Friday, September 23, 2016

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!



The chances are high that many people you know have a birthday this month. That is because September has more births than any other month---by a significant margin. 

This was the conclusion of research conducted by Amitabh Chandra of Harvard University who tabulated every birth in the United States from 1973 to 1999. You can see where your birthday ranks in that study from this chart from The New York Times which I wrote about previously in 2012.

The original study has been subsequently updated with birthdates from 1994 to 2014 (by the number crunchers at FiveThirtyEight) and Matt Stiles of The Daily Viz developed a heat map graphic to display the data.




How common are September birthdays?

Nine out of the top ten most common birthdays are in September. The only non-September birthday to crack the top ten list was July 7.

September 9 was the most common birthday in the most recent study. It was 2nd in the previous study. September 16 was the most common birthday in the Harvard study. It was 9th in the new study.

The least common?

December 25. That is followed by these dates as the least common birthdates. 

December 24. January 1. July 4. 

It appears that something beyond nature is going on here. It would be interesting to see C-section rates just before these dates. For example, December 20 is the 11th most common birthday (have the baby and be home for Christmas?). December 29 is 15th (get the tax exemption and be home for New Year's Eve).

February 29 was not the least common birthday in the new study despite the fact that it only comes around every four years. This was due to the fact that the statisticians used average births per year in developing the data. It was 347/366 overall by this calculation.

January has the fewest births of any month. No date in January gets higher than 199th---January 24th.
In fact, 15 January birthdays fall in the 60 least common birthdates. Not a good month to be in the birthday cake business.

Similar birthdate patterns are found in the United Kingdom where that country's Office of National Statistics did a similar study of birthdates in England and Wales involving births from 1995-2004.

The UK study found September 26 to be the most common birthday (that date was 12th in the U.S.). The least common---December 25 followed by December 26 (Boxing Day in the UK is also a  big public holiday.)


Credit: UK Daily Telegraph


This is a heat map of UK births where you can see the similarities to the U.S. data. above.




Why are more births clustered in July through early October?

Why are there proportionally more babies born in and around September?

Have you considered the fact that September is nine months after December for starters?

A study in Obstetrics and Gynecology  in 2001 reached the following conclusions for why there seem to be more conceptions in the months from November through January than other periods of the year.

Biologic processes or common behaviors may account for the seasonal variation. Biologic hypotheses include deterioration of sperm quality during summer, seasonal differences in anterior pituitary-ovarian function caused by changes in the daylight length, and variation in quality of the ovum or endometrial receptivity. Increased sexual activity associated with end-of-year holiday festivities has also been postulated as a possible behavioral explanation for the December peak in conceptions. The exact reasons remain unknown.

Is it holidays, daylight length or cold nights? It seems nobody knows for sure. Even the OB-GYN's who deliver the babies.

Do my Australian readers downunder have any insights on this subject? That might give us some real answers whether holidays, heat or long nights is responsible for the birth patterns in the U.S and U.K?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Trump: Closing the Sale

I have spent a lot of time over the last decade of my career trying to understand the most effective means to market and sell products and services.

There has been a lot of interesting research work done in this field in recent years showing the best means and methods of selling success by influencing and persuading the human brain to buy what you are selling.

A few of the better books on the subject include Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, Neuromarketing by Patrick Renvoise and Christopher Morin, Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath , The Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson and Conversations That Win The Complex Sale by Erik Peterson and Tim Riesterer.

Marketing and selling a political candidate is a lot like selling a product. In fact, many of Cialdini's principles of influence and persuasion were used successfully by the Obama campaign in 2012, particularly in making sure their core voters followed through and went to the polls. Casting their vote at the ballot box determines whether people were convinced to buy your product versus the competition.

At the beginning of August, when Trump's campaign looked to be sinking fast, I wrote that Hillary Clinton could not beat Donald Trump. The only one that could beat Donald Trump...was Donald Trump.

People are looking for exactly what Donald Trump is selling. They want someone to shake up Washington. However, they don't want him to shake them up personally.
At their core, human beings are risk adverse. We prefer not to try new things or new places unless we have to. If we move it is usually because the pain we feel in our current situation forces our hand. In effect, we ultimately determine that the current pain outweighs the risk and uncertainty of doing something different.
When I was in marketing one of the key metrics that always fascinated me was the fact that research showed that almost half of all potential sales were not lost to a competitor, they were lost to the status quo. In effect, the customer simply did nothing. In the end, they determined it was better to do nothing and feel some pain, than the pain of changing to something else.

My advice to Trump at that time was that he should only have one goal going forward in the campaign. He had to remove all doubt about the wisdom of staying with the status quo. He already had convinced people he would bring change. However, he now had to convince voters that it was not too risky to make that change. To do that, he would have to convince voters that was a reasonable man and a reasonable choice for change. If he was to win, he could not allow himself to get off message and he had to tame the tempest that seemed to always swirl around him.

Since that time, Trump has followed that path pretty well and he now has the momentum with him based on recent polling.

However, can he close the sale?

The upcoming debates will probably determine that question. It is expected that 100 million people will be watching the first debate on Monday night. You don't get a much better sales opportunity than that.

How does Trump close the sale with the voters?

These four steps of successful selling that Renvoise and Morin cite in their book would be useful for Trump to keep in mind in the debates and in the closing days of the campaign.


  • Diagnose the Pain (what is the problem that you are trying to solve?)
  • Differentiate your Claims (how are you going to be different than the status quo?)
  • Demonstrate the Gain (how will the customer benefit from the change?)
  • Deliver to the Old Brain (play to the emotional side of the brain where decisions are made)


To that end I have prepared a five minute closing sales statement that I would urge Trump to use if he asked for my advice on what he should be saying to the voters.

I would deliver it a calm, confident, business-like demeanor. I would make no direct reference to Hillary or Obama. I would not refer to her as Crooked Hillary. It is not necessary. The people know the record. Most don't trust her and question her honesty. Trump needs to sell himself. The entire goal is to make sure that he hits all four of those critical selling steps.

Here is a statement that I think does all those things in being as faithful to Trump's style (brought down to the reasonable and measured way I think he needs to present himself) as I can be. Trump will not have the time to deliver the whole statement at one time but he should make sure he gets all of these elements in his answers or statements during the debate and in his media appearances and stump speeches leading up to Election Day.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Closing the Sale
by Donald J. Trump

Our nation has serious problems. Our economy has struggled over the last decade. There are not enough good paying jobs. Our borders are not secure and we see increasing terror threats in our homeland. We have racial division the likes we have not seen in a generation. The United States has lost respect with our allies…and our enemies.

We need change. We can’t afford to maintain the status quo with an Establishment Elite that always thinks they know what’s best and you don’t know anything.

