Monthly Archives: October 2018

THE PROPOSITION CIRCUS IS BACK

Voters will confront 11 different statewide initiatives on the November ballot, in addition to three for the City of Los Angeles and one for the County. For more than a century, some of the biggest policies in the state have been enacted at the ballot box, and this year is no different. So here’s an early look at some of the initiatives you are being asked to decide.

If you’re read my advice on ballot issues before, you know I have a bias to reject most propositions, especially those that are initiatives rather than legislature proposals. That’s because they are generally not written well and are hard to correct.

So here’s my read on the 2018 cast of ballot propositions.

Prop 1: $4 billion in bonds to fund specific housing assistance programs – too little, too late – legislature proposal – Vote: NO

Prop 2: $2 billion in bonds to fund existing housing programs for individuals with mental issues – somewhat repetitive – legislature proposal – Vote: NO

Prop 3: Water bond: And what would a California ballot be without a water bond? This is a $4 billion bond to pay for water projects in a state that is facing increasing demand (and diminishing supplies) of water – initiative proposal – Vote: NO

Prop 4: Another $1.5 billion in bonds for construction of children’s hospitals – initiative proposal – need not demonstrated – Vote: NO

Prop 5: Allows certain property owners to transfer their property tax base. Eliminates $100 million loss in annual revenue – constitutional amendment – Vote: NO

Prop 6: Gas Tax Repeal: Count on this being the biggest initiative battle this fall. Overturn the gas tax passed by the legislature to pay for $5 billion in road and bridge maintenance every year. Gov. Jerry Brown will lead the defense: He has embraced this as his final fight before he retires, warning that a repeal would upend a plan critical to the state’s economy. Opponents say taxes are high enough and California should find another way to pay for needed repair. The repeal measure is being financed in part by national Republicans looking to increase turnout in critical congressional elections; however, we need it. Vote: NO

Prop 7: Daylight Saving Time: Californians are voting on a plan to make daylight saving time permanent: No more turning back the clock. This is another one that would require federal approval should voters decide they want more light in the evening. The only drawback is some children will be going to school in the dark. Vote: YES

Prop 8: Regulate what outside dialysis clinics can charge – initiative proposal – Vote: NO

Prop 10: Rent control: At a time when housing costs in California are skyrocketing, this initiative—backed by tenant groups—would restore to local communities the power to impose rent control. This could be another big, expensive battle, played out against the context of what this state can do to both reduce housing costs and creative more housing – although I’m not sure what will happen. Vote: YES

Prop 11: Requires employees private ambulance services to remain on call during work breaks – initiative proposal – Vote: YES

Prop 12: Establishes new standards for confinement of certain farm animals. Californians already voted to ban cages – initiative proposal – Vote: NO

TOTAL: 2 YES 9 NO

L.A. City
Charter Amend B: Allows the city to establish a financial institution or bank. Vote: NO

Charter Amend E: Reset city and state election dates in even numbered years to be in March. Vote: YES

Charter Amend EE: Reset L.A. School District election dates to be in March with the state. Vote: YES

L.A. County

Measure W: Flood Control District – parcel tax of 25¢/S.F. to fund improving water quality, capturing rain water and prepare for future drought. Vote: YES

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MILLENNIALS CREATED THE “FIRE” MOVEMENT TO REPLACE WORK

As outlined in the N.Y. Times last month by a number of their reporters, the “FIRE” movement, which stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early,” has attracted a lot of followers.

In a nut shell, the millennial FIRE followers have cut living expenses to the bone and saved as much as they can to avoid their “high pressure jobs” so they can retire in their 30’s.

What a different world. In my world, work was a stimulating addiction, the pressure came from within. If you were successful in finding a career you enjoyed, it became a passion that helped you attain fulfillment. Apparently that is not the way of the FIRE people.

Before we dismiss the millennials’ new crusade, let’s explore more of what the N.Y. Times reported.

Why These Millennials Hate Work

Quitting the rat race isn’t a new concept. From the shakers of the 1700s to the back-to-the-land hippies of the 1960s and ‘70s, a strain of Americans has always embraced simple living. One of the bibles of the FIRE movement, “Your Money or Your Life,” which teaches readers to reduce their spending and value time over material gain, was published in 1992.

