Saturday, July 22, 2017

AMERICA FIRST? OR AMERICA, WELL, YOU KNOW AMERICA...*


While the nation watches congress and the president vie for the title of the least capable and least productive, a policy is developing in the White House to plunge the developed world into a trade war. A trade war that might sound good in Pittsburgh, but will benefit Paris more than Peoria.  

As reported on June 30th in Axios,  trump, against the advice of nearly all of the cabinet, made it clear that he intends to impose tariffs on steel and other imports. Tariffs as high as 20% and which may cover aluminum, semiconductors, paper, and appliances like washing machines.[1]

TRADE WARS ARE CIRCULAR FIRING SQUADS. (COULDN’T WE PUT A SPECIAL SOMEONE IN THE CENTER?)

The ostensible target of this folly of a feud is China. But this trade war will affect American allies such as the UK, Canada, Mexico, Germany and Japan.  Retribution and recrimination will start the vicious cycle. And Chinese steel is not even on the trade radar. [2] America’s largest steel importer is Canada, followed by Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey, Japan, Russia, Germany, Taiwan and Vietnam.  China is not even one of the top 10 steel importers. So why China?  We will leave that to the readers

WELL, IF YOU ASK ME, UH, WE’RE PROTECTING THE WRONG WORKERS

Dan Pearson of the Cato Institute is quoted in the Mauldin article. Pearson states:

“[c]lamping down on steel imports threatens considerably many more jobs than “protecting” the steel industry from foreign competition can save. As Dan Pearson of the Cato Institute noted recently: “Steel mills employ 140,000 workers. Manufacturers that use steel as an input 6.5 million, 46 times more.” Steel mills’ $36 billion of productivity in 2015 represented just 0.2 percent of US GDP, Pearson explains that the economic value contributed by US firms that use steel was 29 times larger.”

The Mauldin article also recounts the 2002 steel tariffs imposed by George W. Bush. The Bush tariffs caused the loss of approximately 200,000 jobs in industries that rely on imported steel.  Fifty-three percent of these losses occurred in ten states, seven of which went for trump in the last election. 

trump made explicit “promises” to blue collar voters to “bring back (our[3]) jobs. If the plan is to bring back a few thousand in the dying coal industry and the diminished steel industry, while hundreds of thousands of other Americans lose their employment in ill advised trade wars, it is a promise that will ring vacant and hollow in 2020.

IF JEREMY BENTHAM HAD A COMPUTER, HE WOULD READ THE DESERT OF THE REAL!

*The Authors intend this website to be family friendly, if not a family contentious, discursive space. 


[1] A tariff on appliances is kind of ironic, since appliances are mostly made of steel. When the tariffs’ jack up the price of steel, American appliances will cost more. Who is the genius that sewer spawned that idea?
[2] Although the Authors abhor racism, prejudice and bigotry, there is an artful and mordant quote from the 1988 Vietnam War classic that captures the racism, bigotry and manifest ignorance in much of the trump base.  When asked a question in a media interview of his unit, Animal Mother states: ”Well, if you ask me, uh, we’re shooting the wrong Gooks.”
[3] As if a job is anyone’s, unless she has invested capital in a business that employers her.  “Our jobs” is a fraught statement in a world where countries compete against each other and attempt to gain competitive advantage. But it sure echoes in empty heads.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ALL’S FAIR IN LOATHE AND WAR…


As readers know, the Author Rob follows John Mauldin’s “Frontline.” Mauldin’s newsletters are entertaining and informational.  And the newsletter contains great discussion of interest rates and interest rate directions. 

Mauldin has an associate that writes a letter called “Connect the Dots.” His name is Patrick Watson. This week he addressed the impending trump trade war.  Since trump cannot man up to Kim Jong-Un, trump wants to pick a little war that he can actually declare. But a war no one that knows much of anything wants. A war where the losers will be the ones that trump said he would look out for.  His twitter reading multitudes.

FIRST STEEL. THEN WHISKEY?

An anachronism from the Cold War, a relic as bankrupt and counter-productive as the Electoral College, gives the a president a large loophole to ignore trade agreements if the president determines that they “harm US national security.”  The law has been in place since 1962.

The claim that steel imports “harm US nation security” is not creditable.  China has been dumping steel in the US and Europe.  From CNN in May of this year:

The European Commission has announced new anti-dumping duties on pipes and tubes made from steel and iron in China, its latest attempt to stop the flow of cheap metal from the country. 

