Interview with President Bill Clinton

I was Clinton’s Running Mate…For Half an Hour!

In the world of investing, timing is everything. In October, 1996, on a San Diego beach, my timing was excellent — an opportunity to jog and speak with President Clinton.

I had gone out on the beach for a jog. Before I knew it, the President of the United States and his entourage came jogging in front of me.

“Hi! How are you?” Clinton asked with a smile. “I could be better,” I responded, a phrase that speaks volumes about the last four years under Clinton.

Before the opportunity could slip away, I seized the moment. While others watched in amazement, I ran up, shook his hand and asked, “Mind if I join you?” The Secret Service agents were closing in fast, but the president waved his hand. “Fine with me. Let him go.”

For the next half an hour, I had the president’s ear. Boy did I let him have it!

We discussed his 1993 tax hike, which I pointed out had a negative effect on business and charities. While wealthy people can afford to pay higher taxes, sending more money to Uncle Sam means there’s less money to be spent on business, on hiring or for charities.

He seemed to understand, but said he had to do something about the deficit, which ballooned under Reagan supply-side tax-cuts of the 1980s.

“Do you believe in supply-side economics?” I asked. He replied “Yes, tax cuts can increase revenues, as they did under Kennedy. But we must not go overboard.”

We also discussed a reduction or elimination of the capital gains tax. Surprisingly, Clinton said he favored a reduction in capital gains, but only if a “small” alternative minimum tax was included to ensure fairness. Basically, a capital gains tax cut in name only.

Next we discussed problems of Medicare, including the Medical Savings Accounts idea popularized by 1996 and 2000 GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes, which Clinton said he also supported.

As we finally said good-bye (the Secret Service agents had been pointing at their watches for the last several minutes) I asked Clinton to sign a dollar bill I had in my pocket. “I think it’s illegal, but I’ll do it anyway,” he said.

Interview with Peter Drucker

I had an opportunity to interview famed management guru Peter Drucker in July, 1991 for a Forbes article.

When I asked him about the troubles of big corporations, like IBM and General Motors, Drucker replied that all large companies which emerge as a pioneer in a field eventually mature and face competition. They simply they must decide which size is best. “Elephants have a hard time adapting. Cockroaches outlive everything.”

Drucker alluded to the hidden growing troubles of Japan, due to the large amount of T-bills and real estate they’d invested in the United States and their high capital gains tax.

In the U.S., Drucker didn’t foresee a depression in the 1990s, but did predict a declining number of banks through mergers as the interest-generated revenues of the traditional structure of banking were replaced with service fee-generated revenues.

Finally, when I asked if Keynesianism was finally dead, Drucker replied that he was not anti-Keynesian, but rather non-Keynesian. He surprised me by stating that he felt Keynes was actually ultraconservative politically, believing in abolishing labor unions and maintaining the free-market. Keynes despised American Keynesians.

What did Drucker foresee for the world?
Transnational governments to deal with the environment.
Transnational money to coordinate currencies.
And economic regionalism, less focus on nation-states and more on ethnicity.

Interview with Milton Friedman

I Had Lunch with Milton Friedman

I have been meeting and corresponding with Milton Friedman, today’s most famous economist, for over ten years.

At one point, my contact with him really helped me keep from making a bad investment decision for my subscribers.Many in the investment newsletter business had been warning subscribers of an impending stock market crash due to the fact that M1, the money supply, was declining sharply in 1996.

“Should we sell?” asked my subscribers through letters and phone calls.

I met with Dr. Friedman. He said M1 was too narrow a definition of the money supply and therefore, now out of date. M2, which included money market funds, was much more accurate.

And M2 was rising! In short, there was no “tight-money” policy, and no chance of a serious bear market. I kept my subscribers in the market and they made over 20% or more on my recommended stocks and mutual funds.

On a personal note, several years ago Milton Friedman and I went to the same conference, and I invited him to lunch. After the meal, I grabbed the bill and paid for it. I turned to Milton and said, “So I guess it’s no longer true your refrain, that ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch!'” To which he replied, “Oh, no, Mark, I had to listen to you for two hours!”