But Vicki Robin, who wrote that financial guide with Joe Dominguez, said the FIRE crowd is a different breed of dropout than those in the ‘90s. “Our aim was not just to have a whole bunch of people quit their jobs,” Ms. Robin said. “Our aim is to lower consumption to save the planet. We attracted longtime simple-living people, religious people, environmentalists.”

The FIRE adherents are, by contrast, “very numbers oriented, fascinated by the minutest of taxes and accounting,” Ms. Robin said.

They are also benefitting from a lengthy bull run in the stock market and, in some cases, the privilege of class, race, gender and background. It’s difficult to retire at 40 if you work a minimum-wage job, say, or have crushing student-loan debt, or did not have the same opportunities as others because you grew up poor in a crime-ridden neighborhood.

But if, as Ms. Robin said, FIRE adherents “don’t have the aspirational part” of earlier generations, why are they so determined to quit the work force? Many millennials haven’t been working longer than a decade, if that.

That accurately describes how Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung felt. The married couple became minor celebrities when they retired from their tech jobs in 2015 to travel the world full time. They were in their early 30s at the time.

Ms. Shen’s wake-up moment came when she watched a fellow I.T. colleague collapse at his desk after clocking 14-hour days and get hauled away in an ambulance. For several years before that, she and Mr. Leung, following the same path laid out by their parents, had tried to buy a house in the ever-escalating real estate market.

But, Ms. Shen said, “it didn’t matter how much you saved, it was a goal post that kept moving. And I was seeing people stressed out paying their mortgages.”

Though they had good educations and well-paying jobs in the booming tech sector, Ms. Shen and Mr. Leung faced the looming threats of outsourcing and artificial intelligence, and had no hope of a retirement pension, or even that their employers would exist in five years.

At the same time, their jobs were all-consuming, their work hours basically 24-7. Rather than chain themselves to a costly mortgage, and therefore to high-pressure jobs, the couple decided to pour their money into an investment portfolio and phase out.

“The rule books our parents have given us is advice that’s perfect for 1970, Ms. Shen said. “We have to throw out that rule book and write a new one.”

Mr. Leung spoke of the challenges his generation faces more bluntly. “We don’t have jobs that will take care of us,” he said. “We have to take care of ourselves.”

Go Where It’s Cheap

By ditching a big city, Ms. Shen and Mr. Leung exemplify another underlying reason for the popularity of FIRE: the high price of urban life, especially in places like New York and Southern California. There’s the insane housing prices, the high cost of child care, the temptations of so-called lifestyle creep.

“We were spending nearly $3,000 a month on rent, and that was considered a good deal,” said Scott Rieckens, 35, who along with his wife, Taylor, 33, and their infant daughter until recently lived in Coronado, Calif., a pricey beach town across the bay from San Diego. “We made something like $160,000 between the two of us, but we didn’t have a whole lot left over.”

After hearing a podcast interview with “the Frugal Guru,” Mr. Rieckens became fired up. He told his wife they should ditch their leased BMW and quit eating out several nights a week.

But even with those lifestyle cuts, the couple couldn’t increase their savings rate substantially unless they relocated to a cheaper community, a deleveraging tactic the FIRE crowd calls “arbitrage.”

The idea, The Frugal Guru said, is “to reap the high salary” of a place like Silicon Valley, “then take that nest egg out to any of the thousands of nice, affordable cities and towns we have in this country and begin a second stage of life on your own terms.”

Last year, the couple left Southern California in search of a community that would give them more financial freedom, a journey Mr. Rieckens, formerly a creative director for an ad agency, is chronicling in a documentary, “Playing With FIRE.”

They ended up in Bend, Oregon, where there’s no state sales tax and they could afford to buy a house. Gas for their used Honda CRV with 186,000 miles (they got rid of the BMW and downsized to one vehicle) is a dollar-per-gallon cheaper than in San Diego.

“The whole retire early thing is unimportant to me. It’s more about gaining control of your time,” Mr. Rieckens said. “If you dive into the definition of retirement, what you’re retiring from is mandatory labor. It’s not necessarily about pina coladas on the beach.”

