The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Gut-speak

06/16/2020

Without numbers, an opinion is nothing more than a gut-feeling. So, here’s my gut feeling: 1.  The stock market hit a bottom in March. 2.  A modest rebound was expected. 3.  Instead, the market rebounded very, very strongly. 4.  Market watchers could not explain the strength of the rebound. 5.  However, an increase in retail … Continue reading Gut-speak

Creepy

06/12/2020

Imagine looking out your front window.  On the sidewalk across the street, a man, an auditor-looking man in a trench coat sits in a lawn chair with a clipboard on his lap.  When your lights come on each morning, he makes a note on his clipboard.  When you get the newspaper off the front porch, … Continue reading Creepy

“miscalculation error”

06/09/2020

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released their monthly unemployment report.  It was much better than expected, showing unemployment dropped 1.4% instead of increasing 4-5%.  I wrote “Something Smells” about this.  After all, how could 30 million workers be receiving unemployment benefits, when the BLS said  only 20 million workers were unemployed? Later … Continue reading “miscalculation error”

Slant-Seeking

06/08/2020

Incivility in politics runs in cycles.  Believe it or not, this is not the worst partisanship in our history, although I do suspect we are near the low point in this cycle.  Tracing this cycle back to its beginning, you might find Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich instructing freshman congressmen to avoid fraternization with … Continue reading Slant-Seeking

The Burden of Good Intentions

06/07/2020

Lars von Trier is the greatest film director you’ve probably never heard of.  Maybe that’s because he is Danish, or maybe because he doesn’t make movies for the mainstream.  Those movies are existential to the core, with a stream of surrealism meandering between the comedic and the absurd.  A-list actors beg for the experience of … Continue reading The Burden of Good Intentions

Hope Is Not A Plan

06/06/2020

As people approach retirement, their anxiety rises, and this is natural.  After all, retirement is a great unknown.  Most people focus solely on income replacement, but there is so much more to consider.  In fact, that’s not even close to the beginning point. Start with identifying your risks, keeping in mind that risk is a … Continue reading Hope Is Not A Plan

deja vu

06/05/2020

My Democratic friends are understandably concerned that there are unidentified soldiers roaming the capital.  These are soldiers without any apparent identification.  It is unknown what military service or what unit they represent.  There is no way to determine where they came from.  I understand how unsettling that can be, but it is not the first … Continue reading deja vu

1968 vs 2020

06/03/2020

I remember reading that marriages during the year of 1968 had the highest rate of divorce.  The theory was that marriages during heightened levels of unrest stressed relationships too much?  Maybe . . . ? After all, 1968 was the year of the Hong Kong virus, which killed a million people worldwide.  That was an … Continue reading 1968 vs 2020

Whack-A-Mole

06/02/2020

During my time at the Kennedy Special Warfare Center, I learned that only dinosaurs believe the atomic bomb is the ultimate weapon.  We learned the ultimate weapon is the guerrilla — highly motivated individuals who can operate independently behind front lines for long periods, to damage and confuse superior military forces.  Defeating a guerrilla force … Continue reading Whack-A-Mole

This Time Is Different

06/01/2020

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick was quarterback for the San Francisco 49er’s.  During the playing of the National Anthem, he refused to stand and “took a knee,” saying any country who tolerated such racism was not worthy of respect.  To me, I saw disrespect to the flag and strongly condemned him.  My binary view was the … Continue reading This Time Is Different

The View from the Bottom

05/31/2020

After spending decades studying the economy, it is understandable that this blog is usually about the economy, but it hasn’t been that way recently.  That’s because all the data has been relentlessly dismal – the worst I have ever seen.  What’s the point of elaborating the obvious?  The current economy sucks!  Here is some of … Continue reading The View from the Bottom

Quarantine Chore #5

05/29/2020

Today is May 29th – traditionally financial planners use this date to remind their clients about 529 plans, which are tax-efficient ways to fund education expenses for kids and grand-kids (and other relatives).  These plans were initially very popular and still should be. The very wealthy can put $150 thousand in an unlimited number of … Continue reading Quarantine Chore #5

Logic-Dope

05/29/2020

For some reason, I took a sophomore course entitled “The Philosophy of Logic” and have always been glad I did.  The concept of syllogism has been helpful to me over the years.  (You’ll remember that as – if A, then B – if B, then C – therefore, if A, then C)  Still, it was … Continue reading Logic-Dope

Oh, did I forget . . . ?