We can’t afford letting the same people who have been given the opportunity to fix the same problems for the last 30 years be given yet another chance.

I don’t need this job. I spent my lifetime building an enormously successful business while creating jobs for thousands of people.  I don’t need this office to live in a palatial house and have access to aircraft dedicated for my use 24/7.  I already have all of that. I am not running to provide something for myself.

I am running because I sincerely love this country and its people. I am tired of America losing. Losing jobs. Losing in trade deals. And losing respect around the world. I am running to make America great again...for all of us.

I am a winner. I have won all my life.

I have won because I have worked hard. I have won because I refuse to settle for second best.  I have won because I don’t quit even when the odds are stacked against me. That is one of the reasons I am standing here tonight.  Many have learned over the years that you don’t bet against Donald Trump. In business…or politics. And no one should bet against the United States once I become President. With your help, we will make America great again.

Some say they don’t like my style. They don’t like my straight talk or my refusal to play the game of political correctness. I understand the criticism. However, if you want to get something done it does no good to ignore the obvious. If you want to change things you have to confront the issues head on. We have been ignoring too many things for too many years.

There is one thing I know about my style. It has gotten me results over my lifetime. Isn’t it time you had someone getting results for you?  Isn’t it time you had someone that was willing to fight for you? Someone who is not afraid to fight for what is right whether you are a farmer in Iowa, a single mother in inner-city Detroit, an iron worker in Pittsburgh or the owner of a bar in Orlando.

It is no secret that the political and media establishment elite will do almost anything to keep me from being elected your President. Have you asked yourself why that is? They act as if they are protecting you. Let me tell you something---they are only interested in protecting themselves.

Do you realize that the average per capita personal income in the District of Columbia is almost $25,000 higher than the nation at large? This is despite the fact that the inner city in Washington still has enormous poverty. Think about that for a second. There are all of these poor people but DC still has more per capita income than anywhere else. Where does all that money come from and what are they doing to really earn it? That special interest gravy train has to stop.

Washington, DC has no manufacturing base. It does not grow crops. It has no oil well or coal mines. It does not produce computer chips or other high tech items. It produces almost nothing that creates value in a traditional economy. What more is needed to know that something is seriously wrong in our nation. What more is needed to know why the Establishment does not want Donald Trump in The White House?

It is simple. I am not in their pocket. And if you are not in their pocket, their pocketbook is at risk.

If you want more of the same special interest gravy train, I am not your man.


If you want real change and real hope this time, I would sincerely appreciate your vote on November 8.

Together, I know that we can make America great again.

God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Are you buying?

Or are you more content with the devil you know?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dissent Is Fine But Don't Diss The Flag

It seems that it has now become fashionable to not stand for the National Anthem.

Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers started the current trend by refusing to stand for the Anthem in a pre-season game explaining that "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color."


Colin Kaepernick takes a knee during National Anthem


Kaepernick's actions have been followed by several other athletes (including some high school athletes) the most prominent of which was Megan Rapinoe of the USA Women's National Soccer team who also refused to stand for the National Anthem even though she was representing the United States on the national team.

I often say that there is really nothing new in the world. This is no exception. I am old enough to remember the 1968 Olympics when USA track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos took the podium to receive their gold and bronze medals in the 200m race and raised a gloved black hand and looked down during the playing of the National Anthem. The reason? To protest African-American poverty, to show solidarity within the Black community and to protest global social injustice.


Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos (right)
1968 Olympics


In contrast with Smith and Carlos there was another African-American Olympian by the name of George Foreman who took a totally different approach at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games regarding the American flag.

Foreman won the Heavyweight Boxing Gold Medal at those Olympic Games. After he won the championship bout, in contrast to Smith and Carlos, he walked around the ring waving a small American flag.


George Foreman at the 1968 Olympics


Things did not work out real well for Smith and Carlos over the remainder of their lives. This seems to happen more often than not to those who harbor bitterness and resentment in their lives.

On the other hand, George Foreman went on to become the Heavyweight Champion of the world and a popular corporate speaker. However, his biggest claim to fame is probably the fact that his name is on the famous George Foreman Grill for which it is estimated he has received in excess of $200 million for the use of his name.


George Foreman and his grill


Foreman understood something that Smith, Carlos, Kaepernick and Rapinoe did not. Dissent is fine. Dissing the flag is not.

I am sure George Foreman had his own experiences with racial injustice growing up in the 1950's with a single mother and six siblings in Marshall, Texas. However, he also knew what that flag represented. The blood, sweat and tears that went into providing the freedoms that we do have. The opportunities and blessings that others that do not live under that flag will never know. The promise of a better tomorrow for those that have the privilege of living under that flag. When you refuse to respect the flag, you have crossed the line from dissent to disrespect.

Kaepernick and others who refuse to honor the flag argue that that they are not happy with our country (and by extension our peace officers) in the area of social justice. That is the argument they make for their actions.

When you look at the life story of Colin Kaepernick you have to shake your head and wonder why he thinks the United States flag is not worthy of his respect?

Kaepernick was born to a single, teenage white mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His birth father, an African-American, left before he was born. His teen mother put him up for adoption and he was adopted by a loving and supportive white couple with two other children. I dare say that there are not too many countries on the face of this planet that would have afforded Colin Kaepernick the blessings that he has received in the United States of America. That includes the $126 million contract that he signed with the 49ers in 2014. He seems to not be able to put things in their proper perspective.

Like Kaepernick, I can also tell you that there are  things going on in our country today that I am also not happy with.

However, I dissent with my right to free speech that this country provides me, I write about it on these pages to let others know how I feel and I cast my vote in a country that has been provided that right to its citizens longer than any other country now existing on the face of the earth.

I also recognize that the greatness and goodness of this country far outweighs anything that I might find fault with.

It is something that I hope Colin Kaepernick and these other misguided souls soon recognize for themselves.

Dissent is fine but don't diss the flag.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Constitution Day 2016

Today is the 229th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitutional Convention convened on May 14, 1787 and work was finished and the delegates signed the Constitution on September 17 of that year. (Imagine getting something done like that today in four months!)



This special day provides me with the opportunity to highlight my personal favorite blog post since I started writing BeeLine. It is also among the Top 10 most viewed blog posts I have ever written.

If you have any doubt about the brilliance of our Founding Fathers and of the Constitution they drafted, read on about "Improper and Wicked Projects" in the Federalist Papers. What were Improper and Wicked Projects?

This is their list from 229 years ago.  I kid you not.

A rage for paper money 

A rage for the abolition of debts 

A rage for an equal division of property

A little eerie?  Read it all and send it on to others. The answers to our problems are already in existence. It was written down 229 years ago today.

