This is the first of a two-part Op-Ed piece by Matt Horween, CPA, FSO (retired). To read the second part, please click here: Time to Remove U.S. Troops From South Korea.If you believe that Russia, China, Al-Qaida, North Korea and Iran might not be our friends then this monograph will interest you. If you believe that we can all get along together and that these countries are our friends and mean us no harm then do not waste your time reading it. In part one I am going to start with a description of what we have done since WW II ended and a discussion of why we should stop supporting the rest of the world and start spending our money here at home in the USA. In part, two I will make a case for not basing any troops in South Korea and why we should base all the troops there in the United States and not increase the Army by 22,000 troops for the war in Afghanistan. Why should this monograph appear on a financial news website? It is helpful to know if you are investing in companies that are located in countries with stagnant or no growth versus countries with accelerating growth and solid financial systems and foreign reserves and good fiscal policies. This is an example of what we are getting for protecting South Korea, which is a rich country. Korean automakers sold 800,000 cars in the United States in 2005, as compared to 4,251 U.S. cars sold in the Korean market last year. The value of Korean auto exports to the United States in each of the last two years was over $10 billion. Korea had trade surpluses with the United States of $9.4 billion, $14.1 billion, and $10.7 billion in 2003, 2004, and 2005 respectively. I do not think the numbers got much better since 2005. What do we get for protecting Korea from an attack from North Korea? President Obama promised us during the campaign that he would work on ending the imbalances that have arisen under our free trade agreements. So far, we have not heard much about forcing Korea to allow us to sell vehicles there. Since the end of World War II, we have been through so much. The Korean War, the Cold War, Vietnam, Afghanistan War, Gulf War I and Gulf War II. In addition, we have been involved in innumerable other covert and overt conflicts. We need a rest. We need to look inward for a while. We need to assimilate all of the new immigrants and we need to deal with our minority citizens who lag way behind the rest of the country economically. If we do not start to look inward and take care of our own people, we will see our educational system and our infrastructure continue to deteriorate while we play the role of Super Power on credit. How will we raise the money to continue our Super Power ways? What should we invest in to protect ourselves in the medium to long term? I think we will expand our foreign military operations and our Foreign Aid in the near term, and we will have to raise taxes and cut back on Social Security and continue to borrow vast amounts of money as long as our so-called friends will lend it to us. I think that it is most prudent to invest in the SPDRGold ( GLD) ETF at a time like this and to invest in international oil companies like BP ( BP), Total ( TOT), Petrobras ( PZE). It would be a mistake to invest in our domestic oil companies because Cap and Trade will hamper them and the USG will raise their taxes going forward. Most foreign mineral companies like BHP ( BHP) and Rio Tinto ( RTP) will be good over time. A China, Indian or Brazilian ETF or closed end fund will be a good investment as will European and Brazilian utility companies. GlaxoSmithKine ( GSK), Nestle ( NSRGY), Diageo ( DEO) and other European companies that pay a reasonable dividend are also good hedges against a chronically falling dollar. Infrastructure and oil service firms like Halliburton ( HAL) and Transocean ( RIG) that have headquarters outside the USA (Halliburton now has dual headquarters in Dubai and Houston) are good picks since they will be able to avoid much of the higher U.S. taxes that will be coming. If you want to buy U.Ss companies, then think about the top international brands that will not need much financing in the near- and mid-term that will earn a lot of foreign currency. Companies like McDonald's ( MCD), Coca-Cola ( KO) , Intel ( INTC), IBM ( IBM), Deere ( DE), Caterpillar ( CAT) , Clorox ( CLX) , Cisco ( CSCO), Procter & Gamble ( PG) and Dow Chemical ( DOW). Small and medium sized U.S. companies that are not export oriented should be avoided since they will have difficult time when interest rates rise. Not to mention the fact that the generally weak U.S. economy will persist as long as we continue to spend so much of our budget overseas and not in the USA for the USA. The USA has starved its domestic economy of desperately needed infrastructure, starting with the Vietnam War and continuing up until today. If you want to see majestic new airports go to China, do not go to Philadelphia. If you want to drive on brand new super highways, do not go to I-76 in Pennsylvania but again go to China. If you want to see, new sewer and water plants go to China.
