Monthly Archives: May 2019

HOW ADULTHOOD HAPPENS

This year’s commencement address is from David Brooks, writer for the N.Y. Times, and provides a roadmap for graduates.

“Every society has its rites of passage, marking the transition from youth to adulthood. Most of these rites of passage are ritualized and structured, with adult supervision and celebration. But the major rite of passage in our society is unritualized, unstructured and unnamed. Most of the people in the middle of it don’t even know it is going on. It happens between ages 22 and 30.

“The people who endure this rite of passage have often attended colleges where they were not taught how to work hard. As Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa write in their book Aspiring Adults Adrift, the average student at a four-year college studies alone just over one hour per day. That is roughly half as much students were compelled to study just a generation ago.

“Meanwhile, colleges have become socially rich, stocked with student centers, student organizations, expensive gyms, concerts and activities. As Arum’s and Roksa’s research demonstrates, academic life is of secondary or tertiary importance to most students. Social life comes first. Students experience college as a place to meet other people and learn to build relationships.

“When they leave campus, though, most of those social connections and structures are ripped away. Suddenly fresh alumni are cast out into a world almost without support organizations and compelled to hustle for themselves.

“These twenty-somethings live in a world of radical freedom, flux and insecurity. Surveys show they are very pessimistic about the state of the country, but amazingly optimistic about their own eventual destiny. According to the Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults, 86 percent agree with the statement, ‘I am confident that eventually I will get what I want out of life.’

“In the meantime, many spend the first few years out of college aspiring but adrift. They are largely unattached to religious institutions. Two-thirds report that they are not politically engaged. Half the students in Arum’s and Roksa’s recent study reported that they lacked clear goals or a sense of direction two years after graduation.

“Yet they are not sure they want to rush into adulthood. As Jeffrey Jensen Arnett and Elizabeth Fishel write in Getting to 30, ‘The value of youth has risen, and the desirability of adulthood has dropped accordingly. Today’s young people expect to reach adulthood eventually and they expect to enjoy their adult lives, but most are in no hurry to get there.’

“One way they cope is by moving back home. A third of the graduates in the Arum and Roksa sample were living at home, levels roughly double the share of grads living at home in the 1960s. Three-quarters of 18- to 25-year-olds who were not living at home received financial assistance from their parents. American parents provide an average of $38,000 in assistance to their young adult children.

“The first big ordeal is finding a job. Many young adults have not been give basic information about how to go about this. As my Times colleague April Lawson notes, they are often given the advice, ‘Follow your dream! The possibilities are limitless!’which is completely discordant with the grubby realities they face. They want meaningful work with social impact. They want to bring their whole selves to work, and ignore the distinctions between professional and intimate life that were in the heads of earlier generations. But meaningful work is scarce. Fifty-three percent of college graduates in the Arum and Roksa sample who were in the labor force were unemployed, underemployed or making less than $30,000 a year.

“As emerging adults move from job to job, relationship to relationship and city to city, they have to figure out which of their meanderings are productive exploration and which parts are just wastes of time. This question is very confusing from the inside, and it is certainly confusing for their parents.

“Yet here is the good news. By age 30, the vast majority are through it. The sheer hardness of the ‘Odyssey Years’ teaches people to hustle. The trials and errors of the decade carve contours onto their hearts, so they learn what they love and what they don’t. They develop their own internal criteria to make their own decisions. They fear what other people think less because they learn that other people are not thinking about them; they are busy thinking about themselves.

“Finally, they learn to say no. After a youth dazzled by possibilities and the fear of missing out, they discover that committing to the few thigs you love is a sort of liberation. They piece together their mosaic.

“One thing we can tell young grads and their parents is that this is normal. This phase is a thing. It’s not a sentence to a life of video games, loneliness and hangovers. It’s a rite of passage that makes people strong.”

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THE BEST U.S. NATIONAL PARKS

Theodore Roosevelt, the president who essentially created the National Park System in the early 1900s said, “The ages have been at work on the national landscape and man can only marvel at it. What you can do is keep it for your children and your children’s children.”

The national park system comprises nearly 400 areas of special importance in the United States—a system that includes exceptional natural, historical, scientific, and recreational sites, including lakeshores, battlefields, monuments, canyons, and seashores. Here are the best of the system.

1. YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California

The work of giant glaciers during the ice age, Yosemite National Park is a famous natural wonderland in the Sierra Nevada showcasing waterfalls, meadows, and forests of giant sequoia. Half Dome and El Capitan, rock formations towering above Yosemite Valley, are virtually American icons. Try to visit Yosemite Falls, the tallest in North America; hike to Mirror Lake; kayak along the Merced River; visit the giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove; and then relax at the Ahwahnee, the park’s grand old Arts and Crafts-style lodge.

2. HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii

Eager to get close to an active volcano? Then this is the place for you. Located on the Big Island Kilauea and Mauna Loa are two of the most active volcanoes in the world. The first is more than 3,999 feet high and still growing. It abuts the second, a monster mountain that towers some 13,678 feet above the sea. The park stretches from sea level to Mauna Loa’s snowy summit.

3. GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Arizona

Stand on the edge of this immense gorge—more than one mile deep and up to 18 miles wide—and you will experience nature’s grandeur. The Colorado River carved the chasm over millennia. Hiking, rafting, and viewing opportunities are outstanding. To rest your feet while you take in the grandeur, let a mule do all the work on a day trip or an overnight ride to Phantom Ranch.

4. GETTYSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK, Pennsylvania

Only cannon, stone walls, and countless monuments recall the horrors that unfolded on these bucolic fields on July 1, 1863. Here Union and Confederate soldiers fought the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Three days later, 51,000 men were dead, wounded, or missing. Take the 19-mile self-guided battlefield driving tour; you’ll pass McPherson Ridge, where the fighting began, and Little Round Top, strategic high ground. Don’t miss seeing Evergreen Cemetery, where President Abraham Lincoln gave his stirring Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863. To further enrich your drive, use an audio tour, hire a Licensed Battlefield Guide to ride along with you, or take a bus ride that includes a guided tour. Start your visit at the Gettysburg Museum of the Civil War, with multimedia presentations, interactive exhibits, and the restored Cyclorama depicting Pickett’s Charge.

5. SEQUOIA & KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, California

While both of these parks have groves of giant sequoias, Sequoia—the southernmost of the two—is more accessible for casual visitors. To appreciate the rugged splendor, you should hike a trail; we recommend Congress, Big Baldy, Zumwalt Meadow, and the Moro Rock Trails. If you have time only to drive, then follow the Generals Highway for 17 miles from the Ash Mountain Entrance to the General Sherman Tree, the world’s largest sequoia. Named for a Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman, the tree is a towering 276-feet tall.

6. ALAGNAK WILD RIVER, Alaska

This pristine river begins within the Katmai National Park & Preserve at the head of the Aleutian Peninsula. From there, it rushes along for 67 miles past boreal forests and wet sedge tundra before joining the Pacific Ocean. Otters, moose, brown bears, and ospreys are just a few of the creatures that call this wilderness home.

7. SANTA FE NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, and Oklahoma

Between 1821 and 1880, the Santa Fe Trail was the main link between St. Louis, the gateway to the West, and Santa Fe, one of the West’s most prosperous cities. Families in covered wagons, soldiers, and prospectors bound for glorious gold (they hoped) all took the trail. When the railroad came to Santa Fe in 1880, the trail became obsolete. About 15 percent of the original trail remains. Parts are on privately-owned land, but you can still carve a trip out of it and drive past the forts and sights those early pioneers passed. Fort Osage in Missouri is a must-see, as is the quaint Lake Chance Store in Council Grove, Kansas. Cyclists, hikers, and equestrians can follow the course of the trail for 19 miles in the Cimarron National Grassland in Kansas.

8. STATUE OF LIBERTY NATIONAL PARK, New York

The 151-foot-tall green woman who stands as a graceful sentinel of Upper New York Bay has become an international symbol of freedom. Given to the United States in 1886 as a gift from the people of France, Lady Liberty has been one of the first—and certainly the most welcoming—sights in the United States for millions of immigrants. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi sculpted her, perhaps in the image of his mother, and Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) devised an iron frame for the enormous copper sheets.

Visitors take ferries from Battery Park to Liberty Island. From there, the best way to truly get a feel for this marvelous piece of art is to take the elevator to the top of the pedestal and then climb the 354 steps to the top of her crown.

If you had any family who came to the U.S. and entered through Ellis Island, this is a must-see educational and emotional experience.

9. BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY, North Carolina, Virginia

Showcasing the age-old beauty of the southern Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited unit within the National Park System. The 469-mile, two-lane road connects Shenandoah National Park in the north to Great Smokey Mountains National Park in the south. You’ll ride along the crest of the Blue Ridge, as well as other mountains, dipping into deep hollows then rising up above the valleys as high as 6,001 feet. Plenty of remnants left by the mountain people who once lived here exist along the way.

