Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Social Statistics

This is a random selection of statistics some of you might find interesting. The numbers may not be exactly right today, as the results are reported over the last several years. The oldest data is from the 2010 census.  

One in five families in the United States have no one working.

Forty percent of children are being raised by single parents.

Only forty-six percent of children live in a traditional family. A traditional family is one in which children are living with two biological parents, where one is the bread-winner and the other manages the household.

Only 25% of high school freshmen graduate on time.

There are 2,000 schools in the United States that graduate less than 60% of their students. The ineffective schools account for 50% of all high school dropouts in the United States.

High school drop outs make $200,000 less in their lifetime than high school graduates.

High school dropouts make $1,000,000 less in their lifetime than college graduates.

Public state college tuition is currently about $24,000 per year. Private college tuition is about $47,000 per year.

The labor force participation rate is 62.7%, which reflects 93,000,000 people out of the labor force.

Our national debt is $19,000,000,000. This amounts to $161,000 for each taxpayer. Our national debt increases $500,000,000 every year.

There are about 250,000 protestant churches in the United States. Almost 200,000 of them are stagnant or shrinking in membership. About 4,000 churches shut down each year.

About 6% of our population is atheist and about 20% of the population is not affiliated with any religious organization.

Social Security and Medicare will collapse in the next 20 years without significant changes. Our Congress has known about this problem for 25 years and have been unable to get an agreement to solve the problem.

About 68% of Americans have no retirement plan, except Social Security.

As many as 50 municipalities each year go bankrupt because of the exorbitant pension plans. A few states are also in jeopardy.



Monday, April 25, 2016

The Worst Amendment

I have stated many times that I think the people that wrote our Constitution were amazingly far sighted. They were also people with strong opinions and with the help of a few compromisers like Ben Franklin, I think got it right most of the time. One testament to that is that the Constitution has only been amended 27 times in over 200 years.

If we omit: Amendments 1-10 -- the Bill of Rights ratified in 1791; Amendments 15, 19, 24 & 26 -- the voting rights amendments that are implied by the Constitution; amendments 12, 20, 22 & 25 – four amendments pertaining to the President and presidential elections; and amendments 18 & 21 – wasted amendments for prohibition and its repeal. That leaves only seven times our Constitution has been amended to change the way government affects us in over 200 years. That is phenomenal. No other constitution in the world has had greater success.

I would like to think the 16th is the worst, but I do not think so. The 16th may be the most hated, because it established the income tax. I do not like it, but I do not think it is the worst.

I think the 17th Amendment is our worst, most damaging amendment. This is the amendment that changed the way U. S Senators got into office.

Article II, section 3, clauses 1 and 2 describe the ways Senators get into office. Clause 1 says that two Senators will be appointed by the legislatures of each state for a six-year term. Clause 2 says the Senators will be divided into 3 groups so only 1/3 of the Senators are up for replacment at every two year interval.

Having Senators appointed by the individual state legislatures guaranteed the state governments some control or influence over legislation on the national level. This was a great idea and was a direct result of the proponents of state’s rights compromising with proponents of a stronger central government.

The two major problems resulted from state legislatures appointing Senators. The first was corruption. It was felt by some that people of wealth were buying Senate appointments and corrupting the process. This was probably true in a few cases. The second problem was deadlocked legislatures. Some legislatures could not agree on who to appoint to the Senate and that struggle kept legislatures from doing state business, often for entire years. I am not saying these were not serious problems, but I think they were resolvable. Instead of addressing these individual issues and solving specific problems, a choice was made to change the Constitution to elect Senators by popular vote – they threw out the baby with the bath water.

The 17th amendment left us with no one in Washington, DC to fight for states’ rights. The federal government was no longer limited to enumerated powers as the Constitution states. Does anyone think the corruption went away? Now the Congress and the President extend their powers with each passing year. Laws passed by state governments are being overturned by federally appointed judges. State legislatures are becoming less and less relevant. This is bad news.