If you want to see a country produce over 90% of its electricity using nuclear power and then has no waste to dispose because it reprocesses the waste, go to France. If you want a doctor to come to your hotel room for very little and give you good care, go to France. We have taken away vital funding for our elementary schools and raised tuition endlessly in our university system while making our children graduate with crushing debt burdens. Now many localities are charging students hefty fees to play football. Maybe the NFL should step in out of self-interest and fund the shortfalls since they get free taxpayer provided stadiums? It is interesting that while the children of our own citizens can barely afford to go to college -- and that many rack up huge debts doing so -- we spend billions of dollars to bring foreign students to this country and pay full travel expenses, tuition, and room and board for many of them. Now Congress has before it many proposals from the likes of Bill Gates and Intel to allow these foreign students to stay here and work after they graduate with no student loans to worry about. You would think that Intel and Microsoft ( MSFT) should have to repay the U.S. government for their new employees' educational costs, but I have not heard this mentioned at all. It is a fact that the Obama administration has requested and received an increase in foreign aid while our own schools and our own citizens are suffering. Similarly, we spend millions of dollars running free and fair elections in other countries but have a chaotic election system in our own country that gives you spectacles like the recent Minnesota senate race. We are also spending hundreds of billions of dollars overseas for military bases and personnel -- dollars that we borrow from China, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Japan for the most part. We are fighting a bigger war now in Afghanistan and trying to wind one down in Iraq. For our efforts, so far, we have had Pakistan obtain many nuclear warheads and North Korea making more warheads while developing rockets to reach the USA. Iran is busy making nuclear bombs and developing rockets in conjunction with North Korea with the acquiescence, if not the help, of China and Russia. After World War II we set up a huge network of military bases around the world and started an enormous foreign aid program that continues to this day. We still contribute 25% of the operating expenses of the United Nations and we are the world's biggest total foreign aid giver. Our citizens individually contribute much more money to foreign aid through charities than any other country does. At the start of our largesse to the rest of the world, we made it possible for our corporations to make huge amounts of money by operating and selling products overseas. Over time, things changed and countries like South Korea, Japan and China became huge economic powers and effectively ran mercantile economic policies to sell goods to us while not allowing the USA to sell them many goods. Everyone knows this, but no one wants to change it. Our trade imbalance has mattered even though hundreds of brilliant economists assure us that it really did not matter and would not matter in the future. For the most part, they could say this because of the U.S dollar being the world's reserve currency. England pursued a similar debt and trade deficit policy and the pound, which had been a near reserve currency, disintegrated. More history lessons for our leaders to learn here. Under President Clinton we made huge strides to put our financial house in order so we could continue to be the global policeman and the biggest foreign aid donor in the world. When we had a little tiny recession after the dot.com bubble that Greenspan caused, President Bush and Congress totally abandoned any pretext of making the USA a strong nation economically. Greenspan testified to Congress that it would not be a good thing for the USA to pay off its national debt. Of course, we were not really paying off our debt very much because we were counting the Medicare and Social Security surpluses in our calculations. Even if we paid off our public debt, we would still have had our crushing entitlement liabilities to deal with in the future. Congress passed a sweeping stimulus program, which included big tax cuts, and Bush started several wars while Greenspan started a housing bubble. We all know how this has turned out so far.
We all have heard the famous quote that goes something like those who do not pay attention to history will repeat history. The U.S. Congress and our presidents and war planners have chosen to ignore the quote for decades. Why they ignore it is a great mystery and will go down in history as another example of a great and powerful people who have failed. My thesis is that our enemies are deliberately working in unison to bring us down by making us outspend our resources and thereby make us go the way of the English Empire, Roman Empire, Chinese Empire, and even the French Monarchy. The amazing thing is that less than 30 years ago, we did the same thing to the Soviet Union. How can our leaders ignore history of so recent a vintage? The bottom line is that when the money runs out, the empire is at great peril and its very existence will be uncertain. Who is in charge of our destiny? It does not seem to matter much which political party is in charge because the result is the same. Economic power allows for sustained military power. Spain conquered the New World and ended up with a huge amount of gold. It used its gold to project its empire all over the world and in Europe. We know how that played out. When World War II ended, the U.S. owned most of the world's gold and we were the world's biggest creditor nation. We are now the world's biggest debtor nation. I am neither a military historian nor a war planner, but it seems to me that anyone with any common sense who has read any history of the world can grasp that the USA is bleeding financially to support all kinds of military activities all over the world. These activities are in large part financed by our potential enemy China. Our leaders must think that China is our potential enemy, which is why we keep so many troops in Japan and a huge naval fleet in the waters off China. I will discuss four areas that are bleeding us dry financially that most likely will result in a total debacle for us if our troops have to fight an enemy. In part two of today's editorial, I will discuss the folly of stationing our troops in South Korea.