10. NEW ORLEANS JAZZ HISTORICAL PARK, Louisiana

When Congress passed legislation that created this park in 1994, the intention was “to preserve the origins, early history, development, and progression of jazz.” And what better place to do this than New Orleans, in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, where the uniquely American art form was born.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this young park is evolving more slowly than planned. According to the original plans, the park eventually will consist of four buildings in Louis Armstrong Memorial Park. Until all of those buildings are restored, the park’s headquarters is located in the famous French Quarter. In June 2011, Perseverance Hall in Louis Armstrong Park, which is home to concerts and exhibits, was reopened. The park also offers two self-guided jazz audio tours, the Jazz Walk of Fame in Algiers Point, and an 11-stop tour of jazz history sites around the city.

And there’s more—Utah is Special

Zion National Park, Southwestern Utah
A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park of scenic wonders is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to 2,640 feet deep. The hiking and sightseeing are spectacular. Follow the paths where ancient native people and pioneers walked. Gaze up at the massive sandstone cliffs of cream pink and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Southwestern Utah (not far from Zion)

Unbelievable, like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s really not a canyon, but a collection of natural amphitheaters. The red, orange and white colors provide spectacular views. It covers 56,000 square miles.

Descending into the valley on horseback is a bit scary, but a glorious ride into another world.

Arches National Park, East Central Utah

Four miles north of Moab, discover a red-rocked landscape of contrasting colors land forms and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks.

It will amaze you!

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CAPITALISM IS ALIVE, BUT NOT ENTIRELY WELL

Let me be clear—I firmly believe free market capitalism offers more opportunity than any other economic system ever tried. It is responsible for raising the standard of living for more people than every other system.

Having said that, there are more and more signs of holes in the fabric of capitalism that bode ill for our future.

In an interview on 60 Minutes, Roy Dalio, founder of Bridgewater, the biggest hedge fund involving 110 clients and $240 billion in assets, said, “The disparity in income and wealth is approaching a national emergency.”

You can’t be more capitalistic than Dalio. “The American dream is lost,” he said. “It’s very different than when I was growing up.”

Income Gap

Dalio expressed similar sentiments in an essay posted on LinkedIn. He pointed to statistics including that the bottom 60 percent of income-earners in the U.S. keep falling further behind the top 40 percent—and that the percentage of children who grew up to earn more than their parents has fallen to 50 percent today from 90 percent in 1970.

The income gap is about as high as ever, and the wealth gap is the highest since the late 1930s because the wealth of the top one percent of the population is more than that of the bottom 90 percent combined, Dalio said.

The Republican idea that cutting taxes on the rich promotes productivity “doesn’t make any sense to me at all.” The wealthy “must pay more,” Dalio said, “The important thing is to take those tax dollars and make them productive,” he added.

“Disparity in wealth, especially when accompanied by disparity in values, leads to increasing conflict and, in the government, that manifests itself in the form of populism of the eft and populism of the right and often leads to revolutions of one sort or another,” Dalio wrote.

Nobody can be a better beneficiary of capitalism, although I find it difficult to agree with 100% of what Dalio postures, but he has many valid points and much to consider.

The stats from a few years back are enlightening and things have gotten worse.

• Over 300 million people in America
• 140 million taxpayer returns
• 250,000 plus (about 17%) earn more than $1,000,000 a year
• The richest 1% earn more than 19% of the country’s total household income

Wages are generally stagnant. John Kennedy’s adage, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” simply is not quite as true anymore.

Disney CEO Bob Iger, in his most recent comp package, got paid over 1,400 times as much as the company’s median employee. He’s done a great job at the Kingdom. The stock has risen from $24 to $132 under his watch.

He’s obviously a very capable employee—but he has no skin in the game.

Not sure how Disney employees feel about that disparity. There are dozens of examples of this disparity and the consequences they raise.

There are a growing number of people like Dalio who feel there is a tax revolt coming and a serious problem of unrest.

Dalio is certainly not alone. At the Milliken Institute’s Global Conference, his comments were echoed by Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase and Alan Schwartz of Guggenheim Partners (dodgers).

What are the consequences of this widening disparity?

For individual workers—more depression, more obesity, more stress-related issues.

For society as a whole—more polarization and more shifts to populist leaders and causes. The Democrats are moving more left to borrow socialist program and the Republicans are trying to live with Trump whose agenda is not always the same as the party.

Quite possible—unrest in the streets, a tax revolution and general discomfort with the status quo.

What can be done?