Our Founders understood human nature very well. They knew if they wanted to develop a lasting framework for a constitutional government where the people elected their own government and representatives they needed to provide safeguards against in the Constitution against human fallibilities and foibles.

The Constitution was written to contain "Improper and Wicked Projects" and the factious leaders that may try to kindle the flame of dangerous political factions that could threaten the common good and rights of citizens.

You will better understand how important the Constitution is to us all by reading...

Improper and Wicked Projects 
(originally posted August 22, 2011)

Power, politics, greed, bias, conflicts of interest, oppression.  There is nothing going on today that our Founders did not anticipate.

Due to the intelligence and insights of our Founding Fathers they wrote a document that considered all of the above and more in writing the U.S. Constitution.  They knew that instability, injustice and confusion within the institution of government had caused many to fail. They were determined to build a governmental structure that could endure for the ages.

Federalist Paper #10 was written (by James Madison) to describe "How the Union Will Act as a Safeguard Against Domestic Division and Rebellion". The Founders understood that opposing political factions were the greatest potential threat to any government and that in many governments the only redress was violence.  They wanted to insure that factions could not wield power that would be dangerous to either the rights of other citizens or the common good.  What did they see as the most common and tangible source of faction?  The conflict between rich and poor. Here are the exact words from #10.

The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. 

Where did they see the most danger for a majority to trample on the rights of a minority?  Taxation.

The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice. Every shilling with which they overburden the inferior number, is a shilling saved to their own pockets. 

They understood that those that governed us had to be a cut above to balance and mediate these conflicting interests and put the public interest above any special interests.  However, they also knew that this was naive. "The Original Argument" modern translation of The Federalist Papers puts it this way.

Enlightened statesmen will not always be in power, and even if such mediation could happen, it would rarely take place with long-term interests in mind, since the immediate "here and now" interests of the party in power would most likely win the day at the expense of the rights of the other party, or the good of the whole.

Our Founding Fathers were one smart group.

They also knew that there was little they could do to prevent factions from occurring.  That could only be done by limiting liberties or insuring every citizen has the same opinions, feelings and the same interests. Neither was acceptable to the Founders.  They had no interest in preventing the causes, which is what Communist and Totalitarian governments do.  They focused on controlling the effects of factions.  Thus, they constructed a republican governmental framework with an ultimate goal of securing both the public good and private rights against the dangers of an oppressive majority faction.  Everything in the Constitution was built on this foundational principle.

They built a government which derived all of its power directly or indirectly from the People, administered by representatives who hold their offices at the pleasure of the People, for a limited period of time, or during good behavior.  Using different time periods for holding office, including the separation of powers between the three branches of the federal government and limiting the power of the federal government relative to the states were all important foundational principles to achieve their overarching goal of facilitating majority rule but protecting minority rights.

Perhaps most applicable to today is what Federalist #10 says in the second to last paragraph.  It explains why they set up the republican form of government we have and not a democracy or parliamentarian system. It literally stopped me in my tracks when I read it.  I re-read it several times in The Original Argument and then went to the actual Federalist Papers to read it exactly as it was written.

There could not be a better example to show how far we have deviated from the path the Founders established and why they set up safeguards in the Constitution to protect the People.  It reads as follows with the bold emphasis being mine:

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State.

How much more relevant can you be to what we have seen in recent years in this country, most particularly in the Obama Administration? The Founders found all of these to be "improper or wicked projects"by dangerous factions. These were the types of government abuses they were trying to prevent:

  • A rage of paper money (What has the Federal Reserve been doing?)

  • An abolition of debt (What was done to the secured creditors in the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies or with the bailout of Wall Street? What about the calls to abolish all student debt?)

  • The equal division of property (Redistribution of income and wealth through a focus on taxing the rich)


Isn't it interesting that each of these "improper or wicked projects" is also at the core of what has motivated the Tea Party? Terrorists? I think not. These are the sons and daughters of the Founding Fathers united against the very factious leaders our forefathers warned us about.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Poll Perusal

Perusal is one of the words that is most often misused in the English language.

You often hear someone say, "I will do a quick perusal of the document and we will start the meeting in a minute." You can't do a perusal of something if you are doing it quickly or are just skimming the material.

Perusal is "the activity of carefully reading, poring over or studying something with the intent of remembering it".( Vocabulary.com.)  The verb form of the word, peruse, actually comes from the 15th century where it literally meant to "use up" or "wear out".

I enjoy perusing poll data. Especially the internal tabular data that allows you to look at the underlying factors that are driving the overall survey results. This data can really tell a story. It can tell you why a candidate is struggling and it can also tell you the strategy that a candidate has to follow to move the numbers in their direction during the course of the campaign.

Here are three interesting data points I found in my perusal of various polls over the last week.

Consider these percentages that the Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce University poll of likely voters (Aug. 31-Sep 4) found in the Clinton-Trump matchup. It shows Trump drawing 36% support among Hispanics and 19% support among African Americans.




Let's put that in perspective.

In 2012, according to New York Times exit polling, Obama won 93% of the African American vote. According to this recent poll, Clinton is running 20 points behind Obama.

In 2012, Obama won 71% of the Hispanic vote. This means that Hillary is running 24 points behind Obama based on this polling data.

If the numbers in this poll are anywhere near these results on election day, Trump will no longer be referred to as "The Donald", he will be "The President".

The Boston Herald poll actually shows Clinton with an overall lead 43.7%-41.4% despite these numbers because Trump only Whites by 6 points. Romney took 59% of the White vote in 2102. This seems to be an outlier because most other polls have shown Trump's lead with Whites as being between 10 and 20 points,

Another interesting item I found was in the Quinnipiac Poll taken between September 8-13.

Consider how voters age 18-34 indicate they will vote in this year's Presidential election if the vote were hold today. This poll actually shows that the fringe party candidates (Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party) together capture 44% of the total Millennial vote! That is more than Trump or Clinton.

Trump actually runs third at 26% behind Hillary (31%) and Johnson (29%).





Looking at this, I guess I have to ask once again "Will History Be Kind To Millennials?". What exactly do these younger voters think that those votes are going to do for them?

Furthermore, look at the generational divide between older voters and younger voters in that poll. Trump is winning big with those 50 years and older. He loses big with those ages 18-49. What do older voters know that younger voters do not?

Perhaps the answer is in this poll of consumer confidence that I recently wrote about. There has never been a bigger gap in consumer confidence between younger and older Americans. Are they living in alternate universes?




Contrast that Quinnipiac Poll with the USC Dornsife/LA Times Daybreak tracking poll that surveys 3,000 likely voters daily and therefore should be better able to capture trends in the Presidential race. That survey showed Hillary Clinton leading by 1.5% points on September 11 right before Hillary's collapse on the sidewalk in New York City.

