Usain Bolt has got nothing
on Leonidas of Rhodos
Born nearly 2,000 years ago, Leonidas holds the record as the greatest sprinter of all time, winning more Olympic titles than anyone else in human history.
At four straight Olympic games, Leonidas dominated all three sprinting events– the Stadion (roughly 200 meters), Diaulos (roughly 400 meters), and the bizarre Hoplitodromos– a 400 meter dash carrying 50 pounds of military gear.
Bear in mind that he competed at a time when there was only a prize for first place. Second place was first loser.
(And they didn’t hand out medals to all the kids just for participating.)
As such, Leonidas was a legend in his own time and was decorated accordingly.
Just like today, in fact, many ancient Greek athletes were rewarded by their city-states for an Olympic victory.
In Athens, the government would award prize money that was equivalent to about 500 sheep.
This was a highly coveted back then; livestock was considered a symbol of wealth and power, so a vast flock of sheep in Ancient Greece may have been the Maserati of its day.
I was particularly interested when I read this because I own some sheep in Chile; they cost the equivalent of about fifty to sixty US dollars in the marketplace.
It’s roughly the same price in the United States for young lamb and slaughter ewes (female sheep) based on USDA data.
But what really floored me was when I found out that the United States Olympic Committee hands out $25,000 in prize money to gold medal winners– roughly the amount necessary to buy a flock of 500 sheep today.
So over 2,000 years later, the prize money for champions is more or less the same.
Now, let’s consider which of these two is more valuable: $25,000 worth of sheep, or $25,000 worth of fiat money (paper currency).
Fiat money sits in a bank account earning a yield of 0.5%.
(Or if you’re really unlucky, you might even have the privilege of paying your bank interest like they do here in parts of Europe.)
Sheep, on the other hand, yield… more sheep.
Depending on breed, the typical conception rate for sheep is between 65% to 95%, with a gestation period of about 5 months.
So a herd can expand dramatically in a typical breeding season, producing meat, milk, and wool along the way.
Fiat money produces nothing. At least, not for you.
It remains in the hands of the bank where they make the most bonehead financial decisions with it, parking it whatever risky investment fad gets them the biggest annual bonus.
They’ll further act as unpaid agents of the government, freezing you out of your own savings in a heartbeat.
And if you request to withdraw your own money, they treat you like a criminal terrorist.
Now, I’m not trying to convince you to empty your bank account and go buy a flock of sheep.
The point is that productive assets stand the test of time. Paper currency does not.
Always remember that history is inflationary. And while there may be some aberrant years, holding cash will gradually erode your savings.
It’s imperative to make smart, long-term financial decisions. Seek stores of value that can stand the test of time.
In fairness, that’s easier said than done in an environment where every conventional asset class is in a bubble.
Stocks are at all-time highs. Bonds are at all-time highs (earning negative yields in some cases). Banks are perilously illiquid. Many real estate markets are frothy once again.
So it’s a tall order to find safety and stability– at least, within conventional finance.
Outside the mainstream, though, there are plenty of compelling options.
An heirloom Patek Phillipe wristwatch will likely be a much better store of value to pass on to your grandkids than the usual gift of a US government savings bond.
Productive real estate (including agriculture) can also be a much better alternative than letting money sit in a bank account. It’s like gold, with yield. And the added benefit of providing a place to stay, or even food on the table.
Privately held businesses can also be a great option as they can often be purchased at very low multiples on their earnings, generating instant yields of 40% or more.
And even though most stock are hovering at bubble levels, there are some deep value options available where you can buy shares of a well-managed, profitable business for less than the value of its net assets.
Do we limit girls and tell them what they should or shouldn’t be?
Do we box them into expected roles?
Well, we asked, and the answer was shocking: 72% of girls DO feel society limits them – especially during puberty – a time when their confidence totally plummets. Always is on an epic battle to keep girls’ confidence high during puberty and beyond!
Our original #LikeAGirl social experiment started a conversation to boost confidence by changing the meaning of “like a girl” from an insult to a total compliment. And – with your help – that conversation turned into major movement sweeping the entire globe.
We’re on a roll, and we’re not stopping! Now, we’re empowering girls everywhere by encouraging them to smash limitations and be Unstoppable #LikeAGirl. We need your help. Join us. Watch, share and champion all girls to be Unstoppable #LikeAGirl.
For more than three decades, we’ve made it our mission to empower young girls worldwide by educating millions of them about puberty and their cycle, so they can feel confident – any day of the month. Together, we’re making great change happen. Don’t stop!
8 Ways Emotionally Intelligent People Deal With Toxic People
Toxic people poison those around them, and gain satisfaction from creating disorganization and a stressful atmosphere.
Life is stressful enough for most of us. Allowing a toxic individual to ravage your immediate environment can cause havoc in your mental well-being, which can lead to physical challenges.
A bad state of mind not only affects your physical well-being but makes it difficult for you to respond calmly under pressure. Ninety percent of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions, so your ability to perform effectively can be affected if you do not adopt strategies that will allow you to deal with toxic people.