The framers of our Constitution had it right the first time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Where Is the Truth?

I find that in our divisive situation today that many people are not interested in what is true. They are only interested in hearing and reading things that support what they believe. That is a bad and sad place to trap yourself. We have campuses of schools and universities in this country that do not want to allow any dissenting opinions to what the students and faculty believe. Let me state that a different way. Our universities that were created with the intent to improve knowledge are now at the forefront of stopping education. Do you see the irony here? There is no education in having your beliefs reinforced. Once that decision is made there is no longer a use for dialog.

I find that in political and social issues most people do not want to know the truth. They believe what they believe and no amount of truth will convince them to change their mind. Me, I am still interested in what actually is true. In order for me to continue to think I know the truth, I have to listen and understand opposing arguments. Most of the things people believe are because of the choices of what to hear during their lives.

I am sure most of you have heard the Mark Twain quotation about newspapers. “You can not read the paper and be uninformed or read the paper and be misinformed.” Well Mark has been gone for a while. Nowadays you can be misinformed by television, radio, magazines and the internet. A few newspapers still have some sway, but their loyal readers are among the most misinformed. The sad thing is that the readers do not understand they are being fed propaganda, not news.

Where do you look for the truth? Not in politics. We hear people in both parties denying they said things that we can watch them say in video and audio. We used to have politicians that made empty promises. Now we have politicians – our leadership that tell absolute lies. It is sad, but it is not going away until we demand it go away by our election choices.

Newspapers and TV news is mostly propaganda for a position they believe. They no longer investigate. Investigative journalism is all but dead. Reporters find quotations or statements that support their point of view and repeat them verbatim. Again, sad, but true. Belief in the news media is about 6% today.

How many of you believe the gas mileage numbers manufacturers put on new cars? Most of us learned about that lie 30 years ago. How about drug manufacturers? They have been lying about test results and hiding information from the government and the populace since they went into business. Do you suppose the people at the FDA do not know the truth? Of course they do.

I recently read an e-magazine article, “Scientific Regress” written by William A. Wilson and published in the news magazine at www.firstthings.com. It is worth reading. It discusses many areas in the scientific community falsifying data and making claims of results that cannot be duplicated. This is not science this is BS. It covers most sciences -- psychology, pharmaceuticals, medicine and physics.

Where do you find the truth? It is not for free. The first step is a willingness to look inside of yourself. If you are not willing to challenge everything you believe, your education period is over. You are stuck at the level of knowledge already achieved. Personally, I am not ready to claim perfection. I take strong positions and listen to dissenting opinions. I am always skeptical. I also do not mind being wrong, if you can prove it to me. I will change my mind if you can convince me. I do not mind doing some research, if data is actually available. For me, what I believe IS the truth -- until I know better.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bush and Paulson

The Bush administration seemed oblivious to the looming financial problems. Bush, along with his predecessors thought getting low-income people into their own home was a good idea. He arranged for $600 billion to be made available to first time home buyers, with up to $100,000 available to each first-time buyer of a new home. This put another six million families into homes they could not afford.

All for profit companies are going to try and make a profit – this includes commercial corporations, banks, insurance companies and stock markets. Profit is their purpose for existence. They do not stop trying for success just because the government changes the rules. The government’s job is oversight to assure the business are run fairly and do not take advantage of consumers. Oversight was completely ignored for over thirty years for what sounds like noble goals – i.e., getting low income people into their own home.

A disaster was set-up and now the time had come to pay the piper. The government was forcing banks and mortgage companies to make loans to people that could not afford them. Banking intuitions and stock trading companies were merging and bad mortgage loans had crept into most stock portfolios throughout the world. In order to avoid losses bad loans were bundled in with good stocks to make saleable packages and they sold them. These packages were called Credit-Default Swap (CDS) derivatives and there was no transparency in that market.

