Friday, September 03, 2021

A fiscal adult on the 'other' side of the aisle

One wouldn't expect to find a lot of bipartisanship concerning the federal $3.5 trillion spending bill -- and there isn't much to be found -- but courage and reason came shining through in this piece by Senator Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia. 

(Source: Wall Street Journal). 

Why I Won’t Support Spending Another $3.5 Trillion

The nation faces an unprecedented array of challenges and will inevitably encounter additional crises in the future. Yet some in Congress have a strange belief there is an infinite supply of money to deal with any current or future crisis, and that spending trillions upon trillions will have no negative consequence for the future. I disagree.

An overheating economy has imposed a costly “inflation tax” on every middle- and working-class American. At $28.7 trillion and growing, the nation’s debt has reached record levels. Over the past 18 months, we’ve spent more than $5 trillion responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Now Democratic congressional leaders propose to pass the largest single spending bill in history with no regard to rising inflation, crippling debt or the inevitability of future crises. Ignoring the fiscal consequences of our policy choices will create a disastrous future for the next generation of Americans.

Those who believe such concerns are overstated should ask themselves: What do we do if the pandemic gets worse under the next viral mutation? What do we do if there is a financial crisis like the one that led to the Great Recession? What if we face a terrorist attack or major international conflict? How will America respond to such crises if we needlessly spend trillions of dollars today?

 

Instead of rushing to spend trillions on new government programs and additional stimulus funding, Congress should hit a strategic pause on the budget-reconciliation legislation. A pause is warranted because it will provide more clarity on the trajectory of the pandemic, and it will allow us to determine whether inflation is transitory or not. While some have suggested this reconciliation legislation must be passed now, I believe that making budgetary decisions under artificial political deadlines never leads to good policy or sound decisions. I have always said if I can’t explain it, I can’t vote for it, and I can’t explain why my Democratic colleagues are rushing to spend $3.5 trillion.

Another reason to pause: We must allow for a complete reporting and analysis of the implications a multitrillion-dollar bill will have for this generation and the next. Such a strategic pause will allow every member of Congress to use the transparent committee process to debate: What should we fund, and what can we simply not afford?

I, for one, won’t support a $3.5 trillion bill, or anywhere near that level of additional spending, without greater clarity about why Congress chooses to ignore the serious effects inflation and debt have on existing government programs. This is even more important now as the Social Security and Medicare Trustees have sounded the alarm that these life-saving programs will be insolvent and benefits could start to be reduced as soon as 2026 for Medicare and 2033, a year earlier than previously projected, for Social Security.

Establishing an artificial $3.5 trillion spending number and then reverse-engineering the partisan social priorities that should be funded isn’t how you make good policy. Undoubtedly some will argue that bold social-policy action must be taken now. While I share the belief that we should help those who need it the most, we must also be honest about the present economic reality.

Inflation continues to rise and is bleeding the value of Americans’ wages and income. More than 10.1 million jobs remain open. Our economy, as the Biden administration has correctly pointed out, has reached record levels of quarterly growth. This positive economic reality makes clear that the purpose of the proposed $3.5 trillion in new spending isn’t to solve urgent problems, but to re-envision America’s social policies. While my fellow Democrats will disagree, I believe that spending trillions more dollars not only ignores present economic reality, but makes it certain that America will be fiscally weakened when it faces a future recession or national emergency.

In 2017, my Republican friends used the privileged legislative procedure of budget reconciliation to rush through a partisan tax bill that added more than $1 trillion to the national debt and put investors ahead of workers. Then, Democrats rightfully criticized this budgetary tactic. Now, my Democratic friends want to use this same budgetary tactic to push through sweeping legislation to make “historic investments.” Respectfully, it was wrong when the Republicans did it, and it is wrong now. If we want to invest in America, a goal I support, then let’s take the time to get it right and determine what is absolutely necessary.

Many in Washington have convinced themselves we can add trillions of dollars more to our nearly $29 trillion national debt with no repercussions. Regardless of political party, elected leaders are sent to Washington to make tough decisions and not simply go along to get along.

For those who will dismiss my unwillingness to support a $3.5 trillion bill as political posturing, I hope they heed the powerful words of Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who called debt the biggest threat to national security. His comments echoed the fear and concern I’ve heard from many economic experts I’ve personally met with.


At a time of intense political and policy divisions, it would serve us well to remember that members of Congress swear allegiance to this nation and fidelity to its Constitution, not to a political party. By placing a strategic pause on this budgetary proposal, by significantly reducing the size of any possible reconciliation bill to only what America can afford and needs to spend, we can and will build a better and stronger nation for all our families.

Monday, August 09, 2021

More news you can use....

from Nicole Nguyen.  Check out this article about consumer reviews on Amazon. 

I love the way that online commerce has democratized consumerism through usage of online reviews -- positive ones, negative ones and those that are simply informational.  

(Unfortunately, fake reviews and paid reviews continue to be a problem and Ms. Nguyen writes about that issue here).  

Computer vector created by pikisuperstar - www.freepik.com

Since the impact of negative reviews on sales is well understood; some merchants will essentially bribe the author of a negative review to delete their review, or harangue them with multiple e-mails.  

Fortunately, Amazon product reviews can be submitted anonymously to avoid unwanted merchant contact.  The article behind this post, provides the steps to take. 