05/28/2020

For some long-forgotten reason, I still have a checking account at Bank of America.  With their latest monthly statements, there was an insert suggesting the seven questions you should ask a potential financial advisor, which are: What types of clients do you work with?  Okay, that’s a fair question.  One example would be increased familiarity … Continue reading Oh, did I forget . . . ?

Presidential Protection ?

05/26/2020

In early 1992, I was appointed by the governor to the Texas State Depository Board.  It was a four-member board composed of the State Treasurer, State Controller, State Banking Commissioner, and myself.  As it was during the Texas Savings and Loan (S&L) scandal, when taxpayer losses would exceed $300 billion, I met a great many … Continue reading Presidential Protection ?

We’ll Never Know . . .

05/20/2020

Most market watchers are familiar with the old rule-of-thumb that the stock market changes directions about 6 months or so before the overall economy, based on the assumption that investors study the economy more closely than most people.  There is a lesser known rule-of-thumb that the art market changes directions about 3 months or so … Continue reading We’ll Never Know . . .

Silver Lining ?

05/19/2020

Ian Bremmer is the founder & CEO of Eurasia Group, an international risk consulting firm.  He is also one of the most original thinkers I follow.  You know he must be an original thinker, if he sees a silver lining to the current pandemic and economic collapse.  Like pain is “good training” in the Army, … Continue reading Silver Lining ?

Our “Protectors” ??

05/17/2020

Even after all these years, I’m still pretty good with guns and have to roll-my-eyes whenever I see these hot-headed, gun-totting wannabe-protectors demonstrating for the freedom to congregate in churches and bars.  Or, maybe it is to strut around with their macho-guns? For years, I have railed about Americans losing their privacy.  Where are these … Continue reading Our “Protectors” ??

Nature’s Forgiveness

05/16/2020

My father always cautioned me to never discuss politics, religion, or how to raise children.  Unfortunately, I must often discuss politics, as it is scrambled with economics, but I still avoid partisanship.  On the other hand, I never discuss child-rearing, because I frankly don’t have a clue. I do take his advice about religion and … Continue reading Nature’s Forgiveness

Filling-Up

05/15/2020

How much fiscal assistance does our economy need?  The Democratic programmed response is “more” and the Republican programmed response is “less.”  Neither is helpful.  Here’s a different way to look at it. Assume our GDP is about $20 trillion per year, and it is.  Assume our first and fourth quarters (Q1 and Q4) are about … Continue reading Filling-Up

A Little Algebra . . .

05/12/2020

One way to estimate the size of our economy is this:  GDP equals the average number of transactions each year times the average price of transactions.  (GDP = TP) Another way is this:  GDP equals money supply times the velocity of money.  (GDP = MV)  The velocity of money is the number of times a … Continue reading A Little Algebra . . .

Connected Thoughts ?

05/11/2020

First, I have a very intelligent friend, who is susceptible to conspiracy theories.  Because of that, I do enjoy debating with him.  Although he is not the religious type, he believes that Evil exists, as an actual entity, not a mere characteristic of a demented person.  Evil roams the planet, he says. Second, I love … Continue reading Connected Thoughts ?

Chinese Water Torture

05/09/2020

This type of torture is a slow drip of cold water on the face for an extended period, creating such a state of anticipation for the next drop, that the victim eventually becomes insane. That is the experience of most economists during this Great Collapse, anticipating the next piece of bad news.  Almost all economic … Continue reading Chinese Water Torture

A Gut Punch

05/08/2020

Economists tend to be a smug bunch, comfortable with their ability to see the future.  After all, we’ve seen thousands of economic datapoints over many decades and have a good feel for normal limits.  Then, the coronavirus changed everything! No economist has ever seen unemployment increase 20.5 million souls in a single month — truly … Continue reading A Gut Punch

The Age of Bullies ?