That poll shows that Hillary has also collapsed in the polls over the next four days.




That collapse has been driven principally due to a dramatic reduction in her support by 18-34 year olds in that poll.




Clinton was leading Trump among young voters by 46%-35% on September 11. Four days later she was trailing by 10 points! Younger voters seem to be particularly concerned about a candidate that may not be up to the job due to health concerns.

Interestingly, voters 65 years of age and older have actually rallied to Hillary's support in this poll even though this is the age demographic where she has consistently polled the poorest. I guess they understand better than others that everyone can have a bad day.




Hillary's problem now is whether it really was a bad day or whether there is truly something else going on behind the curtain that she is trying to hide.

She got back on the campaign trail today. I don't envy her.

Hillary is now under a medical microscope with the voters the likes of which no candidate in history has had to contend with. Every twitch, hitch, itch, hiccup and slip is going to be scrutinized, studied and discussed.

It is ironic that everything Hillary has done with her email and health was to maintain privacy. That seems to be all out the door.

Privacy is out. Perusal is in. For everything involving Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What's Behind the Curtain?

What is the story behind Hillary Clinton's health?  That question has gotten a lot of media attention since Sunday when this video that was shot by an amateur videographer on Sunday. (No major news organization were present with cameras as the campaign did not alert the press that Hillary was leaving the 9/11 memorial service on Sunday morning because she was not feeling well.)






If the imbedded video does not work on your computer, go to this link.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PEfUKfkjdoI


I have viewed this and another video taken from another angle at least 50 times.  I am not a physician but what I saw in this video gives me serious concerns about Secretary Clinton's health. What's she hiding behind the curtain?

A few observations.

  • Notice that Hillary is obviously having a difficult time standing on the sidewalk as she is waiting for her vehicle to arrive. She is being held by the arm by her female handler and she is leaning against the steel security bollard for support.

  • When she attempts to move toward the van it is clear that she has no control over her body. She looks like a rag doll. Her legs start to collapse under her and if she were not being held she would clearly have fallen.

  • Things get even worse as she attempts to step off the small curb to street level. She completely collapses and she would have fallen into a heap on the street without her handler holding her up and the additional assistance of Secret Service agents who holds her from the left right side. IN addition, a second female aide behind her is supporting her under both arms. Note her right foot dragging on the curb and in all the way to the van and her shoe falling off in the street.

  • The result is that Hillary is practically thrown into the van head first with the assistance of three or four people.

  • Hillary has used the van since the start of the campaign and it has become popularly known as her "Scooby Van". However, it seems to be a curious vehicle for short campaign trips as we typically see Suburban SUV's or Cadillac sedans used for this purpose. Some have stated it almost looks like it has characteristics of an ambulance. It certainly looks like it is used so that Hillary can lie down and rest between stops.

  • What I found particularly interesting was the total nonchalance exhibited by everyone on Hillary's team as she went through this medical emergency.  They all looked like this was an everyday occurrence. There is no indication of any alarm or concern from any of them. In fact, look at the young man who comes in from the left near the end who appears to be looking at his cell phone. He hardly even looks up. I guess it is just another day dragging Hillary around. The only ones that show any urgency or concern are the two white-shirted NYPD police officers who see there is a problem and begin to intercede to offer assistance with some some urgency. Of course, they are campaign outsiders.

  • Supporting the fact that this does not seem to be an unusual occurrence is the fact that the Secret Service did not immediately transport Hillary to a hospital or medical facility. Instead, they took her to her daughter's apartment. Who would you do that, especially if we are to believe the story that she was dehydrated? Wouldn't they want to at least get her an IV to immediately infuse her with fluids? Maybe they are carrying an IV package in that Scooby van? However, why are they doing that for a candidate we are told is in "excellent health."

  • We also learned today that despite everything that occurred on Sunday morning, Hillary did not even see a doctor until she got to her home in Chappaqua, NY much later in the day. How does this make sense for a 69-year old woman who had the serious medical episode we witnessed on that video? It defies all common sense.

  • Complicating things even more are the ever changing stories about why Hillary left the 9/11 memorial service early. First it was explained that she just became overheated. Then (after the video surfaced) it was because she was dehydrated. Finally, ( after the mainstream media picked up the story) we hear that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday. However, that diagnosis did prevent her from attending a LGBT fundraiser in New York City hosted by Barbra Streisand on Friday night where she made her infamous statement that "You can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables." Of course, what do you call someone who has pneumonia (which is potentially contagious) and you attend a fundraiser where you are shaking hundreds of hands?

  • Hillary's schedule during the month of August also indicates that something is going on behind the curtain. During the month she only made one campaign appearance between August 18 and August 31.  For the entire month she only attended 11 campaign events before 9,820 supporters. (Of course, this does includes fundraisers she might have attended. However, these are private events without media coverage and are much better able to be controlled). By comparison, Trump did 31 events totaling almost 200,000 attendees.

Source: The Gateway Pundit

If nothing else, there appears to be a significant energy gap between Hillary and Trump. And Trump is actually a year and a half older than Clinton.

Of course, Hillary's biggest problem in all of this is not her age or health status but her inability to do anything but try to live behind the curtain. Questions about her health status and the obfuscation that follows is just more of the same to keep herself shielded behind that curtain. It seems to be the same motivation that has fueled the entire email scandal and why Hillary's honesty and trustworthiness is viewed so skeptically by voters.

The question of what's behind the curtain also applies to Donald Trump and his tax returns. Trump still is hiding behind the excuse that the IRS is currently auditing his returns as the reason he cannot release them. Of course, my experience as a tax attorney and CPA would suggest that someone like Trump has multiple years under audit (or under administrative appeal) at all times. Therefore, there will never be a time in our lifetimes that he is not under audit.

However, the fact that the IRS is auditing Trump's tax returns does not prevent him from personally releasing his returns. Furthermore, even if he may not want to release the current returns that are under audit, there is nothing to prevent him from releasing earlier years. How about releasing 2006 or 1996?

You really have to wonder what is in those Trump returns? What's behind his curtain? My guess is that they would show that Donald Trump is not nearly as wealthy as he purports to be. For example, could there be anything worse for Trump than showing a return with income in 2014 of less than the Clinton's $28 million. The only thing I can think that would be worse is showing income of less than Romney's $11 million in 2011.

The only thing we think we know for certain right now is that one of these candidates will get a curtain call from the voters on November 8 (at least that was the case before we started hearing that Democrats may actually be preparing contingency plans to replace Hillary on the ballot) and the other will go home to presumably live behind their curtain for the rest of their days.

Will we ever find out what's behind each of their curtains?

I predict we will. I am just doubtful that we will know before Election Day.

In the meantime, that makes us all like contestants on Let's Make A Deal wondering what is really behind Door #3.





