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Last Sunday our group took a bus tour to Chichicastenango, a market town in the highlands of Guatemala, about two hours from Antigua, over steep mountains.

Our guides took us there because it has one of the most famous markets. The market itself is in the courtyard of a two-story building. We went upstairs and looked down on it. Dozens of vendors were selling their vegetables. What you can’t see in this picture is the strong aroma of the amalgam of all types of vegetables, fresh out of the earth. I have never before smelled vegetables that strong.

To get to the market, we had to walk down crowded alleyways which were packed with vendors on both sides. The paths themselves were also patrolled by vendors, women and children mostly, trying to sell us trinkets of all manner. It was frighteningly crowded. Sure enough, within just minutes one man in our group had his wallet and smartphone stolen. Somebody had bumped into him from the front, while presumably someone else picked the pocket in the right leg of his cargo shorts.

I walked with my wallet in my hand and my hand in my pocket, and my other hand on my phone all the way. I got through unscathed.

As we walked, women and children constantly solicited us to buy their wares. One boy, I estimate him about 12 years old, was Jeremy.

Here you can see Trisha surrounded by vendors. Jeremy is the boy on the right. The vendors latched on to us and followed us. Jeremy would simply not leave. He was very polite, spoke surprisingly good English, gave his name, told us about his family. We bought a blanket from his mother. He would just follow us and keep us engaged for at least 20 minutes all they way back to the gate of the town’s best hotel, which was our meeting place. Vendors cannot enter the hotel. Armed guards keep them out. It was almost like a sanctuary that kept the locals out.

And there stood Jeremy, as we walked away from him and the other children and women, looking at us with his smiling eyes and wishing us a good day. I turned around and bought a bamboo drum for 50 Quetzales, as a mercy purchase. Jeremy had obviously learned that as long as he simply persisted, he would eventually make the sale. I didn’t ask him how long he had been working the market, but there were little boys and girls who looked no older than six or seven who were out there hustling and hawking their trinkets.

The poverty in Guatemala is striking. People everywhere are working hard, trying to make a living somehow, and it just seems that the system is holding them down.

The average wage in Guatemala is about eight Quetzales an hour, that’s about $1.25 or perhaps one Euro.

I wonder what they are thinking when they serve tourists like us in luxury hotels. A beer costs 24 Quetzales in any bar or restaurant, or about 3 to 4 hours of work for the average person. A meal for two will easily run 500 or more Quetzales. That would be almost two weeks of work. A night in a good hotel will be 800 to 1500 Quetzales. That’s one month of wages.

What do these people who serve us think about us? In a single week in their country, between meals, hotels, fares, entry fees for various events and places, each of us might spend two years’ worth of wages of an average person.

Is it any wonder that boys like Jeremy, once they are 16 years old and independent, get on a bus and head “al norte” to make a better living for themselves?

I cannot blame them. These people are made of passion and diligence and an indomitable spirit. It’s as if they came straight from Mother Earth.

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This kind of stuff annoys me.

Politicians do not create jobs. The economy and industry creates jobs. Yes, I create jobs. I created jobs while Obama was president, and I created jobs while Trump was president.

Trump or Obama had nothing to do with my job creation endeavors. And I can say with certainty that I see no difference between the climate for job creation by Obama vs. Trump. It’s been good in the last 10 years. Trump gets no credit from me. The graphs of Obama’s presidency just continued.

But we get sucked into this nonsense.

 

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To Tip or Not To Tip

Many foreigners can’t figure out the tipping system in America. I actually like it. Every time I go to another country where tipping is not customary like it is here, I remember why I like it. It just makes customer service better. Going to a restaurant in the United States is by far a different experience from going to a restaurant in a European country, where the waiters are paid “a living wage” to use a Bernie Sanders phrase. The waiters, all too often, simply don’t care, and the service is sloppy and slow. Often the staff is unfriendly and sometimes even condescending.

When a significant portion of your income depends on how the customer feels taken care of, the quality of service goes up.

I believe in tipping, and I usually tip well, but only where the tip has an effect on the service I am getting. I do not believe I should be tipping when there is no direct relationship between the service and the tip.