The duties of 29% to 55% were imposed after an investigation found that Chinese firms were dumping steel into Europe at unusually low prices that hurt local competitors. 

But steel dumping does not harm “US Security.” The military industrial complex is not putting steel wanted ads on billboards or posting on Craigslist.  Measured negotiations and an international approach can more effectively address the matter than firing off a trade war to generate activity and satisfy a few sycophants.

Trade wars are like dance parties. When the music is playing, countries have to dance. The trade war will not be limited to the US and China.  The European Union is already drawing the lines in the sand:

[European Union] officials have begun assembling a list of US goods including whiskey, orange juice and dairy products to target for retaliation over Donald Trump’s plans to invoke national security concerns to limit steel imports.

European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker told the Financial Times, “Our mood is increasingly combative.”

The good news is that the trade war will end. The bad news will be how much damage will be done to keep one campaign promise out of a hundred, and a very ill advised promise at that. Damage many thousands of American businesses for a handful of steel mills.  

How the market will react is a hot subject of discussion.  

WE WILL HOLD THE DISCUSSION FOR ANOTHER DAY IN THE DESERT OF THE REAL.




Friday, July 14, 2017

FULL EMPLOYMENT AND LAGGING WAGES...WHY THE DISCONNECT?



The Author Rob remembers reading some letters responding to a blog article that lamented that despite the high demand for legal services, lawyers would not lower their costs to meet the demand.

One guy wrote in with something like “Supply meet Demand.”

The Author Rob did not respond, but anyone that has studied microeconomics should know that supply and demand usually meet at one point, ceteris paribus ,if at all.  There is mega demand for new Corvettes at $10,000. There is an unlimited supply of nurses at $100 per hour.  Simple economics that the guy probably forgot to consider. No harm, no foul.

WHY ARE PAYCHECKS FROZEN IN PLACE?

 Wages have only increased 2.5 % in the last 12 months. Yet there are help-wanted signs on every marquee. It turns out there are a lot of reasons why wages are lagging despite the result that would  be expected. There are several of them and looking them is illustrative of principles that extend across the graph.

1.     1. We got Long Memories. Wages have lagged for so long that workers, who remember the ugly days of the Great Recession, are reticent to ask for too much, even in these good times. And employers, so long used to pounding down wages for employees that were grateful for any job, have combined to create a negative feedback loop, or a vicious cycle.

In an article entitled “Why can’t Employees get Raises?” by Daniel Gross, “This amounts to a mutually reinforcing feedback loop. Companies are psychologically and emotionally geared not to raise wages as a matter of course. And many people who work are reluctant to aggressively ask for higher wages, or to quit and seek a better opportunity.”  

2.    2. Employers Want More Proof.  Despite the good economics numbers, there are doubts among employers and economists. The economic agenda of trump is stalled and political uncertainty is the touch word.

 “This is an unprecedented level of political uncertainty,’ said William E. Spriggs, chief economist for the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “That is creating a drag on the economy.’

“Juanita Duggan, chief executive of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said, ‘Small-business owners seem to be in a holding pattern while they wait to see what Congress will do with taxes and health care.”

3.     What goes Up does not Always Come Down.  The reason that wages are rising slowly, if at all, may also reflect a certain type of wage “stickiness.”  Wage stickiness, or nominal rigidity*, posits that workers are very resistant to cuts in wages. Thus wages are nonelastic and employees will resign before taking wage cuts. So the converse may be true on the employer side. Raising wages without confirmation of a more robust economy leaves an employer that is suddenly overstaffed when business conditions drop with high labor costs. 

These are just some thoughts on the issue. But the Authors see the shades of tight labor markets most everywhere. On store signs that should be advertising sandwich and milk shake prices, there is “Help Wanted” in bold and desperate letters. 

*Wow, but could my bros Beavis and Butt-Head have some fun with the term "nominal rigidity."

VERY LITTLE IS STICKY IN THE DESERT OF THE REAL. THINGS RUN LIKE THEY ARE BUILT ON RAILS.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

JULY 2017 DESERT OF THE REAL ECONOMICS INVESTMENT NEWSLETTER

 Welcome to the Desert of the Real.[1] This newsletter is free of charge and directed to anyone who wants better investment results.

The Only Thing Inevitable is the Author’ s Use of the Trite Aphorism: “The Only Things that are Inevitable are Death and Taxes?”

