The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

NING Trusts

08/25/2018

Tax lawyers must never sleep! In January, the President unfolded his new tax code.  One of the provisions was that deductions for state and local taxes (SALT) became limited to a max of $10 thousand.  This shifted some of the tax burden from Red states to Blue states, as Blue states normally have higher SALT. … Continue reading NING Trusts

Consistent

08/24/2018

If it was wrong then, it is wrong now! I agreed with my Democratic friends that President Clinton didn’t deserve to be impeached for covering up a sexual dalliance between consenting adults. I agree with my Republican friends that President Trump doesn’t deserve to be impeached for covering up sexual dalliances between consenting adults. Yes, … Continue reading Consistent

Not Surprising ?

08/23/2018

The President said the stock market would crash if he was impeached. The stock market hates surprises.  If he was suddenly impeached, the stock market would drop suddenly and scarily, maybe even crash.  But, it is inconceivable the Democrats take the House, form committees and take votes in the dark without anybody knowing.  His impeachment … Continue reading Not Surprising ?

Meaningless Milestone

08/23/2018

The economy cannot read a calendar and does not own a watch.  Neither does the stock market! There is much gnashing of teeth now that the current bull market has become the longest or oldest one since World War II.  Does that mean a crash is imminent?  No!  The current bull market does not know … Continue reading Meaningless Milestone

Definitions Matter

08/21/2018

Webster’s Dictionary has four definitions for the word – truth.  Apparently, there should be a fifth definition — that truth is the opposite of fake truth . . . huh? Rudy Giuliani tells us that “truth isn’t truth” if based on different facts.  Just like there is fake news and non-fake news, there must be … Continue reading Definitions Matter

A “Fair and Balanced” Diet

08/19/2018

Decades ago, television news began as a 30-minute segment in the early evening that simply recited the news of the day unemotionally.  As these programs were so profitable, more news programs appeared over time.  Then, channels developed with 100% news.  To gain viewers, and therefore advertisers, their coverage became increasingly breathless – creating a need … Continue reading A “Fair and Balanced” Diet

Kudos, Mr. President

08/18/2018

President Trump has made a serious proposal that deserves serious discussion.  Currently, companies traded on stock exchanges are required to report their financial condition and certain other changes every quarter or four times annually.  He has proposed that should be changed to every six months or semi-annually. The debate makes for strange bedfellows.  Agreeing with … Continue reading Kudos, Mr. President

Baht –> Ruble –> Lira –> Nope

08/17/2018

Everybody remembers where they were, when Kennedy was murdered or when OJ led the famous white Bronco chase.  Investment strategists and economists have similar memories of the Thai baht and Russian ruble collapse of 1997-1998.  (Remember Long Term Capital Management?)  Their currency problems morphed into a worrisome systemic risk for the entire financial world.  The … Continue reading Baht –> Ruble –> Lira –> Nope

Hard-of-Hearing

08/15/2018

My favorite professor at Wharton was the affable but brilliant Dr. Jeremy Siegel.  His latest commentary said he “does not see this (the Turkey currency crisis) morphing into a world-wide currency crisis.”  I agree! The real significance of this crisis in Turkey is not economic.  It is only 1% of world economy.  There is some … Continue reading Hard-of-Hearing

One More Time

08/15/2018

Another Ponzi scheme was just been disclosed.  This time, it was in my home town of Virginia Beach.  While it was relatively small, less than $5 million, it is a very big problem for the poor investors. Many investors feel they have no way to protect themselves from a Ponzi scheme, but they do!  Find … Continue reading One More Time

Good News and Bad News

08/14/2018

If you are only 0.2% of a sector in the economy but contribute a whopping 40% of the lobbying dollars spent by that sector, does that make your voice a little louder?  Sugar is only 0.2% of the agricultural sector of the economy but produces 40% of the lobbying dollars.  That is obviously the reason … Continue reading Good News and Bad News

Inflation = Economic Bogeyman

08/12/2018

The word “inflation” causes people, who can remember the early 1980’s, to furrow their brow, look down and shake their head.  Those were the years of double-digit inflation.  Our government took several unsuccessful steps to curb inflation.  (Remember the WIN buttons for “Whip Inflation Now”?)  Inflation was high and scary – so scary that one … Continue reading Inflation = Economic Bogeyman