05/06/2020

Messianism is the belief in the arrival of a messiah, who will save or liberate people.  Understandably, the need for a messiah is increased during times of stress or fear.  We can witness the increasing number of messiahs or “strong-man” leaders in the last fifty years, which has been a time of many wars, of … Continue reading The Age of Bullies ?

Another Unhealthy Addiction

05/02/2020

For years, I’ve argued that news is addictive.  It is just like smoking or drinking or illegal drugs .  While there are many non-profit organizations and for-profit companies to treat those traditional addictions, there is nobody to help you with your news addiction. The news organizations will not help you.  They are NOT in the … Continue reading Another Unhealthy Addiction

A Favorite Metric

04/30/2020

Many people think all economic downturns are recessions – just mild recessions and severe recessions.  Actually, there is a difference between a recession and a financial crisis.  (The latter shares some characteristics with a Black Swan event.)  Recessions are generally predictable events, while a financial crisis is much less predictable, like 2008.  Of course, neither … Continue reading A Favorite Metric

Lessons From the Black Death

04/28/2020

The 1984 book by Norman Cantor entitled “In the Wake of the Plague” is a surprisingly good read about the bubonic plague (also known as the black death or the pestilence) in the mid-fourteenth century.  It is not a long book, but it is densely written.  There was some interesting data, such as the estimate … Continue reading Lessons From the Black Death

From Anger to Sorrow

04/28/2020

Exactly forty-five years ago, on April 29, 1975, the last helicopter lifted off the roof of the American embassy in Saigon, taking the last Marines, the U.S. Ambassador, and the U.S. flag to the command ship Blue Ridge waiting offshore.  It was the heartbreaking end to a twenty-year war from 1955 to 1975.  As I … Continue reading From Anger to Sorrow

“In the Wake of the Plague”

04/27/2020

The 1984 book by Norman Cantor entitled “In the Wake of the Plague” is a surprisingly good read about the bubonic plague (also known as the black death or the pestilence) in the mid-fourteenth century.  It is not a long book, but it is densely written.  There was some interesting data, such as the estimate … Continue reading “In the Wake of the Plague”

Premeditated ?

04/25/2020

I have a friend who is very intelligent, as well as a very independent thinker.  Recently, when I told him to stay safe during this pandemic, he took issue with the word pandemic, saying it was a PLANdemic, as it was planned by such evil people as Bill Gates.  I just thought Gates was  the … Continue reading Premeditated ?

The Great Disconnect

04/23/2020

Warren Buffet had a mentor named Benjamin Graham, who said the stock market is “a voting machine in the short run and a weighing machine in the long run.”  In other words, it is nothing more than a popularity contest in the short run, with the prettiest stocks winning.  However, in the long run, the … Continue reading The Great Disconnect

How Will You Know ??

04/21/2020

A few half-truths, along with some glaring omissions, can produce a dangerous weapon.  If you can confuse somebody, you can control them. As an example, take a look at this:  https://www.aier.org/article/liberate-america-from-this-draconian-lockdown-video/ How many half-truths did you hear?  How many obvious issues were ignored? Still, the Tea Party does force some important questions.  How do you … Continue reading How Will You Know ??

Again ?

04/19/2020

Much has been written about the Great Depression during the 1930’s.  It is usually focused on the economic history, such as unemployment reaching 25%.  Reading can give a mental image, but only seeing gives a visual image.  For most people, the only visual image of that history would be the food lines, with hundreds of … Continue reading Again ?

Change ?

04/18/2020

For fourteen years, I have written a quarterly column for “Inside Business” — the business journal of the “The Virginian-Pilot” newspaper.  It is a quarterly review about economic booms and busts, Republicans and Democrats, even war and peace.  Now, I suspect we are approaching an important inflection point.  Just as the 9-11 tragedy changed the … Continue reading Change ?