Only one subject will figure prominently in this newsletter. The topic will be the Roth IRA and how to employ it effectively in your retirement planning. 



To begin the discussion, lets take a look the limits for Traditional and Roth IRA contributions. 

They are set out below:



20172016
Roth IRA Contribution Limit$5,500$5,500
Roth IRA Contribution Limit if 50 or over$6,500$6,500
Traditional IRA Contribution Limit$5,500$5,500
Traditional IRA Contribution Limit if 50 or over$6,500$6,500



Roth IRA Income Limits (for single filers)Phase-out starts at $118,000; ineligible at $133,000Phase-out starts at $117,000; ineligible at $132,000
Roth IRA Income Limits (for married filing jointly and qualifying widow(er) filers)Phase-out starts at $186,000; ineligible at $196,000Phase-out starts at $184,000; ineligible at $194,000



Before we take up the Roth IRA, let’s do a review of the Traditional IRA. A Traditional IRA, around since the 1970s, allows an income earner to put money into a tax-deferred account.   

Subject to certain restrictions, the IRA account holder then has his adjusted gross income reduced by the amount of his IRA contribution. Basically, the Traditional IRA contribution goes in tax-free. The returns on the IRA account grow tax-free until the account holder withdraws funds from the account. When she withdraws funds, the withdrawals are then taxed at her ordinary income tax rate.

A Traditional IRA holder cannot, subject to certain exceptions, make withdrawals prior to age 59-1/2 without paying a 10% penalt y. A Traditional IRA holder must begin withdrawals at age 70-1/2. Further, the beneficiary of the IRA, upon the account holder’s death, must begin to make withdrawals. In short, a Traditional IRA holder defers, but does not eliminate taxes on the account returns. Sounds good so far, so what’s the catch?

Here are the catches. The intervening years between the 1970s and today have seen huge changes in the tax code that have reduced the anticipated benefits of the Traditional IRA. Also, a key assumption that underlay the rationale for the Traditional IRA was apparently incorrect. Let’s take a look at what went wrong:

1. Tax Bracket Compression. When the IRA law was enacted, individual tax rates were higher Marginal rates could be very high[3]. And there were numerous tax brackets. If you were in a high tax bracket before retirement, you could generally assume you would fall into a lower tax bracket after retirement and pay lower taxes on your IRA withdrawals. Your Traditional IRA would not eliminate taxes, but it would reduce them.

Congress, in the intervening years, has cut top rates and reduced the number of tax brackets. There are now six federal tax brackets,  And if you listen to Donald Trump and the republican house and senate, the rates will be further compressed and lowered to three.  And reduce exemptions and deductions. Of course this White House and Congress have been spectactuarly ineffective at moving any legislation through. So let's not hold our collective breath.


And as tax rates compress, there are less tax savings available for your traditional IRA withdrawals. And if the flat-tax advocates get their way, there would be no bracket reductions to lower your IRA withdrawals.[4] But of course the flat-tax advocates are about as effective as flat-earth advocates as advancing their position.

2. What Cut in Retirement Income? In the 1970s it was generally assumed that nearly all Americans would have reduced income in retirement. Few Americans had amassed large retirement savings. Most folks relied on Social Security and a pension. Although the data is somewhat scant, economists are finding that retirees with Traditional IRAs are not taking substantial cuts in income in at least their first few years of retirement. This could be a confluence of two factors.  One is the result of tax bracket compression set out in 1, above. The other factor could be that individuals who took advantage of Traditional IRAs and are now retiring are high-net worth individuals that initially saw the value of Traditional IRAs in the 1970s and 1980s.

And it should additionally be considered that people who began investing in the late 1970s and early 1980s rode the strongest Secular Bull Market in history to unprecedented gains. When it rains, says the versatile aphorism, it pours.

If there are so many things wrong with the Traditional IRA, what is right with the Roth IRA?

The Author is Temporarily out of Alliterative Allusions and Terrific Tropes

The first and foremost advantage of the Roth IRA is that the proceeds are tax-free. All of the returns will be tax-free. The account holder’s contributions are after-tax, so there is not upfront savings. But the long-term benefit far outweighs up-front taxability. The only other concern with the Roth IRA is that high-income individuals cannot take advantage of a ROTH. These limitations are set out above.


Some Examples: (Important Note. These figures are a few years old, but the divergence still holds up.)