A Collapsing Turkey

08/11/2018

On Friday, the stock market dropped close to 1%.  Was that because corporate earnings had decreased by 1% – of course not.  It was due to a political shock.  Here is the short version:  Turkey has 80 million people but very few natural resources, except for its powerful geography as a bridge to Europe from … Continue reading A Collapsing Turkey

Good Enough for Warren

08/10/2018

On February 27th of this year, one of my heroes, Warren Buffet, said he thought stock prices were “cheap.”   However, back in 2001, he said this (updated) chart was the “probably the best single measure of where valuations stand at any given moment.”  It shows that GDP is now 129.6% of all stocks, compared to the … Continue reading Good Enough for Warren

63%

08/03/2018

Republicans cause deficits by decreasing revenues.  Democrats cause deficits by increasing spending.  President Trump does both. Yesterday, the Treasury Department announced their plans to borrow 63% more in last half of this year, compared to last year. Nobody should be allowed to vote without seeing www.usdebtclock.org  

When Worlds Collide

08/02/2018

When I was doing graduate work at the University of Dallas in international trade, we had to also study cultural distinctions and how such distinctions impact business. For example, never prop your feet up in the presence of Arabs, as showing the sole of your feet is considered dis-respectable. Another example is the importance of … Continue reading When Worlds Collide

Bill, Newt, and The Donald

08/02/2018

Blaming Bill and Newt I believe Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich deserve a good portion of the blame for our poisonous political environment. They accepted the economic advice, from both Republican economists and from Democratic economists, that multi-lateral trade agreements improved the economy of all trading partners. Bill and Newt then ushered NAFTA into existence. … Continue reading Bill, Newt, and The Donald

Made Food Great Again

07/30/2018

Sara Grillo is one of my favorite financial writers. In her most recent, she discusses how convenient it is for commission-paid salesmen of life insurance, annuities and long-term care insurance to emphasize how much longer people can live. These salesmen prey upon the “worst-case” fear of not dying. She goes on to point out that … Continue reading Made Food Great Again

Nervous Supply Siders

07/28/2018

One important measure of how you are doing financially is the size of your pay check. That’s no different than economists looking at changes in the Gross Domestic Production or GDP. For the second quarter of this year, GDP grew at a 4.1% rate, which is good — real good, in fact. It was the … Continue reading Nervous Supply Siders

No Offense Intended

07/25/2018

Let’s say I want to control my group or tribe or nation.  I could use charisma, or I could use force, or I could use religion.  I may not have the needed charisma, which is a fickle thing anyway.  I could use force, but killing is just wasting those economic assets known as humans.  But, … Continue reading No Offense Intended

Park Thoughts

07/23/2018

During long walks in First Landing State Park, I enjoy listening to the podcasts of Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner.  He uses economic reasoning to focus on mundane subjects and always interviews experts on the subject.  Today, it was the question of “choking” or failing to perform when under pressure. It was not surprising that intelligent people … Continue reading Park Thoughts

Coming Home To Roost

07/22/2018

If you need another reason to be disappointed at our form of government, remember this: Back in the early 1990’s, Congress was considering the proposed North America Free Trade Association (NAFTA).  A steady stream of economists testified in many different hearings before Congress on the benefit of globalization in general and the principle of comparative … Continue reading Coming Home To Roost

Kudos to Trump

07/20/2018

Initial Jobless Claims have not been this low since 1969.  There are actually more job openings than job seekers.  The problem is obviously that the job seekers don’t have the skills that employers need. Quietly, behind the scenes, Ivanka Trump has corralled fifteen large employers to pledge in writing to increase skill training, by expanding apprenticeships, … Continue reading Kudos to Trump

Favorite Market Strategist

07/18/2018

One of my long-time favorite market strategists is Dr. Jeremy Siegel from Wharton.  His latest commentary shows his belief that the stock market would jump 10% – if the trade wars would suddenly end. That is consistent with my belief that the market has moved sideways all year, even though corporate earnings continue to rise … Continue reading Favorite Market Strategist

Flatter Yield Curve — Who Cares?

07/17/2018

Wall Street Wags are fretting about the “flat yield curve” but fail to mention that such a yield curve has accurately predicted 14 of the last 7 recessions. First, the yield curve is the difference between interest rates on 2-year Treasury bonds and 10-year Treasury bonds.  Longer term rates are higher than short term rates … Continue reading Flatter Yield Curve — Who Cares?