When You Retire Before Your Parents

Mr. Jensen with his daughter, Daphne, and his wife, Mindy, are in Longmont, Colorado.
In retirement, Mr. Jensen and his wife and two daughters plan to live on roughly $40,000 a year generated from investments. Because his wife currently works, they have yet to draw on those accounts. But already, it’s a life rich on time but short on luxuries: Groceries are bought at Costco, car and home repairs are done by him.

“People always assume there’s an external circumstance: “Oh, you must have received an inheritance,” Mr. Jensen said. “We’ve just chosen to live far below our means. That itself is a radical idea.”

Equally radical is opting out of the work force in your 30s or early 40s, a time of life when men and women are normally leaning into their careers, or, less happily, enduring the daily grind to pay the bills until Social Security kicks in.

Jason Long, a pharmacist in rural Tennessee who retired last year at the ripe old age of 38, said his father had a hard time understanding why Mr. Long couldn’t continue to work and collect his $150,000 salary.
But Mr. Long said he was deeply unhappy in his job, where over his career he witnessed drug costs skyrocketing, sick people battling with health insurers and the over-prescription of opioids and the resulting addiction crisis. His customers, angry, confused, financially stretched, often lashed out at the person behind the counter.

“There were days when I had 12- or 14-hour shifts where I didn’t use the restroom, where I didn’t eat, because so much work was piled up on me,” Mr. Long said.

Like Mr. Jensen, he had been saving a sizable portion of his income over the past decade, and he and his wife had a paid-for-house and an investment portfolio worth a little more than $1 million. Why stick around?

A retirement that starts well before you go gray and lasts 40, 50 even 60 years is an anomaly in modern life. How do you fill all those days, months, decades?

Fearing boredom, Mr. Jensen at first took on way too much, and he found it strange to be at the local rec center exercising alongside senior citizens, or shopping at empty big-box stores on a Tuesday. He also beat his own mother to retirement, which made for awkward family get-togethers.

But one year in, he has settled into his life of leisure, enjoying time spent raising his daughters, making sure they never see him vegging in front of the TV. Mr. Jensen also practices an activity that for man FIRE achievers seems to be the new golf: writing a financial advice blog.

I certainly can’t say they’re wrong with the FIRE approach. I can say they maybe missing an opportunity to find a real passion in life and they have quit before they accepted a goal of finding a job, a career path and a calling that could bring a new diversion to their life.

To each their own.

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NEXT TO THE BEST TRIPS – PART I

Awhile back I itemized the very best trips we’ve ever had (blog 1/28/15 and 2/25/15). Here is the first part of a second list of outstanding trips. They weren’t the very best, but pretty darn close.
Here they are, in no particular order:

Panama Canal and Costa Rica

The excitement starts to build when you enter the lakes at the north end of the canal, which is the staging area for entry. After waiting your turn, you enter the canal and start the 48-mile journey. Going through the locks at either end is fascinating. You’re pulled through by tiny tugs on rails.

Close to one million vessels of every size and shape have gone through the canal.

Traveling on to Costa Rica is most enjoyable. Great beaches with manageable mountains, as well as jungles. One of the highlights is watching the volcano light up the night sky with sparks and flares.

Italy, anywhere

Every part of Italy is a treat. We’ve been on a great cruise down the west coast to see Sardinia, Corsica, Sorrento, Capri, Positano and the Amalfi coast. Our bike trip in the Po River Valley, the breadbasket of Italy, was terrific, followed by a few days in Pisa, Lucca and Puccini.

We had a delightful trip to the Lake Country and Cing Le Terra and another one from Milan to Florence, then to Assisi, Verona and on to Venice.

Seeing the Paleo colorful horse race in Sienna was a special treat, and even fun without the race. The hills and walled towns of Tuscany are not to be forgotten. San Gimigrano, Chianti, Vinci, Volterra. There are dozens of these charming small towns to visit and explore.

Of course, Rome is a great city with so much history. You could easily spend a week there.

The food is fabulous everywhere. Fresh produce and unbelievable pasta. The pizza is ordinary but everything else is outstanding.

Can’t forget Sicily, a delightful island filled with the history and well-preserved ruins and great sights. All definitely worth seeing.