Thursday, August 05, 2021

News you can use -- today's WSJ -- Tech section

 Columnist Nicole Nguyen shares an easy way to digitize your vaccination cards -- instead of a photo copy that might be harder to find.  Check out this article.  You'll find instructions for both iPhones and Android phones. 


Sunday, May 09, 2021

Corey Rieck is a gentleman I had the pleasure of speaking with several months ago after spotting his posts on LinkedIn, realizing we had a mutual connection and reaching out to him.  

Mr. Rieck routinely posts inspiring quotes and messages on LinkedIn.  

I don't know where he finds his material; but it's always properly attributed to the creator and it often contains very uplifting, even profound messages.  

This recent one is no exception...



Friday, April 30, 2021

Calling the market peak -- REVISITED

 Greetings!

Based upon feedback I received from one of my valued seven readers, what follows is a refinement of the views expressed in the previous post about market timing.  

Recall we're talking about predicting the direction of the equity market as a whole, or a large swath of it like the S&P 500 --- not individual stocks.

I didn't mean to imply that one cannot utilize deep experience and technical analysis to correctly predict a stock market peak (or trough) some of the time.  

There's an old saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day.  

However, who's consistently made these bold calls with enough accuracy to "beat" the market?  If you accept the proposition that the answer to that last question is nobody -- why would one ever wager more than they could afford to lose by trying?  

Vector created by pikisuperstar - www.freepik.com

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Think you can call the market peak? Think again.

I know most of my limitations.  I learned awhile ago, for example, that I'm not a stock picker.  I also learned that trying to predict the stock market's trajectory is a futile and dangerous exercise.  

One financial adviser whom I've known for decades (disclosure: we've been lifelong friends since childhood) addressed the oft-asked question -- When-will-the-stock-market-crash? -- in his recent client newsletter.  David C. Hoelke is a Minneapolis-based adviser with Focus Financial who wrote...   

"The chances of individuals guessing when the stock market is going to crash is approximately the same as my guessing when the sun is going to explode.  Since I can't reasonably hazard a guess, I prefer to go about my day without worrying about the sun exploding."


Animals vector by rawpixel.com - www.freepik.com

Friday, April 16, 2021

Living or dead, at their most interesting

It's an old parlor game...players trade names regarding whom they'd most like to invite to a fictional dinner party.  

Living or dead?  That's usually the first question a player will ask the host.  Without any regard for mortality, here's one person who'd automatically make my fantasy dinner invitation list....

2008 image, Wikipedia
NEIL PEART - the late percussionist and lyricist from the now retired, and vastly under-recognized Canadian Rock band-----Rush.  I've watched and read every interview I've been able to find featuring this notoriously private musician, lyricist and author.  

Sadly, Mr. Peart succumbed to brain cancer and passed away on January 7th, 2020 at the age of 67.  This post is dedicated to his memory.

As a drummer of the Rock n' Roll genre; IMO, Mr. Peart has few peers....living or dead.  

I'd count most of those Rock drummers on one hand: Stuart Copeland (The Police), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Phil Collins (early Genesis), Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience) and Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins).  

However, even if he hadn't been what Rush bandmate Geddy Lee called "such a f***ing monster musician", Mr. Peart still would've made my dinner list because of the way he conducted himself and how profoundly and clearly he expressed his views on topics through his lyrics, books and media interviews.  His self-discipline, keen observation and commitment to excellence have long inspired me.

He often struggled with fame and fan intrusiveness.  The Rush song called Limelight includes revealing Peart lyrics, 

"I have no heart to lie, I cannot pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend"  and later, "Cast in this unlikely role, ill-equipped to act, with insufficient tact. One must put up barriers to keep oneself intact."  

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He wrote seven books, all non-fiction works.  Some writings deal with personal themes like the healing process after the tragic death of his daughter Selena (car crash) and then within ten months -- the death of his first wife Jackie (Cancer).  

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I've read (and this is a 5/18/2021 update to my original post) his 2002 narrative: Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road which I can recommend.  

The book is a deeply personal and honest account of his own healing journey and battles with grief stemming from the aforementioned loss of his loved ones.  It's also a richly annotated travel tome from his 55,000 mile motorcycle trip across North America.  

I also recently finished reading his last book, Far and Wide: Bring That Horizon to Me! (2016) which I enjoyed even more than Ghost Rider.

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

A book about the people behind the Biltmore Estate

The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan 

Still the largest private residence ever constructed in the U.S. at 175,000 square feet; Biltmore Estate continues to hold public imagination.  I'd always thought mistakenly, that Biltmore was built at the behest of the family patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt (aka "The Commodore").  

In fact it was his grandson, George W. Vanderbilt, who acquired some 125,000 acres in North Carolina's western countryside among the Blue Ridge mountains, upon which the mansion was constructed. 

One alert, as other reviewers have noted, this book has less detail concerning the construction process, materials, architectural features and maintenance requirements of the structure, than one might've expected (and hoped for) from the title.  

A fuller indication of Ms. Kiernan's narrative focus is revealed by her subtitle, "The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home".  

For some stunning modern day visuals of the Biltmore estate (now part of a mere 8,000 acres at Ashville, NC); have a look at the Biltmore Company website found ­čáŐhere.