What positive steps can we take? The energy that is now expended by well intentioned, freedom-seeking individuals on the destructive course of politics can be turned into powerful steps that will have a positive effect on the future. All are moral, right and just. None require aggressing. Consider the following...
The Affordable Care Act creates a new health insurance marketplace (the exchange). But because of the great uncertainty about what buyers will enter the market and who will buy what product, the law creates three vehicles to reduce insurance company risk.
Politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for manufacturing euphemisms -- clever but deceptive substitutes for what they really mean but don’t want to admit. That’s how the phrase “revenue enhancement” entered the vocabulary. Some of our courageous friends in government couldn’t bring themselves to say “tax hike.”
It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Facts are easy. You can check facts. What supporters of the Affordable Care Act are doing, on the other hand, transcends factual bungling. It’s far more advanced: a warping of reality so debauched it looks like something out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient.But our systems of state charity — aka welfare — have too frequently had the opposite effect: They have actually created dependency. It is time to rethink the way we help people.I’m going to […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
President Obama crowed in his State of the Union speech about the economy, even mentioning “a rebounding housing market.” Maybe he was referring to friends in high places, like the seller of Penthouse One in New York, which just closed for $50.9 million, all cash. Millions of mere-mortal homeowners likely wanted to throw something at […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Recent difficulties with implementing the Affordable Care Act have increased opposition to the program. A majority of Americans now oppose it. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website are in all likelihood temporary. However, there are serious long-term problems, particularly considering long-term finance and labor supply issues. Given the mounting difficulties with and growing concerns about the […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
On Feb. 7 the United States will once again reach its statutory debt limit, meaning it cannot legally borrow any more money. Since the obvious option of cutting spending to match the amount of revenue that the government collects is off the table for some inexplicable reason, Congress will have to pass a new, higher […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
The Largest Company in History:“The United States Corporation of Government (USCOG)”I follow global social and commercial networks, looking for entrepreneurial opportunities.Innovation surges when industry and government models change. Buggy whips. Landline phones. Railroads. The Soviet Union. Apartheid South Africa. All marked social and commercial innovation, both bad and good.We are witnessing a new form of […]
We’d like to give the banks in Australia some credit. They’ve finally gone and done it. They have caught up with 1960s technology. They’ve figured out how to use PIN numbers.How to only use PIN numbers, that is. They’re considering scrapping signatures on credit cards to cut down on fraud. Apparently, having to verify your […]
We put in a good-citizen call to the SEC the other day.“There’s a massive scheme to manipulate stock prices,” we told the friendly agent.“I have to tell you that your call is being monitored so that we can better serve the public,” he replied.“Oh, don’t worry about that. The NSA is tapping our call anyway.”“Are […]
Dr. William C. Padgett is a retired optometrist who has been trying to bring an elderly care facility to Beaufort County, North Carolina, for over a decade.“Our senior citizens,” he laments, “are finding that it is difficult and in many cases impossible to find an appropriate long-term care facility locally.” Though he has received several […]
If you don’t have the angst out of your system concerning Wall Street banksters, Government Sachs, and the Affordable Care Act, settle in with Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia to make your blood boil one more time.Investors should be reminded of 2008 as they shrug their shoulders and put their money back in the stock market. The […]
What do 8 of the 10 wealthiest people in the U.S. have in common?Aside from being able to fly in private jets, the common thread is that each of them has made their fortune thanks to a start-up.Let me explain…From tech titans like Bill Gates and Larry Ellison (founders of Microsoft and Oracle, respectively), to […]
“Inequality is the defining challenge of our time,” according to President Obama. It’s certainly the topic of the day for Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz and a whole raft of liberal pundits.But have you noticed that hardly anyone else is talking about it? When is the last time you heard a shoeshine person or a taxi […]
In December of last year, I left my career to travel the world for one year.My plan was to visit as many countries as possible on my Star Alliance Around-the-World ticket in the first nine months, then, for the remaining three months, return back to the country that most caught my eye and my curiosity.Nine […]
Economic history is primed to repeat in the nastiest of ways unless the government stops distorting the price of something we use every day.Every product, good, or service has a price, which is essential to rational decision-making. We use prices every day as vital data that guide us. Without true prices, prices not distorted by […]
A new survey from Harvard University found a large majority of young Americans do not believe the law will save them money, do not believe it will improve their health, and do not intend to sign up for insurance through the new exchanges.
Uh-oh!The new pope, Francis from the Pampas, has just warned us to beware the “tyranny” of capitalism.Each man worships his own gods. Some worship at the altar of Jesus of Nazareth. Some at the altar of the Almighty Dollar. The capitalists don’t bad-mouth Francis’ god. You’d think he would cut them the same slack.Bad-mouthing Catholicism […]
The market has selected different things as money throughout history. Some of these items have served as money in isolated places for specific periods of time — for instance, cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps. Cigarettes continue to be a currency in prisons if allowed, but if not, according to Wikipedia, “postage stamps have become a more […]
In 2001, President Bush demanded that Americans immediately go out and spend, racking up more debt in the hopes of inspiring economic recovery. President Obama has done this too, and his central banking henchmen have rigged the monetary system to punish anyone who saves.
