Empires have come and gone. Some lasted a blink of an eye and some millennia.
The question is, after 9/11, the rise of China and a great financial crisis, where does the U.S. empire stack up to its predecessors?
Well, it seems the one commonality they all have is the point when their might was undermined by sloth and greed. And entitlements: free bread and circuses. For some it took years, others centuries.
Here, in a compelling and unique address, is what Romulus Augustus, the last emperor of the Roman Empire, might say to President Obama now about how to keep America great.
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- DON'T BE SO ARROGANT, MR. PRESIDENT
- The Latest Obama Outrage: the Family's $100 Million Vacation
- Why The Fiscal Cliff "Deal" is Spelled P-O-R-K
- Why Japan's "Lost Decades" Are Headed to America in 2016
- Maybe Romney Did Win, It's Shaping Up to Be a Rough Four Years
- How an Obama Win Affects Investments
- If There's No Winner of Election 2012 Tomorrow, the Market Loses
- There's More than Election 2012 Moving the Stock Market Today
- Who Will Win Election 2012 and Lead America Over the Next Four Years?
- Election 2012: Is Today's Presidential Election More About Lost Dreams Or a New Promise?
- Hurtling Over Fiscal Cliff Likely Regardless of Election Outcome
- What to Expect from Gold Prices If Romney Wins Election 2012
- Election 2012 Means the Real Bernanke Bombshells Won't Fall Until December
- Tonight's Presidential Debate: Who Will Clinch the Final Face Off?
- If Romney Wins Election 2012 Buy and Sell These Sectors
- Jim Rogers on Election 2012: "A Pox on Both Their Houses'
Empires have come and gone. Some lasted a blink of an eye and some millennia.
How much do you spend on your summer vacation? American households usually spend about $1,200 per person on summer vacations, according to a recent American Express survey.
Presidents spend more on their vacations than you or I. They have to. Air Force One and security does cost more than loading the Honda and heading to the beach.
Here's how much some recent presidents spent our tax dollars on vacation.
Ronald Reagan spent most of his free time at his California ranch. Taxpayers covered the cost of approximately $8 million for presidential travel during Reagan's first six years in office, according to the Los Angeles Times. That amounts to $1.3 million a year.
For George Bush the cost of flying Air Force One to his Texas ranch was approximately $56,800 per trip, for each of the 180 trips according to Media Matters. President Bush spent Christmas during his two terms at the White House so his staff and secret service could spend the holiday with their family, according to Conservative Byte.
Now Obama plans to blow away all previous presidents' leisure travel costs on our dime with a better than Disney World extravaganza trip to Africa.
However Obama had to cancel the safari because of the need to fill the surrounding jungle with snipers to guard the president from wild animals!
Behind the scenes of the Fiscal Cliff debate, there was plenty of f-bombing, poison pilling, and grandstanding leading up to the deal - and that was before the members of Congress and the Senate actually got serious with their usual ultimatums, followed by earnest- looking sound bites and posturing. But what gets me really riled up is the amount of "pork" contained in the bill...
The hope is that Abe's promises of fresh stimulus, unlimited spending and placing a priority on domestic infrastructure will be the elixir that restores Japan's global muscle.
As a veteran global trader who actually lives in Japan part time each year, and who has for the last 20+ years, let me make a counterpoint with particular force - don't fall for it.
I've heard this mantra eight times since Japan's market collapsed in 1990 - each time a new stimulus plan was launched - and six times since 2006 as each of the six former "newly elected" Prime Ministers came to power.
The bottom line: The Nikkei is still down 73.89% from its December 29, 1989 peak. That means it's going to have to rebound a staggering 283% just to break even.
Now here's the thing. What's happening in Japan is not "someone else's" problem. Nor is it something you should gloss over.
In fact, the pain Japan continues to suffer should scare the hell out of you.
And here's why ...
The so-called "Lost Decade" that's now more than 20 years long in Japan is a portrait of precisely what's to come for us here in the United States.
Perhaps not for a few years yet, but it will happen just as we have already followed in Japan's footsteps with a "lost decade" of our own.
The parallels are staggering.
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Romney's destiny of quiet retirement with his automobile elevator and his Cayman Islands investments will seem greatly preferable to the struggle that awaits the re-elected President Barack Obama.
Internationally, four more years leaves plenty of time for things to go wrong.
In terms of monetary policy, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's "grand experiment" with quantitative easing will continue at least until Bernanke's second term expires in 2014. We can expect the Fed to continue to expand its balance sheet through asset purchases-primarily mortgage backed bonds- and to keep overnight interest rates near zero.
The Fed currently expects GDP growth of 3% in 2013. Unemployment is expected to continue to decline through 2013 but the unemployment rate may move in fits and starts as more discouraged workers move back into the labor force as conditions improve.
Unless there is an unexpected improvement in the employment situation and housing prices, investors can expect quantitative easing and zero interest rates to remain in place through 2013.
Here are the other ways a President Obama win will affect your investments.
But there's more than the election that's affecting markets today.
As voters head to the polls, it's only fitting that the one economic report released today is on jobs.
- Job openings continue sluggish trend- How Americans view the job market and what they expect it to be like under each candidate will be one of the deciding factors in this election. The Labor Department reported on Tuesday that job openings in the U.S. hit a five-month low in September, indicating that the recent drop in unemployment is not an accurate portrayal of the labor market. The number of available jobs fell by 100,000 to 3.56 million and it wasn't because more positions were filled - during September fewer people were hired, as well as fired. If you go back to December 2007, the start of the recession, there were about 1.8 people vying for each position and now that number has almost doubled to 3.4 people. "Hiring is the most costly expense for a business," Kurt Rankin, an economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh, told Bloomberg News. "Until a framework for policy can be determined, which will come with the election and the resolution of the fiscal cliff, businesses are not likely to ramp up hiring."