A. For the wealthy—higher personal and estate taxes. The doubling of the estate tax exemption to over $11 million in last year’s tax cut was the wrong direction.
B. Steps need to be taken to energize the wealthy to spend more money on important projects like Langone in NYU med school tuition or Dalio on education in Connecticut before they pass on.
C. Redefine the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) for everyone over $500,000/year and all corporations.
D. 60 Fortune 500 companies paid no federal income taxes on $79 billion in corporate income last year. Amazon said it’s effective tax rate was below zero. It got a $10.5 billion rebate.
E. Shareholders approve management comp plans when disparity ranges widen over 500 to 750 times median workers pay.
F. Investment (Wall St.) banks should be operated as partnerships (not corporations) as they were before 1993.
G. Commercial and investment banks should be separated and capital requirements should be at least 15-to-1.

For the economically disadvantaged

1. Provide better education—more school choice—mandatory school uniforms—counter the influence of teachers’ unions
2. Do more to discourage out-of-wedlock births
3. The advocacy of open borders will put more pressure on the poor. Establish quotas for migrant workers
4. Make English the official language of the U.S. and all government documents in English.

Five years ago when I first considered and wrote about the disparity gap in wealth and income, I tended to believe that market forces would help improve the disparity problem as the overall economy expanded.

Well it hasn’t happened

Five years ago our national debt was $17 trillion. Today it’s $22 trillion. This only exacerbates the problem because we have to pay interest on the debt, which leaves less available money to govern.

The consequences of following the lead suggested by the disparity advocates of continually increasing the safety net, more spending by the government of money we have to borrow, expanding unionization and raising the debt ceiling offers no easy or acceptable path that will produce any positive results.

Contrary to the disparity advocates, this country has now and will continue to offer unlimited opportunities for those who prepare through at least a high school education, want to seek out opportunity, and are willing to work hard enough to make it happen.

Average CEO compensation reported for the 500 biggest US companies in 2012 was $10.5 million (Forbes Executive Compensation Report), which works out to almost $6,000 per hour. Private industry worker salary and benefits averaged $31.16 per hour in September 2013 while workers in state and local governments averaged $42.51 per hour (the Bureau of Labor Statistics). The question de jour by many, noted liberal economists, is whether this is FAIR or good for America?…the insinuation being that CEO’s are unfairly paid too much.

The disparity advocates warn that there are serious consequences to this gap that include an invitation to social unrest, as well as a deepening rut into which the poor will be entrenched. It will foment resentment, failing morale, disincentive, unrest and maybe revolution.

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REDUCING OR FORGIVING MEDICAL SCHOOL TUITION

Last month, New York University announced that tuition will now be free to all students, regardless of financial need.

Here’s what you need to know—and what to do next.

Free Tuition

NYU Med students can say goodbye to $55,018 in annual tuition.

That’s the amount NYU will be covering for incoming and returning students, the latter of whom will have their student loans and tuition payments refunded.

Like other professions, student loans have a significant impact on the medical profession. NYU wants to change that for its medical students.

According to Make Lemonade, there are more than 44 million student loan borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion. The average medical school student loan debt is about $190,000.

Ken Langone, co-founder of Home Depot and chair of NYU Langone Health’s board of trustees, and his wife, Elaine, donated $100 million to help fund tuition for NYU medical students. NYU says it needs $600 million to fund the entire program.

“Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our trustees, alumni, and friends, our hope—and expectation—is that by making medical school accessible to a broader range of applicants, we will be a catalyst for transforming medical education nationwide,” Langone said.

If You’re Considering a Career in Medicine

This is amazing news!

If you’re pre-med or considering a career in medicine—and the cost of medical school keeps you up at night—then you should consider applying to NYU for medical school.

Since the tuition-free program is available to all students, it could save you over $200,000 over the course of four years of medical school.

Ezekiel Emanuel, Oncologist, is vice provost and professor at University of Pennsylvania. He has an interesting take on a program to alleviate the tuition costs of all medical schools.

His proposal is that al medical students sign for loans on their tuition costs. After graduation, those students who choose to follow the traditionally lower earning specialties like primary care and/or go to practice where the needs are the greatest to fill the predictable shortage of 30,000 doctors by 2030.

These students would be entitled to graduated forgiveness of their loan.

The students who go into the highest paid end of the profession, like orthopedics, surgery and/or other specialties would be responsible for the loan repayments.

That kind of proposal may well fit other professions where shortages are developing. The new socialist candidates want to turn everything over to the government to fund and rule. That will lead to fiscal bankruptcy and ineffective bureaucracy.

There’s plenty of money in private industry to do the job.

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