1. Successful People Establish Boundaries
There is a fine line between being friendly and allowing somebody to lead you down a path that jeopardizes your ability to remain effective. Successful people understand this and do not allow the toxic among them to take charge, but rather choose to set effective boundaries.
2. No One Limits Their Joy
How much do the words of those around you affect your state of mind? Successful people have mastered the ability to ensure that the negative remarks of others do not affect their strong sense of accomplishment. Toxic people like to break you down with rude, hurtful comments, and gain satisfaction from watching you fall apart.
Learn to react less to the opinions of others, especially those you know do not have your well-being at heart.
3. They Have Mastered the Art of Rising Above
From a seminar session by John Rampton when he was on stage at the 2014 TC Disrupt, we learn that:
“By mastering the act of rising above, successful people are able to remain rational and calm in the presence of the irrational and chaotic. They master rising above the rest, no matter what the circumstance.”
4. They Are Solution Focused
Do you spend more time focused on the negative person and how they affect your life than on achieving your goals? If so, then you have a problem. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on your goals.
5. They Understand the Importance of Support
Reach out to your mentors, chances are, they have experienced what you are going through. There is a good chance that co-workers, team members, even family and friends have useful tips to help you get by. The emotionally intelligent understand how to tap into their resources to get through the challenges of working with toxic people.
6. They Are Aware
Self-awareness is important, because it involves knowing what it takes to push your buttons in order to prevent it from happening. Lack of emotional control is a great way to empower the toxic people in your life.
Being forgiving comes with being emotionally intelligent. It allows you to remain unburdened by the mistakes of others and to have peace of mind. But being forgiving does not mean forgetting whom you can and cannot trust. It just means you stop wasting mental energy on those you cannot trust.
8. They Store Their Energy for Better Opportunities
As I have mentioned several times, the toxic thrive on chaos, and will do anything to have the ability to take you down to their level. Learning to understand your limits will help you to stay away from dangerous situations. Choose your battles wisely, and conserve your energy for bigger and better things.
Those we look up to as being the “bigger person” or as being able to conduct themselves in the most challenging of situations do not have a magic solution in their back pockets, but they have worked hard to become emotionally intelligent people. What are some of the challenges you have experienced with toxic people?
It is amazing that this photo, taken so many years ago, actually still exists! This INCREDIBLE picture was taken in 1918.
The photo shows 18,000 men preparing for war in a training camp at Camp Dodge , in Iowa .. EIGHTEEN THOUSAND MEN!!!!!
What a priceless gift from our grandfathers!
Base to Shoulder: 150 feet
Right Arm: 340 feet
Widest part of arm holding torch: 12 1/2 feet
Right thumb: 35 feet
Thickest part of body: 29 feet
Left hand length: 30 feet
Face: 60 feet
Nose: 21 feet
Longest spike of head piece: 70 feet
Torch and flame combined: 980 feet
Number of men in flame of torch: 12,000
Number of men in torch: 2,800
Number of men in right arm: 1,200
Number of men in body, head and balance of figure only: 2,000
Total men: 18,000
What makes someone a Canadian?
It’s the willingness to come together and show the world just how proud of a country we really are.
There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me i got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
During his lifetime, Andrew Carnegie became one of the wealthiest men on the planet. Before he began giving away his wealth, his net worth was valued at $475 million — the equivalent of about $75 billion in today’s dollars.
It’s been almost 100 years since Carnegie died. Today, he is remembered most for building Carnegie Hall in New York City and establishing the modern U.S. library system. Both are still in existence today, a remarkable testament to Carnegie’s legacy.
But did you know Carnegie created something else before he died that’s helped tens of thousands of people to secure their retirements?
Carnegie had a soft spot for American educators. He wanted to help provide professors at schools like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, and Columbia with financial security in their old age. So in 1905, he gave $10 million to set up America’s very first variable annuity.
From $10 Million to $279 Billion…
Carnegie’s fledgling variable annuity started with $10 million. Today it is worth an astounding $279 billion. It is now called the Teacher’s Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund, or TIAA-CREF for short.
Think about that. The TIAA-CREF was started in the year 1905 and it still exists today.
That means it survived the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed. It survived Black Monday in 1987. And it survived the more recent financial meltdown of 2008 and 2009.
In fact, it has survived all the booms and busts of the last 110 years! That’s an amazing track record.
The only reason Carnegie’s annuity has survived so long is because annuities make conservative investments in order to fulfill promises to its investors. Therefore, annuities don’t gamble or make risky investments. They play it safe so they can continue paying out guaranteed payments every single year.
Ben Bernanke’s Shocking Retirement Secret
Before Ben Bernanke became the chairman of the Federal Reserve, he taught economics at Princeton University. While there, he set up two annuities through the annuity company Carnegie founded.
Apparently, Bernanke’s retirement strategy didn’t change a bit when he took over at the Fed because his two largest assets are still the annuities he set up while working at Princeton. Each of these annuities are currently valued between $500,001 and $1 million.
While other experts have criticized Bernanke’s conservative approach to retirement investing, maybe the better approach is to ask a question: Why would the man who was head of the most powerful financial institution in the world choose to invest in annuities?
The answer to this question will become clear when you compare average retirement savings to one particular group of people.