For instance, I believe in tipping in the following service relationships:

  • Waiters in restaurants – they cater to me, both in making me feel comfortable, providing good advice on the menu, bringing me the food and acting like they want me there. My tip will reward them in proportion to the service. It’s a true interaction.
  • Staff at events – recently we went on a hot-air balloon ride. It takes a whole crew to get a balloon launched and landed safely. The staff works hard and they make the guests feel safe, comfortable, and enhance the experience.
  • Shuttle drivers – from hotels, rental car companies, parking garages to airport terminals, etc. The drivers work hard, they carry my luggage, they drop me off and pick me up when I need them.
  • Doormen – people who hail cars, check your luggage, coats, open your doors, help you in and out of cars.
  • Food delivery people – the pizza man, or anyone bringing food to my house.
  • Installers at my house – Recently we had a fan installed at my house. The installer worked had, cleaned up after himself, and I know he was just a laborer, working for a company. I gave him a generous tip.

I don’t tip in the following service relationships:

  • Hotel housekeeping staff – this is controversial. Many people leave tips on the pillow for housekeepers. I do not, except when I am at a resort for multiple days or a week, and it’s the same housekeeper that cleans up for me day after day. When I spend one or two nights at a hotel, I never see the housekeeper, and I do not create a service relationship. The service is provided in advance according to expectations set. Whether I leave a tip at the end or not does not affect the service. It makes no sense to me.
  • Owners or managers – If I am getting a service from a business owner, say a caterer, and the caterer is the boss, and I am already paying for that service, I do not think I should be expected to tip them.
  • Tip jars at the coffee shop – The servers behind the counter work hard, yes, but what they do is pour a cup of overpriced coffee into a paper cup, put on a lid, and take my money. I don’t believe after paying two dollars for a cup of coffee I should put money into a jar on the counter. These people are doing the minimum necessary to give me my product. I don’t think a tip is appropriate. I ignore the jar.
  • Tip jars anywhere – If someone just sells me something, there is no reason for a tip.
  • Cab drivers – even though I do sometimes tip when I have to give cash to a cab driver, I never like it. They are driving me, for goodness sake. What’s so special. Now I don’t use cabs anymore, I use Uber, and yes, I usually don’t tip Uber drivers.

I am curious if my readers have input into this subject.

 

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President Trump has been blowing his own horn about having GDP growth rates of over 4.2%. That is correct, he has.

The chart below (source) shows the U.S. GDP growth rate not adjusted for inflation.

The interesting fact is that Obama shows a growth rate of over 4.2% in six out of the 32 quarters of his presidency. When you look at where he took over – right after Bush’s market crash – he really did inherit a mess, unlike Trump, who came in when things were going swimmingly.

However, Obama’s growth rate, on average, was slower than Bush’s, if you for a moment forget about the crash, and Trump’s.

This has been common knowledge. Obama’s growth or recovery rates were slower than they could have been. I attribute that to his being bent on regulation, both in the financial sector, as well as in energy. I considered him responsible for the health of the citizenry and the long-term health of the globe. I do think that climate change is anthropogenic, and I do believe that Obama took responsible actions. We were paying for it by less than optimal growth rates.

In the end, however, Trump is making claims that he is some superstar of growth, which he is not. Bush’s numbers were better than his, and Obama’s not that much worse.