Josh and Jenna White are 35 years old. They plan to retire at 35, so they have 30 years until retirement. They do not have a pension plan at work. They can either contribute $8,000 to a Traditional IRA or $8,000 to a Roth IRA. We will assume that when they retire they will be in the 25% tax bracket. If they take a lump-sum distribution when they retire the lump-sum amount will push them into the 35% tax bracket. We will also assume they will get an 8% annualized return.

When Josh and Jenna retire, their IRA balance, Roth or Traditional, will be:

$264, 711 If they have a Traditional IRA and take out the entire lump sum, the amount, after taxes at the 35% rate is:

$172, 062. If they withdraw an equal amount of the proceeds over ten years, taxed at 25%, their annual withdrawal will be: $19, 853 per year.

Here is where the Roth IRA advantage becomes clear. If Josh and Jenna have a Roth, there are no taxes. They keep the ENTIRE $264, 711.

Tim and Trina Brown are 30 years old. They plan to retire at 70, so they have 40 years until retirement. They have 401(k) plans at their work and each employer matches 401(k) contributions up to 3%. They currently contribute $10,000 to their 401(k)s. Should Tim and Trina max out their 401(k) contributions? Or should they contribute to their 401(k)s only to the extent of the company match and put the rest into a Roth IRA? (The gentle readers should already know the answer, but here comes that math.)

If Tim and Trina continue putting $10,000 into their 401(k)s, they will have $296, 839, as a lump-sum (after tax) 401(k) withdrawal. If they take the proceeds over 10 years, they will get $34,251 per year.

However, if Tim and Trina limit their 401(k) contributions to only the company-matching amount, they will retire with $379,041. If they take it out over 10 years, they will get $38,817 per year. (These amounts include the taxes on the taxable 401(k) proceeds.)

$82,202! That is the difference. 27% more than the 401(k) strategy. Put another way, 2.4 more years of income than the 401(k) strategy. A simple strategy that anyone can take advantage of.



Here is a link to a site that that will demonstrate the financial difference between contributions to a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA. https://www.moneyunder30.com/best-investment-accounts

 And if a 401(k) participant takes advantage of the company-match amount, and then reaches the Roth limit, he can still put more funds in his 401(k) up to his 401(k) limit. It is a great strategy

The Author Has Just Shown You The Elephant[5]

The purpose of this newsletter is to dispense financial and investment advice, to help readers understand the investment and financial environment we face, and to entertain. Nothing the Author has said to date about Secular and Cyclical markets, interest rates, high price/earnings ratios, sector and market relative strength is as important as the foregoing discussion of the Roth IRA, the Traditional IRA, and the 401(k) max strategy. No investment strategy can even approach the wealth building effect that the proper deployment of these strategies can deliver. By using good tax avoidance strategies, you get a 25-35% return out of the gate.

[1] The title of this Newsletter, “Welcome to the Desert of the Real”, comes from the 1998 film “The Matrix”. The world in the Matrix is a Simulacrum, a computer–generated illusion. It only “looks” and “feels” like the late 20th century. Instead, human beings are enslaved in tanks of fluid, wired to the Matrix. Also, readers steeped in post-structuralist philosophy may recognize the title as a paraphrase of a quote in Jean Baudrilliard’s 1981 book, “Simulacra and Simulacrum”.
[3] Tax deductions were more generous, however.
[4]A concern of Roth IRA holders is that the federal government may decide at some point in the future to tax Roth IRA withdrawals, limit the amount of Roth IRA withdrawals that are tax-exempt, or phase-out the exemption for high-income earners. This seems unlikely given the original promise of the Roth IRA that the proceeds be tax-free and the political power of retirees making Roth IRA withdrawals.
However, by non-direct means, the federal government has “raised” the taxes on traditional IRA withdrawals by compressing the tax brackets. And the trend toward tax bracket compression will probably continue under the pretense of “tax simplification”.
“Tax simplification” is a Washington canard, a glittering generality that has no meaning outside of a politician’s lexicon of trickery, or “Chumpery”. Chumpery (no relation to champerty) is when a politician addresses a hot-button issue with no intent (or real ability) to actually do anything about the issue. Prominent examples of Chumpery would include “Balanced Budget Amendment”, “Term Limits”, Flag Burning Amendment”, “Defense of Marriage Amendment”, or “Health Care Reform”. From the foregoing one could conclude that anytime a politician proposes something that would require a Constitutional amendment they are automatically engaging in Chumpery.
[5] “Seeing the Elephant” was a 19th century term for seeing or doing something unique or valuable. However, Civil War soldiers would also say that new men who first experienced combat "saw the Elephant."