The Surprising Reason Why College Professors Have More Saved for Retirement than You
Ben Bernanke isn’t the only one who is benefiting from annuity investments. Many college professors and other higher education professionals have invested in the same annuity fund originally set up by Andrew Carnegie.
And the proof is in the pudding.
In a recent study conducted by TIAA-CREF, they discovered that “83 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty felt very or somewhat confident they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement years, compared to 55 percent of workers overall.”
And there’s a good reason for their confidence. According to surveys, higher education employees who participate in retirement plans have average account balances that are 43% to 46% higher than average Americans.
The 8th Wonder of the World
Famous academic Albert Einstein once said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… he who doesn’t… pays it.”
Einstein put his money where his mouth was by investing in annuities way back in 1933 when they were still a relatively new investment vehicle.
Annuities exist to provide people with safe and predictable investment returns every single year during retirement. Many of them come with guaranteed rates of return.
Just one year bad year in the stock market can take years to recover from. But safe and predictable compound growth — like that provided by annuity funds — can provide investors with a stable retirement and peace of mind.
That’s why Einstein invested in annuities. It’s why Ben Bernanke is invested in annuities. And it’s why thousands of higher education professionals invest in annuities every year. Maybe annuities are worth a closer look after all.
An Apology Letter to Future Generations.
What’s Life without Moments? Vacations should be a time to go away and come together. From now on lets take our #WholeVacation
Are You Working to Live, or Living to Work?
Genius Child Kicked Out Of School For “Not Being Able To Learn” Could Win Nobel Peace Prize
They said he would never learn, now he’ll teach them a thing or two…
A genius boy whose IQ is higher than Albert Einstein is on his way to possibly winning a Nobel Prize after being set free of special education programs in public schools.
His mother made the decision to take him out of the programs, even after having doctors diagnose him with Aspergers and say that her son Jacob Barnett would never even learn to tie his shoes.
She describes in her book “The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius” that she was afraid of trying to pull him out of school. “For a parent, it’s terrifying to fly against the advice of the professionals. But I knew in my heart that if Jake stayed in special ed, he would slip away.” Jacob was not thriving in special ed classes. He kept turning deeper into himself and was uncommunicative with other people.
His doctors prescribed medical treatment for the boy. When he wasn’t in therapy though, his mother noticed him doing amazing things. “He would create maps all over our floor using Q-tips. They would be maps of places we’ve visited and he would memorize every street.” Jake dropped out of elementary school in the 5th grade. His incredible memory allowed him to attend university classes after he learned all of high school math in two weeks. Now he’s on track to graduate from college at age 14 and working on theories to build on Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Morley Safer asks the talented teen if he wants to be an astronaut, he quickly defers to his brother, saying he’d rather run things from the ground. Safer’s profile of the young math and science prodigy will be broadcast on “60 Minutes” Sunday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 minutes did a special on Jacob below:
Sir Ken Robinson did a talk for TED (google or youtube it) and shared how decades ago schools were set up to teach for the industrial age, which basically produces little humanoids that work in factories. However, today our society needs more creative minds. Sir Robinson provides very similar examples to the one posted about kids who would have been lost were it not for someone recognizing their creative potential. When Ken Robinson speaks of creative potential he doesn’t just mean the artists and musicians of the world, but instead those individuals with creative thinking abilities…the inventors, the problem solvers. His advice? To reintroduce creative activities in public schools.
Alan Watts was one of the first from the west to bring the wisdom of the east back into the consciousness of the modern era. The label-less master often referred to himself as a “spiritual entertainer” that is exhibited in the fluidity of his humor mixed with wisdom.
For more information on the great man please visit http://www.alanwatts.org
Lily is the world’s first throw-and-shoot camera. It lets anyone create cinematic footage previously reserved for professional filmmakers. Lily is waterproof, ultra-portable, and shoots stunning HD pictures and videos. Pre-order now at https://www.lily.camera/
3DR Solo – The Smart Drone
Not all entrepreneurs are in it for the money, but gaining wealth is certainly among the top motivators for company building. Not surprisingly, having great wealth brings it’s own unique responsibilities and circumstances that few get to experience first hand.
Based on an interview with billionaire Ken Fisher, founder, chairman, and CEO of Fisher Investments, best-selling author, Forbes magazine columnist, and No. 225 on the Forbes 400, Fisher provided a candid, no-holds-barred look at the perspective of the self-made super wealthy.
Here are his insights:
1. It isn’t pursuit of wealth, but pursuit of passion that creates wealth.
Focusing on money won’t likely get you to the Forbes list like Fisher. He aptly states: “Most people don’t get super wealthy by accumulating money. They get super wealthy by following some dream they are passionate about, whether its starting and running a business, or being a rock star musician or a visual entertainer.” He points out that most of the super wealthy overshoot their personal goals, and yet they are still driven by their passion. The super wealthy know that if you pursue your passion, the money will come.
2. After a certain monetary threshold, the desire isn’t for more wealth, but more time.
There is very little that the super wealthy cannot buy. As the wealth keeps accumulating, spending becomes less of a joy or ambition. “After a certain point,” Fisher explains, “there isn’t much more you can think of that you want.” What becomes more desirable is time to enjoy life. “The vacation homes, cars, boats, and wardrobes are just more stuff to deal with.” Fisher observes. “All that stuff clutters your time usage, so at a certain point, the wealthier you get the more you covet time.”