Monday, September 12, 2016

Confidence Game

I have previously raised the question in these pages as to whether "History Will Be Kind To Millennials?"

Why do I say this?  Here is what I wrote shortly after Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term.

Voters do not typically vote against their self-interests.  That is why the unions and government workers who believe in big government and big spending typically vote for Democrats.  It is also the reason that small business owners and investors who are concerned about high taxes and government regulations vote for Republicans.  It is why young voters in the Vietnam era voted for Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern and why generations of African-Americans voted for Republicans after the Civil War.
Obama carried two-thirds of voters aged 18-29 in 2008.  He carried this demographic with about 60 percent of the vote in 2012.  When you consider the following it is hard to understand why.
We know the obvious.  Over $4 trillion in national debt has been added in the Obama years. The President's budgets over the next four years looks to be more of the same. When Obama leaves office it looks as if these young voters will be inheriting at least $20 trillion in federal debt that they will have to pay for from future taxes.
The overall unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds in December, 2012 was 11.5%.  This is far worse than the 7.8% national rate.  The African-American unemployment rate was 22.1%.  12.2% of young Hispanics were unemployed. These are all worse than four years ago when President Obama took office.

I was reminded of this as I came across the chart below in Business Insider that compares the Conference Board's consumer confidence index between younger and older Americans.  It is one of the more astounding graphics I have seen this year. Note the difference in consumer confidence between those under age 35 and those over age 55. It is a mind-boggling difference of 58.8 points.! There has never been a bigger disparity in consumer confidence between the young and the old.

The overall consumer confidence index is at 101.1 today but Millennial confidence is close to 130 and those over age 55 come in at around 70. It is as if these different generations are living in two different worlds.




From where I sit, the Millennials look like they are living in a dream world. Older Americans seem to be more grounded in reality.

Younger Americans are on the hook for $19.5 trillion and counting in federal debt. Social security and Medicare are both fundamentally bankrupt and will need a massive infusion of new tax dollars before long. Millennials will be on the hook for many more trillions in public sector pension costs for state and local workers. All of these obligations will require that current tax rates will need to be increase substantially in future years.

Millennials are also on the hook for over $1.25 trillion in student loans that are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. The amount of student loan debt has doubled since Obama became President---from $700 billion to close to $1.4 trillion as this graph from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis illustrates.




Let's put $1.4 trillion in perspective compared to other forms of debt. Total credit card debt is $883 billion and total auto loan debt is $750 billion. When Obama became President, student loan debt was lower than both these other forms of borrowing. Student loan debt is now close to overtaking the two other leading forms of household debt---WHEN COMBINED!

The unemployment rate among those age 18-29 is 8.6% compared to an overall employment rate of 5.3% in total.  In fact, one-third of all unemployed workers are 18-29 years of age. Adjusting for those who have quit looking for work, the real unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds is 12.5%.

Even worse, a recent study by Accenture indicates that 51% of Millennials report being underemployed.

Therefore, almost 1 in 10 of them is unemployed and more than 1 in 2 is underemployed.  The poor economy and low interest rates are keeping millions of Baby Boomers in the workforce and blocking Millennial career advancement.  They almost certainly will pay much more into Social Security and Medicare than they will ever get out of it or they will end up caring for Mom and Dad somewhere down the line.

Does all of this sound like it would put your consumer confidence through the roof?

I guess as long as you can live in your parents' basement, their parents' Wi-Fi is working, your cell phone bill is paid and Instagram doesn't crash, life is pretty good.

The only explanation I can come up for this disconnect is that things have been so bad for so long that Millennials do not know any better. They think this is as good as it gets. They see small improvements in employment and the budget deficit and it all looks like peaches and cream to them.

The 2016 Presidential election will largely turn on whether these younger voters will vote...and how they will vote.

For example, 24 million voters age 18-29 voted in 2012 and 60% voted for Obama. On the other hand, 30 million voters age 60+ voted in 2012 and 56% voted for Romney.  These groups essentially cancelled each other out and the election was determined by those between ages 30 and 59 as I explained in my blog post, "Turned On and Turned Out ".

However, in the mid-term elections in 2010 and 2014 which saw tremendous GOP wins, only 10 million voters age 18-29 bothered to vote. 14 million stayed home compared to their turnout in 2008 and 2012. However, 30 million voters 60+ still came out. each election And they voted for the GOP in roughly the same margins as they did for Romney in 2012. That is why Romney lost and there were landslide wins for the GOP in both 2010 and 2014.

Younger voters seem to have a poor opinion of both Hillary and Trump. However, if they vote, they seem ready to support the Democrat again based on most polls I have reviewed.

Why not? It seems they think life is good if you look at the consumer confidence data. They seem to be totally oblivious to the storm clouds swarming all around them.

Will history be kind to Millennials?

Put me down for about a 10 on that confidence scale.


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Deep Blue and Downunder

BeeLine is back after a 30 day hiatus. I figured that if August was a good time for most of Washington to escape to Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket or Rehoboth Beach, I could take the time to take a Transpacific cruise from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia.

Sailing into the deep blue Pacific and leaving the Golden Gate behind


The cruise took Mrs. BeeLine and me to 4 of the Hawaiian Islands, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Auckland, and the Bay of Islands in New Zealand in addition to a couple days in San Francisco at the beginning of the cruise and four days in Sydney after the cruise concluded.


Sailing into Bora Bora at sunrise


All in all, we travelled some 9,000 miles on the deep blue waters of the Pacific and 10,000 miles in the air getting back from Sydney yesterday.

It was an interesting 30 days made more so by the fact that about 95% of the people on the cruise were Australians or New Zealanders. There were only a handful of Americans on board.

A few observations and perspectives from my trip.

  • There is a lot of water in the Pacific Ocean. In fact, the Pacific Ocean comprises about 30% of the surface of the earth. Its maximum length is 9,000 miles and it reaches 11,000 miles at its maximum width. About 50% of the world's water is in the Pacific Ocean.



  • When you take a ship across the Pacific Ocean you really appreciate the accomplishments of explorers like Captain James Cook who made three long voyages into the Pacific from England. When I say long, I mean really long. Each voyage lasted a minimum of three years. Cook charted many of the islands of the South Pacific in addition to Australia's east coast and New Zealand. He was the first Westerner to discover the Hawaiian Islands which is also where he met his death towards the end of his third voyage.  While I was on the cruise I read a full account of Cook's life and voyages that made me appreciate him even more.


  • Cook's first voyage was in the HMS Endeavour.  This is a replica of that ship that sits in Darling Harbor in Sydney which I took a picture of. To provide some perspective, the Endeavour's entire length would not extend beyond the width of the ocean liner I was on.


