The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

The Rights of Europeans

10/21/2020

Oh, those silly Europeans . . . they’re just so fussy . . . and cute! Earlier this year, Congress held hearings on the future of Big Tech companies, like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft.  Congress is worried they have become too big and too powerful.  Historically, Democrats have always been distrustful of Big Business.  … Continue reading The Rights of Europeans

In Defense of . . .

10/16/2020

 I rise in defense of Donald J. Trump. Somehow, it was leaked that Mr. Trump has over $400 million of debt, which he has not denied.  Pundits immediately went to the bankruptcy angle, whereby he could theoretically be begging in the Oval Office.  Those pundits are unfamiliar with Real Estate Finance 101. Typically, a real … Continue reading In Defense of . . .

Ten Lessons

10/15/2020

Fareed Zakaria is a native of Mumbai, India who earned his doctorate from Harvard and now hosts a highly-rated weekly show on foreign affairs for CNN, called GPS.  He has already written several best-selling books, including his latest, which is entitled Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World. I didn’t see his “Lessons” as something to … Continue reading Ten Lessons

The Good, The Bad, and the Deficit

10/12/2020

My quarterly column for Inside Business can be found here:  https://www.pilotonline.com/inside-business/vp-ib-expert-flinchum-1012-20201009-ee7quugvvfevha6huodveq3txa-story.html

The Cost of Good Luck

10/11/2020

It is no surprise that white middle-aged men have economic and social advantages in life.  Of course, these blessed Americans also have 69.97% of all suicides.  One usual reason is the guilt of having squandered their “white-male” advantages by accomplishing so little.  It is the curse of “the American Dream.”    Another reason is that … Continue reading The Cost of Good Luck

Enough Drama ?

10/10/2020

If President Trump is reelected, my Democratic friends will find that as proof of our continuing systemic racism.  If President Trump is defeated, my Republican friends will blame it on the media. Niall Ferguson is a brilliant, widely-respected, Scottish-born conservative, who is a professor of history at Stanford and has authored numerous excellent books.  Personally, … Continue reading Enough Drama ?

Free ?

10/09/2020

For years, I have recommended that everyone have a “news-free” day.  That is especially important as the never-ending pandemic stretches on, as our political establishment continues to embarrass us, as neighbors gravitate into Red or Blue tribes, as domestic strife breeds domestic terror, and so on. Saturday is my day to be free of news.  … Continue reading Free ?

A Good Error

10/08/2020

I’m concerned that many mail-in ballots will be disqualified, because zero errors are permitted.  You might mail in a ballot with an error unknowingly, only to have your ballot disqualified and not know it. Unfortunately, I did make an error completing my ballot.  Since I could no longer vote-by-mail, I went to the Courthouse and … Continue reading A Good Error

China Rebounding

10/08/2020

Since signing the agreement to a ceasefire in the trade war with China, that trade war has been crowded off the front page by the election, but interesting things are still happening. Despite a long-established reputation as a currency manipulator (in order to make their exports cheaper for foreigners to buy), they have actually allowed … Continue reading China Rebounding

Planning Time . . . Now!

10/05/2020

Nobody wants to pay higher taxes and have less money to take home to their families.  Some taxpayers say taxes alone drive all their decisions, which I don’t understand.  I know one man in Texas who actually sold his house and moved to another state, away from his grandchildren, just to avoid increased real estate … Continue reading Planning Time . . . Now!

A Little Thing

10/03/2020

It is a trivial thing, I know, but the way a President returns salutes has always been interesting to me.  Both President Bushes saluted properly, which I appreciated.  President Clinton (a non-veteran) never did figure it out.  Bless his heart, but President Obama did try the hardest.  However, President Trump always had a excellent salute, … Continue reading A Little Thing

Get Well Soon

10/02/2020

Readers know the low regard I’ve had for the Presidency of Donald J. Trump.  Despite all that, I pray that he, his family, and his staff enjoy a quick, complete recovery from the coronavirus!  Nobody deserves that awful disease. Be well, Mr. President!