Maui

All the sandwich isles offer a smog-free feast of delectable sights, temperatures and sensations. For me, Maui has always been the best. I’ve never been anywhere where I can be completely relaxed within an hour of arriving.
Yes, the traffic has gotten worse. There didn’t use to be any! But there’s still more to do there if you want to do anything and more variety of sights and colors than anywhere else I’ve ever been.
Maui offers golf, tennis, hiking, shopping, history, museums, sunsets, snorkeling, oceans, beaches, spectacular drives, great food, incomparable walks, movies, and a variety of topography that makes it the most sensual place on earth.

There are three somewhat distinct areas you can choose as your destination: Kapalua, Lahaina, Ka’anapali, and Wailea/Makenna. My personal preference is the last of the three, but I wouldn’t turn either of the other two down very quickly. The main winning ingredient for Wailea/Makenna is it has less rain and wind than the other two.
So you won’t go wrong in anyone of the three.

Oceania Cruises

They’re a mid-priced line with mid-size ships (480 or 1,200 people) with typical destinations. What makes them special is the cabins are adequate and comfortable, the food is top-drawer and the dining options, all at no extra cost, are outstanding.

We’ve taken them four times and will look to take them again.

On the other hand, we’ve taken pricier lines like Regent and Seabourn and found them highly over-rated. On river boats, we found Tauck outstanding and Viking somewhat wanting.
In the small boat category, Travel Dynamics (now Ponant) has offered some interesting and different destinations. National Geographic is terrific but at a price.

Scandinavia

An absolute delightful journey by land or sea, Copenhagen, Denmark, Stockholm, Sweden, St. Petersburg, Russia are great places to visit. The highlight of this trip is Norway. Spectacular scenery in the Fjords and the cities of Bergen and Oslo are great visits.

A bustling economy make for happy people and a positive attitude everywhere.

San Juan Islands

A short ferry ride a few miles north of Seattle was the beginning of our bike trip through the beautiful islands. We started in Oak Harbor, then ferried to conquer the big hill outside Anacortes. Then is was on to Lopez, Orcas and Friday Harbor. Delightful natural countryside and great accommodations. It’s a hidden gem of a place to visit.

Antartica

Departing from Usheria, Argentina, you cross the Drake Channel and make it to the northeast part of the big island. Without the wind, the temperature is quite manageable.
The sights are awesome; the great chunks of icebergs that form a gallery of ice sculptures, walking among hundreds of penguins, as well as a warm-water area to take a dip.
The sweets at four o’clock were outstanding and made up for the mediocre Russian food.

Savanah, Charleston and Washington, D.C.

Savanah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Caroline, are a reminder of the old south; charming, picturesque and great places to visit.
Savanah is laid out in perfect squares and streets. You can walk the whole town and every block is a treat. You can even sit on the bench with Forrest Gump. Charleston is different but nonetheless special. More to see with the spacious harbor and the citadel.

Both cities are brimming with history and good food.

If you go on to Washington, D.C. (and you should), there are many other great stops along the way—i.e., Hilton Head, South Carolina, Yorktown and Williamsburg in Virginia—are all enjoyable.
Washington, D.C. is an indescribable delight. The Smithsonian museums, the Capital, the monuments, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress (a hidden gem), the National Portrait Gallery, the National Cathedral, and, of course, the White House, FBI and Treasury Department. For kids, the Spy Museum.

You can spend a week here alone and come away with a new-found sense of patriotism.

Sedona

A wonderful place to visit, where they say the red rocks give off a special energy. There’s great hiking and a plethora of terrific galleries and restaurants.

Enchantment is a great hotel; there are plenty of motels and a few bed and breakfasts.

Sedona is just an hour and a half north of Phoenix and 3/4-hour south of Williams, where you can board the train to the Grand Canyon.

It’s a great weekend.

* * *

Part II will appear next month.

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WHAT A DEMOCRATIC (OR REPUBLICAN) CONGRESS MAY MEAN FOR YOU

In the 2016 presidential election, roughly 60% of eligible voters cast a ballot, which is common and shows that the majority of Americans think picking a president is worth the effort. But in midterm elections, typically only 40% of eligible voters bother to turn up at the polls.

The Trump Train

Clearly, many people disagree with President Trump’s policies, and even more people are put off by his Twitter comments and off-handed remarks from the stage. But he was still elected.

