When fellow bloggers visit my site, I generally visit theirs; and I have sometimes found them worth following, at least, from time-to-time. Blogs that describe cooking, working for social causes, mental health issues among returning veterans, etc, can be both interesting and helpful. Also, they are generally not in a position to be harmful to the reader. Investment ideas, however, should clearly be presented—and read—as being for general information purposes only, and readers should be cautioned to seek their own specific advice!
No physician is going to treat you without having a detailed knowledge of your medical history—past, present and family. Likewise, an experienced financial advisor would not offer investment advice without knowing about: your family situation; financial picture; risk-tolerance; long-term goals; etc. But, when someone accepts even perceived “advice” on specific securities or financial strategies, from on-line blogs, TV “Informercials”, media articles, that information could truly be harmful.
Twenty years ago, “day-trading” was all the rage among investors who didn’t wish to learn before they plunged into the stock market. They spent the day (sometimes giving-up their jobs) buying and selling the same stocks (and settling accounts before each day’s market close), without knowing much about the companies—just the ticker symbols! Were they profitable, had experienced senior management, market leaders in their industries, etc? Just don’t bother them now with the facts! But, that craze has since gone the way of the Dutch Tulip Bubble of 1637.
Lastly, the Investment Marketplace today has changed significantly from when I joined it, in 1973. Our financial institutions have changed, American Industry has shifted from manufacturing-to-service-to digital, there are many more public companies and investment vehicles, and the whole world has gone global! And, don’t forget the significant jump in the volume and speed of information—credible or not—on a 24/7 basis.
This warrants a suitable comprehension of today’s marketplace within a proper historical context. Some things have changed, and others have not. But remember: there are no short-cuts to investing!
NOTE: There are a number of investment-related posts on this blog. Just click on the Investing or Investment Primer tags (to the right), and scroll through.
Once again, during last night’s (so-called) “Debate”, Donald Trump suggested a Corporate Tax Holiday, as the best way to tap into untaxed corporate dollars held overseas. Yes, that money could be brought back to the U.S, after paying a minimal tax, and added to the government coffers. But, do Tax Holidays really work in practice?
This is an oft-repeated Republican Mantra—a so-called “Win-Win”—both for the companies and the country. But, remember that the government can, in no way, mandate how corporations use their after-tax funds. Such holidays can be good for corporations, but not necessarily for the Nation.
The last Corporate Holiday brought back hundreds of billions of dollars, for which the corporations paid a tax rate of just 5.25%. Now, let’s assume that, if $1 trillion were repatriated, that would result in a mere $52.5 billion addition to the U.S. Treasury, or just 1.4% of the total 2015 U.S. Government Expenditures of $3.7 trillion. The corporations, for the most part, in 2005, did not expand their businesses or increase hiring; rather, they paid dividends to shareholders, re-purchased shares of their own stock and paid executive bonuses.
The Joint Committee on Taxation is a nonpartisan committee of the U. S. Congress. In previous studies, it had reported that, in the short-run (perhaps a couple of years), tax revenue increase following a Holiday; but, then they drop-off. In 2014, Mr. Thomas Barthold, the JCT Chief of Staff, wrote that: “A second repatriation holiday may be interpreted by firms as a signal that such holidays will become a regular part of the tax system, thereby increasing the incentives to retain earnings overseas,”
Lastly, let’s think of the many middle-class workers who feel that they have been left behind in the Economic Recovery, which began after 2008. They pay a Federal Income Tax rate of 15%-to-25%, and their wages are not even rising in-line with inflation, let alone them even getting a leg-up. So, while Corporate America may get a substantial Tax Holiday, from time-to-time, such events are grossly unfair to the ordinary taxpayer!
Over the last several decades, it seems that we are always in some variation of “These Troubled Times”; but, this Op-Ed will surely make you smile.
Linked from the Miami Herald, by Uri Dromi: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article109039097.html
In America today, and perhaps many other countries, the primary sources for news seems to vary with age. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 40% of Americans get, at least, some of their news on-line. Considering the primary news sources—TV, Internet, Radio and Print Newspapers—the twenty-somethings get 50% from the internet, and 27% from TV. The 65+ demographic’s primary sources , on the other hand, are 85% TV and 48% newspapers. (Remember: the Pew statistics reflect “Some of their news”, not “Most of their news”).
Over time, as the younger generation grows in proportion to the population, and successive generations follow, this disparity in news sourcing will change even further. No doubt, this shift in news sourcing is of concern for the Journalism and Media industries; however, given the current heated political environment, this divergence will, no doubt, add more confusion to the election process every four years. The Pew report is linked, as follows: http://www.journalism.org/2016/07/07/the-modern-news-consumer/pj_2016-07-07_modern-news-consumer_1-01/.
To an extent, the differences in where various demographics receive their news will lead to a confusing Tower of Babel; especially, when the complexity of many of today’s major issues is also factored in. Consider what major concerns might face the next President: the Federal budget process; global warming; potential global pandemics; cyber-warfare; nuclear proliferation; and the economy, just to name a few. Listening to, and reading from, knowledgeable and politically-unbiased news sources are the only way to even begin to understand such topics.
