Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A Consequential Election

It seems that over the last few elections we have been told that each has been "the most consequential of our lifetimes".

2008 was consequential because it was the first time that an African American was on the ballot for President of the United States.

2010 was consequential because it was the opportunity for voters to register their displeasure with the passage of Obamacare and the leftist agenda of the President who was elected in 2008.

2012 was consequential because it represented the opportunity to turn completely away from that leftist agenda.

2014 was consequential because the consequences of six years of failed liberal policies were beginning to be felt by more and more people.

2016 was consequential because it represented not only a difficult choice between what many believed were two flawed candidates but also a choice between starkly different visions for the future of America on taxes, trade, immigration, the Supreme Court and other issues.

We are once again being told that 2018 is the most consequential election of our lifetimes.

Despite the hype, that may actually be the case this year.

If we think we see chaos in Washington now, think for a second what things will look like with a Democrat Congress.

I can assure you that there will be almost nothing of value done legislatively for the next two years with the Democrats in control.

The Kavanaugh confirmation hearing should give you an idea of what to expect. It will be ugly and it will be relentless.

Things might not be much different should we see a slim Republican majority in the House or Senate. Assume that there is a one, two or three vote margin. That will mean that every special election over the next two years will take on the importance of a Supreme Court nomination like Kavanaugh to the Democrats (or Republicans). It will not be pretty and it will not be good for the country.

There is little question that we are a country that is deeply divided politically.

What I find most interesting is that the Democrats seem to believe that their political failures since 2010 have been the result of not being radical enough.

Since the election of Donald Trump we have seen the sobs of Hillary's supporters turn into mobs on the streets. We have also seen Democrat candidates go even further left in their public stances thinking that will be their ticket back to political relevancy.

Open Borders
Abolish ICE
Voting Rights for Illegals
Medicare for All
Free College for All

These used to be radical fringe ideas that any pragmatic politician would know are not realistic proposals.

Who really believes that we can have a country without ANY border controls?

Who really believes that you can provide free health care and college and not MASSIVELY increase the tax burden on the middle and lower income groups?

We are in the midst of a political war right now.

Wars only end when one side is vanquished and surrenders. They accept the results and no longer resist.

It is the exception rather than the rule to see Congress evenly split. Most of the time one party or the other has a clear majority in Congress. When one party is in control, history indicates that they tend to stay in control. This is a chart that shows the party composition of Congress going back to 1901. Look at the unchallenged control the Democrats had in Congress for 60 years (1933-1993).

Credit: Wikipedia

If Democrats make inroads in November with their radical political agenda it will further embolden them. It will undoubtedly make things even worse than they are today. The political war will continue and intensify. The divide will only get larger. You can count on it.

In addition, there seem to be many Democrats who believe that the 2016 election of Donald Trump was an aberration. It was random and not real. They can't believe that the "progress" made with Obama could possibly be undone so quickly. That is why they want to double down on an agenda that is even more progressive and radical. They cannot believe the mainstream is not with them.

However, it is interesting to note in the chart above that with both the elections of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the country veered to the right in Congress in the midterm election immediately after in response to the liberal agendas being implemented in these Democrat administrations. In other words, voters soon found out that the modern Democrat party was far different than the Democrat party of FDR, Truman or John Kennedy that their grandparents or parents spoke fondly about.

For the good of the country (and for what used to be the Democrat party) the only way I see for us to move forward is for the Democrats to take another shocking loss on November 6. It is the only hope we have to restore some order to our politics.

There should be many things that Donald Trump, the Republicans and Democrats can and should be working together on in a bipartisan manner.

After all, Donald Trump was a Democrat a good part of his life. He is not an ideologue. He is a man that likes to get things done.

Infrastructure, Trade and Immigration are prime examples.

My hope is that this "consequential" election will really, really teach Democrats that "elections have consequences". My hope is that they learn they have moved so far from the mainstream that they are in danger of becoming a fringe party with fringe ideas. They need to rethink what they are and what they need to do to become assets to the process rather than the asses they have become.

The consequences of this election will also go far in shaping the list of potential 2018 Presidential contenders.

