State of The Union….

We all like to think we have all the answers. You know the best way to get somewhere. In stocks you have never picked a loser. Your team? Of course it is the best. Personal pride aside we all take one side or the other of an argument. In my own way I would like to put up a group of ideas which I hope represent a consensus. Disagree if you like and please put me in my place where warranted.

Let’s start with the economy. The last three or four years have been great for some and less than desirable for others. I would say not the top 1% but top 5% have done pretty well. The rest are treading water at best. Housing prices have come back in a dramatic way. By sheer numbers the building slump left us with a low stock of available houses. Supply and demand are never more in evidence. It will really remain to be seen if the trend continues.

The stock market has been soaring but the slightest hint of the Fed tapering sends shivers to the Big Board. It’s been a gift from Uncle Sam. Profits are up considerably but this is the result of belt tightening and the cash on balance sheets portends a lack of investment in the future. When we finish wringing out the towel of industry I hope we will still have room for growth and innovation.

The soft underbelly is the rapidly disappearing middle class. A few have graduated but the majority are being left behind. Wages have been stagnant at best(in this sector) for over a decade. We can invoke trickle down against the good wishes of Pope Francis but it has been no more than a slow drip. There are a lot of people out of work and the prospects aren’t good. It is hitting young people and the not yet retired the worst. Forget about arguing about minimum wage. If you make $7.25 an hour you are earning around $15k per year. If you earn $10 an hour that’s about $21k. Hardly a king’s ransom. How far would you get on these stipends?

The military is a quagmire. We spend more than the next four countries combined(including China) on defense. We are the world’s policeman. We have operations at 700 overseas military bases. We say we need this weapons system or that but cost overruns and waste are just downright sinful. There is a cozy relationship between the brass, corporate America and politicians that make this endeavor as a whole unwieldy at best and bordering on unworkable. Nobody want us to be defenseless but fat and bloated are the watchwords and they are not flattering.

During sequester there have been very obvious cutbacks like the canceling of the Blue Angels, football flyovers etc. I say BS. According to a good friend with pretty good knowledge the boys have pockets of cash everywhere they can tap into. I don’t say starve to death but establish priorities and go on a strict diet. More than anything learn how to optimize and be efficient. This comes down to being realistic about specs to avoid $23 screwdrivers and $300 toilet seats. Overturn the fiefdoms of weapons systems that continue to be funded even though there is no hope of their success or deployment.

The climate is what it is. I really don’t know if it is man made or not but we are warming. You can’t pump tons of crap from every mechanical device into the atmosphere without even giving it a thought. I believe we are somewhat caught in the noose in that there is no way we are going to reverse things. I find it uncanny we want the third world countries to work on their ecosystems when we have been blowing up ours for a century.

Hunger and poverty are real especially in the US of A. For a moment let’s say there are a mere 25 million of our fellow countrymen who go to sleep hungry every night. Let’s set the poverty line higher so there are only 27 million living below the poverty level. Forget about the human failure. Do you realize what people living under duress cost us a year in education, malnutrition and crime costs? Oh I forgot. The system will take care of these people eventually. Why is that any worry of mine?

Politics are the cesspool of our country. After Thanksgiving dinner I thought of gluttons at the trough. Just picture, politicians. business and lobbyists fighting over the carcass claiming the most lucrative pieces for themselves. For better or worse I have been studying the inner workings of  legislative and corporate America. It is beyond disheartening. Politicians are on the take but corporate gives to get their own particular phrase or favor. Vested interests via “consultants” thrive on ambiguity and complexity. Make it unreadable by sheer length and unfathomable by its ornate features. And in the end it means money for all….except us.

Politicians, staff, enforcement officers go into private industry( lobbying/consulting) to show the way to avoid prosecution, or get around this loophole or that. They created them. They know the way and you are more than willing to pay for it. Money is a multi headed monster that gives with one limb and devours with the other. The appetites are insatiable.

I think it really resides with us. I can stop doing this and by default my lovely wife will be a lot happier. I won’t shriek and howl after reading this or that. But there is something inside of me that says I can’t just sit by. Forget about whether I can actually do anything. My acquiescence would the worst possible thing I could do for my kids and grandkids.

Melodramatic? I think not. How many of us have not given to curry favor? How many look the other way at an acquaintance or associate who is doing dead wrong? Blame it on Fox or CNN whatever your bent. Call anyone a bastard who upsets your sense of comfort. Our State of The Union? I think we have a fabulous country that has been taken hostage. Gone is the sense of collaboration. Every man for himself and survival of the fittest. These are givens but we can change that. It just takes guts. I hope we or someone has them.

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

In the coming weeks I hope to talk about tax reform, education and immigration reform. Hold me to it

Overseas we have 50,000 troops in Japan, more than 100,000 in Germany, 11,000 in England and 23,000 in Italy to name a few.

The Military budget for the US is around $680 billion. The Congress gives more than 58% of “discretionary ” spending to  the military. We account for 40% of global arms spending. In 2010 The GAO stated that 98 Major Defense Acquisition Program were $402 billion over budget and 22 months behind schedule.

Income inequality in the US is not unusual. It is smallest in Maine and greatest in Texas. The share of total income for the top 1% went from 11.3% in 1979 to 20.9% in 2007. There is no doubt the middle class must educate and train more but with dwindling resources things like college tuition fall by the wayside. Everyone and I repeat everyone has to have a hand in the solution.

Coincident with this is we tend not to go where the jobs are. Unemployment in the Dakotas are around 3%. California, Georgia, Michigan. Rhode Island , Illinois and Nevada range from 8.75%- 9.5%.

The unemployment rate for 16-19 year olds is 24%. For 20-24 year olds it is 13%. Who is going to pay for Social Security and Medicare?

Happy New Year. It will be great if we ALL get our asses in gear. And that is a factoid.

2 thoughts on “State of The Union….

  1. Good piece- I have 3 college grads all looking for work- mike in Denver if you have any ideas- he goes back Jan 3rd. Matt is in final stages of teach for America interviews and chris works for me. I am raising 10mm before Valentines Day

    Paul

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s