Just consider the United Kingdom, where the Brexit Movement caused many working-class Britons to vote, on June 23, to leave the European Union. Only a few days later, however, once they realized that they had been sold a bill-of-goods, some Brits started marching in the streets, asking to vote again. Unfortunately, they had not realized when it counted, that the promises they were given were hollow, the economists were right and, by then, the Brexit Leaders had strayed out of the limelight. It was too late!
There’s nothing wrong with whatever you watch or read, from any news source; but, make sure that, when you cast your vote during this coming election, you can decipher between fact and fiction. For comprehensive analysis on many of the important issues, I would suggest the following sources: NY Times; Washington Post; Chicago Tribune; Miami Herald; CBNC-TV; Bloomberg; AP; The Guardian (UK); the U. S. CDC; the U. S. CFPB; or many other US Government web sites.
NOTE: Don’t worry about reading a “Mainstream Media” source. In many cases, that’s just political code for saying that it’s reporters ask too many pointed questions.
Given the frivolous manner in which Donald Trump has been dismissing allegations, by seven women now, and counting, of sexual misconduct and assault, I can only wonder about his mental stability. And consider that Trump is currently lashing-out at virtual enemies, at all hours of the night, on Twitter. But, I am truly concerned about the role of the President in unleashing our Nuclear Arsenal!
Bruce G. Blair, was a young military officer during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, between Israel and neighboring Arab states. He and a crewmate, another 20-something, were in an underground missile launch center in Montana, armed with the laugh keys and codes. They had been ordered to prepare for nuclear war with the Soviet Union! Mr. Blair’s recent Op-Ed, in the NY Times, is linked as follows: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/12/opinion/trump-and-the-nuclear-keys.html.
At the time, President Richard M. Nixon was suffering from severe depression throughout the on-going Watergate events, and drinking quite heavily. Now consider, would anyone feel comfortable, especially in a Time of Crisis, knowing that the President could launch ICBMs at his (or her) discretion, in such an impaired state? Well, under our Constitution, no one can veto a launch order from a President—even a temperamental Donald J. Trump.
Luckily, President Nixon had two trusted and capable advisors: Henry A. Kissinger and James R. Schlesinger, the National Security Advisor and Secretary of Defense, respectively. They instructed the generals that they should only take orders from them since they were running the show that night. Now, just consider who among Donald Trump’s closest advisors would you trust to step-in, in such a situation? In fact, Trump does not have even one close advisor who has National Security experience!
Many of Donald Trump’s actions, comments, assertions and lies—each by themselves—are horrific and disgraceful. But, just remember that term “Nuclear Triad”, which Senator Marco Rubio had to explain to Trump, during one of the Primary Debates: that’s the combined air, sea and land nuclear missile delivery systems? Also, a number of nations have them now, so when the nukes start flying, everyone will probably join in!
A primary cause of The Great Recession, the financial melt-down of late 2007 until early 2009, was the lax regulation of the banking industry—especially among the largest ones, both here and abroad. Due to the depth of that recession, the Recovery, at least in the U. S., has been slow, but continuous. Overseas, however, many nations are still struggling in their recovery efforts.
On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers, one of the largest investment banks in the U. S., filed for Chapter 11 protection, and that event served as the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. The actual economic slide had already begun in October of the year before, when the stock market peaked and started a descent that lasted until early March of 2009. When President Barack Obama took office, in January of 2009, he called for legislation to rein-in the banks and provide stronger regulation. First proposed in June of 2009, President Obama signed Dodd-Frank into law, on July 21, 2010.
Wells Fargo is the current symbol of egregious banking activities. The bank had been caught opening unauthorized bank accounts and credit cards for customers, from which the bank’s retail revenue benefitted. Whatever the reason, Wells Fargo created the environment, and paid bonuses for employees to carry-out this fraudulent scam. But, other banks have been performing similar unauthorized activities too!
The Dodd-Frank Legislation, among many other things, created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB, which was Senator Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild, before she was a Senator, is the agency that uncovered the Wells Fargo illegal scam. No doubt, a customer of Wells Fargo, or perhaps more than one, probably reported the scam to the agency. The CFPB is an important consumer safeguard against all financial institutions treating their clients’ unfairly. The web link is: http://www.consumerfinance.gov.)
Oddly, in today’s political environment, Secretary Hillary Clinton has been accused of considering Wall Street as a “Special Interest Group”. Let’s not forget, however, that President Barack Obama also accepted campaign contributions from the Financial Services Industry, and he still called-for banking reform, and he also signed Dodd-Frank into Law. Currently, banks appear to have realized that greater regulation will be forthcoming; however, they are totally afraid of Donald Trump’s suggested Isolationism and Protectionism.