Henry (Hank) M. Paulson, Jr. was the Bush Secretary of the Treasury. He recognized there were problems early in his tenure and tried to manage the situation. By 2007 it was too late. When Bear-Stearns was on the verge of collapse, the Chinese stepped in and bailed out the company. Paulson was trying to make a similar deal to save Lehman Brothers, but his attempt to get Bank of America or Barclays’s of London to step up and bail out Lehman fell through. The collapse was on the way and unstoppable at that late date. Paulson wrote a book about his efforts to save the world economy called “On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Global Financial System.”

Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve, in an unprecedented move, went into action to help a Democrat president by issuing money and cutting the prime lending rate to near zero. The Fed continues with this practice through Janet Yellen. They have killed the bond market and caused stock prices to soar without the value normally associated with growth. A stock market crash is imminent, because most stocks are over-valued. The Fed does not know how to recover from their foolhardy efforts to help the economy.   

The world economy collapsed, yet companies too big to fail still exist. Nothing has been fixed. Obama through HUD is still forcing banks to make loans to people that cannot afford them. The only thing preventing another crash is that we have not recovered from the last one. The table is still set for disaster. As soon as we get a president that will actually grow the economy, it will not grow for long unless some of the problems are addressed.

The Bush administration seemed oblivious to the problem. They may not have caused it, but they should have recognized it. They may have been aware, but the public was certainly kept in the dark. Wishful thinking is not an effective strategy. One thing a Republican presidency always gives us is a scapegoat.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Freddie, Fannie and Barney

I am much in favor of all people having an affordable place to live. I do not think it is reasonable for the government to expect for profit organizations to take a loss to implement government goals. Social engineering is not well done by committee, which is basically what our government acts like. Social engineering is most effective when done by dictators, who are quite willing to murder all detractors.

In 1998 Andrew Cuomo, the HUD Secretary under Clinton announced a discrimination suit settlement against Accubanc Mortgage Corporation of Dallas, Texas that forced the company to pay a fine of $2.1 billion for not making loans to minorities who could not afford to repay the money. Yes. The government was making it clear that it expected loans to be made to minorities that could not afford the loans. 

In 1999 the Gramm-Leach-Biley Act (GLBA) repealed two portions of US Banking Act of 1933 removing restrictions on affiliations between banks and security firms. Making the combination of Citigroup permanently legal. Unfortunately, GLBA failed to provide SEC oversight in the bill, so there was no regulation. The bill also allowed officers of one company to serve as officers in other companies that were in completely divergent businesses. Now all the pieces were in place for disaster.

The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1998, signed into law by Clinton greatly expanded the number of people that banks and mortgage companies must provide housing loans they could not afford.

By the time GW Bush got into office there were already millions of people in homes they could not afford and foreclosures were on the increase.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began speculating that the government would make good on these bad loans and started buying these bad mortgages from banks all over the country. The defaults continued to increase and the government was not taking action to resolve the problem. Freddie and Fannie, along with commercial banks and mortgage companies started bundling these sub-prime loans into stock packages with some good loans they could trade on the open market. By hiding the bad loans among other items in the packages, the bad loans got into most of the stock portfolios.

HUD community organizers and independent community organizers working for and with Acorn were badgering and coercing banks all over the country to keep giving mortgage loans to people that could not afford them.

Economists and regulators recognized the problem and tried to warn congress. Barney Frank was head of the Banking Committee in the House of Representatives and was well aware that a problem was brewing in the housing industry. Frank was a big advocate for getting people with lower incomes into houses. As early as 2003 he openly recognized the problem by stating, “I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation toward subsidized housing.” And roll the dice he did at our expense. Being highly respected for his position and refusing to slow the problem, Frank was a major cause of the severity of the crash.

My feeling is that the government should get out of the social engineering business – which is all that takes place within Housing and Urban Development. This agency should be replaced by an organization that actually provides the means for people with lower income to acquire housing. Noble goals often create disastrous outcomes, as was the crash of 2007-2008.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Causes of the 2008 Housing Crisis

People like to blame the housing crisis on 2007-2008 on George Bush and his administration. Bush is certainly not blameless, but he was only one small piece of the puzzle of events leading up to the crash. Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, GHW Bush, Bill Clinton, the 102nd and 106th congresses, Barney Frank, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the two government backed home loan groups are also highly culpable. A series of government missteps over 30 years guided us into the crash.