  • The Aussies and Kiwis are very enjoyable to spend time with. They also are more active than the Americans I have cruised with before. They were much more likely to be playing table tennis, water polo, walking, dancing, playing trivia or pursuing other pursuits on sea days on the ship. They also have great knowledge about American tv, movies and music.  

  • I saw a lot of signs of American culture in both Auckland and Sydney. As an example, I saw hats or shirts on people with logos of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Orlando Magic, Auburn University, Harvard, and Florida State to name a few.

  • The Aussies and Kiwis have a keen interest in the United States and are especially interested in the upcoming Presidential election. I don't think I talked to anyone who was not interested in my views on Hillary and Trump and this was without knowing that I write a blog that delves into politics quite often. What do they think about this year's election? Like many in this country, they don't know what to think. However, they know it is important for us... and them. As someone said to me on the cruise, "What happens to America is very important for us from many perspectives. You are the economic leader and we ultimately rely on you for our security. We need you to do well in whatever you do."

  • The Aussies are particularly perplexed by the fact that only about 60% of eligible Americans typically vote in a Presidential election year. This is difficult for them to understand as in Australia voting in all federal elections is compulsory and failure to vote subjects the citizen to a possible court appearance and a $20 fine. 

  • Auckland, New Zealand has what seems to be the hottest residential real estate market in the world right now. In the best areas of Auckland, houses are not put up for sale, they are put up for auction. Houses are listed for viewing over a period of a couple weeks and then an auction day is set. From what I could see, prices for some houses are going for well over $1,000 sf. Everything sells. The seller's market seems to have resulted from restrictive building rules, an economic boom in Auckland and a surge in Chinese immigration to the city. This article from the Guardian provides some background. To put this in perspective for you, we were driven through the city by some local realtors we met on the ship and this 3 BR, 1 BA house that is approximately 1,350 sf sold for NZ $1.6 million in June.  That would be US $1.2 million at the current exchange rate. 
Credit: https://www.barfoot.co.nz/569236#Detail
  • I found Sydney, Australia to be the nicest 'big city" I have ever visited anywhere. It has a beautiful harbor and magnificent views from so many vantage points. It is clean, lively and it is booming right now. There is a lot of construction going on and it seems to be well planned. However, real estate is also expensive in Sydney. Many liberals say they are going to leave the United States if Trump is elected. They can have Europe. Leave Australia and New Zealand for me if we have to endure Hillary. It would suit me just fine if I could afford the real estate prices.
The Sydney Opera House as it looked the last night I was in Sydney 

It was a great trip but it is always great to be back home.

I would think there should be a few things to write about over the next 60 days.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Taming the Tempest

It seems that a tempest has engulfed the globe.

We are now seeing terrorist events almost daily in Europe.

We have not seen anything like the racial unrest and violence that we are experiencing on the streets of America in well over a generation.  The attacks on our police are unprecedented. They go much beyond anything I saw during the Vietnam War protest era.

The rule of law seems not to mean anything anymore. Our immigration laws are blatantly ignored. The Supreme Court makes law rather than interprets. $400 million in cash is shipped to an enemy power in a ransom payment without any involvement of Congress which is supposed to appropriate spending (that is one big petty cash account the President seems to have). A Secretary of State circumvents national security and freedom of information guidelines through use of a private server and is given a pass by the FBI.

Underlying all of this is a struggling world economy and an American economy that has been languishing for almost a decade.

All of the elements should be there for a change agent to be elected the next President of the United States.

Hillary Clinton is surely not that person and her poll numbers tend to bear that out.

Donald Trump has all the characteristics that you want in a change agent.

He is an outsider.

He seems beholden to no one in the Washington establishment.

He speaks candidly and without the political correctness we have come to expect from anyone in the public eye.

He is open and accessible.

Donald Trump is also tempestuous. He is wild, lively, unpredictable and a whole lot more.

There is a lot that people like about those qualities in a person. That is one of the big reasons that Trump is able to get some much media time. and so much attention. However, there is also a downside. How much tempestuousness do we want to deal with the tempest in the world?

Many years ago I learned that most people's weaknesses are actually their strengths used to excess. For example, people like a confident person but they do not like someone who is arrogant. People respect someone who is reserved but disregard someone who is withdrawn. Most people who want to improve their personal qualities ought to first look at their good qualities and see if they may be using them to excess.

Donald Trump is a textbook case in demonstrating this point. He could solve a lot of problems for himself in his race for the Presidency if he understood this.

If I was advising Trump that would be the first thing I would tell him. He has what people are looking for. He just has to be measured in how he uses it at this point. He has already shown he is capable of shaking things up. He has nothing else to prove to the voters on that point.

The current environment is providing Donald Trump something akin to a customer walking up to one of the poker tables in his casinos and drawing an inside straight.

The world is a mess. A vast majority of people in our country say we are heading in the wrong direction. People are tired of the status quo and the Democrats are running the Queen of the Status Quo.

It doesn't get much better than that for Donald Trump.

In fact, I dare say that the only one that can beat Donald Trump...is Donald Trump.

People are looking for exactly what Donald Trump is selling. They want someone to shake up Washington. However, they don't want him to shake them up personally.

At their core, human beings are risk adverse. We prefer not to try new things or new places unless we have to. If we move it is usually because the pain we feel in our current situation forces our hand. In effect, we ultimately determine that the current pain outweighs the risk and uncertainty of doing something different.

When I was in marketing one of the key metrics that always fascinated me was the fact that research showed that almost half of all potential sales were not lost to a competitor, they were lost to the status quo. In effect, the customer simply did nothing. In the end, they determined it was better to do nothing than to do something with you. T

Trump's campaign strategy needs to be three-fold. He first needs to reminding voters of the painful circumstances they are in. He hit this hard at the GOP convention and he was criticized by the media for the dark picture he painted. However, he needs to do this. He has to point out the pain or people will elect to stay with the status quo. Second, he needs to point to how he will do things differently and can make things better. His economic plan that he released this week is a good example of this. Third, he needs to be seen as someone who is not a risky choice. He clearly is the choice for change. He just has to show that he is not a risky choice. If he can tame his own tempest he can win.

The election this year reminds me very much of the 1980 Presidential race. Our country was in a mess but Ronald Reagan (a former Democrat and actor) was running as a Republican for President. He said a lot of things that media didn't like. He was portrayed as a wild cowboy in his calls for defense build-ups, massive tax cuts and challenging the Soviet Union. A Republican that had run against Reagan in the primaries, John Anderson, ultimately filed as an Independent and made it a three person field in November.

Voters were ready for change but they had to be convinced that the risk of change with Reagan was preferable to the pain they were feeling in their everyday lives. The polls were close right to the end. Voters were torn.