STOCK UPDATE

The Quantum Multiplier Portfolio is short on stocks. A handful of stocks   Here are the long stock holdings:


                        Current Price July 7, 2017                  Annualized Gain
FDX                            218.51                                     48.5%
AMAT                         43.54                                      22.25%
CE                               96.14                                       9.54%

Nearly all of the Author's activity has been options, and most of that with short positions. The returns have been stellar. But this site provides only general advice and cannot recommend individual positions for specific situations. 

DESERT OF THE REAL ECONOMICS IS A MEMBER OF THE FEIGHTNER CONSULTING LLC FAMILY OF COMPANIES AND IS ALSO AN ASSUMED BUSINESS NAME OF FEIGHTNER CONSULTING LLC. (DAMNED LAWYERS ALWAYS WANT SOMETHING OUT OUT OF US.)



 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

WINNING TRADES AREN’T EVERYTHING. NO REALLY. THEY ARE NOT. BUT THEY MUST BE LOTS OF THINGS.


Much has been written about the psychology of trading, the need to stick with your system, and all of the biases and logical faults of humans as traders. Nearly all of us were born with them, at least nearly all of us that weren’t born as our ancient ancestors, Hunter-Gatherers. There are still a few groups of hunter-gatherers that choose to live more like hunter-gatherers and less like their encroaching neighbors. There are even a few hunter-gatherer bands in the Amazon jungle that have had little to no contact with the outside world. Brazil takes strong measures to assure that these hunter-gatherers are not place in contact with outside peoples.

SO WHAT IS THE AUTHOR YAKKING ABOUT THIS TIME?

Many things have been studied and written about human behavior and economics behavior. Numerous studies have been conducted on these phenomena. They have been with humans at least since the Neolithic Revolution in 8,000 BCE, the time when property rights developed. Many hunter-gatherers do not have strong concepts of ownership and property.  They are communal peoples with strong bonds within the group. Much of what they needed and used was available in abundance in their natural environment. 

ENOUGH WITH PALEOLITHIC PROPERTY.

Certain economic biases have crept into modern humans over the millennia. Especially when we consider intangible (stocks, bonds, bank accounts, financial instruments) property along tangible property such as real estate and goods.  Some have a strong bias toward tangible property.  They like land, cash, goods that they can hold onto. Every so often an event occurs where large pools of intangible wealth is lost.  Especially before financial stabilizers were put in place in the wake of the Great Depression.  And in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, economies, especially the US economy, swung between panics and prosperity.

But even as the nature of wealth changed from tangible to intangible, industrial to intellectual, brains to bazillion bytes, certain biases recurred and where identified.

“IF WE DON’T SELL TOO MANY OF THESE, WE JUST MIGHT BREAK EVEN.” GROUCH MARX.

Some common investment biases are:

1.     "Loss aversion." Losses bite more than equivalent gains. In their 1979 paper published in Econometrica, Kahneman and Tversky found the median coefficient of loss aversion to be about 2.25, i.e., losses bite about 2.25 times more than equivalent gains. Simply put, humans will put 2.25 as much “energy” into avoiding a loss than making an equivalent gain.

2.     “Sunk Cost Effect.” This effect is a major problem for most of us some of the time and some of us most of the time. This effect causes us to make inefficient and irrational decisions to continue losing money on an asset or a decision. Let’s say you have 15yo used car. Its book value is $1500. You know you need a new car but are holding off buying one. The car is well maintained and all necessary repairs have been made.

The clutch goes out. It costs $700. You decide to put a new clutch in it. Now you have a car worth $1500 that has just had $700 put into it. (I suppose you can guess what comes next.) The head gasket blows and will cost you $800. And the mechanic tells you that the hoses are old and should be replaced. And steering control rods are going out.

At what point do you stop throwing money at it? This effect has a similar effect on losing investments. At what point does an investor sell the losing investment and cut her losses? Do you follow your system and the rules that are designed to manage the risk-reward parameters? Or do you cheat down the stop loss sell order? Or do you decide to wait for a couple more days?