More Good Datapoints

10/01/2020

Consumer Confidence is a key indicator of the economy, especially future retail sales.  In February, it was 132.6 – a record high.  Then, the pandemic hit and Consumer Confidence dropped to 85.7 in April.  Monday, we learned it has risen nicely to 101.8.  This was better than expected. We have spoken before about the two-speed … Continue reading More Good Datapoints

A Deficit To Ignore

09/29/2020

With a $3 trillion national deficit this year and trillion dollar deficits expected to continue for years-to-come, there is an increasing anxiety about an economic collapse.  Today, the release of the Net International Investment Position (NIIP) heightened that anxiety . . . but unnecessarily. The NIIP is focused on the amount of income we receive … Continue reading A Deficit To Ignore

Perception Request

09/27/2020

Most of us see of a slippery slope from forgetfulness to dementia to Alheimer’s, but one does not necessarily lead to another.  Forgetfulness is normal and even has the fancy name of “mild cognitive linguistic deficit”. I have been fortunate to work with senior citizens for most of my life.  At least a thousand times, … Continue reading Perception Request

Force-Feeding Vinegar

09/25/2020

The joke among investment analysts is . . . if you want to have a small fortune in airline stocks, you just need to invest a large fortune! The aviation industry is a huge business, employing many thousands of people and consuming huge quantities of capital – both debt capital and equity capital.  Whenever there … Continue reading Force-Feeding Vinegar

The End Is Near . . . ?

09/23/2020

Some people believe that “those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.”  Some pundits amuse themselves by saying “history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”  My view is that history is the best flashlight we have to find a pathway in the dark. Here are some lessons … Continue reading The End Is Near . . . ?

Peeking Outside

09/22/2020

Like most people, we have been cloistered the last seven months, with trips to the grocery store for excitement and an occasional meal at a local open-air restaurant.   Recently, I needed to visit a client in Greenville, South Carolina.  So, it was with some trepidation that we temporarily re-entered the normal world, because it was … Continue reading Peeking Outside

Just Do It!

09/18/2020

We tend to think of life in three phases:  childhood years, working years, and retirement years.  This reflects the lifecycle model of a time when jobs were secure and lifespans were short.  This has all changed, and we should update our perspective. In the past, we’ve noted that some work (either for money or for … Continue reading Just Do It!

Not Two-Dimensional Chess

09/17/2020

When the Fed meets and especially when the FOMC meets, they issue a written report, which is the most finely perused government report.  Analysts scrutinize every word for any tiny minute change, even the placement of commas (seriously). It’s latest release promised to keep interest rates low for a longer period than predicted earlier.  Now, … Continue reading Not Two-Dimensional Chess

Marginalize Extremists?

09/14/2020

A new analysis from Brown University estimates the cost of the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan has been $6.4 trillion.  Ignoring the necessity of those wars, focus on paying for the wars.  Looking at www.usdebtclock.org, our national debt is about $26.8 trillion.  That means the cost of those never-ending wars explains about 24% of … Continue reading Marginalize Extremists?

What’s Different This Time?

09/09/2020

Normally, we talk about economies in terms of separate countries, as in this country has a strong economy, while that country has a weak economy.  Often, we slice economies by industries, as in this industry is doing well, while that industry is doing poorly.  Since the 1970s, we have also sliced it by region, as … Continue reading What’s Different This Time?

The Golden Age of Conspiracies

09/07/2020

Conspiracy theories are fashionable these days.  Most psychologists suggest that some people are more susceptible to conspiracy theories than other people.  That may be, but I suspect existentialists are the least susceptible. One of the few things I remember from high school physics is that atoms are in constant motion, colliding randomly with other atoms.  … Continue reading The Golden Age of Conspiracies

Disgust

09/05/2020

Having watched our RINO President refer to the late Senator McCain as a loser, and calling the late President Bush a loser for going down in his plane during World War II, and later disrespecting a Gold Star family, I don’t have any difficulty believing he also called our fallen soldiers losers and suckers.  He … Continue reading Disgust

Did you know . . . ?

09/02/2020

Households making less than $300 thousand annually give about 2.3% to charity each year, while households making more than $300 thousand donate 4.4%. Households identifying as religious give twice as much as those who do not. Volunteers to charitable organizations give 2.5% of their income to charity each year, compared to 1.2% who don’t volunteer. … Continue reading Did you know . . . ?

No, Not the Fed Too ??