I went home on Election Night expecting a close race based on what the polls were saying. However, Reagan won in a landslide and made the greatest transformation I have witnessed in government in my lifetime.

I get a sense we are in a similar situation today. How else do you explain the polls we are seeing? How can Trump be up 7 points right after the GOP convention and down 7 points a week later? It tells me that voters are deeply troubled. They clearly don't like Hillary and want change from the cronyism and corruption that has defined the Clintons over the years. However, they are not sold on Trump. They liked what they heard in Cleveland. It is what they are feeling. However, they fear making a bad bet on Trump.

When people are in doubt they stay with the status quo.

Trump has one overriding goal from here on out. He has to remove the doubt about staying with the status quo.

To do that he needs to show that he can help tame the tempest we find ourselves in. He has to hit voters hard that we simply cannot stay with the status quo. Most importantly, he has to tame the tempest that swirls around him. He has to show that he is a reasonable man and a reasonable choice for change.

If he can, he will win. It is totally his to win or lose.

Trump say he is a winner. Is he prepared to do what it really takes to win? There are now less than 90 days to Election Day. He is really on the clock now.

Speaking of the clock, BeeLine is going to take a month's hiatus in order to rest and reflect for what promises to be a hectic Fall season of blog posts. See you in September!


Monday, August 8, 2016

200 Years of History?

This is the way the Democrat party begins a description of its history on the DNC website...

"For more than 200 years, our party has led the fight for civil rights..."

That might be persuasive to a potential voter who has never opened a History textbook but it bears no resemblance to the truth.

Democrats would like for everyone to believe (especially African American voters) that Democrats have been the champion of civil rights and liberties for over two centuries all the while battling vile racist Republicans. In reality, the historical record shows exactly opposite.

The Republican Party was actually founded in 1854 as an oppositional force to the pro-slavery Democrat Party specifically to prevent the further spread of slavery into the western territories. Six years later Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican elected President and he brought him with both houses of Congress. With the Democrats outnumbered in Congress, and Lincoln in The White House, the southern states made the decision to secede from the union as they foresaw that slavery would inevitably be banned at the federal level with Republicans in control.

The votes of Republicans and Democrats on the major legislative votes involving civil rights over the years says it all.

13th Amendment- Abolished slavery in the United States (1865)
Every Republican in the House and Senate supported the amendment.
Only 16 Democrats in the House (most lame ducks) and 2 in the Senate voted for the amendment.


14th Amendment-Provided full citizenships to slaves
Not one Democrat in the House or Senate voted for the amendment.


15th Amendment-Provided voting rights to slaves
There was not a single vote of the 56 Democrats in the House or Senate that voted for the amendment.

A little more U.S. History...

The first Black U.S. Senator was a Republican (Hiram Revels from Mississippi in 1870). The first Democrat did not enter the U.S. Senate until 1993 (Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois).

In the U.S. House of Representatives, there were 21 Black members elected to Congress before there was the first Democrat elected in 1935.

You might look at these votes and Black Republican officeholders and consider this ancient history (even though the Democrats state that their fight for Civil Rights goes back 200 years) and discount this truth.

However, Robert Rohlfing in an article "Some Of The Lost History Of The Civil Rights Movement" in Canada Free Press points out this fact on more recent history,

In the 26 major civil rights votes after 1933, a majority of Democrats opposed civil rights legislation in over 80 percent of the votes. By contrast, the Republican majority favored civil rights in over 96 percent of the votes.

In fact, as Rohling points out, the initial impetus for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act both came from Republican President Dwight Eisenhower in a 1957 Civil Rights Act bill that he introduced.

Who was one of the Democrats who opposed that bill?

A name you might recognize is Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

Kennedy later did become an advocate for civil rights legislation when he became President and introduced what later became the first version of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that Lyndon Johnson pushed through Congress. Do you think JFK opposed the bill because he knew he needed Southern Democrats if he hoped to run for President in 1960? That would be my guess.

Turning to his Kennedy's running mate in 1960, Johnson opposed every civil rights bill for his first 20 years in Congress (1937-1957) before he got firmly behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964 soon after becoming President upon Kennedy's assassination. Of course, let it also be remembered that 80% of the no votes for that legislation were Democrats.

It would be nice to believe that Kennedy, Johnson and other Democrats changed their views out of character, conscience or conviction but with politicians you never really know. Politics and popular votes trump principles most of the time.

For example, LBJ is quoted by Ronald Kessler in his book, Inside the White House: The Hidden Lives of the Modern Presidents and the Secrets of the World's Most Powerful Institution, published in 1995 as telling two unnamed governors who were on Air Force One why he was working for passage of the Civil Rights Act, of 1964,

"I'll have them ni**ers voting Democratic for two hundred years."

Some argue that there is not enough proof to support that Johnson ever said this, however, it would seem to be in keeping with some of his other views on race over the years.

Democrats may ultimately get the Black vote for 200 years but it will not be based on the past 200 years of history.

The political reality is that there is no viable Democrat party today without African American votes. That is why you don't see many Democrats criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and our nation's police officers getting so little support from within the Democrat party.

The same mentality drives the Democrats on the immigration issue. Given a choice between supporting an American citizen or an illegal immigrant, or our nation's security and an Islamic refugee, the Democrats are looking for future votes and little more.

It is a dangerous game. I only hope we have a country that survives those votes over the next 200 years.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Economics of Inequality

There continues to be a lot of talk about income inequality in the United States and around the world. The rich have gotten richer and are receiving a higher share of the country's income and wealth than they did 30 years ago. For example, the share of income of the top 1% went from 8.3% of total income in 1981 to 21.2% in 2014.

This fact is now having a significant impact on our political landscape. It drove many Democrats to Bernie Sanders and it also seems to be driving many working class voters to Donald Trump who has struck a chord with many who believe they have been forgotten in the 21st century economy.

In my view the largest drivers in this economic trend have been the impacts of technology and international competition. Technology has put a premium on education and those with the right skills and education have been able to drive their incomes upwards. Technological advances and increased economic freedom have also affected income equality. People like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs created fantastic new products that increased both productivity and our quality of life. However, the information age spreads money around much differently than the manufacturing age we were in 30 years ago.

Manufacturing spreads income in a much broader swath in an economy. You need to pay a lot of workers to build an automobile. You only need a couple of computer programmers to develop a video game that might sell millions. For example, the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 game that was released in 2011 grossed $1 billion in the first 16 days it was for sale. Instagram's entire company had only 13 employees when it was sold to Facebook for $1 billion.

International competition has also put enormous downward pressure on the incomes of those with fewer skills and lower education levels as this labor pool is now competing with China, India, Mexico and other emerging economies.