3.     "Conditional expected utility" is a form of reasoning where the individual has an illusion of control and calculates the probabilities of external events and hence their utility as a function of their own action, even when they have no causal ability to affect those external events. This is a strange one. Some people think that their favorite team would have won the game if they had been home to watch the game. For investors, it is sitting in front of CNBC or Bloomberg news and watching the Chyron ticker.

We of course logically know that we have no control over such events. It could slightly skew our decision making, but its probably more of a time-waster than a cognitive disaster zone.

4.     Recency Bias,” or the “Party Effect.  Here is a great description of this pernicious bias:

These 4 guests experienced entirely different rate of return outcomes and view their portfolios and thus the stock market completely different. All 4 are correct. All 4 are right and yet they couldn’t possibly have more divergent outcomes. If they don’t have a complete picture of the stock market, like the elephant, they can get themselves in trouble. The difference between the best performing portfolio that is up 12.28% and the worst performing portfolio that is down 21.53% is an astounding 33.81%. Is this too obvious? You may say, of course they have different outcomes, they started at different times but that is not the point. The point is that stock market investing will always produce different outcomes. One guest started at the worst time possible. Another guest started at the best possible time. How they look at the past determines how they see the present. Most importantly, it will determine how they will act going forward. 

The Party Effect simply states that stock market participants evaluate their portfolio performance based on their perspective and their perspective only. They do not see the market as it is but as they are. Without an expert understanding of how the stock market works, this leads to incorrect conclusions “time again that people have variable risk profiles. BF demonstrates that fear is a stronger emotion than greed. This means that in our simple 4 guest example, Guests 3 and 4 are more likely to exit the stock market at just the wrong time since their recent, thus Recency Bias, experience is one of losing money. It means that Guest 1 and 2 are more likely to stay invested, thus catching the next wave up that is likely to follow. All 4 have intellectual access to the events of the last 30 months. All 4 can educate themselves on the stock market. However, their particular situation is so biased by recent events that the facts are unimportant. They behave irrationally.  

This effect is especially damaging to investors, especially new investors, hunch-and-tip investors, and investors that have unreasonable risk-reward expectations. 

There are more of these biases, but the Author Rob thought he would take on a few. 
He is reading an investment classic,  “The Way of the Turtle” by Curtis Faith[1]. Faith and a few others were selected by legendary investors Richard Dennis and William Eckhardt to trade using a defined methodology. The methodology was a Donchian trend following system. It was in a sense a test of the proposition that trading was a skill that could be taught. The novice investors were given accounts and turned loose.  The students that followed the system did well. The investors that allowed psychological biases to effect their trading did not do as well. 

The book has been out for more than 15 years and is available at the library or cheap online. The methodology discussion is pedestrian, but tidbits are well worth the read.
July’s Monthly Desert of the Real Economics Newsletter will be out in the second week of this month. Contact Julie or me with any questions, ideas or grudges you are holding.

AS CURTIS FAITH’S DESCENT INTO INSANITY AND PETTY CRIMINALITY MORDANTLY DEMONSTRATES, PAST RESULTS ARE NO GUARANTEE OF FUTURE PERFORMANCE IN THE DESERT OF THE REAL. OR MOST OTHER PLACES.


[1] Alas, Faith’s life has not lived up to his once-promoting start. He reportedly defrauded investors in various managed future schemes. He was convicted and jailed for various charges and has reportedly promoted schemes that fall on the far end of believable.  Mr. Faith had reportedly been working on a buyout of Apple and Disney on behalf of the workers and management as part of a deal where he was going to license all his new computer architecture in an open-source manner in a closed IP pool that artists and programmers all over the world were invited to join. Apple and Disney and Tesla Motors were to be the first acquisitions of a new private Faith-Family office with a very long-term outlook.”  https://dropdredd.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/where-in-the-world-is-curtis-michael-faith/

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Enough, Already about “Gold Darn” Gold


James Ledbetter is the editor of Inc. Magazine and the author of a recently released book, “One Nation Under Gold.”   On June 27, 2017 Ledbetter was the guest on the NPR show “Fresh Air.” In this book, Ledbetter shared America’s tumultuous relationship with the metal.

Currently, there are no countries in the world that use the gold standard for their currency. America last used the gold standard in 1971. America has used the gold standard for much of its history. But those “golden days” were by no means golden.  Various “panics” from the 19th century occurred under the gold standard. And the Gold Rush of 1848 dislocated and drove crazy people and financial markets.