Interview with Louis Rukeyser

Louis Rukeyser Guest Panel and Celebrating The Retirement Letter’s 25th Anniversary

Lou and I share a laugh over Elaine Garzarelli’s “bullish indicators”

I was a guest panelist on the Louis Rukeyser panel celebrating the 20th anniversary of the InterShow Money Show at Walt Disney World, Florida. The event took place on Saturday evening, February 7, and the other panelists were George Roche, president of Hillsdale College, Charles T. Maxwell, investment manager at Loewenbaum & Co., and Don Rowe, investment newsletter adviser.

Before the panel began, Lou spoke and told a funny story about Elaine Garzarelli, the financial guru. Lou noted that Elaine was famous for being bullish about the stock market and would always being her interviews by saying, “Lou, my indicators have never been more bullish…” Once at a conference before a live audience, Lou said she showed up late on a panel and so, while waiting , Lou said to the audience he was sure she would begin, “Lou, my indicators have never been more bullish…” When she appeared, Lou asked her where she thought the market was headed. Sure enough, her reply began, “Lou, my indicators have never been more bullish…” She wondered why the audience laughed.

After his speech, Lou came over and began his panel. When he came to me, he asked, “So, Mark, where do you think this market is headed?” I replied, “Lou, my indicators have never been more bullish…”

Meeting with Willard Scott at The Retirement Letter 25th Anniversary Celebration

After the Rukeyser panel, I joined Tom Phillips and Pete Dickinson to celebrate 25 years of The Retirement Letter, Tom’s first financial newsletter that he published. (Forecasts & Strategies was second–we celebrated our 20th year in 1999.)

Poking fun of Willard’s “propensity to consume” at The Retirement Letter anniversary dinner

Willard Scott, the famous weatherman on the Today Show, appeared as the celebrity host and told jokes about his age and his financial escapades. I sat next to him at the dinner and we reminisced about living in Washington in the 1970s and 1980s.

Interview with Larry King

I spoke at the Gold Show at the Mirage Hotel, where there were 2,000 people in attendance. My workshop was jammed, but the biggest thrill was appearing on “Larry King Live” as the guest interview.

At first I was told that CNN’s Larry King was going to interview three experts on the mining industry. I was relieved I would have some back-up, since I don’t consider myself a mining expert.

But when Larry arrived, I looked around and saw that there were no other guest interviews, only me. The pressure was on.

Larry warmed up the audience with a few stories, and introduced me, but mispronounced my name.

I went up to the stand and said, “Judging from your mispronounciating my name, you obviously don’t know anything about the mining industry!”

It threw him off guard but he responded with relish. “What’s the mining industry doing to minimize damage to the environment?”

I responded, “Frankly, Larry, nobody here in this audience cares about the environment!”

He said, “I can’t believe that.”

I then turned to the audience and asked, “How many of you think the environment is important?” They responded in unison, “NO!” Then I asked, “How many of you are just here to make a buck?” They yelled loudly, “YES!”

Though it sounded like we were all a bunch of right-wing crazies defending the unfettered free market, the interview was intense, funny and very interesting.

After, Larry said it was a great interview that he really enjoyed. Dozens of attendees came up and told me that my appearance was perfect. “You said everything I’ve always wanted to tell Larry King.”

Interview with Lady Margaret Thatcher

Questions for Margaret Thatcher

In May 1996, I was able to meet former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the 50th Anniversary of the Foundation for Economic Education at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.

We met with Lady Thatcher at a private reception before the main banquet. She did not seem very animated due to jet lag, but then I asked her about her recent visit to Brigham Young University, where she received an honorary degree.

I had read that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had been there and sang a famous British hymn. However, they left out one verse. Lady Thatcher got up in her acceptance speech and recited the omitted verse from memory.

When I reminded her of the story, she repeated the verse, in front of all in the receiving line.

During the main banquet, where Thatcher was the keynote speaker, I was asked by FEE president Hans Sennholz to ask the first question.

In my question I noted that unemployment in Europe was in double digits and the region was struggling with strong labor unions, regulations and other forms of socialist legislation.

My question: Why have free-market think tanks failed in influencing Europe to move toward free market?