Will we get a radical or a realist as the Democrat Presidential nominee in 2020?

Will we get a Congress focused on legislation or on investigations?

Will we be a country of laws or of mobs?

Can we have intelligent discussions rather than in-your-face intimidation tactics?

Republicans, Independents, (and even smart thinking Democrats) need to think very carefully about what their vote means next week.

It is consequential and it will have consequences.

Think and act accordingly when casting your vote.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Fleetwood Mac Means Money

I was flipping the channels on my remote recently and I came upon a Fleetwood Mac concert on a PBS station.

At least I thought it was Fleetwood Mac when I first started watching. They looked a little young. After all, Fleetwood Mac is older than I am. However, I thought this might be a replay of an old concert. That idea passed when there was a shot of the audience and the clothing and hair styles did not look out of place. Nevertheless, the music and vocals were spot on.

I watched another song and the program then took a break so that the PBS station could do some fundraising. That is when it became clear that this was a "tribute group" that goes by the name of Rumours of Fleetwood Mac that is currently touring the United States.

The group's gig is that they re-create all of the great songs of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album and others. The PBS station was offering tickets to a live concert in consideration of a donation to the station.

I watched for another set or two and did some "second screen" research on Fleetwood Mac in order to refresh my recollection about the group. Stevie Nicks, the great lead singer, is now 70 years old. Mick Fleetwood, the drummer, is 71. Christine McVie is now 75.

I am by no means a music buff. I have probably not been to more than 25 concerts in my entire life. I doubt that I paid my own money to go to more than half of those.

However, I did buy the Rumours album when it was released in 1977. As of 2013, it had sold 40 million copies making it one of the top selling albums of all time. (5th ranked all-time according to Wikipedia). It is undoubtedly still collecting dust in my basement.

I eventually flipped to a couple of other channels and I came across another PBS channel with another Fleetwood Mac concert. This was the real deal and was from a reunion performance by the band in 1997.

I watched several songs and then this PBS station cut to a break so it also could also do some fundraising. What were they offering? A DVD of the concert for a generous donation.

What does this tell me?

It was no coincidence that two PBS stations were using Fleetwood Mac in fundraising efforts.

Fleetwood Mac means money. At least when it comes to tapping the wallets of aging Baby Boomers. This has to be a proven formula to appeal to the emotions and the beneficence of those with fond memories of an earlier age.

If you are interested, Fleetwood Mac recently kicked off a 50+ cities North American tour that will extend into Spring, 2019.

That tour is proceeding without lead guitarist and male vocalist Lindsey Buckingham who was "fired" by the band earlier this year. Buckingham has filed a lawsuit regarding his dismissal in which he alleges "breach of fiduciary duty, breach of oral contract and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage."

Prospective economic advantage? I think he has a point. Rolling Stone magazine reports that each member of the group is expected to earn $12-14 million for the 60 concerts in the tour.

Fleetwood Mac, 1975

Fleetwood Mac, 2018
Credit: Rolling Stone Magazine

The Rumours of Fleetwood group has also allowed the original group to effectively clone itself. The licensing and royalty fees from this group alone must insure that the original Fleetwood Mac artists are not worrying about cashing their Social Security checks to live on.

Rumours of Fleetwood Mac is also touring North America right now. You can't go wrong with them either.

Rumours of Fleetwood Mac

Just understand that if you to listen to Fleetwood Mac you might find you suddenly have an irresistible urge to contribute to a PBS station.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Tricks and Treats

The origins of Halloween reportedly can be traced back over 2,000 years to a pre-Christian Celtic Festival celebrating summer's end.

Trick or treating by children in costumes did not begin in the United States until World War II.

Halloween is now big business. An estimated $9 billion will be spent this year on Halloween in the United States on costumes, cards, decorations and candy.

In my recent visit to China I was surprised to see that Halloween has also become big business there as well. I came across several shops in Shanghai peddling Halloween decorations. I guess it makes sense. They are making most of the stuff. It stands to reason they would start buying it as well.