Mom Was Right

04/16/2020

During World War II, the President made extensive use of his war powers by ordering factories to manufacture war materiel.  Of course, that cannot be done overnight.  Likewise, it cannot be undone overnight either.  Shortly after my father returned from the war in Europe, manufacturing actually dropped 5.4% in only ONE month.  That hasn’t happened … Continue reading Mom Was Right

Binge-Watching Pain

04/13/2020

Two things happen during a quarantine.  First, you will gain fifteen pounds, which is called the “quarantine fifteen.”  Second, some millennial will convince you the only way to appreciate television is by binge-watching some show.  It changes the television experience, they say.  That means you will spend hours studying overly-complicated plots or fictional characters you … Continue reading Binge-Watching Pain

Post-Quarantine

04/11/2020

In 1990, former President Richard Nixon wrote “Six Crisis” – a history of each crisis that he faced during his presidency.  Since he was the first President I ever voted for, I eagerly read the book shortly after publication.  While I remember little of the six individual crisis, I never forgot the primary lesson he … Continue reading Post-Quarantine

Quarantine Chore #4

04/10/2020

Stop being afraid of trusts!  They are a great tool for financial planning, especially estate planning – nothing more – just a tool.  It is like being afraid of a hammer – it’s just a tool. A trust is a legal entity, just like you are a legal entity.  (The President might even call a … Continue reading Quarantine Chore #4

A View from Philly

04/08/2020

My favorite investment pundit has long been Dr Jeremy Siegel of Wharton.  He assumes (1) the pandemic will be over by year-end, (2) that there will be massive monetary and fiscal stimulus, (3) that the coronavirus curve will be flattened, (4) that a vaccine will be developed and made available, and (5) that reliable contact … Continue reading A View from Philly

A Silver Lining

04/06/2020

At last count, there are 165 economic reports and countless financial reports issued each month.  We have a great deal of analytical data.  When the bubonic plague swept across England in the 1340’s, they did have any data for us to study.  Fortunately, there are numerous anecdotal reports. This particular wave of the pandemic killed … Continue reading A Silver Lining

Everything is Relative

04/03/2020

For almost eight months, from September of 1940 until May of 1941, the German Luftwaffe bombed London 71 times, dropping 18,000 tons of high explosives.  Thirty thousand civilians were killed and another fifty thousand were wounded.  Tens of thousand buildings were destroyed, and hundreds of thousand people were homeless.  They lived in the rubble without … Continue reading Everything is Relative

The French Front

03/30/2020

Greg and Joan Wright are longtime friends, who retired in Virginia Beach, before fulfilling their dream to live France.  I miss them!  From time-to-time, Greg updates his friends on life in France.  As a retired lawyer, he writes well, with a distinctive wry style.  They are experiencing the pandemic in ways both similar and different … Continue reading The French Front

The Trauma of War

03/29/2020

President Trump rightly said that he is waging a war against an invisible enemy.  Estimates of fatalities from this war range from a high of 2 million Americans to a low of only 80 thousand over six months — truly horrific!  While all deaths are tragic, some comparison with “normal” wars against a visible enemy … Continue reading The Trauma of War

In Praise of Math

03/26/2020

Dr. Jeremy Siegel is a celebrated professor at Wharton and author of “Stocks for the Long Run.”  He is also my longtime favorite investment thinker.  I’ve read his books and listen to him whenever possible.  Yesterday, I listened to him again and realized that there is a disconnection that has been bothering me.  He argued … Continue reading In Praise of Math

A Thank-You Note

03/25/2020

My father was a fireman.  He was always a little embarrassed that he was “just” a blue-collar worker.  As a boy, I imagined him running into burning buildings and thought he was a genuine hero.  Even after the firemen of New York proved their heroism during the 9-11 tragedies, when America lauded its firemen and … Continue reading A Thank-You Note

AOC Wins . . . and Dick Cheney too!

03/24/2020

In 2002, Republican Vice President Dick Cheney said “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.”  Unfortunately, his comment unleashed a serious question – do deficits really matter at all?  Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) emerged from that discussion and has since been popularized by Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). Under MMT, the U.S. Treasury can spend ANY amount … Continue reading AOC Wins . . . and Dick Cheney too!

Quarantine Chore #3

03/23/2020

If you are one of the millions under a Stay-At-Home order, if you are one of the millions “working-from-home”, if you are retired and worried, the first thing you should do is turnoff the television.  You can do nothing about it, and it ruins your day.  How about using your time more wisely . . … Continue reading Quarantine Chore #3

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