08/31/2020

It has been widely-reported that the U.S. Department of Justice has been overly-politicized, and that report is now widely accepted. It has been widely-reported that the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), two of the most respected institutions in the world, are being overly-politicized, which might explain why they … Continue reading No, Not the Fed Too ??

Enough ?

08/27/2020

One of my favorite guns is a small Beretta .22LR automatic.  It has 2″ barrel and six-shot clip.  With such a short barrel, it is not accurate much past 20 feet, but it is small enough to fit into my front pants pocket — making it an ideal  “pocket-pistol.”  I keep it in the glove … Continue reading Enough ?

Stutter-Step Whack-A-Mole

08/26/2020

Shutting down the economy is a terrible thing.  It hurts the economy, as well as the emotional health of our citizens.  Recognizing this, President Trump nonetheless had the courage to shut us down anyway.  However, he remained under enormous pressure to get America open and back-to-normal as quickly as possible. The only thing worse than … Continue reading Stutter-Step Whack-A-Mole

Watching Paint Get Old & Moldy

08/24/2020

Being a Republican is easy, just watch Fox News. Being a Democrat is easy, just watch MSNBC or even CNN. Being Independent NOT easy!  NEWSY is unbiased but not deep enough. Being Independent does require you to watch news networks you don’t like. However, being Independent does not require you to watch national conventions. I … Continue reading Watching Paint Get Old & Moldy

Rationales R’ Us

08/24/2020

Economists have two primary trade associations.  First, the American Economic Association (AEA) is the oldest and is oriented toward academic economists, more commonly known as “nerds.”  As far as I can tell, it has no ideological bent.  If you can still solve quadratic equations in the dark, this group might be for you.  Second, there … Continue reading Rationales R’ Us

Conflated . . .

08/22/2020

When closely-related but different subjects are conflated, heated arguments are not uncommon. A week or so ago, there was a heated kerfluffle about voting and the Post Office.  My Republican friends became very animated, because others don’t see the problem of illegal voting as a big problem.  My Democratic friends became very animated, because others … Continue reading Conflated . . .

Attractive Hazard

08/21/2020

If you build a swimming pool without a fence and a child drowns in it, you are guilty of creating an attractive hazard.  Did you really expect a child NOT to jump into the pool? If you require college students to return to campus during the Covid-era, knowing there are bars and party venues near … Continue reading Attractive Hazard

Kudos to the President

08/19/2020

It is no small understatement to say I’ve been disappointed with our current RINO President, but he deserves kudos for the Israel-UAE deal he announced last week. Since the birth of Israel in 1946, Israel has been the most hated neighbor in a nasty neighborhood.  Slowly, it has made “peace” with Egypt and then Jordan.  … Continue reading Kudos to the President

All Clear . . .

08/18/2020

Most people are overly-fearful of recessions and shouldn’t be.  Garden-variety recessions are routine.  They come and go.  The danger is that a garden-variety recession might morph into a financial crisis, which is much worse. We are certainly in a recession right now.  (In fact, it is a totally unique “flash depression,” which sounds worse than … Continue reading All Clear . . .

Historical or Emotional ?

08/17/2020

Last summer, I visited the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, which is more widely known as “the lynching museum.”  Touring both campuses, it was a long day feeling one of the horrors of history come alive.  For example, I learned about the man that was lynched in my own hometown.  … Continue reading Historical or Emotional ?

Vaccine Rally . . . When?

08/16/2020

There is widespread agreement on Wall Street that development of a Covid-19 vaccine will be bullish.  Of course, that’s true, but it also begs a few questions.  First, how will we know when there is a credible vaccine?  At completion of the phase three trials?  When a bio-pharma company says so?  When the CDC announces … Continue reading Vaccine Rally . . . When?

American Suppression

08/14/2020

Both Republicans and Democrats agree the economy needs additional stimulus but disagree on the amount.  The Republicans believe $1 trillion is enough, while Democrats want no less than $2 trillion.  It should be emphasized that the Republicans think we do need $1 trillion! Now, the President freely admits he will stop that stimulus if it … Continue reading American Suppression

Enthusiasm in a Cynical World

08/12/2020

While I am not qualified to discuss psychology, I can still wonder about it.  For example, I don’t understand the sadness and exasperation at the loss of sports this season, due to Covid.  One pundit estimated college football alone contributed $4 billion to our annual GDP, a paltry contribution in a $22 trillion economy.  Of … Continue reading Enthusiasm in a Cynical World

Tea Leaves . . .