3. Everyone you’ve known forever (except your spouse) will think you’ve changed.
There is a common belief that wealth changes everyone, and not always for the better. Fisher says, “Only you will know that you haven’t changed; that passionate drive to follow dreams does not change.” Fisher explains it this way: “Everyone’s perceptions of change are as though they are seeing the clock at a few different hour points in your evolution, as opposed to seeing it as a continuous sweeping minute hand that doesn’t change.”
4. The super wealthy are guarded even with their closest acquaintances.
It’s hard for the super wealthy to know who their real friends are. Fisher describes the situation in clear detail. “All kinds of folks hit on you for money and deliver false pretenses on a regular basis. Charities hit you up like you were the prettiest girl at a ball otherwise filled with horny young males. ‘Relatives’ you never had approach you from nowhere. Old school non-chums want to reacquaint. You see an ugly side of our human existence, which is the world of false pretenses seeking your money. So you guard against it and what you’re really guarding is your time and the time of the few people you really value. And you get good at it. And as you do, you will seem cold to all those people. Of course, you’re just simply as cold as the relationship would have been had you no money at all.”
5. Most of your broader family will come to hate you.
There is an old saying that the rich person in any family is despised. Fisher claims this is true, pointing out that many relatives don’t understand why the wealth of one family member can’t easily be shared to solve all their problems. Fisher explains the issue further: “It doesn’t matter how much you do or don’t give people, it won’t be enough.” Often Fisher hears others grumbling that they would handle wealth differently, but he points out that if their approach worked they would already be wealthy, and says they are simply looking for the easy path. Fisher states, “They will wonder why you don’t simply relieve them of their suffering with money, yet won’t seek your time or advice in how to remove the core cause of that suffering.” If they did seek his advice, Fisher would happily help them understand how to solve their money issues by seeking a productive passion.
6. Wealth doesn’t spoil your children, but it may destroy your grandchildren.
I know many successful entrepreneurs who worry whether their own children will have ambition and drive after growing up with affluence. Fisher observes that the kids of self-made wealthy parents grow up solidified with values that were taught to them before their parents became wealthy, so wealth doesn’t negatively influence their values. “But your grandkids never knew anything else,” says Fisher, now 64. “And that wealth zaps the drive out of them–it is too easy for the young to spend for fun instead of seeking the real passion, as previously mentioned.”
7. The older you get, the less money means.
As super wealthy people age, material needs become normalized. According to Fisher, “The so-called golden years bring a simplicity and focusing of desires in all wealth classes. While the non-super wealthy won’t recognize it, the super wealthy have long lost their material urges beyond the basics. They spend less on themselves and likely less on others because they know it doesn’t create happiness either for them, for their offspring, or for their grandkids.” Quality time is once again what is most coveted. It is surely more important to offer time to loved ones, and time delivered in that regard is valued on both ends more than money.
8. Wealth can free your brain.
Of all Fisher’s insights, this was the most powerful. For all the challenges wealth can bring, Fisher says it’s worth the mental freedom it also brings. He makes this point: “You will think broader and more creatively because you don’t have the limits the people of lesser means suffer. Why? Because you can. You will contemplate things like: Could my wealth if donated solve this problem? Could I create (you name it) by trying? What if I did this unimaginable thing (because you can if you want in so many realms)? The reality is that few of these will you ever pursue for all the reasons above, but they will enter your mind to ponder because most of your limits are now only self-imposed.”
The Reverend Blind Willie Johnson (1897-1945) is the author of this wonderful song, not Son House, not Depeche Mode(please….), not Robt. Johnson, not Blind Willie McTell, not Warren Haynes.
Also, Beautifully Broken:
Because of the Resurrection, Jesus Christ lives. Because of Him, you can overcome sin and experience everlasting joy. Learn more about how you can discover, embrace, and share the joy of the Resurrection!
Who Rules America?
All The Presidents’ Bankers is a groundbreaking narrative of how an elite group of men transformed the American economy and government, dictated foreign and domestic policy, and shaped world history.
Culled from original presidential archival documents, All The Presidents’ Bankers delivers an explosive account of the hundred-year interdependence between the White House and Wall Street that transcends a simple analysis of money driving politics, or greed driving bankers.
The author, Nomi Prins, ushers the reader into the intimate world of exclusive clubs, vacation spots, and Ivy League universities that binds presidents and financiers. She unravels the multi-generational blood, intermarriage, and protege relationships that have confined national influence to a privileged cluster of people. These families and individuals recycle their power through elected office and private channels in Washington, DC.
All the Presidents’ Bankers sheds new light on pivotal historic events, such as why, after the Panic of 1907, America’s dominant bankers convened to fashion the Federal Reserve System; how J.P. Morgan’s ambitions motivated President Wilson during World War I; how Chase and National City Bank chairmen worked secretly with President Roosevelt to rescue capitalism during the Great Depression while J.P. Morgan Jr. invited Roosevelt’s son yachting; and how American financiers collaborated with President Truman to construct the World Bank and IMF after World War II.