Date Rate President Average
30-Jun-18 5.44% Trump 4.44%
31-Mar-18 4.58% Trump
31-Dec-17 4.49% Trump
30-Sep-17 4.19% Trump
30-Jun-17 3.85% Trump
31-Mar-17 4.09% Trump
31-Dec-16 3.40% Obama 3.07%
30-Sep-16 2.56% Obama
30-Jun-16 2.30% Obama
31-Mar-16 2.44% Obama
31-Dec-15 2.89% Obama
30-Sep-15 3.45% Obama
30-Jun-15 4.57% Obama
31-Mar-15 5.07% Obama
31-Dec-14 4.42% Obama
30-Sep-14 5.17% Obama
30-Jun-14 4.74% Obama
31-Mar-14 3.22% Obama
31-Dec-13 4.43% Obama
30-Sep-13 3.64% Obama
30-Jun-13 3.01% Obama
31-Mar-13 3.43% Obama
31-Dec-12 3.56% Obama
30-Sep-12 4.27% Obama
30-Jun-12 4.23% Obama
31-Mar-12 4.80% Obama
31-Dec-11 3.65% Obama
30-Sep-11 3.40% Obama
30-Jun-11 3.82% Obama
31-Mar-11 3.83% Obama
31-Dec-10 4.19% Obama
30-Sep-10 4.57% Obama
30-Jun-10 3.99% Obama
31-Mar-10 2.27% Obama
31-Dec-09 0.47% Obama
30-Sep-09 -2.80% Obama
30-Jun-09 -3.06% Obama
31-Mar-09 -1.75% Obama
31-Dec-08 -0.83% Bush 4.64%
30-Sep-08 2.07% Bush
30-Jun-08 2.94% Bush
31-Mar-08 3.11% Bush
31-Dec-07 4.59% Bush
30-Sep-07 4.81% Bush
30-Jun-07 4.60% Bush
31-Mar-07 4.45% Bush
31-Dec-06 5.29% Bush
30-Sep-06 5.51% Bush
30-Jun-06 6.51% Bush
31-Mar-06 6.60% Bush
31-Dec-05 6.47% Bush
30-Sep-05 6.82% Bush
30-Jun-05 6.61% Bush
31-Mar-05 7.06% Bush
31-Dec-04 6.40% Bush
30-Sep-04 6.36% Bush
30-Jun-04 7.04% Bush
31-Mar-04 6.59% Bush
31-Dec-03 6.30% Bush
30-Sep-03 5.23% Bush
30-Jun-03 3.85% Bush
31-Mar-03 3.66% Bush
31-Dec-02 3.86% Bush
30-Sep-02 3.74% Bush
30-Jun-02 2.79% Bush
31-Mar-02 3.02% Bush
31-Dec-01 2.12% Bush
30-Sep-01 2.68% Bush
30-Jun-01 3.42% Bush
31-Mar-01 4.70% Bush

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I am on the board of a Homeowners Association (HOA). Recently we received the letter below from our landscaping contractor. I have redacted any identifying information for privacy. You can click on the letter to enlarge it.

This shows the effect of government-mandated minimum wage increases. The result is almost never what is intended. The additional costs are passed on to the consumer, and the whole process simply drives up inflation. We, the homeowners, are going to pay more for the landscaping, so the workers can get their higher minimum wage. This happens when there is nothing the company can do about it.

Other affected companies, like fast food restaurants, have choices, usually related to automation. We have seen more self-service kiosks spring up in fast food places, replacing the high school students behind the counter. Restaurants figure out how to make do with less human labor, not more. In that case, minimum wage incentivizes automation.

Recently I have seen Bernie Sanders attack Amazon and Jeff Bezos, who recently passed Bill Gates as the richest man in the world. Here is one of Bernie Sanders’ tweets:

Here is another one, where you can hear Bernie speak about the subject:

This is a complicated subject. Bernie wants to force Amazon, and other companies, to pay their workers a “living wage” that takes them out of the income range that qualifies for welfare.

Yes, you and I, with our tax dollars, pay for food stamps and other programs to help Amazon workers who can’t feed their families on the money they earn.

Sanders rages against Bezos, who has built the company into what it is today.

As cruel as it sounds, however, Bernie’s answer isn’t going to work. It’s not the government’s job to tell companies what they need to pay their workers. Companies pay their workers what they need to pay them to do the jobs they need done. It’s as simple as that.

If there are enough high school students who are willing to stand behind a counter at McDonald’s for $7.25 an hour, then that’s what McDonald’s will pay.

If Amazon workers don’t like their wage, why don’t they go to another company that pays more for the skills they have? Why don’t they all leave Amazon? If Amazon could not find workers to work for what they pay, they would raise that pay.

The problem is that the low-paying jobs are those that do not need a lot of skills, education, dedication or creativity. Go check out what Amazon pays its engineers! You’ll probably find $120,000 and above as the average. Why don’t the workers that don’t like the low wage become engineers so they can get paid high wages?

We also keep pointing out that the average CEO makes 312 times as much as the average worker. I just found this in Time Magazine today:

Here is what I say: If you like the pay of the CEO, why don’t you become the CEO of one of the top 350 publicly held companies in America?