Wealth-Worship

07/15/2018

Many pundits are going crazy, trying to figure out the relationship between Trump and Putin.  One even remarked that their relationship is the greatest mystery of this century.  Actually, I think the answer can be found with Trump’s shock when he learned that Vice President Pence had never earned more than $200 thousand a year … Continue reading Wealth-Worship

Sugar Man

07/15/2018

Sugar man, won’t you hurry‘Cos I’m tired of these scenesFor a blue coin won’t you bring backAll those colors to my dreams Silver magic ships you carryJumpers, coke, sweet Mary Jane Sugar man met a false friendOn a lonely dusty roadLost my heart when I found itIt had turned into a dead black coal Silver … Continue reading Sugar Man

Fear Not Inflation

07/14/2018

Let’s assume you get a 100% VA mortgage for a new house.  Let’s further assume that, ten years later, your mortgage is down to $80 thousand, and your home is now worth $125 thousand.  Originally, the loan-to-value of your mortgage was 100%.  But, that dropped to a much safer 64% ten years later (80/125).  My … Continue reading Fear Not Inflation

A Lesson From Tragedy

07/12/2018

Since my father told me about his experience in World War II, seeing a freshly liberated Nazi concentration camp, I have been very interested in the Holocaust.  Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the Richmond Holocaust Museum, which I highly recommend.  While I am steeped in the horrible atrocities committed against the Jews, I’ve … Continue reading A Lesson From Tragedy

T – I – G – H – T

07/11/2018

In your lifetime, how many times have there been more job openings than people looking for jobs? Today, there are 6.6 million unfilled job openings and only 6.0 million people looking for work.  More precisely, there are 6.6 million openings for skilled workers and 6.0 million unskilled job applicants.  The “skills gap” has never been … Continue reading T – I – G – H – T

Two Special Places In Hell

07/10/2018

Few of us maintain our mental sharpness until the end.  Mental fuzziness should be a final luxury at the end of life, not open season to be preyed upon.  Unfortunately, I just read about yet another Ponzi scheme, stealing $102 million from about 600 seniors in Florida, and I hope there is a special place … Continue reading Two Special Places In Hell

Prayers To Thailand

07/08/2018

Although I seldom do it anymore, I have been a scuba diver for most of my life.  In 1975, I had the opportunity to dive a cave off the Suwannee River in the Florida Panhandle.  That was enough to convince me that cave diving is vastly more difficult and dangerous than regular open water diving.  … Continue reading Prayers To Thailand

Parsing

07/08/2018

Q.  Do I believe the Russians tried to influence our 2016 elections?A.  Yes Q.  Do I believe it was authorized by President Putin?A.  Yes Q.  Do I believe Putin wanted to help candidate Trump?A.  It was far more important to Putin that Clinton lost.. Q.  Why did Putin hate Clinton so much?A.  He believes she … Continue reading Parsing

Q2 Column

07/07/2018

To read my latest column for Inside Business, go to: https://pilotonline.com/inside-business/news/columns/article_c50ae3fa-8127-11e8-8923-c3ae049e6dfb.html 

Oversold ?

07/05/2018

According to Goldman Sachs, the smartest people on Wall Street work at Goldman Sachs.  Indeed, their research department actually deserves that accolade.  Their latest analysis suggests commodities will benefit strongly from the stronger dollar.  More significantly, they believe there is too much angst over the current trade war, calling such fears “oversold.”  I hope they … Continue reading Oversold ?

The Courage To Be Free

07/04/2018

There are economic systems, and there are political systems.Examples of economic systems include capitalism and socialism.Examples of political systems include democracy and dictatorship.Of course, there are degrees of each. The combination of capitalism and democracy is called free enterprise.The combination of socialism and dictatorship is called communism.You can have the combination of capitalism and dictatorship, … Continue reading The Courage To Be Free

A Bloodless War

06/30/2018

I was talking with some fellow students of economics.  We started discussing the 0.2% drop in estimates of Q1 GDP growth, but that quickly morphed into a discussion on politics.  With a bunch of economic nerds and with a rich assortment of economic datapoints, why were we talking about politics? As we talked through that, … Continue reading A Bloodless War

President Zuckerberg

06/29/2018

Zuckerberg is founder and CEO of tech giant, Facebook.  To my knowledge, nobody ever accused him of being a nice guy.  Still, he was man enough to recognize the intrusion and interference of Russia into both our 2016 election and 2018 election. In May, he convened a meeting in Menlo Park of executives from all … Continue reading President Zuckerberg

Paging Pandora

06/27/2018

The opening salvo in this trade war was the immediate rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which I wrote then was a mistake.  The Administration looked only at the raw commercial aspect of the TPP, ignoring its wider significance, especially the economic containment of China.  It was a clear rejection of geo-politics as part of … Continue reading Paging Pandora

Sociological Wisdom ??