Prins divulges how, through the Cold War and Vietnam era, presidents and bankers pushed America’s superpower status and expansion abroad, while promoting broadly democratic values and social welfare at home. But from the 1970s, Wall Street’s rush to secure Middle East oil profits altered the nature of political-financial alliances. Bankers’ profit motive trumped heritage and allegiance to public service, while presidents lost control over the economy, as was dramatically evident in the financial crisis of 2008.
The unprecedented history of American power illuminates how the same financiers retained their authoritative position through history, swaying presidents regardless of party affiliation. All the Presidents’ Bankers explores the alarming global repercussions of a system lacking barriers between public office and private power. Prins leaves the reader with an ominous choice: either we break the alliances of the power elite, or they will break us.
Economic Collapse, Bailout & All The Presidents’ Bankers with Nomi Prins
BuzzSaw interview (September 5, 2014)
The following is an excerpt from ALL THE PRESIDENTS’ BANKERS: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power by Nomi Prins (on sale April 8, 2014). Reprinted with permission from Nation Books. Nomi Prins is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs.
When What Was Good for Wall Street Was Good for the President
Wall Street’s War
While the protests against the Vietnam War intensified in the first years of the Nixon administration, the financial elite was fighting its own war—over the future of banking and against Glass-Steagall regulations. National City Bank chairman Walter Wriston was a steadfast warrior in related battles, as he fought with Chase chairman David Rockefeller for supremacy over the US banker community and for dominance over global finance.
Rockefeller’s sights were set on a grander prize, one with worldwide implications: ending the financial cold war. He made his mark in that regard by opening the first US bank in Moscow since the 1920s, and the first in Beijing since the 1949 revolution.
Augmenting their domestic and international expansion plans, both men and their banks prospered from the emerging and extremely lucrative business of recycling petrodollars from the Middle East into third world countries. By acting as the middlemen—capturing oil revenues and transforming them into high-interest-rate loans, to Latin America in particular—bankers accentuated disparities in global wealth. They dumped loans into developing countries and made huge amounts of money in the process. By funneling profits into debts, they caused extreme pain in the debtor nations, especially when the oil-producing nations began to raise their prices. This raised the cost of energy and provoked a wave of inflation that further oppressed these third world nations, the US population, and other economies throughout the world.
Bank Holding Company Battles
When Eisenhower signed the 1956 Bank Holding Company Act banning interstate banking, he left a large loophole as a conciliatory gambit: a gray area as to what big banks could consider “financially-related business,” which fell under their jurisdiction. In practice, that meant that they could find ways to expand their breadth of services while they figured out ways to grow their domestic grab for depositors. On May 26, 1970, the “Big Three” bankers— Wriston and Rockefeller, along with Alden “Tom” Clausen, chairman of Bank America Corporation—appeared before the Senate Banking and Currency Committee to press their case for widening the loophole.
During the proceedings, Wriston led the charge on behalf of his brethren in the crusade. Tall, slim, elegantly dressed, and the most articulate of the three, he dramatically called on Congress to “throw off some of the shackles on banking which inhibit competition in the financial markets.”
The global financial landscape was evolving. Ever since World War II, US bankers hadn’t worried too much about their supremacy being challenged by other international banks, which were still playing catch-up in terms of deposits, loans, and global customers. But by now the international banks had moved beyond postwar reconstructive pain and gained significant ground by trading with Cold War enemies of the United States. They were, in short, cutting into the global market that the US bankers had dominated by extending themselves into areas in which the US bankers were absent for US policy reasons. There was no such thing as “enough” of a market share in this game. As a result, US bankers had to take a longer, harder look at the “shackles” hampering their growth. To remain globally competitive, among other things, bankers sought to shatter post-Depression legislative barriers like Glass-Steagall.
They wielded fear coated in shades of nationalism as a weapon: if US bankers became less competitive, then by extension the United States would become less powerful. The competition argument would remain dominant on Wall Street and in Washington for nearly three decades, until the separation of speculative and commercial banking that had been invoked by the Glass-Steagall Act would be no more.
Wriston deftly equated the expansion of US banking with general US global progress and power. It wasn’t so much that this connection hadn’t occurred to presidents or bankers since World War II; indeed, that was how the political-financial alliances had been operating. But from that point on, the notion was formally and publicly verbalized, and placed on the congressional record. The idea that commercial banks served the country and perpetuated its global identity and strength, rather than the other way around, became a key argument for domestic deregulation—even if, in practice, it was the country that would serve the banks.
The Penn Central Debacle
There was, however, a fly in the ointment. To increase their size, bankers wanted to be able to accumulate more services or branches beneath the holding company umbrella. But a crisis in another industry would give some legislators pause. The Penn Central meltdown, the first financial crisis of Nixon’s presidency, temporarily dampened the ardency of deregulation enthusiasts. The collapse of the largest, most diverse railroad holding company in America was blamed on overzealous bank lending to a plethora of non-railroad-oriented entities under one holding company umbrella. The debacle renewed debate about a stricter bank holding company bill.