As well they should. Almost every Election 2012 poll I've seen has the candidates in a neck-and-neck race headed into today's finish line.
As of press time:
- CNN's survey has them in a dead heat at 49% to 49%.
- Pew Research shows Candidate Romney behind President Obama by a 50% to 47% margin.
- The Politico/George Washington University survey reflects a tie at 48%.
- And the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal numbers show President Obama pulling ahead with 48% compared to Candidate Romney at 47%.
Given these mismatches, I can only hope we're not left counting chads or something equally ridiculous tonight when the polls finally close. The markets really wouldn't like that.
As it is, all the major averages are on hold. Not literally mind you, but figuratively. Nearly every trader and institutional manager I know is treading lightly at the moment.
Because they know that by Wednesday morning half of them will be wrong. That means they'll have to adjust both their outlooks and their portfolios.
In the financial scheme of things, though, the election is a sideshow. The far bigger issue when it comes to your money is the fiscal cliff. And I am not alone in my thinking, either.
A recent CNN poll suggests that 60% of market professionals are far more concerned about what's going to happen when spending cuts and tax increases hit January 1 than they are about who's in the White House.
I don't think they're wrong to be worried, either...
Chile's finance minister, Felipe Larrain told Reuters, "If we're not able to resolve the cliff, that could be the tipping point for a much more complicated scenario in the world economy."
The G20 clearly recognizes the risk of the U.S. falling off of the fiscal cliff.
Comparing the relative risks of the U.S. and Europe, Canadian finance minister Jim Flaherty told Bloomberg Businessweek, "In the near-term, clearly the U.S. situation is the higher risk."
Tomorrow's presidential election may complicate the situation regardless of if U.S. President Barack Obama wins a second term or if Mitt Romney is our next president.
Washington insiders have suggested that, unless there is a wider than expected margin of victory for either candidate, legal challenges are likely, which could put the result of the election in doubt.
In fact, each side has hefty legal teams waiting to jump to action if the election is close.
Gold is expected to continue its rise in 2013, reaching up to the $2,000 mark - or higher.
On Oct. 23, Deutsche Bank analysts called for gold to exceed $2,200 an ounce next year. This came in light of the stimulus measures by central banks.
They wrote in a research note via Commodity Online, "While we have targeted gold prices moving above $2,000/oz. since the beginning of 2011, we believe the Fed's open-ended program of QE announced last month increases our confidence that a surge in the gold price above this level is only a matter of time."
Yesterday (Wednesday), December gold futures closed at $1,719.10.
But if we fast-forward to January, even March 2013, if Romney wins Election 2012, would gold prices be able to continue their upward run?
Here's what a Romney win would do for the yellow metal.
There was no change in interest rates, no change in the determination to keep rates low into 2015 and no change in the Fed's latest solution, otherwise known as QE infinity.
The truth is the real bombshells won't likely start until the Fed's next meeting in December. By then, the landscape could be completely changed.
With Election 2012 still at stake, it's who controls the Oval Office that matters most when it comes to Fed policy.
You'd never know that if all you did was watch the debates.
Ben Bernanke may well be the second most powerful person in the country, yet his name was never mentioned-not even once. Remarkably, monetary policy was completely absent from the debates.
Election 2012 and the FedThat's true even though the two candidates differ substantially when it comes to the Federal Reserve.
For instance, Mitt Romney has repeatedly said he would not reappoint Ben Bernanke when the Fed chairman's current term ends in January 2014. Conversely, President Barack Obama has indicated his support for Bernanke and his easy money policies.
For that matter, Bernanke himself is in an open question. He may retire in January 2014 no matter who wins Election 2012.
However, at the December meeting one major thing will have changed: the time horizons of both investors and policymakers.
With the two candidates running neck-and-neck - a fresh NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows President Obama and Romney tied at 47% -- and just 15 days until Americans cast their ballots for our 45th U.S. president, a stellar showing is imperative. Whoever wins Monday's debate will have the upper hand heading into Election Day.
More than 60 million viewers tuned in to the first two debates which dealt with jobs, healthcare, the economy, and taxes. Romney handily won the first debate in Denver on Oct. 3 and charmed hordes of undecided voters. Then the president, who appeared glum and uninterested the first time around, came on strong in the second debate Oct. 16.
Monday's debate will be focused on foreign policy and national security. Divided into six segments, President Obama and Romney will discuss America's position as a global leader, the Afghanistan war, the Middle East, Israel and Iran, and China's explosive rise.
President Obama, as head of U.S. national security for the last four years, has experience Romney can't rival. The president will underscore how under his term he was instrumental in the mission that led to the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. He will also note that he pulled troops from Iraq.
Romney has his work cut out for him.
His summer trips to London, Jerusalem and Poland were highlighted by several gaffes. The former Massachusetts governor needs to assure voters that he is a capable leader in the global arena by highlighting his leadership abilities.
"Many voters are ready to fire President Obama if they see Romney as an acceptable alternative. Foreign policy has not been a big driver of this campaign but I think Romney could add some icing to his cake if people say, "Hey, this guy is on top of world affairs,'" David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Center at Southern Illinois University told Reuters.
Besides strong debate performances, key factors have turned in Romney's favor.
Myriad surveys in a dozen crucial swing states show voter's concerns are increasing regarding the mushrooming fiscal deficit, debt issues and the depressed job market, issues that favor Romney.
Since the election won't be decided for another two weeks there is still time to act if you expect a Romney victory.
Here's what several top Wall Street analysts think a Romney win would mean for stocks.