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A Simple Man

I am a simple man with simple tastes living in a complex world. Once upon a time the world was a simpler place. We knew the food we ate and the road we traveled. We trusted the news and those who brought it to us. But simple is not in the nature of man.

Take the United States for example. The premise in the beginning was simple: freedom. But it wasn’t simple as soon as the words left the Founding Fathers’ mouths. Men wanted to be free while holding slaves. It led to Civil War. Women waited until 1920 for the right to have their voice heard.

But this story isn’t about morality. This story is about complexity and how quickly it enters life. A simple thought—freedom—was not as simple as it sounded. The nation needed to declare independence, fight a Revolutionary War and write a Constitution. And that was the simple part.

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Higher Interest Rates Will Cause Inflation

There was a time not that long ago when people believed higher interest rates slowed the economy, caused higher unemployment, dampened demand and put pressure on prices. The Federal Reserve in the United States and Central Banks around the planet held this belief tight to the chest. When the economy overheated, causing inflation to creep up, the Fed would start increasing interest rates until demand weakened as consumers faced higher borrowing costs.

The opposite also held true. Low interest rates were thought to spark strong economic growth as lower interest rates freed cash in family budgets for more spending while encouraging businesses to ramp up production with cheap credit. Since the Great Depression this theory held true and worked, even if slowly, in controlling economic activity. Then we had the twin recessions of the early 1980s.

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The Mistake Obama and Trump Both Made

Eight years ago Barack Obama was hitting full stride in his first term as President. The economy was in tatters. The banking industry was only beginning to come to terms with the level of bad loans they had on their books. The largest insurance company (AIG) required a bailout to survive; the largest domestic automakers needed a bailout to preserve jobs; nearly every bank required assistance and every money center bank actually took assistance to weather the storm. This easily could have been another Great Depression.

So what did President Obama do in this desperate environment? Why, tackle health care reform, of course.

Every President has a short window of opportunity to build a coalition at the beginning of their Presidency to pass a key piece—or if lucky, several pieces—of legislation. These are the tough issues, things like major infrastructure investments and tax reform.

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Why Trade Wars Never Work

An old nemesis has returned to the United States and other nations around the planet: protectionism. These leaders, and the voters who bought their snake oil, falsely believe protecting their borders by building walls, taxing imports, claiming currency manipulation and threatening to dissolve trade agreements will bring jobs back home. They’re wrong.

What these well-intentioned people forget are the lessons of history. They forget about The Tariff Act of 1930, also known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, the one piece of legislation that hastened, accelerated and prolonged The Great Depression. People forget about the jobs created that did not exist before due to current trade agreements and the lower prices consumers paid for goods and services.

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Kill the Economy and You Will Not Even Notice

It does not take long when you wander the blogs of the ‘retire early’ community before you hear the common refrain: If everybody did this stuff it would kill the economy. To which I promptly call bullshit.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett managed to not spend over $100 billion of their money over the last few decades and the economy has done fine. In the 1950s the savings rate was much higher and the economy more vibrant. When the research is reviewed there is no doubt excessive debt, a low savings rate and excessive spending have more to do with an anemic economy than any responsible spending will do.

People look for any excuse they can to remain married to their poor habits and lack of self-control. It is easier to complain about successful people than it is to take responsibility for your own actions. Somehow these people have been bullshitted for so long they actually think poverty is the only way to keep the economy going. Really? They think the only way to survive is to spend every nickel they have. They think living on the financial edge of ruin from the first light breeze is what makes the economy purr and provides job security. Where does this nonsense come from?

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In Support of Law Enforcement

It breaks my heart when I hear reports of police shooting and killing an unarmed black man. This morning I read a report where a police officer in West Virginia was fired because he did NOT kill a man demanding to be shot, a so-called suicide-by-cop incident. Readers of this blog are aware I live in the county where the trial of Steven Avery took place; the topic of the Making a Murderer documentary on Netflix.

Black people are incensed by the killing of unarmed black men by police; they should be. White people are also killed by police, but there does seem to be a bias toward “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality when black men are involved. For a while it looked like retaliation killings of police officers at random would accelerate. It seems to have died down (or I miss the news reports).

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How Fast Does Inflation Rise?

Media continually warns of impending inflation due to all the money printing by central banks around the world. The concern is real. If inflation spikes bonds will suffer massive loses and stocks will also suffer a painful decline. It is past time we look at the facts about inflation, how fast it rises, and what causes prices to spike.

Planning for retirement and when reviewing investments, inflation is a consideration. A review of historical inflation data will help in the decision-making process. By reviewing the historical data also clearly shows why inflation accelerates, including solutions to protect yourself. We will focus on inflation data in the U.S. I have reviewed price data for other countries and further back than the U.S. data. The conclusions are the same.

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Living Without Money, the Spending Fast and Buy Nothing Day

The Western word is being destroyed by a select group of people determined to live within their means. From artist Ted Dave and his Buy Nothing Day movement to Daniel Suelo who decided to live without money to Jeff Yeager and his spending fast to Mr. Money Mustache and his grand scheme to keep spending low, even when income rises, we face the greatest economic crisis of our generation. Or are we?

All too often we act as if the economy were an actual living being. It is not. The economy is only a construct of the human imagination. Can you image any animal living in crisis because their local economy collapsed? Even humans, thousands of years ago, did not worry about this crazy thing we call the economy. Somewhere between there and here we convinced the vast majority of people they are duty bound to feed this imaginary beast.

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