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April 23, 2017 | Angst in America, Part 5: The Crisis We Can’t Muddle Through

“The ship of democracy, which has weathered all storms, may sink through the mutiny of those on board.” – Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States “It is your concern when your neighbor’s wall is on fire.” – Horace “The biggest mistake investors make is to believe that what happened in […]

April 17, 2017 | Angst in America, Part 4: Disappearing Pensions

“Companies are doing everything they can to get rid of pension plans, and they will succeed.” – Ben Stein “Lady Madonna, children at your feet Wonder how you manage to make ends meet Who finds the money when you pay the rent? Did you think that money was heaven sent?” – “Lady Madonna,” The Beatles […]

April 9, 2017 | Stock Market Valuations and Hamburgers

“To refer to a personal taste of mine, I’m going to buy hamburgers the rest of my life. When hamburgers go down in price, we sing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ in the Buffett household. When hamburgers go up in price, we weep. For most people, it’s the same with everything in life they will be buying […]

April 3, 2017 | Angst in America, Part 3: Retiring Broke

“The trouble with retirement is you never get a day off.” – Abe Lemons “Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.” – George Burns “To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, […]

March 28, 2017 | Men Without Work

I have been promising a review of Nicholas Eberstadt’s very important book, Men Without Work: America’s Invisible Crisis. The book is relatively short at 216 pages, but it is packed with meaty facts and insights. One of the reasons I seldom read an actual physical book anymore is because I can highlight text and make […]

March 20, 2017 | Angst in America, Part 1: Aimless Men

“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” – Harry S. Truman “Unemployment is a weapon of mass destruction.” – Dennis Kucinich “Ever since 2000, basic indicators have offered oddly inconsistent readings on America’s economic performance and prospects. It is […]

March 9, 2017 | Tax Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly — Part Five

“A tax loophole is something that benefits the other guy. If it benefits you, it is tax reform” – Russell B. Long “Corporate tax reform is nice in theory but tough in practice.” – Andrew Ross Sorkin “I hold it that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in […]

March 1, 2017 | Tax Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly—Part Four

“The values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs over adversity.” – Jared Diamond, Collapse, 2005 Tax reform means, “Don’t tax you, don’t tax me. Tax that fellow behind the tree.” – Russell B. Long, Democratic Senator from Louisiana, longtime chairman […]

February 19, 2017 | Tax Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly—Part Three

“We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes nonwork.” – Milton Friedman “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi “Real change requires real change.” – Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich Today we come to part 3 of my tax reform series. So far, […]

February 13, 2017 | Tax Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Part Two

“Taxation is the price we pay for failing to build a civilized society.” – Mark Skousen “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” – Ronald Reagan Taxation is almost never […]

February 7, 2017 | Tax Reform: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly — Part One

Vizzini: He didn’t fall?! Inconceivable! Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. – From The Princess Bride “A tariff is a scale of taxes on imports, designed to protect the domestic producer against the greed of his consumer.” – Ambrose Bierce “Vast possibilities matured into realities […]

January 30, 2017 | Post-Real Economics

“Too large a proportion of recent ‘mathematical’ economics are mere concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols.” – John Maynard Keynes “Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows […]

January 22, 2017 | What I Learned in Washington DC

I have been in Washington DC for the last three days. The ostensible reason was to participate in a board meeting of a public company, Ashford Inc. (AINC). We manage hotel REITs that own three hotels here in DC, and the group decided to move our board meeting up a few weeks and hold it […]

January 15, 2017 | Forecasting with Friends

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” – Peter Drucker “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment.” – Buddha Forecasting the New Year is a curious tradition. Much evidence suggests that no one does it both accurately and consistently, […]

January 9, 2017 | 2017 Forecast: Skeptically Optimistic

“Quantity is being confused with abundance and wealth with happiness.” – Tom Waits “The shift from sailing ships to telegraph was far more radical than that from telephone to email.” – Noam Chomsky One might think that all our newfangled technology would make forecasting the future a little easier. I read just last week that […]

January 2, 2017 | What Could Go Wrong?

“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde “Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom.” – Phyllis Theroux “Economists are often asked to predict what the economy is going to do. But economic predictions require predicting what politicians are going to do – and nothing is more unpredictable.” – […]

December 19, 2016 | As the Fed Turns

“Monetary policy has less room to maneuver when interest rates are close to zero.” – Ben Bernanke “Many Americans rely on interest income from their savings to help cover their cost of living.” – John Delaney When I was growing up – and until I was well into my 60s, in fact – one of […]

December 13, 2016 | The Trump Rally Will Morph

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett “There is no safe store of value.” – Alan Greenspan “In the short-run, the market is a voting machine – reflecting a voter-registration test that requires only money, not intelligence or emotional stability – but in the long-run, the market is a weighing machine.” […]

December 4, 2016 | A Big Swirling Italian Mess

“Move to Italy. They know about living in debt: They don’t care.” – John Lydon “Italians were eating with a knife and fork when the French were still eating each other.” – Mario Batali Italians are headed to the polls this Sunday (and thus this letter is reaching you a little earlier than usual) – […]

November 21, 2016 | What Should Trump Do?

“The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.” – Winston Churchill “Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.” –  C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair “I must […]

November 7, 2016 | The Election: Making Difficult Choices

I have a letter halfway done on economic/investment themes, but I’m putting it aside. For over 16 years I have written each week about what has interested me and what I have thought important. And frankly, what is really on my mind is the same thing that is likely on your mind, and that is […]

October 30, 2016 | Earnings ex-Losers Look Great

“Formula for success: rise early, work hard, strike oil.” – J. Paul Getty “Any jerk can have short-term earnings.” – Jack Welch Profits are the mother’s milk of economic, stock market, and portfolio growth. Employment and tax revenues are driven by profits, too. Nothing good happens unless there are profits and lots of them. So […]

October 24, 2016 | How to Rebuild Healthcare Right

“I reject the insurance model. I think we should have a free-market approach to healthcare.” – Gary Johnson “The goal of real healthcare reform must be universal coverage in a cost-effective way.” – Bernie Sanders “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves….” – Julius Caesar (I.ii.140–141) “The numbers [referring to the […]

October 18, 2016 | Taking a Wrench to Healthcare

“The US has the most dysfunctional healthcare system in the world.” – Elizabeth Holmes “Healthcare is the cornerstone of the socialist state.” – Monica Crowley “You’ve got this crazy system where all of a sudden, 25 million more people have health care and then the people that are out there busting it – sometimes 60 […]

October 10, 2016 | Federal Repression System

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” – Winston Churchill And from “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough”: Scottish version: But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us […]

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