06/25/2018

James Davison Hunter is a brilliant sociologist at the University of Virginia.  As he is an excellent but prolific writer, I have barely begun reading everything he has produced.  But, my thinking has already started to evolve. There are military wars, and there are culture wars.  Military wars are usually caused by tribal conflicts or … Continue reading Sociological Wisdom ??

“Crucify Your Mind”

06/24/2018

Was it a huntsman or a playerThat made you pay the costThat now assumes relaxed positionsAnd prostitutes your loss?Were you tortured by your own thirstIn those pleasures that you seekThat made you Tom the curiousThat makes you James the weak? And you claim you got something goingSomething you call uniqueBut I’ve seen your self-pity showingAs … Continue reading “Crucify Your Mind”

> 100 %

06/23/2018

When was the last time you went to: www.usdebtclock.org   Go, go look at it now.  There are lots of numbers, all rising rapidly.  Today, focus on two of them in particular.  First, in the upper left, find the national debt, which is now over $21 TRILLION.  Second, near the center, find the Gross Domestic Product, … Continue reading > 100 %

Our Growth “Governor”

06/22/2018

I hate to sound like a broken record, but . . . the Index of Leading Economic Indicators (LEI) was up again last month.  This traditionally means there is no recession on the 12-18 month time horizon.  Our economy being propelled by new manufacturing orders, consumer expectations, stock prices, and capital goods. But, there is … Continue reading Our Growth “Governor”

Spread Too Thin ?

06/21/2018

Long ago, when I was living in Texas, I read a short book, whose name is now long lost inside my memory.  It speculated on how America would be different if Hitler had won World War II.  Not surprisingly, it described a dystopian America as merely a state of the Ayran Nation.  There would be … Continue reading Spread Too Thin ?

Invisible and Vulnerable

06/20/2018

While it is painful to watch the vulnerable children along our southern border, it is at least visible.  Less visible is mistreatment of another vulnerable population, i..e., the elderly.  It doesn’t happen to large groups but to one lonely invisible individual after another. But, did you know that you can be fined between $500 and … Continue reading Invisible and Vulnerable

At Any Cost

06/19/2018

It was in Billings, Montana on May 26th, 2016, when the President promised:“We’re going to win. We’re going to win so much. We’re going to win at trade, we’re going to win at the border. We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning, you’re going to come … Continue reading At Any Cost

Disappointment

06/18/2018

As 2018 dawned, it looked like we were enjoying synchronized global growth.  The U.S. had led the world out of the recession and now looked forward to the increasing growth in Europe and Asia.  But that didn’t happen.  Instead, the U.S. has gotten stronger, while the others fell further behind. For example, the Chinese central … Continue reading Disappointment

Suicide Mission ?

06/16/2018

Republicans abuse Supply-side economics, which argues that a tax cut increases the budget deficit in the short run but decreases the deficit in the long run.  They are hostage to the baseless belief that all tax cuts are beneficial at all times.  Republicans are not aware that a tax cut will not cure the common … Continue reading Suicide Mission ?

Mixed Blessing

06/14/2018

Those old enough to remember the U.S. economy during 1970’s will remember the panicky headlines about runaway inflation.  Do you remember the stories about elderly women eating dog food?  Do you remember Gerald Ford’s WIN Campaign, which meant Whip Inflation Now?  Nobody wishes for a return of that level of inflation again! But, a little … Continue reading Mixed Blessing

Braking While Accelerating

06/13/2018

Traditionally, increases in interest rates in one country draw money from other countries, seeking the higher rate, which causes the currency of the first country to appreciate and the currency of the second country to depreciate.  For example, to move funds from Japan to the U.S., you have to sell your Yen to buy dollars, … Continue reading Braking While Accelerating

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