Everything Is Broken

Broken Credit
Broken Retirement
Broken Stocks
Broken Data
Broken Unemployment System
Puerto Rico, Vaccines, and Some Good News

Broken lines, broken strings,
Broken threads, broken springs,
Broken idols, broken heads,
People sleeping in broken beds

—Bob Dylan, “Everything is Broken” from the album Oh Mercy, 1989

I was on a client call earlier this week with Steve Blumenthal. The gentleman is at that stage in life where he needs cash income and not risk. Steve commented, “The bond market is broken.”

And indeed, the traditional fixed income bond market is broken, thanks to the Fed. We were able to suggest some alternatives (they are out there) that could help solve his problem.

But it got me to thinking... What else is broken? And the more I thought, the more I realized that the data that we use every day, the very systems that we are forced to work with, are indeed in various stages of being broken.

There is a great scene in the fabulous movie The Princess Bride where the criminal “mastermind” Vizzini keeps uttering the word “inconceivable.” After the nth time, Inigo Montoya turns to him and says, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Today we are going to look at data from the standpoint of Inigo Montoya. I don’t think that data means what you think it means. Indeed, much of the data in the way we use it is simply broken.

(In a few weeks, I will do a letter on things that aren’t broken, which are in fact incredible. I am an optimist, but I’m also realistic. I am “long” on the human experiment. Government? Not so much…)

Our economic and financial systems are badly broken in multiple ways. Some of the cracks are enormous, maybe beyond anyone’s ability to repair. Step one is admitting they are broken.

Today I will describe several major breaks—some obvious, some not. I hope to help launch a conversation about fixing them. First, however, let me mention something that’s changed but isn’t broken: the Mauldin Economics Strategic Investment Conference.

This year’s online SIC—being held on five alternating days between May 5 and 14—is shaping up to be just as spectacular (maybe more) as last year’s.

We are hard at work enrolling and confirming speakers; so far, we have over two dozen confirmed. Since nobody has to travel for this event, it has been much easier to get world-class experts onto our virtual stage. We’ve also listened to your survey responses and more than doubled the number of the lively panel discussions and fireside chats that were so popular with attendees last year.

Sales of our SIC 2021 Pass haven’t officially started yet, but if you want to get your ticket now at our deeply discounted price, go ahead and click through to this order form. I can’t wait to see you all in May! One of the things we will be discussing is how to fix some of those broken problems.

Now, let’s look at some broken things.