The problem is that it’s hard to do that. It takes years of education, working at entry-level jobs, climbing through the ranks, working in stressful careers, doing 80 plus work weeks for years on fixed salaries, getting promoted to management, working 12 hour days 7 days a week in management. If you do all that, and you happen to choose an industry and career field with a future, and your company doesn’t go under as you work you butt off, and if you’re lucky and don’t get sick, and if the economic cycles align to your benefit, you might one day find yourself a CEO. And you make the big bucks.

After you have gone through that, you will know that the government had nothing to do with your overnight success and your phenomenal income.

You will also understand that minimum wage laws don’t work. All they do is force the working people to pay for those that don’t work, or don’t want to work, or can’t work, or don’t have the education needed to work.

This is what feeds Trumpism in the first place. This is why our country is divided. Trumpism does not work. But Bernie Sanders’ socialism also does not work.

Neither is the solution we need for a well-functioning society.

The real solution is education, and that is for another rant.

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Tax Cuts and Debt

During the Obama years, Congress and the conservative talking heads blasted and ridiculed him for deficits and racking up the debt. Every day we had to listen how he was bankrupting our country, how debt was killing us. Remember when the Republican Congress was willing to shut down the government rather than raising the debt ceiling?

What happened to all that fiscal responsibility and loathing of debt?

The U.S. budget deficit this year is already 21% higher than last year. U.S. borrowing is expected to hit $329 billion in the current quarter. This will be the largest third quarter deficit in eight years and will equate to a 74% rise over last year.

Nobody seems to be complaining about that now. Are we no longer worried about our grandchildren?

Mnuchin is the bankruptcy expert. Remember, his was the guy who flourished during the 2008/2009 housing crisis. Millions of Americans lost their homes. Mnuchin got very rich.

Trump is doing to our country what he did to many of his businesses. He is running it into the ground. He is bankrupting it. When it gets nasty, he will walk away, personally much richer than before.

You can’t money-launder the United States national debt away with borrowing schemes from Russian oligarchs. So for the next 50 years, the middle class, our children and grandchildren, will be paying for the debt so the fat cats today got their tax cuts. Ross, DeVos, Mnuchin, Trump, all the kleptocrats we put in charge, are sucking the country dry, and we’re letting them.

Trump always says that our leaders have been stupid. Maybe they have been.

But right now, it’s us, the country, who are stupid.

 

 

 

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April 1, 1976 was the day I reported to military boot camp in Leipheim, Germany. I was a 19-year-old boy and the service was my first real job. No man ever forgets the day he goes into the military. I remember it fondly.

On April 1, 1976, that very same day, on the other side of the world, in a garage in Palo Alto, California, another boy, this one 20 years old, by the name of Steve Jobs, along with this engineer friend Steve Wozniak, founded Apple Computer.

Four years later the military discharged me, and I got ready to go to college, for math and computer science.

Four years later, on December 12, 1980, Apple launched its IPO, selling 4.6 million shares at $22 per share. The shares sold out almost immediately and the IPO generated more capital than any IPO since Ford Motor Company in 1956. Apple was worth $1.2 billion.

Then in 1997, Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. Microsoft and its many partners in the personal-computer market were eating Apple’s lunch. Then they called back Steve Jobs.

Today, 42 years and 4 months later, exactly 15,554 days after that auspicious day of April 1, 1976, Apple became the first company in history to reach a market cap of $1 trillion. Nobody had ever reached that before. Exxon, which for decades was the most valuable company on the planet, is at $338 billion today, almost exactly a third of Apple’s value.

Congratulations, Apple. You are an inspiration to all entrepreneurs, and I must admit there have been many crossroads in my career and the life of my own company when I found myself asking: What would Apple do now?

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I am a Californian, and I am proud of it. We used to be the world’s 7th largest economy, if we were a country of our own. We’re now the 5th, after surpassing France and then just recently the United Kingdom. India has also edged ahead of France recently.

Germany, you’re next. Here we come!

For comparison, look at puny Russia. Putin likes to think he makes a difference, and by weaponry perhaps he does. But Russia’s economy is smaller than that of New York City.

And this is also a message for all those that keep bashing California and Governor Brown for being “liberal.” California has 12% of the population of the United States but produces 14% of its GDP. I can say that our state has a $6 billion surplus and pays into the United States treasury more than any other state. In other words, California taxpayers are subsidizing the “poor” states of our union to a large degree.