SO WHY DO AMERICANS TREAT THE METAL LIKE A SHIBOLLETH?

The current spot price of gold is 1252. The Author Rob has owned it a various times and trades options on Gold ETFs, i.e. GLD. And the Author’s have made a nice return in it.  But what is the future for gold as an investment?

There is no magic in gold. Gold competes in the market with everything else. It has some intrinsic value because of its metallurgic properties. But most of its value is reflected in its perceived, not intrinsic, value. History has given it a vaunted economic position.  And taken away much of that economic fascination has dissipated. But many Americans cling to gold. But then again, Americans cling to obsolescent motorcycles and are afraid their kids may hear the word Islam on TV.

Most mainstream investors to not hold lots of gold. Some may have a gold ETF as part of a diversification strategy. But then there are the gold nuts. (Or silver nuts.)

There are others, however, that see an apocalypse behind every closed door. They want something that they can hold on to. While touching your shibboleth might be fun for some, that tactile fascination defines the problem. Gold is heavy and hard to store. It is a honey pot for burglars and robbers. It is liquid, but only in places like jewelry stores and pawnshops. The Authors would rather leave their money in a brokerage account than have to hire a bodyguard for our booty.

IF THIS KEEPS UP, THERE WILL NO LONGER BE HEALTHCARE EVEN FOR THE HEALTHY . BUT WE ARE SAFE, ASSURED AND STRONG IN THE DESERT OF THE REAL.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

HAS GOD REALLY BEEN GOOD TO INDIANA?


A poem written by Willian Wendell Hirschell “A’int God Been Good to Indiana,” often works its way into the Author Rob’s writing.  It’s like, you got to be goofin’, right?

Indiana calls itself the “crossroads of America.” Of course, a doormat is the crossroads of an entrance or exit to a building. A runner rug is the crossroads of a well-traveled room. Whenever a TV show or a movie wants to place a setting in a common, dull, or dense place, the writers draw upon Indiana. The malpractice case waiting to happen in “MASH” was Frank Burns from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Muncie is often a fool’s foil. And the short-lived fantasy TV show “Erie, Indiana” drew upon the contrast between spooky strangeness and the saccharine sameness of the Hoosier State.  And let’s stay with the term “Hoosier” for a while. The original term for “Hoosier” has been long forgotten, likely because people from Indiana were so imminently unmemorable.

By most positive measures, Indiana lags. Of course Indiana is upheld by the south. That is one positive outcome of the Civil War. Indiana will never fall below 44th or 45th.  Inversely, Indiana comes in high when it doesn’t count. That is not to say that Indiana is just Iowa with fewer teeth per capita or Washington state with just a lot more wastrels, however. It is a life sciences center and orthopedic manufacturing hub. It boasts two of the finest state universities in the country. Some areas are rich with advanced manufacturing. But much of Indiana is low skill worker land. Indiana’s industrial base will always be walloped and whip sawed between the low wage overseas workforce and robots and AI.

KEEP SWINGING

There are some positives in Indiana, however. Elkhart and Kosciuszko counties in north central Indiana have unemployment rates around two percent, about as low as it can get. Fort Wayne is a regional education center and is the headquarters of a large regional healthcare system. And there is the Westgate Crane Technology Park in Odon, Indiana that leverages its relationship with nearby Crane Naval Weapons Support Center.  This innovative business park is linked to the eight-county south central Indiana economic development organization called Radius Indiana.   

The organization shares the struggles that many rural areas face-lack of innovation. While West Lafayette and its incubator industries can crank out thousands of patents and breakthrough technologies, rural manufacturing focuses more on low tech manufacturing and smaller satellite facilities of large out-of-state firms.  Still the core of some progressivity is around in Indiana academic centers and with energized people. It is more than a lot of places have.

INDIANA IS A GOOD PLACE TO “BE FROM”

It is almost cliché that most talented and ambitious college graduates leave Indiana for more hospitable places. Simply put, much of Indiana just plain munches. Almost no recreational and cultural events or opportunities. Chain restaurants, if lucky. Treeless newly-platted subdivisions and decayed downtowns.

These advancements are important to note and there are some opportunities in the Hoosier state for economic and social advancement. But at the end of the day, Indiana is still a good state to “be from.”

WE SOMETIMES HAVE TO TAKE WHAT WE CAN SCROUNGE IN THE DESERT OF THE REAL!