Almost half of the nation approves of his work, and he’s overseen a healthy economy. What’s more, President Trump has followed through on many campaign promises. Many of the president’s policies are outside the scope of economics, such as moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and building a wall along the Mexican border.

But Trump is pushing many business-friendly policies that have immediate effects. He’s cut 22 regulations for every one imposed, so far, and has opened more federal land for energy exploration. He’s also directed the Federal Drug Administration to fast-track new drugs and generics while working on reducing drug costs.

And, of course, at the top of the business-friendly list is the budget-busting Tax Reform, which moved $1 trillion from national taxpayers to corporate balance sheets by increasing the national debt.

We can debate all day about whether or not these policies are right for the country but it won’t change the fact that investors have cheered such moves by pushing stock prices higher. The S&P 500 is up 33% in less than two years since Trump’s election, and the Nasdaq 100 is up a whopping 63%. Corporate earnings are up more than 20% in just the past year.

Largely due to tax reform, GDP growth shot above 4% this year and unemployment has fallen below 4%. Those are economic numbers that other countries would kill for.

He didn’t raise taxes on companies or high earners. Of course, it’s not all fun and games. In addition to cutting some regulations and relaxing others, President Trump also started a trade war with just about everybody.

He demanded that Canada and Mexico revisit NAFTA, and he’s put tariffs on goods from the European economic bloc. China has incurred his greatest trade wrath, by far. The president imposed tariffs on roughly $30 billion worth of goods from China, and just recently imposed tariffs on another $200 billion worth of goods. He noted that if the Chinese retaliate, he’ll slap tariffs on just about everything else we import from China, which is another $267 billion worth of goods.

The president claims to be defending America from unfair trade practices. With the Chinese, it’s absolutely true. We already had a venue for dealing with that, it’s called the World Trade Organization, but our president isn’t one for international bodies.

In addition, conservatives also controlled both chambers of Congress. That sweep gave President Trump the ability to push through some of his agenda, but the easy days are over.

The Party Might be Over

The midterm elections are here, and Republican congressmen are retiring in droves. What’s more, midterm elections don’t favor the political party that controls the White House, and that’s before we factor in Trump’s polarizing style.

In 36 of the 39 elections since the Civil War, the president’s party has lost ground, giving up an average of 26 seats in the midterm election following his ascent to office, which is a bit more than the 23 seats the Democrats need to establish a majority next month. The numbers in the Senate are quite different

If the Democrats won all 35 Senate seats that are up for election, that would only give them a 58 to 42 majority because Democrats occupy many of the seats in play. Such a landslide is highly unlikely since some of those Senate seats are in very conservative states. Republicans likely will retain control of the Senate.

If the Republicans Win the House

The president will keep up his rapid pace of nominating conservative judges for district and appeals courts no matter what, because these matters only go through the Senate. Maintaining a majority also in the House will allow him to push Congress to confirm his political appointments within his administration.

We can expect Trump to come out swinging on matters large and small, from Stormy Daniels to Kim Jong-Un. He’ll beat the table about more tariffs on China, demand greater concessions from the European Union, and pound his chest on his success in redrafting NAFTA.

If the Democrats Win the House

Just like the Republicans in 2010, the Democrats are giddy with excitement over the midterm elections. With history and current polling on their side, a victory in the House of Representatives looks all but assured.

People don’t want details. They want bold strokes. Now the Democrats have assumed a new slogan: “For the People,” which residents in the Southeast will recognize at as the tagline for personal injury attorney John Morgan.
The “For the People” platform is sparse, calling for lowering health care and prescription drug costs, increasing worker pay, and cleaning up corruption. But don’t let the lack of words fool you. The Democratic plan for winning the House is to let local politicians run races best suited to them, with minimal interference from the national Democratic leadership.

Like Republicans, the Democrats want to focus on infrastructure, but they have a different way to fund such a push. Trump has called for a yet-to-be-defined public-private partnership that would cost American taxpayers little. No one is sure of the details, but it seems unlikely.

The only way to get private dollars for public use facilities is to provide a path for revenue, such as toll roads; and even then, it’s tough. One of the greatest hurdles to infrastructure building is the length of time it takes to get permits and start actual construction. A 2014 study by the Government Accountability Office found that government permitting in general took 4.6 years.