Now don’t make me put up a red / blue map superimposed over the map of the states who fund the United States treasury and those who drag on it.

And now, back to work!

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I am tired of Trump supporters telling me that Trump is a brilliant business man. He is not. He is a failing business man who routinely files bankruptcy when he can’t make his businesses work, stiffing his creditors and workers. He is a con man who spent his entire career sucking money out of the middle class to enrich himself. Trump University is just one example.

Trump knows the game of the rich class, and he is putting on a circus for the middle class to distract us from what is really going on. The ultra rich, and the corporate world, are benefitting from what is going on quietly behind the scenes while we’re all distracted by the dazzling magic show of blunders and corruption and outrageous stagecraft at this rallies.

He puts on the Immigrants are Evil public show, knowing fully well that none of his facts make any sense, immigrants have nothing to do with the problems of America, because he knows we can only be angry about one thing at a time.

It’s the deeds of Congress and his cabinet behind the scenes that we should really be worried about. Here are just a few of them:

  • Dismantling National Parks or opening them to exploitation by mining and logging.
  • Removing consumer protections imposed on banks and credit companies.
  • Instituting tax cuts that favor businesses and super wealthy individuals and are largely meaningless to the middle class.
  • Neutering the EPA, whose mission it is to protect the public from corporate pollution.
  • Dismantling the Department of Education and pushing our public funds to private for profit schools where we have no control over the use of the funds.
  • Increasing the military budget and thus feeding the military industrial complex. The increase of $80 billion this year alone is more than the entire military budget of Russia.
  • Removing civil rights protections.
  • Removing all our work toward research and protection against climate change. This is the worst crime of all, since it’s going to take decades to fix, and our grandchildren get to clean up the mess. This is a crime against humanity.

Watch the hand behind his back, not the circus in front of our faces.

We, the middle class, are getting hurt and exploited everywhere along the way. The debt is skyrocketing. Some day we will have to pay for all this, and Trump won’t be around to help with it.

Corporate America is doing great and the middle class is not getting the benefits. That’s why the stock market is rising.

When it all comes crumbling down, the rich aren’t going to be affected much. They’ll still eat and travel in helicopters. It’s the middle class that will lose everything – once again.

Trump will long be gone by then.

We will still be here.

 

 

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Recently I found this one in my social media feed from an unidentified person under @SunsetSocialist:

I’m really sick of being told that there are “good billionaires.” Hoarding billions of dollars for literally NO REASON while most human beings starve to death is an action so evil that it’s almost unparalleled. They’re all moral monsters, plain and simple.

I am not a billionaire. But I am aghast when I read SunsetSocialist’s drivel.

Having money is “hoarding?” How much money do you have to have before you are a money hoarder? A hundred dollars? A thousand? A hundred thousand? A million? A billion? Does SunsetSocialist get to set the threshold just above his own net worth, so he is not a hoarder, but everyone wealthier than he is?

And what’s with “most human beings starve to death?” That is just not accurate.

Global Poverty Facts

Here are some statistics that show the scale of global poverty and its devastating effects.

1) 767 million people, or 10.7 percent of the population, live in extreme poverty with less than $1.90 per day.

2) 2.1 billion people live on less than $3.10 per day.

3) 328 million children are living in extreme poverty.

4) At least 17 million children suffer from severe acute under nutrition around the world. Severe acute malnutrition is the direct cause of death for 1 million children every year.

5) Every single day, 1,000 children under 5 die from illnesses like diarrhea, dysentery, and cholera caused by contaminated water and inadequate sanitation.

— source: Global Poverty and Hunger

While I do think it is tragic that 10 percent of the world’s population live in extreme poverty (and one might call that “starving to death”) I do not think it is my job, or my neighbor’s job, or some billionaire’s job, to feed those people. We give what we can. My question to SunsetSocialist is: How much does he give from his stash to feed the global hungry? What percentage of his income does he contribute every month? After he tells us that, he has a right to suggest how much an unnamed billionaire should be contributing. I suspect that most billionaires are already contributing percentage-wise way more than SunsetSocialist does – but I am speculating.

I just read that Phil Knight of Nike gives away $100 million a year, every year. Really, really evil!

They are all moral monsters.

Aha, all of them. I wonder how many billionaires SunsetSocialist has actually met, and would be qualified to judge for their morality?

