In addition to his day job as a strategic planner with an Ivy League university, James Quinn has, in the past year, become one of the Web’s handful of must-read bloggers. Nearly everything he publishes ends up in the DollarCollapse “Best of the Web” column, and his Burning Platform website now hosts high-level discussions on topics ranging from Peak Water to Washington’s fraudulent employment numbers to Swiss bank dumping of U.S. bonds. We spoke earlier in the week:
DollarCollapse: The first article on your Burning Platform website is less than a year old. Since then you’ve been churning out big, thought-provoking, well-researched articles at the rate of about one a week. What happened to suddenly make you such a prolific blogger?
James Quinn: I’d never written an article in my entire life until April 2008. The reason I started was, I was watching the Republican presidential primaries and I saw how the mainstream press and the other candidates were treating Ron Paul. I’d never heard of Ron Paul until Richard Russell brought him up in his newsletter. I started investigating, and everything the guy wrote was dead-on, completely consistent with my point of view. And during the campaign they were treating him like a nut, when he was the most honest straightforward guy in the campaign. So I wrote an article titled “Why We Need Ron Paul.” I tried to get it published in some newspapers but nobody wanted any part of it. Then I came across Lew Rockwell’s site and he loved it and posted it. His site gives out its writers’ email addresses so I started getting 50 emails a day, most of them agreeing with me. So I kept going. The first five or six articles were all Ron Paul based, and Lew put them on his site. Then Seeking Alpha and Minyanville and your site picked them up.
Then I came across this guy named Jason Rines, who had created a site called Raging Debate, which had used a couple of my articles. I mentioned that I’d like to do a site that would include discussion threads and he said, “I’ll create it for you.” He put together the Burning Platform. I came up with the name and supply the content, and he built the discussion capabilities. Jason’s idea is to roll out these sites for anybody who has something to say. He’ll provide the technology and they’ll provide the content.
DC: Your articles cover a lot of ground, but the central theme is always the mess we’ve made of things. How in your opinion did we screw up so royally?
JQ: It comes back to 1971 when Nixon closed the gold window. Before that we were a manufacturing-based economy. We produced things, and we ran a trade surplus, not a deficit. But [disconnecting the dollar from gold] unleashed the Federal Reserve to print at will, and they have. Since then we’ve had nothing but inflation. The dollar has lost 93% of its value against gold.
We did fine from 1789 to 1913. We had strong growth without inflation. But when we created the Federal Reserve it was for the benefit of the bankers and politicians. It has allowed them to spend freely and create a welfare system that has skyrocketed. But you can’t let the rest of us off the hook. We’ve continued to vote for politicians who promised all the goodies without the pain. That’s how you get reelected today.
DC: You’re especially hard on us baby boomers. What did we do to make you so mad?
JQ: In 1980 the oldest boomer turned 35, and since then they’ve led us into a debt bubble. Every conceivable category of debt has skyrocketed. Now there’s a tipping point coming. As John Mauldin says, “an unsustainable trend will not be sustained.” At some point it’s going to come crashing down.
I have three teenage boys and for the first time in a long time I don’t think our kids are going to have a better future than we had. We’re saddling our children and grandchildren with $66 trillion of unfunded liabilities and still piling it on.
Everything this government is doing is the opposite of what it should be doing. With cash for clunkers and tax credits for houses we’re encouraging people to borrow more. They’re coming out with another for appliances later in the year. The debt is going to go up by $2 trillion this year. Ultimately it leads to a dollar collapse. I can’t see any other out at this point.
DC: If a crisis is unavoidable, what’s your most likely scenario?
JQ: Our standard of living drops dramatically. I keep reading about the government hitting the reset button and devaluing the dollar. Could they do what Roosevelt did in 1932 and confiscate gold and reset the dollar 50% lower to wipe out all the debt that we owe? That would be a choice on the part of the government, which is possible, but I don’t think they’re that smart. So I think it’s more likely to be a collapse where someone heads for the exits and everyone else follows. The Chinese and the Russians are already headed for the exits, but they’re doing it slowly and cautiously so they don’t cause a panic.
DC: What are you doing with your own money?
JQ: We’re putting three kids through school and have almost no debt. I’m mostly in inflation protected bonds. Our biggest stock positions are GLD and SLV, the ETFs for gold and silver. I think commodities are going to skyrocket, so I’ve got the commodity ETF DBA and a few gold mining stocks. But at this point I’m a lot in cash. I think the overall market heads back to its March lows and beyond.
DC: One last question: Your perspective is Austrian, or libertarian, or Constitutional or whatever other right-wing nutcase label you prefer. That’s generally not the dominant culture of an Ivy League school. Do your bosses read your stuff, and if so, what’s their reaction?
JQ: I keep a very low profile.