You might think it would work, and it has, among some classes. But the wealthy are different. New surveys from people who make more than $750,000 per year show a new record level of savings among them.
CNBC says, “According to research from American Express Publishing and Harrison Group, the savings rate of the wealthiest 1% in the second quarter rose to 37%. That’s up from 34% in the second quarter of 2012 — and more than three times their savings rate in 2007.”
In other words, their saving is actually increasing, even given the evidence that the everlasting recession has abated in some ways. The rich continue to act as if it is 2009 — which suggests that this class has little confidence that the high stock market and seemingly good news that trickles out are really sustainable. They are preparing for the next crisis in ways they wish they had prepared for the last one.
It’s fascinating too to consider their investing and spending habits. CNBC further notes that only 40% are looking to invest anything in new companies over the next two years, and only 16% are considering doing that over the coming months.
This is a deep psychology of risk aversion. The Fed has driven interest rates to zero and attempted to put the screws to anyone who undertakes this Scrooge McDuck strategy of financial preservation. But it still doesn’t work. The rich won’t let go. They will not be fooled again.
Economists tend to forget the impact of past events on people’s current behavior. My mind often drifts back to the lady who lived in the house behind mine for years. She grew up in the worst of the Great Depression and recalled just how hard it was to get pans for the kitchen or basic materials for making dresses. Everything was precious. Nothing could be taken for granted. Therefore, she threw nothing away, no matter what. This habit persisted to the end.
After she died, her children went through the house and found hundreds and hundreds of foil pie pans, stacked higher and higher. There was a room with pillars of them. She loved pies and bought many at the store. But she could never bring herself to throw away the foil pans. To her, this was an item of high value. She couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be gravely irresponsible to toss away something that might have cost a week’s wages in 1937.
It’s common to dismiss this sort of attitude as evidence of senility. Surely, it is irrational! Her kids, of course, just rolled their eyes and tossed it off as sheer nuttiness.
I wouldn’t say so. If you live through times of grave privation, you never quite get over it. You come to understand a great truth that people who grew up amid plenty do not understand. You see the physical prosperity around you as a contingent condition that can be wiped out under the right circumstance. You no longer trust those in authority to bail you out. You come to understand the obligation to provide for yourself no matter what.
In short, you come to realize that no economic value is permanent and all is subject to change.
The savings behavior of the rich today is evidence that they are much like the old widow and her pie pans. They were burned very badly in the great collapse of 2008. It affected mainly real estate, a sector every respectable voice said would never fall. This was a safe haven, a permanent asset, and the best investment you could ever make. In a few short months (and in some cases even weeks), all those assumptions were blown away. Then the contagion started: The banks, the stock market, commercial real estate, old-line investment firms — everyone suffered.
That lesson tends to last, and it accounts for why it is so difficult for the federal government to stop this tendency to hoard cash and prepare for another rainy day.
What’s more, this approach is actually socially beneficial. You have to ask the question: Where does investment come from? Of course, people like Obama never ask this question. To him, the answer is obvious: The Fed can just print money and people will invest it. Or the federal government can just tax people and use the money to “invest” in his favorite sectors, like electric cars and electricity-generating windmills.
This is sheer fantasy. There is only one source of genuine investment. That is savings. Savings comes about from forestalling consumption. You have to give up things today so that you can have more tomorrow. There is no other path. The attempt to skirt that savings obligation and replace it with fiddling by the central bank and the government is pure folly. At best, it creates another round of false booms that end in busts. At worst, it destroys wealth and creates nothing at all.
What’s interesting is how individuals and institutions seem to understand something here that government and its economists do not. Despite every attempt to stop savings altogether — under the misbegotten theory that consumption causes growth — savings in general actually soared after 2008. Only recently has the rate dipped among most of the populace, even as it has continued to increase among the smart set.
You will note that the same thing happened at the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The president went on television to demand that everyone immediately go out and buy something. But Americans were at the point of assuming that whatever the president wants is probably not what is best for them and their families. Savings went up. But this was nothing compared with what happened after 2008. This was when people really started stuffing their mattresses.
The beautiful thing about this example is that it shows that government can’t always get what it wants. In fact, it rarely gets what it wants. The whole of its economic policy models are predicated on the idea that people respond to economic signals like machines. Change the signal and people fall in line. But that’s not how it works in the real world. People have brains and they have memories. The memory of 2008 is still with us, and it’s a good thing, too, for the prosperity of the future can come only from the savings of the past.
Let’s hear it for the Scrooge McDucks of the world. They dare to disobey, and, in so doing, they are building for the future, from which we will all benefit. We might all consider emulating them. Saving money is the ultimate revenge.