Billionaires are people. There are going to be good ones, and not so good ones. I choose to judge people by their deeds, by their actions, by their legacy, and not by some label.

This reminds me of a post I wrote about three years ago about vilifying billionaires. Here is the link again. I stand by every word I wrote then.

There you have it, SunsetSocialist!

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What in the world happened to Paul Ryan? He used to be smart, principled, thoughtful and gracious.

Ryan was ridiculed after his tweet which made it sound like a $1.50 a week increase in a secretary’s paycheck was good news! Oh, yes, her Costco membership for a year is now covered!

He later deleted that tweet. I thought I’d keep it alive here.

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My post titled Stock Market under Obama and Trump of June 2017 attracted a number of comments from an anonymous reader. While I usually don’t respond to posts by readers who do not identify themselves with a name (Hopeyouarentafinancialadvisor), this one had enough substance that I not only thought it warranted responses, but further research and discussion here.

My argument in June was that, yes, during Trump, the economy, as measured by stock market value increases, has been booming, but I wanted to bring back some credit to Obama, where that boom actually had started back in 2009. I used this chart to illustrate that point.

In subsequent exchanges, the reader said I picked a random starting date for both presidents. Well, the day of inauguration is not all that random. The reader suggested I should use the dates of election, and it would show a different picture. So let’s do that and add to this chart:

[click to enlarge]

Source: Macrotrends.net

My point of the original post was that Trump could not alone take credit for a rising stock market. The stock market had been rising since 2009 at a steady clip, without major dips that we experienced in the Bush years. My point also was that Obama entered during freefall, whether you look at his date of election or inauguration. Yes, if you look at the election dates, due to the timing of the Bush freefall, and subtract the two, the election date difference is smaller than the inauguration date difference.

And yes, looking at the graph 6 months later, one year into the Trump administration, it is visible that there is an inflection point at Trump’s entry and the curve has increased to a steeper slope, particularly in the last six months. I give credit to Trump’s approach of opening regulation and pro-business general policies.

However, if you look at a president’s first year in office alone with respect to the Dow, measuring in percentage gains, not point gains, there is a surprising statistic. Trump is only third in history, beaten by FDR and – surprisingly – Obama. This was well illustrated in the USA Today of January 22, 2018:

[click to enlarge]

Here is another view that shows that Obama’s gain during his first year in office was larger than that of Trump. I know Hopeyouarentafinancialadvisor will argue that this should have been done using election dates rather than inauguration dates, and the numbers would be smaller. However, skewed smaller, because since Obama took over during a freefall, we certainly can’t penalize him from the continued drop before things, thankfully, got caught on the bottom.

So I reassert – given the economic conditions of where Obama started – in a mess – he did alright. I wish it had grown faster, too.

Trump keeps saying he took over a mess. He did not. He took over when things were going quite well, and had been going upward steadily for 8 years. That’s not a mess, even if Hopeyouarentafinancialadvisor might argue that it could have been better.

The real numbers, of course, will be those of the next few years under Trump. Will this trend continue? What will a full four or eight years show?

 

 

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I have never liked the ubiquitous supermarket reward programs we have in this country.

When I go to the supermarket, I want to pick my groceries at the posted prices, go to the cash register, pay and leave.

Instead, many of our local stores, like Vons and Ralphs (and many others) ask whether I have my rewards card with me. When I say I don’t, they ask for my phone number, because my number is associated with my account, and presumably me, and they can use that to look me up. Of course, since I don’t have an account, my phone number won’t work either.

So I do not get the best price. I pay more, sometimes significantly more, for my articles.

Why?

I do not pretend to know all that is behind this strategy, but obviously the stores want to know my identity to they can track my buying habits. I don’t cooperate because I am not a card-carrier and I object to being tracked. (Yes, I know, it’s  ridiculous, since I conform in many other areas…)

But here is my point: Whatever the stores are intending with this is not working. That I know for sure.

When I was at Ralphs the other day buying Christmas wrapping goods, my bill came out to be $10.58. The cashier asked me for my rewards card. I didn’t have one. He was nice to me, so he pulled out his own key chain and scanned his card for me. That reduced my bill by a total of $2.00. Not an insignificant percentage, just for carrying a card!

I was happy. I “saved” $2.00.