08/11/2020

Because the bond market is so much bigger than the stock market, it has long been the accepted-wisdom that you could “read” the bond market for a reliable understanding of change in the financial markets.  For example, one could learn a great deal about risk appetite and about inflation expectations.  That is no longer true.  … Continue reading Tea Leaves . . .

Taking Our Medicine Now?

08/10/2020

It will be a long time before we get meaningful estimates of the total monetary cost of the pandemic, but I’m confident TEN TRILLION DOLLARS will be low. If you measure only the 6% GDP drop in Q1 and the 33% drop in Q2, you get about $3 trillion.  Now, let’s assume that was the … Continue reading Taking Our Medicine Now?

Good Riddance!

08/10/2020

A gun lover is NOT the same thing as a gun-nut.  I have had guns since I was a boy and am not sure how many guns I have today.  After the Army, I even joined the National Rifle Association for a few years.  In those days, it was primarily an interest group and sponsored … Continue reading Good Riddance!

Moderates, Unite!

08/08/2020

Mark Warner is the senior Democratic U.S. Senator from Virginia.  When he was running for the office in 2008, he described himself as an “extreme moderate.”  While I always liked that philosophical description, I was slightly suspicious that it might be self-serving, as Virginia was still a fairly Republican state at the time. Recently, I … Continue reading Moderates, Unite!

Quick — tell the President!

08/07/2020

The stock market can handle bad news, but it hates surprises.  No economic data is more closely watched than the monthly “Jobs Report” issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the first Friday of each month.  It is always a comparison against expectations.  If the data is better than expected, the market will go … Continue reading Quick — tell the President!

Opposing Forces

08/06/2020

First, there is an increasing certainty of future tax increases. Both Republican economists and Democratic economists agree on one thing — an over-concentration of wealth is bad for democracy.  Of course, that’s where the agreement ends!  The Republicans think it is a small problem that will eventually fix itself, as succeeding generations divide up the … Continue reading Opposing Forces

A Tiny Bit of Good News

08/02/2020

Every business has a seedy side.  Not even the church business is spared.  In the financial world, I’ve always found the world of offshore asset-protection-trusts (APT) to be one of the most seedy places.  There are many legitimate financial planning reasons for asset protection, such as protecting a kid’s inheritance from bad marriages, etc.  The … Continue reading A Tiny Bit of Good News

Worst in History

07/31/2020

Everybody knew that our GDP would drop badly in the second quarter, following a 7% annualized drop in the first quarter.  Estimates were that our GDP would drop 30-35%, and it dropped 32.9% – the biggest drop in history, by a factor of three times.  The lockdown from mid-March to Mid-May was costly indeed.  Estimates … Continue reading Worst in History

A Good Guy and/or Great Investor

07/29/2020

From my first investment course many years ago, I’ve known Warren Buffett as a legendary investor.  I learned he was clearly one of the best investors of all time, if not the best. However, from 2009 through last month, he has under-performed the S&P by 4.4% each year.  More recently, that under-performance was even worse … Continue reading A Good Guy and/or Great Investor

Economic Narcotic

07/27/2020

Even before 2002, when former Vice President Cheney famously said “deficits don’t matter”, economists have begged the question of whether deficits actually do matter.  Out of that discussion, a new isolationist school of thought has emerged, i.e., Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).  It has also been widely popularized by Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.  … Continue reading Economic Narcotic

Saluting A Racist ??

07/25/2020

Given my love of the outdoors, nobody was surprised when I volunteered for the infantry in the Army.  Backpacking with a buddy in the Appalachian mountains as a boy eventually led me to the majestic Muir Woods north of San Francisco as a man, where I developed great respect for John Muir, the iconic founder … Continue reading Saluting A Racist ??

The Virus & Social Security

07/24/2020

One would not immediately think that the coronavirus would impact Social Security, but it will. Here’s the good news:  From near bankruptcy in 1980, the Social Security Trust Fund now has $2.9 TRILLION.  (Yea, Congress!) Here’s the bad news:  This is the year – 2020 – that cash flow turns negative.  From now until 2035, … Continue reading The Virus & Social Security

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