Therefore, in relative terms, the demand for unskilled labor has fallen while the demand for skilled and educated workers has increased.  These both have contributed to income inequality.

You can really see the relationship between earnings, education and unemployment rates from this chart from John Mauldin's "Thoughts from the Frontline" newsletter this week.




Another chart that puts the income inequality issue into great context is the one below that was developed by the American Enterprise Institute from U.S.Census Bureau data. Looking at this chart you can see the tremendous impact that demographic factors have on income.

I might add that most demographic factors are choices. You have no control over when, where or to whom you were born but everyone has a lot of life choices along the way such as deciding to graduate from high school, going to college, marriage, children born out of wedlock and the like. These choices are also not fixed over a lifetime and certainly are not fixed from generation to generation.  People have the opportunity in this country to change their situation and station in life.



Credit:AEI



The first thing you notice in looking at the chart above is those that are in the highest fifth of U.S. households by income have earned that status by working.  In fact, 2.00 is the mean numbers of earners per household in the top quintile. There are a lot of two earner households in that top quintile. By contrast, the lowest quintile only has .42 earners per household.

In addition, only 4.1% of those well-off households have no earners. These are very few people doing nothing but clipping coupons and collecting dividend checks in the top income households.
Top quintile income households are working for it everyday. On the other hand, 62.6% of those in the lowest quintile had no one in the household with any earnings at all. No one is going to get rich on government programs.

78.1% of the high income households are married compared to only 16.9% of the poor. The highest income households usually have two married people working together for shared goals. This also means that there are few single parent families in the top income groups (21.9%) while 83.1% of poor households are headed by a single parent.

It is also no surprise that education stands out as a key demographic factor.  Only 2.1% of the highest earners failed to graduate from high school but 25.1% of the poor failed to get that basic educational attainment despite the fact that a free high school education is available to everyone in the country. On the other hand, 62.2% of the richest Americans have graduated from college.

As you can see, in most of the selected characteristics there is a direct correlation that corresponds with moving up the income scale whether it is number of earners per household, marital status, work status or education.

In order to address the issue of income inequality in this country we need to spend more time on trying to pull people up from the bottom than by trying to penalize and push people down from the top.  After all, if you look at the data, it appears that most people at the top got there by doing the right things---getting a good education, working hard, getting married, and avoiding out of wedlock births.

The Brookings Institution has studied this issue and it states that if you want to avoid poverty and join the middle class in the United States, you really need to do just three things.

Complete high school
Work full time
Marry before you have children

If you do all three, your chances of being poor fall from 12% to 2% and your chances of joining the middle class or above rise from 56% to 74%.

We hear a lot about income inequality and income redistribution from the President and other liberals. How often do we hear them talk about these three things? It seems that we should be hearing about individual responsibility in equal measure to income inequality if we are to have any chance to do anything about it.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Debt and Destiny

The debt of the U.S. federal government debt currently is $19.4 trillion and it continues to rise by the minute.

Debt has doubled in the last eight years as this graph from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis shows.




Who holds all of this debt?

$5.4 trillion of the debt is referred to as intragovernmental debt. These debt holdings result when various government trust funds, revolving funds and special funds lend money to the federal treasury to fund current operations. The remaining $14 trillion is referred to as public debt and is held by individuals, corporations, mutual funds, the Federal Reserve, state and local and foreign governments.

The largest holder of intragovernmental debt holdings is the Social Security Trust Fund which accounts for about half of the total amount. In effect, over the past 30 years Social Security has collected $2.8 trillion of additional taxes over and beyond what it has paid in benefits. These amounts were "lent" to the federal government which used it to pay for everything from food stamps to B-1 bombers. In turn, the Federal Treasury gave a paper IOU to Social Security. The money is gone but the federal government still owes the money and it is time to pay the piper.

Social Security will now need to begin "calling their loans" to the federal government to be able to balance the emerging shortfall between FICA tax collections and benefit payments to retirees. It is expected that the entire $2.8 trillion in "loans" will need be collected between now and 2034.

The chart below shows how quickly those "reserves" are projected to be spent. Of course, the federal government does not have anything to pay the Social Security Trust Fund off with. This money has to come from additional federal taxes or additional borrowings from public holders of the debt.

If this is not sobering enough, another $1.5 trillion is owed to the federal employee and military retiree systems. There are a lot of tax increases in our future! Millennials take note. You will bear the brunt of these taxes during the remainder of your working years. Choose your elected officials wisely.


Source: 2016 OASDI Trustees Report 

Who holds the $14 trillion of public debt?

Here is the breakdown as of 12/31/15.

Foreign interests- $6.2 trillion. Almost half of the total. China is the biggest holder followed by Japan

Federal Reserve- $2.5 trillion

Mutual funds-  $1.2 trillion

State and local govt- $.8 trillion (includes public sector pension plans)

Banks- $.5 billion

Private pension plans- $.4 billion

Insurance companies- $.3 billion

U.S. Savings Bonds- $.2 billion

It is both interesting and troubling to me that $8.7 trillion of $14 trillion of our debt (62%) is in the hands of foreign interests and the Federal Reserve.

Almost all of the Federal Reserve's holdings of debt have occurred in the last eight years as part of its quantitative easing program. Foreign buyers of our debt have been ready buyers of our debt in recent years as the central banks of many countries have resorted to negative interest rates (who thought that I would ever be uttering that phrase) in an attempt to create economic growth.

To provide some perspective on how pervasive negative interest rates have become around the globe, consider this graphic.  In fact, more than one-third of all sovereign debt in the world pays negative interest. Switzerland's 50 year bond recently fell below ZERO! It is incredible and defies all rules of economic logic.





However, the United States is currently benefitting from what is going on in the rest of the world. Even though the yield on the Treasury's 10-year bond is hovering around 1.6% right now, it still is a lot more than zero. Combined with our reputation as a safe haven for money it makes it easy for the United States to find investors that will extend credit to us.

However, what happens when all of this turns? And it will turn at some point.

6,000 years of economic history prove that. Borrowers are being paid less for the risk they take in loaning their money than at any period in human history. It is truly unprecedented. For perspective, look at this graph showing long-bond yields in the U.K. from 1750 to 2014. By the way, the current 10 year yield on the UK government bond is .8% which would put it below the horizontal base line (@1%) on the graph below.





The United States also has an average debt maturity that is shorter than all the major European countries. That means that the United States could find itself facing significant refinancing risk if the current environment changes in addition to the risk it faces of having to bear higher interest costs on the debt.




Our destiny is inextricably tied to our country's debt. And that debt load is inextricably dependent on foreign interests and funny money from the Federal Reserve to keep the economic system working. It all continues to work... until it doesn't.

I don't know when or how it will turn or end. However, we will all be in deep do-do when it does.