Back before lobbyists made so much money available to politicians, banking regulations were based on common sense. This was the time when the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932 and the US Banking Act of 1933 were written and signed into law by Herbert Hoover. The names are used interchangeably, but when people talk about Glass-Steagall, they are referring to four provisions of the Banking Act that dealt with preventing commercial banks affiliation with securities firms.  The laws were sponsored by two Democrats, Senator Carter Glass of Virginia and Representative Henry Steagall of Alabama.

The Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 signed by Eisenhower gave the Federal Reserve board of governors approval authority over establishment of Bank holding companies.

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 was signed into law by Jimmy Carter. The purpose of this act was to make it easier for low-income households to get mortgages. The act got the ball rolling toward the financial crisis of 2007-2008, but there were more government missteps to occur before the table was completely set. Again, the government goals can be noble and still cause disastrous outcomes.

The Housing and Community Development act of 1992 required HUD to set goals for getting minorities that could not afford houses into houses anyway. Real brainpower at work here. This noble but stupid idea was signed into law by GHW Bush.

The banking lobby was providing lots of money to lobbyists for distribution to congress persons. The Bank Holding Company law was overturned by the Riegle Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Act of 1994, which Bill Clinton signed into law.

In 1994 a young Chicago lawyer named Barack Hussein Obama filed a class-action lawsuit against Citicorp for not making loans to people in minority communities at the same rate as in other communities. Trouble was a-brewing.

In 1998 Citicorp merged with Traveler’s Group into Citigroup, which combined banking, securities and insurance services into one company. The group consisted of Citibank, Travelers, Smith Barney and Primerica. This was clearly illegal under Glass-Steagall and the now-repealed Bank Holding Company Acts. The Federal Reserve gave Citigroup a temporary waiver. Soon after, President Clinton declared Glass-Steagall defunct.

Are you starting to see the picture here?  Government agencies are trying to put minorities into homes they cannot afford and punishing banks and mortgage companies that will not go along with this ill-conceived plan. Most of the pieces for disaster were already in place long before GW Bush was elected.

Next: Fannie, Freddie and Barney

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Tale of Two Speeches

Edward Everett was a former Harvard professor and served as president of Harvard. He was a former U.S. Representative and a former Senator. He was a former governor of Massachusetts and had served as a minister to Great Britain. He was also a great and well-known orator and was asked to give a dedication speech at the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA on November 11, 1963. This dedication was for the re-burial of soldiers that died during the battle on July 1-3, 1863. The dais was actually set up in the privately owned Evergreen Cemetery adjacent to the cemetery being dedicated. Everett’s speech was 13,607 words long and took two hours to deliver. Long orations were common practice at that time and often occurred at funerals. It was intended to be the Gettysburg Address.

Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak and dedicated the grounds of the national cemetery. Lincoln came in from Washington, DC on a train. He was feeling ill and dizzy as he jotted down thoughts about what he would say at the dedication. Lincoln had three cabinet members riding with him on the train, so he may have gotten a little help from his friends. Lincoln’s speech was around 250 words long and took about two minutes to deliver.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg address reads like poetry. In two minutes’ time, Lincoln reiterated the founding principles of our country, gave a tribute to the soldiers and explained why we were at war and the expected outcome.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln stayed ill for several weeks after the speech – he was thought to have a mild case of smallpox. Everett wrote a book about the ceremony in 1864. His speech, Lincoln’s speech and a map of the battlefield was included in his book. He recognized the power of Lincoln’s words. Everett died in January 1865.

 Lincoln was wrong about one thing – we do remember some of what was said on that day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Common Sense

People normally do not appreciate things given to them. I don't understand why so many people in government do not understand this common sense notion. As soon as anything becomes an entitlement the quest begins for the next freebie. These gifts are always short sighted and unsustainable.