Halloween Store in Shanghai, China

However, the Halloween factoid that I found most interesting is the fact that Americans will spend an estimated $500 million this year on costumes for their pets! It is estimated that this will be done by 31 million Americans.

What is fueling this trend? A big factor is the Millennial generation who want to post a picture of their pet on social media sites such as Instagram.

The most popular pet costumes characters are pumpkin, hot dog, bumble bee, devil and cat (for dogs).

Credit; Patch.com

What more do you need to know that Americans have a pretty good thing going in our standard of living that we can spend $500 million on Halloween costumes for pets?

Of course, at the same time, 25% of these Millennials state that they are suffering PTSD because of the 2016 elections.

It makes you wonder what the PTSD percentage will be if Republicans hold on to control of the House and Senate in the midterms.

Considering that level of angst, I found these early voting totals as of this morning in the battleground states of Florida, Arizona and Nevada to be interesting. Here is the breakdown by age on those who have voted thus far in those key swing states.

Florida    Ages 18-29   7.6% of total votes   Ages 60+  60% of total votes
Nevada   Ages  18-29   5.0% of total votes   Ages 60+  59% of total votes
NC          Ages  18-29   6.4% of total votes    Ages 60+  58% of total votes

The 60+ age group usually votes much more for Republicans while the 18-29 vote is typically solidly in favor of Democrats.  Democrats need high turnouts of young voters and minorities to create a blue wave.

To put those numbers in context, when Barack Obama won in the Democratic wave election in 2008, the age 18-29 demographic made up 19% of total votes.

If the 18-29 age turnout is not considerably better than what we are seeing in these three states when the final vote tally on November 6 is counted, the trick will be on those PTSD Millennials. The treats will likely go to all the Republicans.

Read my blog post on "Blue Wave of Red Wall" to understand how important turnout is among various demographic groups in determining election results in midterm elections.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reflections on the Far East

I have just returned from a month's long cruise that took me from Los Angeles to Shanghai with stops in Alaska, Japan and South Korea before arriving in China.

The trip included five days at seas crossing the North Pacific between Kodiak, Alaska and Yokohama, Japan in which we were battling high seas and sustained winds of 50-60 knots for several days. One night we were battered by 75 knot winds which is equivalent to 90 mph with seas at 20-25 feet.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean in those conditions you gain a unique perspective of just how insignificant many things are in the greater scheme of your life.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean in gale conditions

A few photos and observations from the trip.

Theres are still large glaciers in Alaska. Most are receding but they have been doing that since the end of the Ice Age when the earth began warming. Let it be said that was well before there were any man made effects that could have caused it.

This is a picture from Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. To provide some perspective, that ship next to the glacier is around 16 stories tall and 1,000 feet long. That is a lot of ice!

Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

Those of us in the United States have little perspective on just how many people there are in Asia. This is a graph that I published previously which is worth looking at again that shows the world's population by longitude. If looked at this way the Western Hemisphere looks like the rural outpost of the world.

We docked in Yokohama, Japan which is about an hour from Tokyo. However, since Mrs. BeeLine and I has previously been to Tokyo we decided to spend our time in Yokohama which we were pleased to find was a marvelous city.

When in Japan it is difficult to fathom that we were in mortal combat with these people a couple of generations ago. It should be a lesson that all divisions can be healed.

It is hard not to respect the Japanese culture where you walk clean streets, you see no graffiti, you feel completely safe and they are offended if you try to tip them for their service. That being said, the Japanese have become very Westernized since World War II. You see it foremost in the clothes, music and brands. T-shirts almost exclusively have English words. You hear many American songs playing in the stores.

Oktoberfest in Yokohama, Japan

You gain further perspective on how far things have come in Japan when visiting Hiroshima. Traveling the city I could not help thinking that every tree, every blade of glass and almost every building did not exist 73 years ago.

Hiroshima after the Atomic Bomb
Credit: Shigeo Hayashi

This is what the area around what has become known as Peace Memorial  Park looks like today.