For Democrats, the path to infrastructure is easier—simply raise gasoline taxes.

The current federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon of gas and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel were last raised in 1993 and aren’t indexed to inflation, which is up more than 65% since then.
In addition to raising taxes on fuel, the Democrats plan to provide greater access to healthcare, most notably by allowing some groups to buy into Medicare before they reach 65. One proposal calls for allowing anyone over 55 to join Medicare, which will appeal to many state governments.

A recent study found that retiree healthcare benefits for public employees are underfunded by $862 billion dollars! If those retirees were allowed to buy into Medicare for their years between 55 and 65, it would dramatically reduce the cost of providing the benefits even if the cities and states paid the monthly premiums.

The money for the difference has to come from somewhere—that would be the American taxpayer. If the current trend continues, Medicare will go bankrupt in less than five years.

Adding more people to the system won’t help the situation, unless than can pay their own way, plus some. The chances of that happening are zero. That would leave the government to pick up the tab.
Obviously, the Democrats have other priorities, such as gun control, a resolution of the Dreamer Act, protecting the Affordable Care Act, and bringing back state and local tax (SALT) exemptions.

But, along with their plans for infrastructure and Medicare, all of these items require legislative action that must be approved by the Senate and then signed by the president. That’s not very likely over the next two years.
The main goal of a Democratic House of Representatives will be to stymie President Trump and his agenda at every turn. The House leadership will use the power of the vote to derail any legislative agenda emanating from the White House, as expected. But it won’t stop there.

Through the power of subpoena and investigation, the various committees in the House will bury the administration with demands for documents and testimony relating to Russian election interference, hush money, and anything else that comes to mind.

The push will be made in the name of rooting out corruption and increasing transparency, and many people will throw around the word impeachment. That’s a distraction, though.

With a Republican majority in the Senate, it’s almost certain that such a trial wouldn’t happen. Even if it did, it takes 67 votes to impeach a president, which would be an impossibly high bar, unless new information comes to light.

Besides, if they actually impeached Trump or somehow convinced him to resign, they’d be left with a very credible President Mike Pence. While Democrats might take issue with his political stances, it would be much harder to attack his character.

Democrats hate Donald Trump. The national media loathe him. Republicans fear what he might say or twee next. But investors can’t get enough of the guy.

Sure, the tax reform adds more than $1 trillion to the U.S. debt over the next 10 years, and, yes, trade deficits actually happen when a country does well, but let’s not dwell on specifics.

There’s no doubt that President Trump has ushered in a golden age for businesses, and therefore investors.

So, now it’s up to you to decide who will control the Congress.

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CURRENT EVENTS – OCTOBER, 2018

Two Big Strikes Against the Trump Agenda

President Trump’s White House has been dealt its most serious blows yet. The guilty plea by Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, and the conviction and plea deal of Paul Manafort, his former campaign manager, will rock the administration. Especially damaging: Mr. Cohen’s admission to paying a porn star hush money at Mr. Trump’s request, apparently violating campaign finance laws.
How much will that hurt Mr. Trump’s ability to govern—and to continue deregulating business?

Well, legal and political experts agree that Robert Mueller probably won’t seek to indict Mr. Trump while he is in office, and that lawmakers are likely to shy away from impeachment.
But all eyes are on his allies in Congress. Mr. Trump, Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg Opinion argues, is now “an unusually weak president.” The rewards of helping and protecting him may be shrinking.

Women-owned Businesses are Rising. Their revenues? Not so much.

American Express commissioned a report on the state of U.S. women-owned businesses, based on Census Bureau data. Some findings:

• Some 40 percent of U.S. businesses are now female-owned, up from 29 percent in 2007.
• Women of color made much of the difference. While the number of women-owned businesses grew 58 percent from 2007 to 2018, the number owned by women of color grew 163 percent.
• But employment and revenues aren’t on the same course. All these businesses are responsible for 8 percent of total employment (it was 6 percent in 2007) and claim 4.3 percent of total business revenue (up from 4 percent).