A noble effort to get people into houses they could not afford caused the near-collapse of the world economy. This collapse was caused by the United States and every economy in the world is still struggling. Washington politicians blame Europe for the slow recovery. Anyone that has watched the world economy for the last fifty years knows the world cannot possible recover until the United States recovers.

Corporations waste time and money by hiring consultants. Supervisors, managers and higher executives often crush innovation because they don't recognize the value of an idea. What corporations try to do is use ideas they see as successful in other companies or in other sections of their own corporation. The problem with this thinking is the individual with the original idea has visualized a method for success. Without that vision and a concerned person fighting for it, there is no success.

You may pass on an idea, but passing on a vision is considerably more difficult. Handing off an idea to someone else for implementation is a tremendous waste of effort. Corporate leaders pass ideas to district managers who relay the ideas local managers. They in turn hand off the idea to supervisors to issue to workers for implementation. All good consultants know the problems companies and corporations face are due to management decisions, but they usually don't get hired by pointing this out.      

Small business owners normally think for themselves, because they can't afford to waste time or money. Entrepreneurs are successful because of hard work, an innovative idea or both. Timely decisions are essential for success and profit margins are slim. A simple 5% increase in tax rate shuts down some businesses and prevents others from starting.

There is a trend now to push for minimum wage increases for people that add little to the profit of businesses. I like states making this effort. It gives other states an opportunity to observe and see the results. If the wage increases cause the state economy to improve or decline, other states react to the circumstance. Watch for more robots replacing people.

Private sector labor unions were taught this lesson many years ago. In order to keep a seat at the negotiating table, unions officials have to keep demanding more. The result is fewer and fewer union workers in the private sector. I have never understood why people can take company wages to sustain and improve their family situation for 30 years, then retire and complain about the company that paid them. Then, they praise the unions which they paid to help decrease the number of union workers. Public sector unions are driving most big cities in the country into bankruptcy. Want to guess who gets the blame? The next Republican elected.

I am much against the federal government managing the minimum wage. We cannot regulate or legislate our way to prosperity. Prosperity normally happens when the government gets out of the way of business. Wages increase naturally in two ways. Labor adds more value to the product or labor is scarce creating a competition employers cannot ignore. The members of the National Chamber of Commerce want a lot of immigrants that offer them cheap labor and more customers. They found a president and congress that will honor their wishes. The problem with this thinking is more people out of work and decreasing wages. We are watching lack of common sense in action. We keep supporting the people that are hurting us. We deserve what we get, because of who we choose to elect. We can do better. We can do a lot better. Anyone seen any common sense lately?

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Music Genres

My son, A.J. Boozer has started writing his music blog again. In support of his efforts, I am going to display my knowledge of music. Kathi and I watch “The Voice” and “American Idol,” and we usually know ahead of time who will win. We are probably in the 80% range guessing which singer will win these competitions. Our selections are almost totally based on who we think has the best voice. Of course we do realize song selection plays a big role in our judging ability. We try not to think about who the young boys and girls cheer for the most, since what they find appealing in young singers is not the same as what we find appealing.

Some of the questions we hear a lot from the judges on these shows are, “What kind of music do you see yourself doing?” “What type of music do you sing?” These questions are always interesting to me, because I do not know what the choices are for an answer. I can tell you most of what I know about music in a few words. I know:

and maybe a few other music words that really mean little to me. Maybe A. J. will explain some of these things to us as he writes.

This s a list of music genres I hear about, so I guess they are common in the music business. I do not have a clue as to what type of music goes into each category. In no particular order:
I like all kinds of music. My favorite song is a country song called "Always on My Mind" sung by Willie Nelson, but I also like "Extreme Ways" by Moby. The only categories I know for sure are:

I like it.
I don’t like it.

Thanks for your indulgence. Use the following link to read AJ’s music blog: rockandroll.arlonhboozer.com