A-Bomb Dome
The building closest to the hypocenter of the atomic bomb

I was interested to hear what our Japanese guide (who was in her late 60's) would say about the reasons behind the decision for the Americans to use the atomic bomb. She was surprisingly candid in stating that the Americans used it to save lives. She understood that an invasion of Japan would have resulted in many more deaths. She openly admitted that the Japanese had made a mistake in going to war with the United States and the people were brainwashed by the government into believing they could win. It was an interesting admission. Of course, she was also speaking to a group that was largely made up of Americans.

I have written before that there is no better evidence of why capitalism is superior to communism than looking at South and North Korea. We saw it first hand on a trip to the DMZ. On the South Korea side there is prosperity. In fact, there was an amusement park that was adjacent to the DMZ in South Korea. Barely a mile or so away to the north you see a barren land where most of the trees are gone because the people have been taking the bark off the trees to make soup and using the wood to stay warm in the winter.

I asked our guide (who was also in her 60's) if she thought we would see unification of North and South Korea in her lifetime. She said she doubted it because the Chinese do not want to see a free Korea bordering their country. Interestingly, she referred to Kim Jung Un as "Rocket Boy" when she spoke of him. Donald Trump's influence knows no boundaries.

For those who are not familiar with the geography of the Korean Peninsula, this is what she is talking about.

This is a view looking into North Korea across the DMZ.

The flag is at the center of what is called "Propaganda Village" by the South Koreans. Why?  It is really a fake city. The LA Times explained in this story earlier this year.

From their hilltop checkpoint, the soldiers who guard South Korea's border can see for miles across the Demilitarized Zone, to a small city in the distance on the north side.
This tidy collection of high-rises and low-slung buildings is surrounded by agricultural fields. North Koreans call the place Kijong-dong, or Peace Village.
The multinational troops on the South Korean side have a different name for it.
Propaganda Village.
South Korea has long contended that Kijong-dong is a fa├žade manned by the North Korean military.
Some of the buildings have their windows painted on, said Cmdr. Robert Watt of the combined Southern forces. Other tall structures appear to be shells; when night falls, light shines brightly in upper windows but is dim closer to the ground, suggesting there are no floors or walls inside.
Music blares from loudspeakers, drifting eerily across the winter-browned countryside. A towering flagpole rises high above.
North Korea created all this, Watt said, in hopes of persuading South Koreans to defect, as in: What a nice city. I'd like to live there.

Our final stop was in China. The highlights were a visit to The Great Wall and to Shanghai.

The Great Wall of China

A few things I observed in China.

Enormous spending on infrastructure. Massive boulevards and roads with few cars outside major cities. Hundreds of high rise apartments being built. You rarely see any parent that has more than one child in tow (the one child policy). Masses of workers in Shanghai cleaning and fixing sidewalks, landscaping and providing a security presence. A large police presence. CCTV cameras are very prevalent. You definitely sense that the Chinese are aware that someone is watching and conscious of their "social credit" score. 

It requires a lot of workers to make something like this look so good.
Note the flowers up the boulevard as well.

Shanghai is almost indescribable. The downtown area is a combination of Las Vegas, New York City and Beverly Hills. You see a lot of Mercedes on the street in addition of Range Rovers with some Bentleys and Rolls Royces. The only American car brand you generally see is Buick. A lot of high end retail.

Inside a mall in Shanghai

You know it is a communist country but capitalism has been very, very good to China.

Shanghai at night

The building on the right is the Shanghai Tower. It is currently the second tallest skyscraper in the world at 2,073 feet in height. That is about 300 feet taller than the new One World Trade Center in New York City.

It was nice to see all of this but it was even better to return to the United States of America. Nothing else compares and I am thankful ever day that I can call it home.

Of course, even 7,500 miles away from home it is hard to escape this man. The Chinese might understand his true colors even better than half of my fellow Americans. He is the man who famously told an audience of youths in Argentina that "there's little difference between capitalism and communism."

Tell that to the people of North Korea or Venezuela.

Oba Mao
For sale in a shop selling Communist themed apparel and other merchandise in Shanghai

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Sky's The Limit

I recently came across an interesting graphic that shows the number of skyscrapers by state.

