Are These the Donald’s Means to MAGA?

By David Stockman  |  August 5, 2019

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down nearly 600 points as of this writing, a little more than an hour into the trading session. It’s one of those days where there’s really no telling where it might stop.

We knew it was going to be bad by the looks of the futures market as it digested the series of escalations in the Donald’s Trade War over the weekend.

Indeed, the Tweeter-in-Chief actually read a speech written for him from the White House this morning, shortly after 10:00 a.m. ET. His words did little to encourage anyone anywhere, including Wall Street, where the major indexes slipped deeper into red.

(Is it really his fault, after all, that he read “Toledo” instead of “Dayton”? That’s what they typed into the teleprompter…)

That’s more to do with the Donald’s plan to levy 10% tariffs on another $300 billion of Chinese imports and Beijing’s countermove, telling state buyers to “halt U.S. agriculture imports.”

That at least 30 more Americans are dead and 52 more are injured after two separate mass shootings, one in El Paso, Texas, along the border, and another in Dayton, Ohio, in the heartland, adds to the rapidly rising and ever-more ominous background hum, though.

When conditions are blinking like this – not just the financial market indicators – there’s no telling the specific context. But, as we’ve been discussing, today there is a common catalytic element.

It’s the Orange Swan

“Peak Trump” is the Tweeter-in-Chief bitching about the falling Chinese yuan as a “major violation” and suggesting new gun-control legislation be tied to “desperately needed immigration reform,” as he, once again, upbraids the media for its treatment of… him.

So, it’s how he wants it. So, it shall be.

This is Donald Trump’s mess, including El Paso and ToledoDayton.

The market – as we spent five days detailing in last week’s “This Is Not the Greatest Economy Ever” series – has a lot to digest. It’s about more than Trade War… though that’s a big deal. China buys a lot of American soybeans.

Pressure points are multiplying in America. An old one blew, twice, within the past few days.

And it’s all based on an increasingly tragic misreading of the Second Amendment.

I oppose Big Government and Nanny State regulation. But I have no use for guns, as I find hunting distasteful.

Above all that, I wish James Madison had never dreamed up the Second Amendment while politicking for the Constitution. The so-called right to bear arms is a vestigial relic of an 18th century compromise. It has precious little to do with personal liberty or public security in the 21st century.

As I noted three and a half years ago, the real threat is not the non-existent bogeyman of gun confiscation. Nor is it even the abridgement of the dubious right to bear arms.

What’s unchecked is Imperial Washington’s penchant for taxing and spending, borrowing and monetizing, regulating and meddling, money-printing and wealth-gap-creating, and military-adventuring and empire-building.

Still, the Constitution of the United States of America – as battered and impaired as it may be – is the bulwark of our liberties. It remains the ultimate restraint on the aggrandizing impulses of the modern state.

The Constitution and its 27 amendments contain 7,591 words. And all of them are not created equal.

In fact, the following 27 words are among the very least important:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

They do not rank even close to the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments in the hierarchy of liberty’s safeguards.

Nowhere in the published notes on the debates during the Constitutional Convention or in the subsequent practice of the American republic was there even an expression of vigilante/do-it-yourself ideas of law enforcement, much less an endorsement of the notion that the first line of defense against criminal assault was an armed civilian.

Even in the Frontier West, people banded together to hire a sheriff, who was sworn to uphold the laws of the state and to whom the function of protecting citizen lives and property from criminal intrusion was delegated.

The Second Amendment belongs in a museum along with the muskets and knapsacks of the ancient state militias.

No one in their right mind can argue that – in the face of the modern state’s insuperable monopoly on high-tech military violence – an armed citizen insurrection would lead to anything more than a proliferation of state-sponsored massacres like those at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas.

Ballot boxes – not bullets – are the only present-day recourse against a tyrannical government.

Unfortunately, the gun lobby has ripped the Second Amendment from its historical moorings. It’s invented out of whole cloth an individual right to bear arms for purposes unrelated to revolutionary era militias.

As former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Warren Burger observed in 1991, the idea of an individual right to bear arms is “one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word ‘fraud’ – on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

Contemporary America is plagued with an inordinate amount of crime against persons and property. The idea that a gun in every closet is therefore warranted as an indispensable element of public safety and security is wholly specious. It is a product of contemporary NRA propaganda.

It has nothing to do with historical precedent or even practical assessment.

Sadly, a feature of the Constitution designed to forestall the rise of the state in a different time and place has been transformed by right-wing grifters into the helpmate of the 21st century Leviathan.

This, too, is “Peak Trump.”

Higher Ground

Desperate times call for… “common sense” measures.

And these are desperate times… Markets are corrupted by monetary central planning. They’re confused. And the road back is going to be treacherous.

We’re looking at a major re-pricing for all financial assets. And thousand-point intraday or day-to-day swings are part of that equation. Those can be frightening… for “buy and hold” investors.

I have a different approach, one that combines strategy and tactics into a plan flexible enough for you to survive and thrive amid the coming chaos. It’s called “The Stockman Model.”

All we’re after is a little stability, perhaps a chance to pocket a windfall when opportunity presents…

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David Stockman

David Stockman is the ultimate Washington insider turned iconoclast. He began his career in Washington as a young man and quickly rose through the ranks of the Republican Party to become the Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan. After leaving the White House, Stockman had a 20-year career on Wall Street.MORE FROM AUTHOR