Former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf (having just resigned yesterday) recently appeared before several Congressional Committees, and the attacks on him, and the bank, were both bipartisan, and quite angry. But, some of those Congressmen and Senators were really taking that tact for the hometown audience. After the hearings, the Republican members will probably return to their normal ideological voting agenda.
The Republicans in Congress have been trying to reduce the impact of what Dodd-Frank is intended to do, or to repeal it all-together. The current GOP Candidate for President has vowed to repeal Dodd-Frank, and so had mostly every other candidate in the GOP Primaries. That pledge is also frequently mentioned by other Republicans in the Halls of Congress.
How many times have we heard Republicans talk about eliminating the Federal Reserve, repealing Dodd-Frank and doing away with all regulation, in general? If there is another emergency, such as The Great Recession of just a few years ago—or perhaps something even worse—who or what will guarantee our bank deposits? Who would make sure that the banking system doesn’t take un-due risks? That banks have sufficient capital—think emergency reserves—to weather any storm? This would be where the Fed, Dodd-Frank and the CFPB would safeguard our very way of life!
Before I start: Let me point-out that I am not a Mental Health Care Professional.
I had already decided not to write any more about Donald J. Trump since he seems to be self-destructing right before our eyes. But On October 3, before the Retired American Warriors, a group of military veterans, in Herndon, Virginia, he stated that military (and veterans) who develop mental health issues, are not “strong” and “can’t handle it”. He went on to suggest that others saw many of the same things, like the members of his audience; but they were strong, and could handle it. Now, that’s coming from a Draft-Dodger!
What Trump said certainly didn’t help those in the mental health care field, who have been trying to remove the stigma surrounding mental health issues for decades, and to move it out into the mainstream. Although similar issues abound in civilian life, the difficulty in encouraging diagnosis and treatment is more greater in the military, where strength and bravery are celebrated.
Several years ago, I ran across a blog by Steve Rose, Ph.D., a Canadian psychologist, who has done a great deal of research on PTSD among Canadian soldiers returning from Afghanistan. I have linked his most recent blog post, in which he specifically reports some of his findings regarding the average 22 man suicide rate in the U. S: https://steveroseblog.com/2016/08/27/who-are-the-22-veterans/.
I personally found the VA chart, which Steve included, that provides a demographic break-down, in ten-year age groupings, of suicide rates for both civilians and veterans, to be of great interest. The chart reflects the percentage of suicides in each of these groups, between 2009 and 2010, broken-down by the age demographics. Take a few moments to study the table from the report. Can you spot what is happening?
Notice the Main Finding, right below the chart: 69% of the veteran suicide rate is among those 50 years old, and older.
In his research, Steve began to look behind the numbers. The non-veteran suicide rate is higher than that of the veterans, up until the 50-59 year-old demographic, during which the veterans group shifts slightly higher. In the next age group, 60-to-69, the suicide rate for Civilians drops significantly, while that of Veterans remains relatively higher.
As I look at this chart, I can only make two unprofessional observations:
1. The suicide rate for civilians is significantly higher in the younger age groups, than that of the veterans. Then, they appear to criss-cross—with civilians veering lower and veterans remaining relatively higher in the older demographic.
2. The fairly-consistent, higher suicide rate among older veterans, at least to me, suggests that military service might have something to do with the different outcomes. I am assuming that the veterans’ statistic might be more skewed toward “lifers”, who retired within the past ten-to-fifteen years, after having served for 20-to-30.
As Professor Rose points-out, there are a number of factors, which come into play, regarding the suicide rate among veterans. I will leave the possible medical reasons for the professionals; but, let’s consider the various societal reasons that might be causing suicide among veterans. Research indicates that the rate is highest among white males, with a high school diploma.
There are some gender-related factors, such as the male focus on masculinity, competitiveness and accomplishment. Oftentimes, men tend to be more geared toward work, hobbies or other “instrumental” activities, whereas women—with that maternal instinct—are somewhat less competitive, have greater empathy, and are more societal in nature. Professor Rose points out that there can be a loneliness factor among men, whereas women tend to have more social relationships that provide some protection from depression.
A major problem for some military veterans is making the transition into civilian life. In the service, oftentimes your co-workers might be your neighbors, or people you see around the post or a small town, on a regular basis. That communal atmosphere can take-on greater significance in overseas assignments, and yet be even higher yet in combat units, where each member of the unit’s life depends upon the others.
As I consider what I have read on Steve Rose’s blog, as well as other things regarding communal and even tribal societies, with regard to returning veterans, I have the following points to make:
1. Having a support group—family, friends, co-workers—can help prevent depression.
2. Finding a job helps and, if necessary, use the GI Bill to gain job skills.
3. In the current All-Volunteer Military, roughly only one percent of Americans are either serving in the military, or has a family member that is. The makes the transition, from military to civilian life, that much more difficult.
4. I wonder if education beyond high school, possibly reflecting greater job skills, has any effect on the outcome?
NOTE: Ladies, I am not in any way suggesting that you cannot be intelligent, accomplished and focused!