For this purpose, a skyscraper is defined as a building at least 500 feet (152m) in height.

You don't get an appreciation for the size of the buildings in New York City until you look at this map.

267 skyscrapers in the state of New York. Only two of those skyscrapers are not in New York City. There is in one in Buffalo and one in Albany. That leaves 265 in NYC.


However, the information in the map above might be dated as The Skyscraper Center website lists 330 buildings in New York City to be at least 500 feet in height including those currently under construction.

Look at the map above.

19 states do not have any skyscrapers.

There are more skyscrapers in New York City than there are in all 24 states west of the Mississippi.

Chicago also has its share of skyscrapers. It has more than California and Texas combined.

Here is a list of the 25 tallest skyscrapers in the United States, including those under construction.

16 out of the 25 are in New York City. 5 are in Chicago. Only 4 are outside these two cities.

An interesting fact (explaining why the map above is a little dated) is that over half of these skyscrapers were (or will be completed) between 2017-2021.

Of course, if you want to look at skyscrapers from a global perspective, the United States is lagging. Consider that the Jeddah Tower that is under construction in Saudi Arabia will be almost twice the height of the new One World Trade Center in New York City.

14 of the tallest 25 skyscrapers globally will be in China by 2022.

History shows that the sky's the limit in building tall buildings when the economy is strong.  Look no further than the number of building cranes on the skyline in a city to confirm it. However, nothing lasts forever. Every boom seems to be followed by the inevitable bust.

This is a rendering of 111 West 57th Street in New York City that will become the fourth tallest building in the city (1,428 feet) when it is completed next year.

It will contain 60 condominiums. Starting price---$18 million. The penthouse is $59 million.

The Jeddah Tower under construction in Saudi Arabia.

Credit: www.curbed.com

Rendering of the completed project.

Credit: Jeddah Economic Company

The Saudis clearly think the oil is going to continue to flow for a long, long time.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Melting Pot

The population of New York City was over 8.2 million people according to the 2010 Census.

It continues to be the largest city in the United States by a large margin. Number two Los Angeles has less than half that number.

New York City has long been a melting pot. It has been the entry point and the home for many immigrants in the United States throughout its history.

That is even more so today than almost any point in American history. Today New York City is home to 3.3 million people who were born outside the United States of America. That is equal to about 40% of the population of New York City.

The foreign born population in New York City is larger than the total population of Chicago, the third largest American city.

There are also more immigrants living in New York City than any other city in the world. (Some argue that London has overtaken NYC in this regard).

At various stages in American history, English, Irish, Eastern European Jews, Germans or Italians were at the vanguard of immigrant waves into New York City and the United States.

We tend to think of the late 19th century and early 20th century being the period of a lot of immigration into the United States. However, New York City has about the same percentage of immigrants today as it did during that period.

Moreover, the percentage of immigrants living in New York City is about double what it was 50 years ago.

The mix of immigrants has also changed considerably over the years.

I came across this interesting graphic recently that shows the change over the last 50 years in the mix of where immigrants who live in New York City come from.

People from countries like Italy, Poland, Germany, Russia and Ireland made up the bulk of immigrants living in New York City in 1970.

The largest immigrant populations in New York today are from the Dominican Republic, China, Jamaica, Mexico and Guyana.

I was surprised to find that the largest immigrant population in New York City is from the Dominican Republic. Nearly 500,000, almost one in six immigrants in New York City, are from this Caribbean country of just a little over 10 million inhabitants.

What about Guyana in the fifth spot? There are over 140,000 people that were born in Guyana living in New York City. The entire country of Guyana has a population of just 770,000.

How does something like this happen?

It has to be chain migration which allows green card holders or other legal residents of the United States to sponsor a family member for immigration to the United States.

About two-thirds of legal immigration to the United States (which has been over 1 million per year) over the last decade has been through chain migration.

You have to ask whether there will be anyone left at all in the Dominican Republic, Guyana or Jamaica in a few years if chain migration continues? These are very small countries but an inordinate number of their population is ending up in the United States.

