related, but they are.
Few understand it. Those who do are mostly on the inside, reaping the benefits, and won’t dare discuss it.
All roads lead to a broken, debt-based, fraudulent paper money system.
We write about it a lot (here, here, here, here, and here). Money is the ether that binds society, living, working and trading with each other. It’s the social contract.
When the issuance of money is fraudulent – small cabals that print it up on paper or digital form from nothing and in favored service to the well-connected – what festers socially is rot.
Trust in the system, its institutions, culture, values, and ethics crumble, like once-proud factories in Detroit-
Gains in productivity from technology, ingenuity, and hard work that under a gold standard filter to the working and middle class — the fruit of our labor — are siphoned to the top. A towering edifice of debt – phantom, paper wealth – metastasizes.
Periodic waves of deflationary collapse ripple through the system as the credit cycle matures, like the 1930’s, 2000, and 2008, and will once again.
It dies slowly, then suddenly, a long whimper then sharp bang, usually by way of inflation that gives way to currency collapse.
Until then, like living in a hall of mirrors, everything is distorted. There is no reliable, consistent measuring stick for the value of anything.
No matter who takes office, the power they wield with this giant fraud is far too significant to expect a voluntary rebalancing to gold. If the Epstein case didn’t destroy whatever faith you had left in the political class and the broken system they preside over, you must be numb, dying inside already.
We’re still patriots, my family. It wasn’t without a crisis of conscience. We had to reconcile it with distrust in the consolidation of power in government.
It wasn’t easy.
Like you, we were groomed to have only faith. We had to learn the hard way how foolhardy that is. America, though, is not the government.
To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt in his May 7, 1918, comments on the Office of the Presidency-
Government should be supported or opposed only to the degree warranted by its conduct, good or bad, and its efficiency in rendering service to the Nation. There must be liberty to surface truth, to blame government when it does wrong and praise it when right. Any other attitude is base and servile. To say there should be no criticism, that we must stand by government right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but morally treasonable. Given its power to do harm, it is even more important to surface truth about government, pleasant or unpleasant, than for any other person or institution.
America is peewee football, fireflies, BMX and BB guns. The spacious skies, the fruited plains, the apple pies, and amber waves of grain. It’s neighborhood block parties, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas carols and collaboration. It’s about integrity, hard, honest work, bootstrapping, and self-reliance.
The allegiance I pledged in Ms. Barrett’s class, it promised liberty and justice for all. Liberty is freedom from arbitrary or despotic control, and justice means equal treatment under the law.
Those values we must aspire to, and pass to our children. Sadly, they’re slipping from the national agenda.
Too busy we are, divvying up the spoils at the top, and fighting for scraps at the bottom. Without them, there are only scraps.
To those who seek national office, restore and protect these virtues, and you will forever have my allegiance. From them, abundance comes.
Nearly all other matters can be left to local governments, closely connected with the communities they serve. Perhaps your school board does some good. Give them the ability to print money, and they will soon envelope the world, killing arbitrarily by unmanned drone.
And yet, as society chokes on the rot, we share the news with a knowing smile. It could be worse, always worse. The sun still shines, and the crocuses bloom in the Spring.
We had to learn the hard way, but learn we did.
It stung at first, but we’re better without the blindfold. We take solace in knowing we won’t raise a generation to believe blindly, only to face a shattering realization later.
We teach our children to question authority.
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