Her answer: She was highly optimistic that the free-market think tanks would still rule the day, and Europe was headed toward an open market as part of the European Union (one currency, single market for labor, capital and money).

Result: Her surprising optimism prompted me to be more bullish on European stocks, which have since then hit all time highs.

Interview with George W. Bush

My father’s decision to raise taxes was wrong. One of my first actions as President will be to cut marginal tax rates!
-Gov. George W. Bush

Last month I met with the front-runner of the Republican Presidential nomination, George W. Bush, at the governor’s mansion in Austin, Texas. I spoke with him at length about his tax policies, and how they might affect investors. He told me that his first priority is to cut marginal tax rates on federal income taxes.

I asked him point blank what he thought of his dad’s decision, after making his famous “Read my lips, no new taxes” pledge, and then raising taxes in 1991. Many political commentators think this reversal cost Bush the election. “It was wrong,” his son said without hesitation. A few minutes later he came back to me and reemphasized the point; “It was the biggest mistake of his political career.”

In essence, Gov. Bush was saying that if he becomes President, he will atone for his father’s sin by reversing his tax policy.


I then asked him about other taxes. He does not favor a further reduction of captal gains taxes. He thinks the 20% rate on long-term gains is already low enough (although he will undoubtedly sign a bill lowering the rate to 15%, which is what Republicans have already passed). His main focus will be to cut the high marginal rates on income taxes. He also told me he strongly favors “improving” Social Security by privatizing it, at least partially. He talked about placing at least two percentage points of each eligible worker’s salary into “personal savings accounts.”

I was delighted how candid he was about Social Security privatization. As you may recall, it took former House Speaker Newt Gingrich three years to admit publicly his support for privatization. The idea, long championed by free-market economists, is now becoming mainstream.

At the governor’s meeting was also Howard Phillips, the conservative gadfly running for president on the U. S. Constitution Party. (The group is even smaller than the Libertarian Party.) Howard walked up to Gov. Bush and brashly asked, “Will you let me in on the debates?” The governor didn’t hesitate: “No ! ” Will Gov. Bush get my vote? Currently I support Steve Forbes, who is more libertarian than Bush. But I think Bush would be far superior to Democrats Bradley or Gore, and is more libertarian than his father.

Interview with Friedrich Hayek

I had the privilege of meeting Friedrich von Hayek twice. He was a brilliant man.

In 1986, Gary North and I met with Hayek in his summer home in the Austrian Alps.

We discussed what made “Austrian” economists so different from the rest of the economics profession.

He noted that he and Ludwig von Mises, his mentor, had predicted the 1929 Crash and 1930s Depression, while eminent economists John Maynard Keynes and Irving Fisher had not. Keynes and Fisher had not thought there was any inflation in the 1920s — commodity and consumer prices were stable.

On the other hand, the Austrians (Hayek and Mises) always look beyond macro aggregate statistics and break the economy down into “micro” sectors. They noted that there was inflation in the stock market, real estate and industrial sectors.

I was able to use the Austrian model to predict the 1987 Crash and to get my subscribers out of the market six weeks before Black Monday, October 19, 1987 (my 40th birthday!).

Interview with David Rockefeller

The purpose of my two-hour, one-on-one interview with David Rockefeller, the former chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank and the youngest grandson of oil magnate, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was to learn his assessment of the new global free market economy of the 1990s and beyond.

First, Rockefeller said that despite his top-level connections, he had not anticipated the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He also expressed deep concern about the banking crisis, which he says is spreading worldwide. “The Japanese banks are not having an easy time as they once had.”

Finally, in his most surprising statement, he revealed he considers himself a follower of the Austrian school of economics. Friedrich Hayek had been his tutor at the London School of Economics in the 1930s.

A plaque at Rockefeller Plaza displays some of David Rockefeller’s grandfather’s beliefs:

“I believe that government is the servant of the people and not their master…that the world owes no man a living, but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living…that thrift is essential to well-ordered living and that economy is a prime requisite of a sound financial structure, whether in government, business or personal affairs…that character — not wealth or power or position — is of supreme worth…that right can and will triumph over might.”