At the same time, talented people from China (1.4 billion and India (1.3 billion) have a hard time gaining entry to the United States due to the fact that chain migration ends up determining so many of the legal entrants.

Let's put those numbers in context.

The number of Guyanans who live in New York City is equal to 18% of the total population of Guyana.

The number of Dominicans who live in New York City is equal to over 4% of the total population of the Dominican Republic.

The comparable numbers for China and India?



When you see these statistics it does seem to underscore the wisdom of President Trump in suggesting the heavy reliance on chain migration be ended in place of a merit-based system as part of the reform of our outdated immigration system.

Perhaps New Yorker Donald Trump understands all of this a fair measure better than the political pundits give him credit for?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Welfare State

Hillary Clinton famously stated that "it takes a village to raise a child."

I called that statement into question recently citing how our schools and churches seem to not be giving us the support we need to instill the right morals, character and values in our children today.

What is absolutely true is that it takes the village's taxes to raise a child. I am not just talking about property taxes for your local public schools.

More than half of all children (52%) under the age of 18 today are living in a household that is receiving "means-tested assistance" from the federal government, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In households with single mothers, 78% are receiving some form of government assistance. That compares to 41% in married couple family households.

There are 73.6 million children under the age of 18 in the United States. 38.4 million of them live in households in which someone in the home is receiving mean-tested government aid.

What type of assistance are we talking about?

These include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), Medicaid, public housing, Supplemental Security Income, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the National School Lunch Program.

36% of all Americans live in a household in which someone is receiving means-tested government assistance.

None of these programs include Social Security or Medicare or other payments to individuals that the federal government makes.

If you consider the federal budget as a whole, 71% all expenditures are in the form of "Payments of Individuals." Welfare payments, social security benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, government pensions student loans and the like.

Therefore, "Payments for Individuals" effectively represents what amounts to the redistribution of income from one person to another with the federal government serving as the middle man.

These are not outlays for the common defense, common good, public works, public safety or public interest. These are government payments that are intended to benefit select individuals based on their age, their income, their health or any one of a number of other distinctions.

This totals $3 trillion per year out of total spending of $4.2 trillion!

The remaining 30% goes for what we traditionally think of as spending for government services. Those things that benefit the public interest and the common good. Defense, Law Enforcement, Public Health, Prisons, Parks, Transportation and interest on the federal debt.

If Defense spending is excluded (arguably the one function of the federal government that is probably most essential), as well as interest on the federal debt, direct payments to individuals account for 93% of all federal spending.

To put that in context, in 1945 only 3% of the federal budget were "Payments to Individuals."

Even as late as 1986, only 46% of the budget were "Payments to Individuals."

I am not suggesting that all of these programs that involve "Payments to Individuals" are ill-considered or bad. After all, Social Security and Medicare are there for everyone. Workers pay into these programs and deserve a return of their investment without someone drastically changing the rules on them just as they near retirement.

However, we all need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we have allowed what began as well-meaning social safety net programs to reach the point that they now account for 70% of federal spending and the majority of our children are living in households that are dependent on federal handouts.

How did everyone survive in 1875, 1945 or 1985 without all of this?

We keep hearing how bad everything is today.

We hear that we need a universal guaranteed income. We need universal health care. We need universal child care.

Where does it end? When Payments to Individuals are 100% of the federal budget? Is that what the primary function of government is supposed to be? To take money from one group, run it through the federal bureaucracy, and hand it out to another group?

Is this really the primary role of government? Do we really think we are solving problems effectively in this way?

It might be wise to consider the words of Ronald Reagan in relying too much on government to solve the ills of the world.

"Government does solve problems, it subsidizes them."

Monday, October 8, 2018

Divided By What We Do

We hear a lot about how divided we are politically in the United States.

We hear a lot about a political divide between those who live in urban areas versus rural areas.

We hear about a political divide between genders, or race, or ethnicity.

We even hear about a political divide between those who are married versus those who are single.

However, I came across some data recently that indicates one of the biggest divides is simply based on what people do for a living.

Political scientist Adam Bonica undertook research that looked at 2008 federal election campaign contributions from individuals and sorted the ideological distribution of that money by occupation group.

Bonica has since updated the data for more years but it appears that his initial work is still illustrative of the ideological divide.

For example, here are the graphs for motion pictures, books, publishing and newspapers, professors and online computer services. This depicts contributions to far left, middle of the road or far right candidates.

Are there any conservatives in Hollywood?

If any one tells you there is not a left wing bias in journalism and publishing do not believe them.

If you ever wondered why so many young people come out of college with liberal leanings this is pretty clear evidence of where it comes from.

You might have seen the recent report that 90% of the political contributions made by Google (Alphabet) employees between 2004-2018 had gone to Democrats. The same is undoubtedly true for Facebook, Twitter and many others in the online computer services category.  Are we supposed to believe that they are not skewing search results or shadow banning users?

What are the conservative occupations?

However, note that the left-leaning occupations are far more liberal than the right-leaning occupations are conservative.

You can see all of the major occupation groups here.

Jonathan Kay summarized all of these charts rather succinctly on Twitter from his perspective.

As you might expect, Cynthia had a different perspective.

No matter how you look at it or how you explain it, these charts demonstrate that we are divided as much by what we do as any other factor when it comes to our politics.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

How Did You Meet?

"How did the two of you meet?"

This is a question I always like to pose to couples that I become acquainted with.

It is a question that these couples are eager to answer. I am also interested in hearing what was going through their minds individually at the time they first met.

Left unsaid most of the time is all that occurred to put those two people together at exactly that point in time. You can call it randomness but I have to think that it is God's hand at work many times.

Mrs. BeeLine and I have been married for 45 years. We met in college at the beginning of my senior year. I would probably have not have been at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio but for my father being transferred from New York City to Chicago the summer before my senior year.

I met my future wife weeks after she had transferred to Miami for her Sophomore year because her father had been transferred to Ohio from Indiana and she needed to go to a school with in-state tuition.

I was the Rush Chairman for a new "Little Sis" program that my fraternity was introducing. Since the future Mrs. BeeLine was new on campus she was looking for ways to meet people. She saw a flyer that I had developed advertising an open house we were having at our fraternity house and convinced a few other girls in her dorm to join her. Upon arriving she saw me directing the events of the day and came up to me and said, "I don't want to butter you or anything but that is a great outfit you are wearing."

This is what I was wearing that day. The scan of this ancient photograph did not pick up the colors of that great outfit. The jacket is a medium pink with red stripes. I have a red tie to go with pale pink linen slacks. Of course, I am wearing white shoes.

How could she resist a man of such consequence and consummate fashion sense?

By the way, you can't tell this is 1971 can you?

The rest is history.

Of course, Mrs. BeeLine has her own version of those events. That is why these stories are so interesting.

Why do I bring this up?

I came across an interesting chart that tracks how couples have met over time in The Economist.

The theme of the article is to point out that meeting a mate online has quickly become the default in America.

For most of human history, the choice of life partner was limited by class, location and parental diktat. In the 19th and 20th centuries those constraints were weakened, at least in the West. The bicycle increased young people’s choices immeasurably; so did city life. But freed from their villages, people faced new difficulties: how to work out who was interested, who was not and who might be, if only they knew you were.
In 1995, less than a year after Netscape launched the first widely used browser, a site called match.com was offering to help people answer those questions. As befits a technology developed in the San Francisco Bay area, online dating first took off among gay men and geeks. But it soon spread, proving particularly helpful for people needing a way back into the world of dating after the break-up of a long-term relationship. 

If you are gay, it seems that matches are almost all done online these days. I thought it interesting that 5% of gay couples were meeting in church in 1985.

For heterosexual couples, over 20% of couples met in primary or secondary school in 1940 and another 20% met through friends. About the same number were meeting in church as in bars/restaurants. Only 5% met in college in 1940 because not that many were attending.

Compare that to today where those meeting at church or primary/secondary school is practically zero. Meeting through friends is up to 30% (it was as high as 40% right before the internet) and bars/restaurants are now over 20%. Online dating is closing in on both of those.

Has this greater ability to find the perfect mate increased the odds of having a successful marriage? After all, 100 years ago your choices for a mate might have been limited to five eligible singles within five miles of your farm. Today you may have millions of choices. Nevertheless, it still doesn't make it any easier for a successful marriage based on the statistics. In fact, with that many potential choices it actually might make the decision on the right mate even more difficult.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that we often hear about the high divorce rate, the fact is that the percentages of marriages ending in divorce has actually been trending slighting lower in recent years Is it a coincidence that the drop started right about when the internet began to take hold?

Or does the fact that couples are marrying later in life when they have a better understanding of their needs in a mate have something to do with it?

The data in the chart below suggests that a first marriage between ages 25-35 carries with it lower risk for later divorce than other ages. Median ages for first marriages are right in the sweet spot on that risk curve today.

I explained above why earlier marriages may be riskier. What about the older marriages? Could it be that by the time you are 40-45 years of age you are just too set in your ways to to accommodate all that is necessary to make a marriage work?

Need I say that anyone who has been married for 45 days or, like me, 45 years, knows that the graph above depicts the roller coaster that marriage can be. There will be highs and lows. There will be challenges and annoyances. There is also the great joy and satisfaction of traveling a life path with a life partner who supports you and nourishes your soul.

I have been blessed that there was a day and time that my life path crossed with such a partner.

I hope you are similarly blessed.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Disappearing Middle Class

We hear a lot about the disappearing middle class.

The popular narrative is that the middle class is falling behind the upper class and is struggling to stay out of the lower class.

One of the facts we hear is that the middle class is actually now the minority group in America. There are more in the upper and lower classes than there are in the middle.

This chart from the Pew Research Center is an example.

Credit: Pew Research Center

However, when you take a closer look at the data you see that most of the loss to the middle class has come about because a good number of households have moved from middle income to upper income over the last 50 years.

In 1967 only 9.0% of U.S. households earned over $100,000 per year (in 2017 dollars). In 2017 that number has climbed to 29.2% of all households.

Those making less than $35,000 has also fallen. From 37.2% of all households in 1967 to 29.5% in 2017.

It is pretty remarkable when you see the numbers. The Middle Class is disappearing but the biggest reason is that more and more of the group have moved to the Upper Income group.

If this is true why does it seem that the middle class is being squeezed?

A big factor is that the above measure is based on household income. Yes, there are more households making upper incomes. However, it is often taking two household members to earn it.

You can see the change in the number of two-earner households since 1967 in this chart from the Tax Foundation.

Less than half of households had two-earners in 1967. Today it is two-thirds.

Another factor that is not considered is the cost of living. Income is one thing. The cost of living is something altogether.

The fact is that $100,000 in 2017 dollars is actually only equal to about $13,600 in 1967. In other words, less than 10% of households made more than that amount in 1967!

However, despite that, the money went a lot further because of a number of factors. For example, taxes took a much smaller share of income in 1967, particularly payroll, property and sales taxes.

Another reason is that Americans simply want more today. It does not matter what income level people have, most today want to live like they are in the upper income group.

Few cars in 1967 had air conditioning, automatic windows or leather seats. None had a moonroof, drink holders, a navigation system or rear view camera. These are all nice conveniences but they also cost money.

No where is the expansion in expectations higher between 1967 and 2017 than the size of our homes.

This chart shows the average house size (in square feet) from 1920 to 2014.

Consider that the average floor area per person has more than doubled since the 1960's-1970's until today.

The middle class may be being squeezed financially. However, we are not being squeezed into smaller houses or vehicles. Our housing and transportation has been substantially upgraded. The same can be said for our communication and healthcare options. We have computers, cell phones and the internet that we did not have 50 years ago. We have MRI's, CT scans and scores of prescription drugs that did not exist in 1967.

All of this takes a lot more money. The cost of living according to our expectations today is a lot higher than it was in 1967.

Many are having to work harder to keep their heads above water despite a substantial increase in household income. However, the cost of living, in the manner we need and want today, seems to be increasing at an even faster rate.