When I left the store I looked at the receipt:

My friendly checkout clerk has a rewards number ending in 8826 (blue box). By giving me my discount of $2.00 (green box) he added 8 points to his own rewards account (red box). I don’t know what that means, but I am sure it eventually results in some discount or other benefit.

This cannot be the intent of the Ralphs rewards program. They have no idea who I was and what I bought, but they gave me the discount, and they gave their employee the rewards points.

I prefer grocery stores that give everyone a good price without these crazy games.

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Rumination on the Trump Tax Cuts

Congress has passed the Trump Tax Cuts. The current administration and cabinet are the wealthiest in history. Our middleclass and poor have elected a government of billionaires and a president who has not published his own tax returns.

Now they have passed a tax reform that is a dramatic shift of wealth from the poor and the middleclass to the very rich and to corporations. And the Trump voters are somehow happy with this. They are told that this is good for the country, and they appear to believe it. The cuts for the wealthy and for corporations are permanent. The cuts for the middle class are temporary and small.

Congress makes it out to be adding “only” $0.448 trillion to the debt. Analysts claim numbers between half a trillion and $1.5 trillion, depending on whose numbers you want to trust.  That assumes that the current bubble of the stock market will continue to remain intact for a decade, which, of course, it won’t. Long after Trump is gone, and long after the current GOP Congress has been voted out, the middle class will still suffer, and the rich will still get richer, including the Trump clan. What a genius con, and Trump voters seem to be okay with that.

After slamming Obama for adding to the debt for many years, all of a sudden the debt does not seem to matter so much. Wait, however, for the next action of Congress, after the tax cuts are signed into law. Then, suddenly, they will be worried about the debt, and they’ll be all too eager to slash those pesky “entitlements.” They mean the Social Security I have paid into for 40 years, our money they have borrowed in previous years to keep up military spending. Suddenly, they will need to cut Social Security, and subsidies for medial insurance, to make up for the money they just gave to the rich and to corporations.

I might add here that I myself am the CEO of a corporation and the cuts to the corporate tax rates will result in significant benefits over the upcoming years. My company will benefit by putting the burden of more debt on my children and grandchildren, decades down the tunnel of time. Long after I am gone, my descendants will be paying for the debt created by Trump and his ilk.

I cannot speak for all companies. However, I can assure you that less tax payments are not affecting our expansion plans or hiring strategies. These factors are driven by market conditions, not by how much cash we have in the bank.

Even though we’re all getting a small tax relief in the next few years, I consider it immoral that our current kleptocracy has the audacity to suck up our current resources, without fixing the core problem of massive overspending on the military, and putting the burden on future generations of Americans.

We are no longer a democracy.

And to top it all off, the current populace seems happy with all that.

Thievery, it is!

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The Tax Cut Thing

I talked to my CPA about taxes. He thinks they are too high. I agree with him. Lower taxes are good. But you can only lower taxes if you lower spending. I do not see any less spending in the budget. The 57% we spend on defense is even going up. If we are lowering taxes (revenues) and not spending, we are increasing the dreaded debt we blame Obama for.

I just don’t get it.

The Bush tax cuts put vast amounts of money into the pockets of the wealthy. The middle class got one-time checks for $200 or so. This drove up the national debt tremendously, and eventually the economy nearly collapsed.

Then Obama bailed out, and in the process added $10 trillion to the debt. Obama didn’t spend more money. Look at the budgets. The additional debt that occurred during the Obama years was to undo damage created during the Bush years.

Now Trump wants to cut taxes again. The budget office calculates that the Trump tax cuts will add $5 trillion to the debt.

Seriously?

We just blasted Obama for adding to the debt, and now we’re adding more to the debt? And that is called fiscally responsible?

I get a kick out of Trump popularizing the estate tax he wants to get rid of. He talks to audiences of his supporters and calls it the “death tax.” The estate tax is a 40% tax on estates after the first $5.5 million for individuals and $11 million for couples. I venture to say that there is not a single couple in those Trump rally crowds that has a net worth of more than $11 million for whom the abolishment of the estate tax would make any difference.

However, there are a lot of individuals in Trump’s cabinet who would benefit from it. And there is Trump himself.

He has convinced the American electorate that the abolishment of the “death tax” is a good thing for them.

A con man Trump is.

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