Under Wriston’s guidance, National City had spearheaded a fifty-three-bank syndicate to lend $500 million in revolving credit to Penn Central, even when it showed obvious signs of imminent implosion.
Penn Central had been one of the leading US corporations in the 1960s. President Johnson had supported the merger that spawned the conglomerate on behalf of a friend, railroad merger specialist Stuart Saunders, who became chairman. He had done this over the warnings of the Justice Department and despite allegations of antitrust violations called by its competitors. With nary a regulator paying attention, Penn Central had morphed into more than a railroad holding company, encompassing real estate, hotels, pipelines, and theme parks. Meanwhile, highways, cars, and commercial airlines had chipped away at Penn Central’s dominant market position. To try to compensate,
Penn Central had delved into a host of speculative expansions and deals. That strategy was failing fast. By May 1970, Penn Central was feverishly drawing on its credit lines just to scrounge up enough cash to keep going.
The conglomerate demonstrated that holding companies could be mere shell constructions under which other unrelated businesses could exist, much as the 1920s holding companies housed reckless financial ventures under utility firm banners.
Allegations circulated that Rockefeller had launched a five-day selling strategy of Penn Central stock, culminating with the dumping of 134,400 shares on the fifth day, based on insider information he received as one of the firm’s key lenders. He denied the charges.
In a joint effort with the bankers to hide the Penn Central debacle behind a shield of federal bailout loans, the Pentagon stepped in, claiming that assisting Penn Central was a matter of national defense.5 Under the auspices of national security, Washington utilized the Defense Production Act of 1950, a convenient bill passed at the start of the Korean War that enabled the president to force businesses to prioritize national security–related endeavors.
On June 21, 1970, Penn Central filed for bankruptcy, becoming the first major US corporation to go bust since the Depression. Its failure was not an isolated incident by any means. Instead, it was one of a number of major defaults that shook the commercial paper market to its core. (“Commercial paper” is a term for the short-term promissory notes sold by large corporations to raise quick money, backed only by their promise to pay the amount of the note at the end of its term, not by any collateral.) But the agile bankers knew how to capitalize on that turmoil. When companies stopped borrowing in the flailing commercial paper market, they had to turn to major banks like Chase for loans instead. As a result, the worldwide loans of Chase, First National City Bank, and Bank of America surged to $27.7 billion by the end of 1971, more than double the 1969 total of $13 billion.
A year later, the largest US defense company, Lockheed, was facing bankruptcy, as well. Again bankers found a way to come out ahead on the people’s dime. Lockheed’s bankers at Bank of America and Bankers Trust led a syndicate that petitioned the Defense Department for a bailout on similar national security grounds. The CEO, Daniel Haughton, even agreed to step down if an appropriate government loan was provided.
In response, the Nixon administration offered $250 million in emergency loans to Lockheed—in effect, bailing out the banks and the corporation. To explain the bailout at a time when the general economy was struggling, Nixon introduced the Lockheed Emergency Loan Act by stating, “It will have a major impact on the economy of California, and will contribute greatly to the economic strength of the country as a whole.” After the bill was passed, not a single Lockheed executive stepped down.
It would take several years of political-financial debate and more bailouts to sustain Penn Central. One 1975 article labeled the entire episode “The Penn-C Fairy Tale” and condemned the subsequent federal bailout: “While the country is in the worst recession since the depression and unemployment lines grow longer every day, Congress is dumping another third of a billion dollars of your tax payer dollars down the railroad rat hole.” (The incident was prologue: Congress would lavish hundreds of billions of dollars to sustain the biggest banks after the 2008 financial crisis, topped up by trillions of dollars from the Fed and the Treasury Department in the form of loans, bond purchases, and other subsidies.)
More Bank Holding Company Politics
Despite the Penn Central crisis, the revised Bank Holding Company Act decisively passed the Senate on September 16, 1970, by a bipartisan vote of seventy-seven to one. The final version was far more lenient than the one that Texas Democrat John William Wright Patman, chair of the House Committee on Banking and Currency, or even the Nixon administration had originally envisioned. The revised act allowed big banks to retain nonbank units acquired before June 1968. It also gave the Fed greater regulatory authority over bank holding companies, including the power to determine what constituted one. Language was added to enable banks to be considered one-bank holding companies if they, or any of their subsidiaries, held any deposits or extended any commercial loans, thus broadening their scope.
President Nixon signed the bill into law without fanfare on New Year’s Eve 1970. In fact, his inner circle decided against making a splash about it. They didn’t think the public would understand or care. Plus, they realized that there was a prevailing attitude that the Nixon administration had favored the big banks, and though it had, this was not something they wanted to draw attention to.
The End of the Gold Standard
The top six banks controlled 20 percent of the nation’s deposits through one-bank holding companies, but second place in that group wasn’t good enough for Wriston, who noted to the Nixon administration that his bank was really the “caretaker of the aspirations of millions of people” whose money it held. Wriston flooded the New York Fed with proposals for expansion. His applications “were said to represent as many as half of the total of all of the banks.” The Fed was so overwhelmed, it had to enlist First National City Bank to interpret the new law on its behalf.