Justice Kavanaugh Will Win The Confirmation War

After an extended series of hearings and last-minute accusations, Brett Kavanaugh survived a sad, chaotic arena of politically inspired character assassinations to become a member of the Supreme Court, only to be delayed by a 7th FBI investigation of Prof. Ford’s unsubstantiated allegations.

Based on the available evidence to date, the FBI will most likely conclude they can neither confirm nor deny Prof. Ford’s allegations.

In the process, America lost a long-standing tenet of our legal precedent. The presumption of innocence has now been obliterated by the gender warriors who clearly stated, if you doubt any woman’s accusations about misconduct, you, too, are an abuser.

What a horrendous cost to pay for abandoning and forsaking the rules of fair play into approving/disapproving a nominee. It was a disastrous blow to democracy no matter whether you wanted Kavanaugh approved or not.

A Hard Day’s Work is its Own Reward…at Least in Theory

Consider this: 86% of Americans men and 67% of American women work MORE than 40 hours a week.

Annually, that’s 137 MORE hours than Japanese workers, 260 MORE hours than British workers, and a staggering 499 MORE hours than French workers.

67 Million People in the U.S. Do Not Speak English at Home

A record 67 million people living in the United States do not speak English at home, a new study has revealed, accounting for just over a fifth of the population. The study was carried out by The Center of Immigration Studies. It is based on the newly released Census Bureau Data for 2017.

California has by far the highest number of non-English speakers per state, with 16.5 million people (44 percent of its population) favoring other languages. Texas, where the number is 36 percent, has the second highest percentage, followed by New Mexico, New Jersey, and Nevada. In the country’s five major cities, the numbers are especially high. In New York City and Houston, the figure is 49 percent; in Los Angeles, it is 59 percent; it is 36 percent in Chicago; and 38 percent in Phoenix. The highest percentage per city of anywhere in the country is in Hialeah, Florida, where 95 percent of the population do not speak English.

Monday Night Football

For Americans who fear the country is in decline on a social level, a sports analogy might demonstrate that very well. The passage of time has not been kind to Monday Night Football. Once the biggest cultural event on TV, it is now a telecast that is actually hard to watch because of awful production values and lack of star power.

When Roone Arledge put together the broadcast for ABC in the early 1970’s, he eventually selected three major stars to call the game: Frank Gifford, Don Meredith, and the uber-controversial Howard Cosell. Ratings were enormous as politicians and celebrities swarmed into stadiums hoping for a few minutes of recognition.

John Lennon even showed up in the booth. America and MNF were made for each other!

No longer. As with many other television situations, the Monday night broadcast has deteriorated. The opening song by Hank Williams, Jr. is tired and the montage over it headache-inducing. The show goes downhill from there.

Our PC culture has badly damaged spontaneity and creative analysis. If Howard Cosell were alive today, he’d be eaten alive by the grievance mob. And there is no Roone Arledge to protect him. Many football announcers now fall back on clichés; they are masters and mistresses of the obvious, living life in the safe zone.

And it’s not just TV that’s in trouble. The Miss America telecast in September was a disaster, losing 20 percent of its viewers from last year.

Potential Democratic Presidential Candidate

Word on the street is that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg may run for president as a Democrat in 2020.

Bloomberg, who was a decent mayor, has been an independent but realizes that he needs the Democratic machine to defeat Donald Trump. Like President Trump, Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire with vast business holdings. He is generally a liberal thinker but not far-left like Bernie Sanders, who is also likely to run.

Trump and Bloomberg Don’t Like Each Other.

Don’t Fear a Flattening Yield Curve

The yield curve is essentially the difference between interest rates on short-term government bonds and long-term government bonds. Every time since 1960 that it has inverted—when long-term rates are lower than short-term rates—a recession has followed. For much of this year, the spread has been at its narrowest level in more than a decade. Many economists believe it will invert next year.

But Jay Powell, the Fed chairman, has played down the yield curve’s significance as an omen. The curve is “just one factor that you want to look at” when setting interest-rate policy, he said. Of the economy as a whole, he added, “there’s no reason to think that the probability of a recession in the next year or two is at all elevated.”

Counterpoint: Martin Feldstein, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Ronald Reagan and a professor at Harvard, argues in a WSJ op-ed that a long, deep recession is looming—and the Fed has few tools to solve it.

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