We have not had an honest-to-God bear market in ninety years. But what about 2008? Or 2001? Or 1987? Yeah, yeah, the market went down, it’s true, but in every single down-market since the 1930s, the federal government has intervened to stop the bleeding. The natural, organic, and marvelously healthy process of a sweeping financial cleaning hasn’t been permitted since the days of FDR, since the nanny state government feels duty-bound to spare its citizens anything that might hurt even a little bit.
The last big cleaning – – which spanned 1929 to 1933 – – spawned laws and cultural changes that benefited the United States for nearly seventy years before they were dismantled. The most egregious “help” the government has offered came, of course, during the last little downturn, during a few weeks in late February and early March of 2020, which was met with trillions and trillions of dollars of stimulus, forgiveness, and all-around federal fellatio.
My view is that this latest bear market, which started in November of 2021 and has been building momentum ever since, has the following path in the months ahead…….
To be clear, I do not think the conjecture above represents the entire amount of plunging prices, but it’s an excellent start.
What I wanted to do is consider what segments of our society will be purged when the dust settles from this latest financial cataclysm. I came up with a baker’s dozen of them without even thinking hard about it, and I’m sure there are dozens more. But let’s take a look at what I imagined off the top of my bearish head:
Inept Fund Managers
There’s an old saying: don’t confuse brains with a bull market. Over the past dozen years, there have been plenty of people with utterly average brains that appeared to be geniuses, simply because they rode the Fed-driven equity market higher. They were in the right place at the right time, and I have every confidence that they’re going to keep buying all the way down.
The poster child – – and it’s not even a close contest!! – – for this is Ms. Cathie Wood, the ceaselessly-needy narcissistic television personality who never missed an opportunity to talk on the tee-vee about how disruptive her “innovative” portfolio companies would be.
Well, her fabled funds have lost 70% in a matter of months, and she is still endlessly crowing about how great things are going to be. I would gently remind my readers that this is the same person who, in December, pledged a 40% annual return for the next five years since the stock market was in “deep value territory“. Well, lady, it’s a lot deeper now, and you can down on some Marianas Trench levels in coming days.
Now, at the risk of taking a second bite from the Cathie apple, I’ll mention that she is loud and proud about her evangelical Christian beliefs, and she’s got a close buddy who is the same way: one Mr. Bill Hwang.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Jesus-following Mr. Hwang. He was carried off in handcuffs by federal authorities last week for a gargantuan fraud measured in the tens of billions (sort of like one Mr. Bernie Madoff, whom I don’t believe was quite as big a Jesus freak as Cathie and Billy). He hasn’t been convicted yet, but let’s just say the evidence is compelling.
As the old saying goes (and, yes, I’m fond of old sayings) – – you don’t know who isn’t wearing a bathing suit until the tide goes out. Well, the tide has only started to go out, and as disturbing as witnessing a trunkless Ms. Hwang must surely be, I think there are a lot of other moistened folds and stiffened giblets that will meet our gaze as the bear market grinds on.
Yes, I know they are smart. Very, very smart. Guys like Samuel Bankman-Fried and Vitalik Buterin (the handsome devil pictured below) are the kinds of guys who probably got a “5” on the Calculus BC AP test in the 8th grade and have off-the-scale IQs.
However, this sort of raw intelligence doesn’t translate into real-world value. These fellows have been pushing their crypto-will-solve-everything agenda for years, and the public just ain’t biting. Crypto is a king-sized Ponzi scheme that has generated an entire economic ecosystem of charlatans, hustlers, and come-on artists.
One of the weary pledges they trot out is how crypto will be a salvation to the “unbanked” who, God bless ’em, don’t even have checking accounts. Ummm, listen fellas. I’m in the 99.9th percentile when it comes to computer knowledge and experience, and even I found the whole crypto experience to be challenging. I seriously doubt the dazed and half-drunk homeless guy, unbanked though he may be, is going to gain salvation by way of Metamask. Get real. This is a solution in search of a problem.
This is already well on its way to be beaten out of a generation, but the entire “stonks only go up” crowd is in for some serious, serious humiliation and account-destruction. If you wander over to /wsb these days, you can already see them shrieking about how much they miss the year 2020 when it was easy to be an idiot and yet make money. These boys are getting absolutely zeroed out lately, but I know they’ll keep trying until they simply have no funds left to trade. Wendy’s is going to have no shortage of applicants.
I could name dozens without even looking at a list. There have been so many stocks that have come public which have no business even existing. Even though the market in general is only modesty off its lifetime highs, there is an absolute treasure trove of stocks that have already suffered 60%, 70%, and even 90% losses in recent months. One look at the stock Robinhood (symbol HOOD) illustrates a chart that lives in The Land That Upticks Forgot. The two long-haired goobers below founded the place, and although HOOD made them rich, it has meant nothing but losses for their investors and nothing but anger from its customers.