By mid-1971, the Fed had approved thirteen and rejected seven of Wriston’s applications. His biggest disappointment was the insurance underwriting rejection. The possibility of converting depositors for insurance business had been tantalizing. It would continue to be a hard-fought, ultimately successful battle.
Around the same time, New York governor Nelson Rockefeller (David Rockefeller’s brother) approved legislation permitting banks to set up subsidiaries in each of the state’s nine banking districts. This was a gift for Wriston and David Rockefeller, because it meant their banks could expand within the state. Each subsidiary could open branches through June 1976, when the districts would be eliminated and banks could merge and branch freely.
Several months later, First National City Bank was paying generous prices to purchase the tiniest upstate banks, from which it began extending loans to the riskiest companies and getting hosed in the process; a minor David vs. Goliath revenge of local banks against Wall Street muscle.
By that time, the stock market had turned bearish, and foreign countries were increasingly demanding their paper dollars be converted into gold as they shifted funds out of dollar reserves. Bankers, meanwhile, postured for a dollar devaluation, which would make their cost of funds cheaper and enable them to expand their lending businesses.
They knew that the fastest way to further devalue the dollar was to sever it from gold, and they made their opinions clear to Nixon, taking care to blame the devaluation on external foreign speculation, not their own movement of capital and lending abroad.
The strategy worked. On August 15, 1971, Nixon bashed the “international money speculators” in a televised speech, stating, “Because they thrive on crises they help to create them.”16 He noted that “in recent weeks the speculators have been waging an all-out war on the American dollar.” His words were true in essence, yet they were chosen to exclude the actions of the major US banks, which were also selling the dollar. Foreign central banks had access to US gold through the Bretton Woods rules, and they exercised this access. Exchanging dollars for gold had the effect of decreasing the value of the US dollar relative to that gold. Between January and August 1971, European banks (aided by US banks with European branches) catalyzed a $20 billion gold outflow.
As John Butler wrote in The Golden Revolution, “By July 1971, the US gold reserves had fallen sharply, to under $10 billion, and at the rate things were going, would be exhausted in weeks. [Treasury Secretary John] Connally was tasked with organizing an emergency weekend meeting of Nixon’s various economic and domestic policy advisers. At 2:30 p.m. on August 13, they gathered, in secret, at Camp David to decide how to respond to the incipient run on the dollar.”
Nixon’s solution, pressed by the banking community, was to abandon the gold standard. In his speech the president informed Americans that he had directed Connally to “suspend temporarily the convertibility of the dollar into gold or other reserve assets.” He promised this would “defend the dollar against the speculators.” Because Bretton Woods didn’t allow for dollar devaluation, Nixon effectively ended the accord that had set international currency parameters since World War II, signaling the beginning of the end of the gold standard.
Once the dollar was no longer backed by gold, questions surfaced as to what truly backed it (besides the US military). According to Butler, “The Bretton Woods regime was doomed to fail as it was not compatible with domestic US economic policy objectives which, from the mid-1960s onwards, were increasingly inflationary.”
It wasn’t simply policy that was inflationary. The expansion of debt via the joint efforts of the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve was greatly augmented by the bankers’ drive to loan more funds against their capital base. That established a debt inflation policy, which took off after the dissolution of Bretton Woods. Without the constraint of keeping gold in reserve to back the dollar, bankers could increase their leverage and speculate more freely, while getting money more easily from the Federal Reserve’s discount window. Abandoning the gold standard and “floating” the dollar was like navigating the waters of global finance without an anchor to slow down the dispersion of money and loans. For the bankers, this made expansion much easier.
Indeed, on September 24, 1971, Chase board director and former Treasury Secretary C. Douglas Dillon (chairman of the Brookings Institution and, from 1972 to 1975, the Rockefeller Foundation) told Connally that “under no circumstances should we ever go back to assuming limited convertibility into gold.” Chase Board chairman David Rockefeller wrote National Security Adviser (and later Secretary of State) Henry Kissinger to recommend “a reevaluation of foreign currencies, a devaluation of the dollar, removal of the U.S. import surcharge and ‘buy America’ credits, and a new international monetary system with greater flexibility . . . and less reliance on gold.”
With the dollar devalued, investors poured money into stocks, fueling a rally from November 1971 led by the “Nifty Fifty,” a group of “respectable” big-cap growth stocks. These were being bought “like greyhounds chasing a mechanical rabbit” by pension funds, insurance companies, and trust funds. The Chicago Board of Trade began trading options on individual stocks in 1973 to increase the avenues for betting; speculators could soon thereafter trade futures on currencies and bonds.
The National Association of Securities Dealers rendered all this trading easier on February 8, 1971, when it launched the NASDAQ. The first computerized quote system enabled market makers to post and transact over-the-counter prices quickly. With the stock market booming again, NASDAQ became a more convenient avenue for Wall Street firms to raise money. Many abandoned their former partnership models whereby the firm’s partners risked their own capital for the firm, in favor of raising capital by selling the public shares. That way, the upside—and the growing risk—would also be diffused and transferred to shareholders. Merrill Lynch was one of the first major investment bank partnerships to go “public” in 1971. Other classic industry leaders quickly followed suit.
