Monday, November 30, 2009

FPA Capital Fund Letter to Shareholders which includes the Final Fund Commentary from Robert Rodriguez

Thanks to Steve for passing this along.

One final thought that brings me to the intensifying issue that we have written about several times before — the explosion in Treasury debt outstanding. Since September 30, 2008, Treasury debt has risen from $10 trillion to $11.9 trillion, a rate of $5 billion per day. There is no end in sight for this out of control debt growth, as reflected by federal government deficit forecasts, which we consider optimistic, that total between $7 and $9 trillion for the period 2010 to 2019. In our March 2009 Letter to Shareholders, we estimated that US Treasury debt would swell to between $14.6 trillion and $16.6 trillion by the end of 2011. If we stay on this present trend, we should reach this range which, in our opinion, is outrageous and fiscally irresponsible. This insanity is not a Democratic Party or a Republican Party "thing." Both parties are responsible, but who is ultimately more responsible than these two parties? It is we, the citizens, who keep re-electing these power-centered financially inept politicians and it will be our children and grandchildren who will have to "pay the piper." It is not right and is morally reprehensible that one generation would do this to another.

Our country is currently in this financial mess because consumers, corporations and government succumbed to the temptations of excessive spending, debt growth and risk taking. Just as any family or company can get into trouble with too much debt, so can a state or country. California is a perfect example of a state government that has been devoid of economic reality and totally irresponsible in its finances, with spending far exceeding revenue growth for years. Our federal government also exemplifies this unsound and unwise trend. Before new expenditure programs are created and laid upon preexisting ones, we should be demanding that federal, state and local governments get spending under control first. We cannot trust most politicians because they practice "bait and switch" tactics in proposing new programs. The true long-term program costs are always understated because new benefits are added subsequently that were not included in the original optimistic cost estimates — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are perfect examples of this process, and the proposed new health care spending program, if passed, will likely follow this same course.

As a beginning, no new programs should be created until others have been eliminated to offset these costs in the year of origination. We should have government prove to us first that this new budgetary balance can be achieved and maintained. Once at approximate equilibrium, we can begin to focus on debt reduction through the process of expenditures growing at less than the rate of revenue growth. Most families know that before they can regain control of their finances, they first have to control their spending. If our elected officials cannot agree to meet this principle of fiscal discipline and be held accountable to it immediately, they should be ousted from office. Most of our current elected representatives would fail this test. As is the case with any company or family that does not deal with its pre-existing debt first, and then proceeds to take on additional debt beyond its means to pay, foreclosure or possibly bankruptcy will likely result. The same goes for a country, unless it can continue issuing debt denominated in its own currency. In this case, it can expunge its debt through the process of printing money and, thus, it can create a monetary inflation that destroys the purchasing power of previously issued debt. Our lenders will not stand for this and current trends show that foreign central banks are beginning to shift their holdings from Treasury notes and bonds to much shorter term Treasury bills. This is an ominous trend. At FPA, we began this process several years ago in our fixed income management accounts.

I urge all of you to convey to your elected representatives that this spending madness must stop. If it does not, we will eventually face a crisis that will be far worse than the one we are in now. This potential risk is in our thinking at FPA and we are making contingency plans, as we did for this current crisis, so that we may manage through it well. As a first generation American, I hope and pray that we make the difficult decisions rather than pass them on to the next generation.


Related video – Robert Rodriguez on WealthTrack: