Monday, October 28, 2019

Raising Successful Children

I recently came across a book at my local library on the secrets to raising highly successful children.

Mrs. BeeLine and I have raised our children so it is a little late for me to get a few tips. That being said, we must have done a few things right as we have three responsible, productive and successful adult children.

However, success is a topic I am interested in and I have written about from time to time in these pages. I decided to check out a copy of the book and see if there was something worthwhile therein I could pass on to my readers who still have the responsibility to make something of the next generation.

A large part of "the formula" that the authors outline in the book is based on interviews and research that was done involving the experiences of Harvard students in a "How I Was Parented Project" involving 120 student interviews. This work was supplemented with interviews and research on how other successful people were parented who did not attend Harvard.

Out of this work the authors found some common themes in the parenting practices that were employed to develop successful children.

The authors identified 8 key roles that what they call "Master Parents" used in their parenting. I am going to touch on only three that I think are particularly important.

The Early-Learning Partner

The first role that is critical in raising a successful child is being an early-learning partner. Successful children generally have had a parent (or another loved one) who spends a lot of quality time with the child in teaching them in one-on-one activities before they begin kindergarten. They spend time reading, working with numbers, playing mind games and building things with them.

Many of these children can read or do simple math problems before they enter kindergarten. As a result, they are ahead of other children when they go to kindergarten and this feeds their self-esteem and confidence. They like the attention they receive for their knowledge and they are inspired to learn more. This generally feeds a life long love of learning in these children. Once that base is established the parents do not need to spend much time pushing their child to learn---it is a natural result.

The first five years of a child's life is the most critical period for learning. Human infants have basic instincts but they don't learn without a parent's help. Those first five years are a period of immense "developmental plasticity". Children are especially sensitive to stimuli during this time and learn most easily.

The reason for this is that this is the time that the you have the most myelin in your body. Myelin is the substance in your body that surrounds neural pathways. When you learn a task or skill myelin is released and insulates those pathways. When you learn something or practice a skill the myelin is what allows you to retain what you learned and recall it when you need it. Because young people have so much to learn between birth and age 5 (walking, talking, etc) there is an enormous amount of myelin available to them. In fact, it is estimated that someone in this age group has 10 times the myelin that a 60 year old will have. There is a reason why it has been said "that you can't teach an old dog new tricks."

It is critically important to imprint the right lessons, habit and values in a child in those first five years. A child needs a dedicated early learning partner to do that. The role of the parent as the early-learning partner is probably the most important on the eight key roles identified in the book.

The Flight Engineer

Once the child enters school the small social system that centered around the home and parents gives way to an expanded universe. The parents no longer exert the control that they once did over the child. 

This new social system can introduce problems. Teachers that don't understand the child or peer groups that are bad influences. The hope is that the values and habits the child has learned at home can carry them a long way outside the home. However, at times these external forces get in the way of your child's success.

That is why the "master parent" is prepared to collaborate with the adults in the child's social sphere to make sure he or she does not get off the flight path that has been developed. If necessary this may require the parent to make demands and assert their authority as a parent to manage and correct the situation.

Notice that there is a big difference between the role of a flight engineer and what is popularly known today as the "helicopter parent" that is always hovering around the child.

The flight engineer sets the navigation path for the child and monitors whether the child is adhering to the path. The master parent is not hovering over every detail. They are not making sure that the child is up and dressed for school. They set the expectation and stand back. They spend their time in instilling the right lessons habits and values early. They get actively involved only when a course correction is necessary.

The Negotiator  

I have written previously in these pages of the parenting style of so-called "Tiger Moms" referring to the parenting styles of Asians in comparison to Americans.

One of the first blog posts I wrote was about Amy Chua the book "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom".

Asian parents tend to have a much more authoritarian view when dealing with their children than American parents. Put simply, they believe they know what is best for their child and there is no room for debate.

Chua put it this way in a Wall Street Journal essay "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" back in 2011.

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.

Chua cites three main differences between Asian and Western parenting styles.

Western parents are too concerned about their children's self esteem.  Chinese are not. Asians assume strength in their children, not fragility.  Therefore, they push hard on them and hold them accountable for results.

Chinese parents believe their children owe them something.  Many Americans seem to believe that since they were responsible for bringing the child into the world that they owe the child in some way.

Asians believe they know what is best for their children and override their children's own preferences and desires. Chinese parents understand that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences.

The book acknowledges the success that many Asians have had with this parenting style. However, the authors believe that a master parent will have more success being a negotiator than an authoritarian with their child.

They argue that it can get you to the same place by inspiring your child rather than by more aggressively requiring it.

As an example, the book cites the example of a family which was deeply committed to music. All of the children played musical instruments and the family expected them to be excellent at it. Rather than requiring them to play the piano or violin they gave their children a choice of string instruments.

They also were put on a routine of rising every morning at 515am so they could practice for an hour beginning at 6am. As they got older they wanted to sleep in and asked if they could practice later in the day. The mother explained that she did not think they would like to practice after school but she gave them the choice so they could sleep in. However, she made clear the amount of work would not change, just the time of day. It did not take long for the children to realize that their mother was right. It was worse having to practice later in the day than early in the morning. This would be a parent as negotiator rather than authoritarian. A Tiger Mom would have not even allowed the child the option to practice after school.


These are all of the Master Parent roles outlined in the book that make up "The Formula" for raising highly successful children.

Credit: The Formula

One thing we need more of in the world are better parents.

Pass this along to anyone who might benefit and have them check out the entire book.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Sitting Longer In That Tree

Most people in the world are getting married later in life than they used to.

It is generally true that marriage ages are later in more economically advanced countries and earlier in developing countries. Part of the reason for this is that women have greater career opportunities in more advanced economies today.

The chart below shows the median ages for marriages in the United States since the late 1880's. Note that people married the youngest in the 1950's and 1960's. I would have thought that people were marrying even younger at the turn of the century. That was not the case.

In 1880, men typically married at age 26. By 1960 that had fallen to age 23. Today it is 29.5.

Women married at age 22 in 1880, 20 in 1960 and 27.4 today.

Of course, later marriages also affect the fertility rate in a country as the older a woman is the less likely she will bear children.

As I wrote in a blog post earlier this year, there is a direct correlation between maternal age and fertility. There is a downward rate of fertility beginning at age 30. It takes a very sharp dive after age 35 as this chart from The Women's Eye website shows.

I recently came across an interesting chart that compares marriage ages around the world.

As you can see, it varies considerably.

Men are not marrying in Italy until age 35.

Women in Ireland don't get hitched until 32.4. Ireland also has the smallest age gap between men and women getting married---only one year. A smaller gaps in ages between men and women getting married is also indicative of advanced economies.

The largest age gap between men and women is in Guyana---almost 12 years. 32 year old men are marrying 20 year old girls.

The youngest brides are in Malawi---not quite 20 years old.

Look how those marriage ages also affect fertility rates in some of these countries.

Malawi     4.492   (median women marriage age 19.9)

Guyana     2.473   (20.0)

Nigeria      5.471  (21.2)

Germany   1.470  (31.5)

Ireland       1.98   (32.4)

Italy           1.491 (31.8)

USA          1.886  (27.4)

Of course, trying to draw a correlation between the later marriage age of women and the fertility rate in the world we live in today is a little foolish .

Who said you have to be married to have a child?

There are not many people left in the world who seem to believe it other than in South Korea, Japan, Turkey, Israel and Greece.

Credit : OECD

The United States is much better than many other countries but the percentage of out-of-wedlock groups varies quite a bit by ethnic and racial group.

Does anyone remember the old schoolyard taunt that kids sung out on the playground if it appeared any boy liked a girl or vice versa?

Yes, it is probably banned today because it only speaks to heterosexual relationships.

However, if it does survive it no longer requires the fourth verse.

Marriage seems to be further and further in the future for many of those in school today.

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Heavy Hand

The problem with government intervening in the economy is that you often don't get what you expect.

Government inserts its hand into the proceedings and the end result is not what we were told would occur.

This often happens when the government decides that it needs to put more taxes on the "rich".

It targets the rich but the impact often falls on everyone else.

I am old enough to remember when President George H.W. Bush (breaking his "no new taxes" pledge) and the Democrats put a luxury tax into effect as part of a deficit reduction compromise package in 1991.

This tax was levied on material goods such as watches, expensive furs, boats, yachts, private jet planes, jewelry and expensive cars. Congress enacted a 10 percent luxury surcharge tax on boats over $100,000, cars over $30,000, aircraft over $250,000, and furs and jewelry over $10,000. The federal government estimated that it would raise $9 billion in excess revenues over the following five-year period.

The law was repealed less than two years later as thousands of workers lost their jobs in these industries. What happened? Instead of paying the tax the rich just stopped buying expensive cars, boats, aircraft, furs and jewelry. The tax did not hurt the rich. It did result in thousands of workers losing their jobs who made and sold these things to the rich.

The little revenue that was raised was more than offset by the taxes that disappeared as a result of the lost wages and the unemployment benefits that had to be paid to the workers who paid the price with their jobs.

The great economist Walter E. Williams explains why unintended consequences are so common when the "rich" are targeted in these tax raising schemes.

Congress repealed the luxury tax in 1993 after realizing it was a job killer and raised little net revenue. Why did congressional dreams of greater revenues turn into a nightmare? Kennedy, Mitchell and their congressional colleagues simply assumed that the rich would act the same after the imposition of the luxury tax as they did before and that the only difference would be more money in the government's coffers. Like most politicians then and now, they had what economists call a zero-elasticity vision of the world, a fancy way of saying they believed that people do not respond to price changes. People always respond to price changes. The only debatable issue is how much and over what period.

There is no better example of this right now than what is occurring in the New York City real estate market.

The New York Post recently reported that house prices in Manhattan are in a "near free fall" amid the imposition of new taxes on high end properties.

The implementation of an increased "mansion tax" on city homes that sell for $1 million or more became effective July 1. A previous 1% transfer tax on these homes has been increased to a progressive tax based on value that ranges to a high of 4.15%. A state transfer tax on homes that sell for $3 million or more was also increased from .4% to .65%.

The median price for homes across Manhattan has declined 17% compared to this time last year.

All of this comes on top of the fact that 25% of all the condos built in Manhattan over the last six years are unsold.

Many of the condos that are selling are being purchased by investors who are then putting the condos on the rental market. It is estimated that 30% of newly built condos that have been sold are being used as rentals.

Of course, the limitation of the deduction for state and local property and income taxes has clearly also had a major impact on the New York real estate market. Many just do not want to pay the taxes and put up with hassles that liberal policies are doing to New York City and its environs.

For example, New York City has recently updated its legal guidelines to make it discriminatory to use the terms "illegal alien" or "illegals" to refer to someone in the country illegally. Offenders can be fined up to $250,000 for each violation if they discriminate in employment, housing or other public facilities.

How would you like to be an employer in New York City? You are violating federal law if you hire an illegal alien but you can be fined $250,000 by the city if you refuse to hire one? Is it any wonder good, law abiding citizens want to leave.

Bloomberg reports that almost 300 people are leaving the New York City area every day. This is the most of any metro area in the country. It is more than double what it was a year ago.

Forbes reports that 1 million people have fled New York City's metro area in the last nine years.

Where are they going? Places with lower taxes, more jobs, lower housing prices, less government regulation and fewer hassles. Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee are all popular destinations. What do they have in common? These states all went to Trump and the GOP in the last election. Florida, Texas and Tennessee also have no individual income tax

Of course, we now are hearing from the Democrats that a wealth tax is the answer to our problems. We will make the rich pay their "fair share" and all will be well.

When government inserts its hand into something you can be sure the effects will be felt far and wide with impacts much beyond what is promised.

The government has a heavy hand when they do anything.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

CO2 Math

Every day we hear some politician tell us that carbon emissions have to be eliminated to save the planet. Some days we even hear 16 year olds telling it to the United Nations.

We need to ban coal, oil, gas and anything powered by these carbon sources.

We need to ban nuclear as well even though it is the one energy source that actually can replace carbon fuels cost effectively.

We need to stop eating meat.

Some are even arguing that we need to stop having children to help solve the problem.

We hear all of these things but we never hear some simple facts to assess whether any of these claims make any sense at all.

Let's look at a few facts to put this issue in context for you.

How much CO2 is actually in the atmosphere? Since we hear about it all the time you would think that it must be a large and growing amount.

CO2 is actually less than .04% of our atmosphere.

Of that amount of CO2, how much do scientists state is coming from man-made causes? After all, there is a tremendous amount of CO2 in the atmosphere occurring naturally since it is the essential building block for plant life on the planet.

Only 3% of CO2 is attributed to human activity.

In other words, everything we hear about climate change, the Green New Deal and the arguments that we need to fundamentally transform our society and economy is about something that represents just 3% of .04% of the atmosphere.

Let me do the math for you.

We are talking about something that is just .0012% of the entire atmosphere.

Take a step back and think about this logically.

You don't have to be a scientist to wonder how it is that something so small can overwhelm everything else that is going on in nature.

Does it make any sense at all that this infinitesimal amount of human-related carbon emissions in the atmosphere could have any discernible effect on the climate?

These facts are contained in an excellent SkyNewsAustralia report by Alan Jones that you can view on this YouTube video. Jones also has an interview in the video with Dr. Nils-Axel Morner who is the former head of the Paleo-Geophysics and Geodynamics department at Stockholm University.

Morner is one of the world's leading experts on sea levels and also chaired that group for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change. Morner resigned his position on that panel when the group would not admit that sea levels are not rising and that the politically-backed theories being pushed by the panel are not supported  by science.

Morner argues that the entire climate change carbon dioxide hypothesis is wrong and the vast amount of physicists, geologists and meteorologists in the world know that. He believes that all of this will be revealed within the next decade or two as a sun-driven cooling period proves all of this is a hoax. His concern is that science will be totally discredited by that time which is why he is speaking out so forcefully now. He has  spent a lifetime committed to science. He does not wish to see science discredited because people who say they are scientists actually have a higher allegiance to politics ( and government funding) than they do to science.

Consider further that the United States represents just 13% of the man-made carbon emissions in the world. By comparison, China is responsible for 29% of global carbon emissions.

That means the sum total of the carbon emissions caused by humans in the United States account for 13% of 3% of .04%. That is .000156% of the atmosphere.

Because of that the Democrats want to spend trillions of dollars, destroy our economy and make you live your life as if you are in the 18th century as part of a Green New Deal?

You don't have to be a scientist to understand that the math just does not add up.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Right and Wrong

When writing my blog I try to not make too many predictions.

I prefer to lay out facts. Put those facts in the context of the issue and let those facts lead to a conclusion.

Casey Stengel, the great baseball philosopher, said it pretty well.

Never make predictions, especially about the future.

If I forget that advice and make a prediction I hope that what Daniel Kahneman, the father of behavioral economics, said is true.

Most successful pundits are selected for being opinionated, because it's interesting, and the penalties for incorrect predictions are negligible. You can make predictions, and a year later people won't remember them.

You may not remember my predictions. The problem is that I remember them.

And I don't like to be wrong.

One of my biggest failed predictions was when I predicted Mitt Romney would defeat Barack Obama in 2012. I said it would be close but I believed that Romney would win in a squeaker.

That error caused me to forego making any prediction in 2016. However, I laid out the facts on how Trump could win. Those facts did work in Trump's favor.  He was able to win an election that most people gave him no chance.

As I have written before, this election will be decided on turnout. Will the traditional Democratic constituencies--African-Americans, Millennials, Single Women---turnout like they did for Barack Obama? If they do, Hillary Clinton will win. If they don't, Donald Trump can close the history books on the Clintons and The White House.

At least, I thought that would be the end of hearing anything about Hillary Clinton. Here is what I also thought would occur if Hillary lost the election.

I also know that if Donald Trump defeats Hillary Clinton we will see unbounded anger and antagonism directed at the Clintons by liberal Democrats. They will be seething that Hillary could have allowed Donald Trump to keep the Democrats from winning The White House and controlling the Supreme Court. Hell hath no fury like a scorned liberal Democrat!

Little did I know how adept the Clintons and the Democrats would be in blaming the Russians for Trump's victory rather than Hillary's own ineptitude and corruption.

I had already figured out before Trump was inaugurated that my prediction was not looking very good. However, I still had hope that the tables would eventually turn on Hillary.

It still baffles me that Democrats are spending all of their time blaming the Russians for Trump's victory and not focusing any of their anger at Hillary and John Podesta. I still think that I might be proven right on this one in time. However, it looks like a very poor prediction right now. I should have considered my own advice in these pages before I wrote that.

Almost three years later, not only is Hillary not taking much blame, but rumors are swirling that she may be getting ready to throw her hat in the ring for 2020. Bernie's health problems and Biden's problems involving his son with Ukraine and China is making another run very tempting for Hillary.

Talk about getting it wrong!

One prediction I was right about is what would we would see from Congress if the Democrats won the House and/or Senate in the 2018 midterm elections.

For anyone who is complaining about the circus we are seeing in Washington right now let it not be forgotten that it was all avoidable.

If the Republicans had retained the House the Congress would actually be working on real issues. We might have some actual work on legislation rather than investigations and impeachment inquiries.

Here is what I wrote on the eve of the 2018 midterms in what I called a "Consequential Election".

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.

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 seems 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.

Talk about getting it right!

Yes, I was right but I sincerely wish I had been wrong.

The country deserves so much better right now.

Elections really do have consequences.

I just wish the Democrats respected that fact.

Friday, October 11, 2019

FICA Is Foreign To Some

Did you know that a program exists to allow American companies to hire foreign workers at a substantial discount to U.S. citizens?

This program allows the employer to not have to pay and collect FICA taxes on foreign employees.
You know, the taxes that are necessary in order to keep Social Security and Medicare solvent.

The discount is not insignificant either. On a $60,000 salary the tax exemption for hiring the foreign worker potentially saves the employer almost $10,000 compared to the American worker (split evenly between employer FICA taxes and lower wages required to be paid to the foreigner).

How is this possible?

It is part of a program called Optional Practical Training (OPT) and is designed to extend the F-1 visa given to foreign students attending U.S. colleges through a work period. It provides the foreign student  ability to stay in the country after receiving their degree and gain employment experience after graduation. The general rule is that this exemption applies for one year after college. However, during the Bush administration the exemption was expanded to 3 years for STEM graduates.

Students with F-1 visas also are not subject to FICA taxes as long as they do not work more than 20 hours per week. This also allows foreign students the ability to work but not have FICA deducted from their paychecks or require their employers to pay it on their behalf.

Like many government policies, you can argue the original intent behind the exemption was well meaning. If a student came to the United States to go to college, and was going to eventually return to their home country, it did not seem fair to make them contribute to a Social Security and Medicare program they would not benefit from in the future.

However, the reality today is that many of these graduates use the OPT program as a gateway to having their employer apply for an H1-B visa for them which then allows them to stay in the United States for up to an additional six years. Of course, that then leads to the immigrant eventually trying to get their green card for permanent status in the United States and possibly citizenship.

Who is the loser in all of this?

First, the U.S. college graduate who is competing for the same job but would cost the employer more money to hire. Furthermore, once the foreign college graduate gets the job and gets the work experience over the U.S. graduate, it is hard for him or her to catch up. If they do get a job it will undoubtedly be at reduced pay compared to what they otherwise should receive. The OPT necessarily will depress overall wages.

Second, Social Security and Medicare recipients are also losers. After all, the reality is that the FICA taxes being collected today are paying Social Security benefits and Medicare payments right now. Those taxes are not being saved for the future retirement needs of these young workers even if they remained in the United States. Therefore, not collecting FICA taxes from these foreign workers is shortchanging Social Security and Medicare when it needs more revenue to remain solvent.

We are not talking about small numbers here.

There are more than 1 million students in U.S. colleges with F-1 visas.

As you can see, there was a gigantic increase in international students during the Obama administration. This has leveled off under President Trump but we are still talking about large numbers of students.

A significant part of the increase in international students over the last decade have come from China and India. Those two countries today account for half of all international students.

China accounts for one-third of all international students in colleges today. It was lower than 10% in 2006.

That is a large potential revenue drain not to mention the negative effects it has on the job prospects of U.S. students.

Let's not forget that it is reported that 45% of all graduates in Millennial and Gen Z generations are underemployed. At the same time, they are burdened with enormous amounts of student loan debt( at last count $1.6 trillion).

Who is reaping the benefits beyond the foreign students?

Let's look at the largest employers of those in the OPT program. I am showing the top 10 below. You can see the top 200 employers at the website.

These are not small numbers either.

Amazon with almost 2,400? Google and Intel with more than 1,000 OPT employees each?

Credit: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

OPT has gotten so big that there are now more immigrants working under this program than under the more popularly known H1-B program for specialized immigrant workers. The use of OPT has actually grown by 400% over the last several years. A big reason is that there is no limit to those under OPT. There is for H1-B visas.

This is how one commentator describes what is really going on with the OPT program to the benefit of the foreign students and large U.S. companies and to the detriment of young American graduates.

Since they get that on-the-job training, their employers are likely to offer them full-time jobs (by applying for their H-1B visas), once again leaving American graduates out of the training-to-jobs process.

Critics contend that businesses use OPT for the cheap labor, just as they use the better-known H-1B guest worker program.

Companies start out grooming low-wage workers while they’re on F-1 visas. Then, the same companies turn around and say they need foreign workers because Americans don’t have the skills they need – when those companies are responsible for excluding Americans from the training and the jobs.

OPTs are foreign workers getting tax-free training, while still on F-1 “student” visas.

In this “try-before-you-buy” arrangement, American businesses then apply for the workers’ H-1B visas, with an understanding that the workers will continue working at a lower wage in exchange for the H-1B, then the hope of a future Green Card and then citizenship. So much for the “nonimmigrant” part.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for retaining the best and the brightest who are educated at our colleges and universities for jobs in the United States. I would much rather see our immigration policy skewed towards these talented immigrants compared to a flood of unskilled and uneducated people illegally crossing our border.

However, it should not be done at the expense of U.S. students and U.S. senior citizens.

Furthermore, the OPT program as it exists today was never even the subject of a vote in Congress. It is in place solely because of  administrative rule.

If you needed one more example of how broken our immigration policy you now have it.

What exactly is Congress doing about it?

They are trying to drive the one guy out of office who is really interested in fixing the immigration problem.

Such is the way that Washington works.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Presidents, Hospitals and Vinyl

One of the things I like best about writing BeeLine is when I can share an unexpected fact.

When I lived in Atlanta in the 1970's there was a weekly show on the radio that was devoted to trivia. I listening to that show I learned that the key principle to great trivia is that is must have a hook that makes it interesting.

Trivia that is some obscure fact or figure is boring. Great trivia is something that is unexpected or has a twist to it that puts something into a different context. It makes it interesting.

For example, knowing that former President Jimmy Carter was born in 1924 is an interesting fact but there is nothing really special about that fact other than Carter recently turned (October 1) 95 years old.

Better trivia is that Jimmy Carter is the longest living President. George H.W. Bush made it to 94 years of age.

Great trivia is knowing that Jimmy Carter was the first President of the United States to be born in a hospital.

Think about that. Carter was elected in 1976. It was 200 years from the founding of the nation until we had a President who was born in a hospital. Even John F. Kennedy, who came from one of the richest families in the United States, was not born in a hospital.

Interestingly, the next two Presidents who succeeded Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, were also not born in hospitals.

It has only been since Bill Clinton became President that hospitals have been the venues where our future leaders drew their first breaths. In other words, we are talking about Baby Boomers like Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama and Trump.

I came across another factoid recently that seems worthy of being deemed great trivia.

Vinyl record sales last year were the highest they have been in 30 years.

Vinyl record LP/EP sales were $419 million in 2018. That is starting to approach the $698 million in CD sales. Vinyl records only accounted for $14 million in sales in 2005.

Who would have predicted 14 years ago that vinyl record sales would be making a comeback ?

Credit: Recording Industry Association of America

Another interesting fact is that while recorded music revenue has declined due to the increased use of downloaded content, unit volume for recorded music actually rose substantially in the 2005-2013 period only to crater in recent years as paid subscription and streaming content took hold with music listeners.

Credit: Recording Industry Association of America

The resurgence of vinyl record sales has also given rise to a significant increase in vinyl record sales on Discogs, the world’s largest music community, database, and marketplace.

They recently reported that sales of vinyl records in their marketplace was larger than CD sales last year. That is the first time that has occurred since 1986.

As part of Discogs most recent report, it listed the 50 most valuable vinyl records in the world.

There may be Baby Boomers out there that are worried about their retirement savings.

Never fear!

One mint condition Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album in the basement may be all that you need.

However, it appears that there are people on eBay that have not been keeping up with Discogs. I can buy this album for $14.99 while the same album is valued at $123,900 on Discogs?

Perhaps this isn't the retirement bail-out plan I thought it might be at first glance.

One final note.

The basic raw material in vinyl records is polyvinyl chloride. It is more popularly known at PVC. Pipes, flooring and a range of consumer products are made from polyvinyl chloride.

PVC is made from petroleum. Many Democrats want to outlaw petroleum.

Perhaps those vinyl records may get even more valuable in the future.

Vinyl records might not survive the Democrats and the Green New Deal.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Striking Out Trump?

Turn on the news and what do you hear?

Impeachment. Impeachment. Impeachment.

It is incessant.

I am often asked what will come of all of this.

Do you know what was similarly incessant three years ago?

The Access Hollywood tapes that were meant to take down Trump.

Those tapes were released exactly three years ago today (October 7, 2016).

Every political pundit and media mouthpiece said it was the end of Trump.

The RNC Chairman, Reince Prebus, urged Trump to drop out of the race.

However, one month later Trump was elected President of the United States.

Despite the fact that many high profile people in the Republican party walked away, Trump withstood the storm and was standing higher on the other side at the end of the day.

How was that possible?

There are lessons from three years ago on how to analyze where all of the impeachment talk is likely to go.

To be successful in taking out a politician you need three things to occur.

They must lose the popular support of the people.

They must lose the support of their political party.

They must fail to zealously defend themselves against the attack.

How did Trump survive the Access Hollywood tapes when so many wrote him off?

He lost a fair number of establishment political figures. People like Mitt Romney, John McCain and Paul Ryan cut and ran after the tapes surfaced. However, he did not lose grassroots support in the party. He maintained the popular support of the people.

As mentioned above, the RNC wanted Trump to drop out right after the tapes came out. They pulled their institutional support in the immediate aftermath of the disclosure. Were it not for the steadfast popular support of the people, the RNC likely would have totally walked away from Trump. The popular support prevented that from happening and the RNC brought its resources back in for Trump for the final push to the election. In the end, Trump maintained the support of the Republican party.

It goes without saying that Trump never plays traditional defense. Trump only plays offense. Therefore, when the allegations were made what did Trump do? He did not sit back and take it.  He did not even attempt to defend it. He went out and got all the women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexual misdeeds and held a press conference with them right before his second debate with Hillary. This was a mere three days after the tapes had been disclosed. He then seated them in the debate audience as his guests.

Contrast all of that with what caused Richard Nixon to resign as President in 1974 when faced with an impending impeachment vote in the House of Representatives.

Nixon had lost the popular support of the people by the summer of 1974. His overall approval rating was lower than 30%. He was starting to drop below 50% approval with Republicans.

Nixon ultimately decided to resign when he was told by GOP leaders in the House and Senate that his support by Republicans in both Houses of Congress had evaporated. He was certain to be impeached in the House and it was likely that a majority of Republican Senators would not vote to acquit him in the impeachment trial.

Nixon resigned when faced with those formidable strikes against him. He did not even attempt to defend himself. Three strikes and Nixon was out.

Compare that to the Impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998.

Clinton was impeached in the House of Representatives on two articles---lying under oath and obstruction of justice. Two other articles of impeachment failed to get majority votes in the House.

Only five members of Clinton's Democrat party voted for one of the impeachment charges.

Not one of the 45 Democrats in the Senate voted to convict Clinton. 10 GOP members voted Clinton 'not guilty' on the perjury charge and 5 on the obstruction charge. Those voting 'guilty' were far short of the 67 needed to convict.

Clinton had the support of almost everyone in the Democrat party throughout the process.

Clinton also maintained popular support with the public. Clinton's approval ratings never faltered during the entire impeachment process. His support among Democrat voters was particularly strong. This should have been a clue to Republicans that they were on a fool's errand. If the voting public is not behind you, you have nothing.

Of course, Clinton and his advocates also put up a strong defense. This was nothing except sex. In effect, they were saying that everybody lied about it. Why impeach Clinton for lying about the sex?

Looking at the polls, it worked.

Where will all of this go with Trump?

Keep your eyes on Trump's approval rating. Pay particular attention to his approval rating with GOP voters. We have known since the beginning that most Democrats don't like him. It means next to nothing if Democrats think he should be impeached. Keep your eyes on Republicans. He needs his base to stay with him.

If the GOP base stays with him it will be difficult for many GOP officeholders to also not support Trump.

One thing we don't have to wonder about is how zealously Trump will defend himself. You can be sure that he will leave no stone unturned. If the Democrats have any skeletons in their closets they better make sure they are locked very tightly. As I stated above, Trump believes that the best defense is a good offense.

There is one other thing to consider in all of this that should make Democrats nervous in trying to take on Trump.

I am currently reading the book, "Team of Vipers" which was written by Cliff Sims, who was formerly a Special Assistant to the President under Trump in the first two years of his term. Sims largely was involved in messaging initiatives for the Trump campaign and administration.

I think it is a pretty fair and balanced look at the Trump White House from one person's perspective. The title comes from the infighting Sims saw while there, most particularly between the Trump loyalists and the RNC and GOP political operatives who held many White House jobs.

Sims was not a Trump supporter from the beginning. However, he signed on in late August, 2016 to assist in messaging for the general election campaign. He left his home and his political communications company in Alabama to work for Trump. As a result, he was much more a Trump loyalist than a D.C. swamp creature. However, he is not a Trump apologist in the book. That may be one reason that Trump is suing Sims for violating a non-disclosure agreement he signed. He has good and bad things to say about a number of people--including himself.

In the book he recounts the day during the campaign that the Access Hollywood tapes were released. Sims, like everyone else, could not see a way out. Conventional political wisdom said that Trump was finished. You can imagine what Sims felt like. He had left his wife in Alabama to move to New York City to work in Trump Tower. Most of his friends thought he was crazy to do so. He now saw his career gamble coming up ZERO.

To escape the doom, depression and despair in the Trump campaign war room, Sims went to the mostly empty 5th floor of Trump Tower which was used in filming The Apprentice. It was there that he ran into Trump who was there to use a set on that floor to tape a response to the escalating negative press.

Sims remarked that he could not believe how cool, calm and collected Trump was despite the storm around him. Sims remarked in the book that Trump is often portrayed as erratic, unpredictable and impulsive. There is no doubt there is some of that in him. However, Sims says that Trump "is the most methodical, patient person I have ever seen in the midst of a crisis---the eye of the storm."  

He also says that Trump is also indefatigable (that is my word to describe Trump). Sims says that Trump is remarkable for his consistency. He just doesn't quit.

"There is something to be said for someone who just keeps going, no matter what. When its a good day he gets up and grinds it out. When its a bad day, he gets up and grinds it out. Then he does it again. Then he does it again. And again."

Sims makes one other point about Trump that I thought was interesting in evaluating how he might stand up to the continuing talk of impeachment. Sims says that he has never seen anyone better in operating in conditions of chaos than Trump. Trump also understands that about himself. Therefore, Trump sees that he is at an advantage compared to adversaries or those he is negotiating with when chaos ensues "because he's more comfortable in the mayhem than anyone else."

Where does all of this talk of impeachment go from here?

I don't know.

However, this much I do know. Trump has already proven he is not easy to strike out. He also will keep swinging to the end whatever may come.

Keep these thoughts in mind as the news plays out.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Where The Money Lives

In my last blog post I wrote about the wealth tax that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders want to enact to fund their socialist agenda.

Sanders wants to tax married couples with net worths of at least $32 million ($16 million) single. Warren would tax households with at least $50 million. Bear in mind this is a wealth tax in addition to an income tax on these people.

Some tax experts have suggested that since Warren's tax would be assessed per household that it might be advantageous for some couples to divorce and avoid the tax. For example, a couple with $90 million could split and each would only have $45 million and not be subject to the tax. At the tax rate of 2%, divorcing would save the couple $1.8 million per year. Love and marriage would be more expensive than ever under Warren.

This is just another example, as I wrote in my last blog, of why a wealth tax is subject to manipulation and gaming of the system and would prove to be unworkable.

I recently came across an interesting infographic that shows where the so-called ultra high net worth ($30+ million) individuals (UHNWIs) in the United States and the world live.

It provides some useful perspective on the entire subject of wealth in the world.

For starters, there are just 198,342 high net worth individuals out of 7.7 billion people in the entire world.

That is a pretty small group of people. Sanders and Warren argue that it is not fair that so few have so much. It needs to be redistributed. However, why do they have so much? They produced. They created. They innovated. How many jobs are they responsible for? How many others are already living well because of these people? What happens if they decide it is not worth doing what they do any more? What happens if Atlas Shrugs?

There are 3,378 UHNWIs in New York City and 1,075 in Los Angeles.

I was surprised that there are more UHNWIs in Mexico City (1,256) than in LA.

London has more UHNWIs than New York City, LA and Miami combined.

Mumbai has more than Montreal, Madrid or Milan. It is also the city that is forecast to have the most growth in UNHWIs over the next five years (+38%)

Tiny Taipei has more than Shanghai, Zurich or Munich.

Click on to enlarge

The Virtual Capitalist also had another infographic of the universities in the world with the most Ultra High Net Worth graduates.

Click on to enlarge

20 of the top 25 universities are in the United States, led by Harvard and Stanford.

Harvard has 13,650 UHNW graduates. Combined they are worth $4.7 trillion. That means that Warren is planning to take in excess of $100 billion in wealth taxes per year from the graduates of the school she taught at. Do you think contributions to Harvard might come under some pressure because of that?

Stanford has 5,580 UHNW graduates. Penn has 5,575 (including President Trump).

Click on to enlarge

If you do the math based on the numbers above, Harvard and Stanford graduates account for 10% of all the UHNWIs in the world.

Why isn't this unfair or unjust if you follow the logic of Warren and Sanders?

To solve this injustice it seems they should be trying to breakup these two schools and redistribute the students to other schools.

Why don't we require some of those Stanford students to go to Chico State or Sonoma State?

How about a few Harvard students being redistributed to Framingham State or Fitchburg State?

It used to be called injustice if someone who did nothing took something away from the person who worked for and earned it.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want you to believe that this should now be the other way around?