Meanwhile, corporations were finding prevailing lower interest rates more attractive. Instead of getting loans from banks, they could fund themselves more cheaply by issuing bonds in the capital markets. This took business away from commercial banks, which were restricted by domestic regulation from acting as issuing agents. But bankers had positioned themselves on both sides of the Atlantic to get around this problem, so they were covered by the shift in their major customers’ financing preferences. While their ability to service corporate demand was dampened at home, overseas it roared. Currency market turmoil also led many countries to the Eurodollar market for credit, where US banks were waiting. Thus, the credit extended through international branches of major US banks tripled to $4.5 billion from 1969 to 1972.
The market rally, cheered on by the media, was enough to bolster Nixon’s fortunes. In the fall of 1972, Nixon was reelected in a landslide on promises to end the Vietnam War with “peace and honor.” Wall Street reaped the benefits of a bull market, and more citizens and companies were sucked into new debt products. The Dow hit a 1970s peak of 1,052 points in January 1973, as Nixon began his second term.
Don’t audit Grandpa
The IRS decides to audit Grandpa, and summons him to the IRS office. The IRS auditor was not surprised when Grandpa showed up with his attorney. The auditor said, ‘Well, sir, you have an extravagant lifestyle and no full-time employment, Which you explain by saying that you win money gambling. I’m not sure the IRS finds that believable.’
I’m a great gambler, and I can prove it,’ says Grandpa. ‘How about a demonstration?’ The auditor thinks for a moment and said, ‘Okay. Go ahead.’ Grandpa says, ‘I’ll bet you a thousand dollars that I can bite my own eye.’ The auditor thinks a moment and says, ‘It’s a bet.’ Grandpa removes his glass eye and bites it. The auditor’s jaw drops……
Grandpa says, ‘Now, I’ll bet you two thousand dollars that I can bite my other eye.’ Now the auditor can tell Grandpa isn’t blind, so he takes the bet. Grandpa removes his dentures and bites his good eye.
The stunned auditor now realizes he has wagered and lost three grand, with Grandpa’s attorney as a witness. He starts to get nervous.
‘Want to go double or nothing?’ Grandpa asks ‘I’ll bet you six thousand dollars that I can stand on one side of your desk, and pee into that wastebasket on the other side, and never get a drop anywhere in between.’ The auditor, twice burned, is cautious now, but he looks carefully and decides there’s no way this old guy could possibly manage that stunt, so he agrees again.
Grandpa stands beside the desk and unzips his pants, but although he strains mightily, he can’t make the stream reach the wastebasket on the other side, so he pretty much urinates all over the auditor’s desk. The auditor leaps with joy, realizing that he has just turned a major loss into a huge win.
But Grandpa’s own attorney moans and puts his head in his hands.
‘Are you okay?’ the auditor asks.
‘Not really,’ says the attorney. ‘This morning, when Grandpa told me he’d been summoned for an audit, he bet me twenty-five thousand dollars that he could come in here and piss all over your desk and that you’d be happy about it!’
I keep telling you! Don’t Mess with Old People!!
NOW, the original..
PADDY’S AUDIT CARTOON BASED ON THE JOKE:
The Inland Revenue decides to audit Paddy, and
summons him to an appointment with the most thorough
auditor in the office. The auditor is not surprised
when Paddy shows up with his solicitor.
The auditor says, ‘Well, sir, you have an
extravagant lifestyle and no full-time employment,
which you explain by saying that you win money
gambling.. I’m not sure the Inland Revenue finds that
‘I’m a great gambler, and I can prove it,’ says Paddy. ‘How about a demonstration?’
The auditor thinks for a moment and says, ‘Okay. You’re on!’
Paddy says, ‘I’ll bet you a thousand pound that I can bite my own eye.’
The auditor thinks a moment and says, ‘No way! It’s a bet.’
Paddy removes his glass eye and bites it.
The auditor’s jaw drops.
Paddy says, ‘Now, I’ll bet you two thousand pound that I can bite my other eye.’
The auditor can tell Paddy isn’t blind, so he takes the bet.
Paddy removes his dentures and bites his good eye.
The stunned auditor now realises he has
bet and lost three thousand quid, with Paddy’s
solicitor as a witness. He starts to get nervous.
‘Would you like to go double or nothing?’ Paddy
asks. ‘I’ll bet you six thousand pound that I can stand on one side
of your desk and piss into that rubbish bin on the
other side, and never get a drop anywhere in between.’
The auditor, twice burned, is cautious now, but he
looks carefully and decides there’s no way Paddy can
manage that stunt, so he agrees again.
Paddy stands beside the desk and unzips his
trousers, but although he strains for all his worth
he can’t make the stream reach the bin on the
other side, so he pretty much urinates all over the
The auditor leaps with joy, realising that he has just turned a major loss into a big win.
But Paddy’s solicitor moans and puts his head in his hands.
‘Are you okay?’ the auditor asks.
‘Not really,’ says the solicitor.
‘This morning, when Paddy told me he’d been summoned for an audit, he bet me £20,000 that he could come in here and piss all over your desk – and that you’d be happy about it.’