The SPAC Joke
Speaking of poster boys, here is Chamath Palihapitiya (yes, I always have to look up the name, because God knows I’ll never be able to memorize its spelling). The photo above is the moment where he utterly destroyed his reputation by declaring to everyone that he doesn’t give two shits about the suffering of the Uyghurs.
Ummm, Chamath, you may be a crafty hawker of investment products, but you sure are a dumbshit when it comes to keeping a good public image. It’s never a good idea to spit on an ethnic group that is suffering. So this guys reputation is pretty much done.
But it will be super-duper-done as the SPACs he pushed on people continue to wither away. The path of a SPAC has become so predictable as to be a cliché: it trades at $10 forever, then it gets merged with a sexy-sounding enterprise, rips 40% higher, and then begins weakening. And it keeps weakening until it has lost almost all its value. Take one good look at Virgin Galactic (SPCE) which is one of the better-performing SPACs, and you’ll see what I mean.
Oh, Jim. Jim, Jim, Jim. You can’t seem to name a good stock idea to save your life. You’ve become a laughingstock. A buffoon. The butt of jokes. And yet you still get paid $5 million per year. I’ll tell you an anecdote: years ago, my company was actually considering buying TheStreet.com (Jimmy’s business at the time) but we got cold feet because the man was pulling down $400,000 per year, which we thought was outrageous, considering his skill set. He had the good fortune of hanging out at the CNBC set long enough to let a bull market growing around him (as did his salary), and now they’re basically pissing away $5 million for a man that could be replaced with an intern. It’s pathetic.
When times are really good, and the money is easy, the general public is happy to Look The Other Way. When times get rough, we enter the age of recrimination. Let’s just say that Adam Neumann (founder of the train wreck known as WeWork) and his hideous wife Rebekah would have been absolutely pilloried for their financial sins during normal times. Luckily for them, they managed to get away with it (and become billionaires in the process) by getting out while the market was still flying high. Think of WeWork as basically a Theranos that didn’t get caught in time. They wouldn’t be able to pull the same stunt now. Forgiveness is going out the window.
The leering face below is that of Larry (not Barton) Fink, who runs the multi-trillion-dollar kick-your-assets management firm known as Blackrock. Now, thanks to his close connections with the highest levels of government, he got to bring an enormous ladle to dip into the saucepan of government cash that got distributed post-Covid. Incredibly, the Federal Reserve literally bought ETFs created by Blackrock as part of the “recovery”. Again, during normal times, this never would have happened. But if you want to see the most gigantic example of corporate welfare on the planet, look no further than Mr. Fink’s face, if you can stomach it.
I know it’s hard to believe when you look at him, but the guy below actually managed to bed quite a few women, according to reports (and self-reporting), and he’s embroiled in some pretty serious legal battles right now from female accusers. Anyway, Dave Portnoy rode a tremendous wave of success through his principal holding, Penn National Gaming (symbol PENN) which has dipped slightly by 75% from its peak in March of 2021. There is no shortage of gambling-related companies which roared higher during the pandemic, based on the combination of (a) the belief that people had nothing better to do with their time online gambling (b) the ceaseless trillions pushing all equities higher. Time to cash in your chips. The roulette wheel is closed.
Allow me to introduce Ms. Vijaya Gadde. She’s the top censor at Twitter. Even though, as a stock, Twitter has been absolutely wretched for public investors (about a 0% return over a decade), Ms. Gadde is doing great, thank you very much. She gets paid an eye-watering $17 million per year to kill accounts of people with whom she disagrees (the most famous example being Trump). Even little old me got a 24 hour suspension for jokingly tweeting to someone “You will die alone” (in the manner of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog), which I guess she considered some kind of death threat. Elon is going to give her the ax, but the point is that absurd salaries for people whose job could be handled by a high school graduate are going to vanish. (And, it’s besides the point, but what’s with her eyes? Something weird is going on here.)
Gamestop. AMC. The /wsb crowd all wanted to be like their hero Roaring Kitty. (AKA DeepFuckingValue). Listen, fellas, Roaring Kitty scored big, and good for him, because it took fortitude. But that was one and done. It ain’t gonna happen for you. So give up, and be sure to be on time for your shift.
The Heroic Fed
And, more than anyone, more than anything, the biggest loser when the bear market finishes is going to be the Fed itself. For years now, the bureaucratic clowns (Greenspan, Yellen, Bernanke, Powell) have been held up as superheroes to the public.
I’m telling you, Powell is going to be one of the most despised men on the planet when this is all over. They’re going to want his head on a pike. And, at long last, Congress will probably finally get the right to audit the world’s largest criminal organization (AKA the U.S. Federal Reserve) and, boy, are they going to be in for a few surprises. Simply stated, Jerome Hayden Powell is going to go from Hero to Zero.