Thursday, January 2, 2014

Economic Realities of 2014: The NFL Playoffs

I studied American and European history in college, both undergrad and in graduate school.  One of the things that I liked to talk about were those "unspoken" events that gave historians a view of history.  When looking at the economy here in the United States after the 2008 financial crisis, and the fact that income inequality has become wider not narrower, one might be able to conclude that wealth factors, (or the lack of wealth) are showing up in the fact that several professional football teams not being able to sell all their tickets for the playoff games this year. As income distribution continues to favor the wealthy among us, more and more people are falling further and further behind, and now it is starting to show up in the numbers of people that can not afford playoff tickets, not just in Cincinnati, but in Indianapolis and Green Bay as well.  Perhaps it is time for the owners of the NFL teams to realize that in order for the NFL to fill stadiums, there has to be a better distribution of wealth in the USA. 

Now, for all of you out there that do not understand Economics 101, please don't tell me I am a socialist or a communist for suggesting that lack of disposable income plays a factor in football fans' ability to afford playoff tickets. If incomes are stagnant and the cost of essentials such as food, clothing, shelter and healthcare rise, disposable income shrinks - disappears! Do the friggin' math! It is simple arithmetic!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why Do People Live In Cities?

Why do people live in cities? Why do people live in Cincinnati? Why not outside the city limits? These and many other questions, the new Cincinnati City Council needs to be asking themselves as they make decisions about where they want to spend the financial resources of the city.

Technology has permitted families to move away from the city to the suburbs, and yet because of roads and private transportation they can maintain their attachment to the city for all the benefits a city provides.  There is no Mason, Montgomery or Indian Hill opera, symphony orchestra or art museum! For these and many others attractions, like the professional sports teams, people come back into the city.

Cincinnati's problem for the 21st century is to maintain and hopefully increase the population of the city. The movement of families back into the city limits would greatly enhance the city's ability to serve its citizens and those that come back into the city for the attractions the city has to offer.

For families to return to Cincinnati, the public schools of the City of Cincinnati need to be among the very best public schools in the country.  Parents are not going to place their children in inferior public schools if there is an alternative waiting for them just beyond the city limits. This is the biggest reason, in my opinion, that Cincinnati has lost population over the last 50 years.  Yes, the interstate has provided the ease for the movement of bread winners into and out of the city, but quality public school education is the lynchpin.  You don't have to be an Einstein to know this fact is true.

Now there is a big debate over a new streetcar system.  To look at the streetcar strictly in a dollars and cents proposition is very shortsighted, in my opinion.  The ability for people to travel to the inner city without driving their car all the way into the heart of the city is a real draw, and to ignore that is a big mistake.  The initial streetcar route is not the end product and that should be realized when considering the gains the city will receive from its full implementation.

This city, like many other cities in our country, must attract people back to its city limits in the 21st century.  If Cincinnati can not attract people back into the city limits and grow in population, it will eventually whither and die like the big city to the north.  The choice is in the hands of City Council, and I hope they will think before they make their decisions.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Stability of The Purchasing Power of Our Money

Take two words, monetary policy, go to sleep, and in the morning you will have less purchasing power.  Does it work that fast? No, but over a period of time, say 20, 30, 40 or 50 years, your purchasing power will erode. Few people even care what the words monetary policy means, much less what monetary policy does.  As all of us who carry Federal Reserve Notes, also known as our paper money, in our wallets, you would think that we would care about monetary policy and who makes it.  Monetary Policy in the United States is made by the Federal Reserve Bank Board, with input from bankers and economists.  My problem with this is that there is no input from people living on a fixed income like Social Security or a pension.

Monetary policy today is designed to accelerate economic growth, and that is where I have a problem. I do not think that monetary policy should be responsible for economic growth as it is interpreted by the members of the Federal Reserve Board.  Economic growth should be encouraged by the laws passed by Congress, and not by the manipulation of monetary policy.

Keeping interest rates very low may bode well for those borrowing money, but it does not bode well for those seniors trying to live off of their pension, Social Security and a few certificates of deposit (CDs) paying a fair rate of interest.  When interest rates are held down by Federal Reserve Bank policy so as to encourage faster economic growth through greater borrowing by everyone that knows how to use leverage, there is only one class of people left holding the short straws, and that is those seniors investing in CDs from their bank.  Because CDs are paying so little in our present low interest rate environment, many seniors are being "forced" by circumstances to invest their money in the stock market in search of higher current yields on their money.

I will stop here, and let you who read my blog MONEYTHOUGHTS digest these three paragraphs.  It is important to understand what I have written.  Not because what I write is important, but because what I write explains why 1.) the stock market is up so much, and 2.) why it is important for everyone to take an interest in what is happening with monetary policy.  We are all part of the monetary system we use in the United States, and as such we should all have a say in how monetary policy is formulated.  Monetary policy is too important to be left just to the bankers and a few economists. Perhaps it is a bit radical to insist that we all have some say in how monetary policy is decided. After all we that live on a fixed income are most dependent on the stability of the purchasing power of our money!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Norwegian Freighter by F.D. Zigler

In the summer of 1964, I hitch-hiked to New Orleans and got a job on a Norwegian freighter. I took a number of photographs with my trusty 35mm camera, not as many as I would have liked, but I held on to them and used two of them for these two paintings.  Here are two views looking towards the rear of the ship from two different elevations. I recycled an old wood window to be my frame and after looking at it for about a year unpainted, decided that I would like the paintings better in a gray frame that reminded me of the gray on the ship. That was an interest summer as I went to South America and the Caribbean.

Norwegian Freighter by F. D. Zigler, acrylic on plywood, 2012.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Shutdown and The Jerks That Shut it Down

Shutting down the Federal Government has only drawn these jerks that have shut it down to the point where we can see that they really don't know how much the Federal Government does every day that we don't know about, or just take for granted.

The death benefit that is paid to every family of a person killed on active military duty is just one of many many things our Federal Government does, and it helps military families make their way through a very difficult time.  But, this is not all the Federal Government does for families, the sick and injured, and so many other programs that we don't know anything about help our veterans too.

This shutdown is not about the budget or the deficit.  It is politics at its worst.  It is about making the first black President of the United States appear that he can not do the job.  Because, if the first black president does a successful job for 8 years, then there might be other men and women of color that could do a good job too.  The Republican Party for the most part doesn't appeal to people of color, or for that matter, to a lot of white people either. They are a political party on their way out because the social and intellectual landscape of the United States has changed and is continuing to change rapidly. The Republican Party's refusal to do anything about immigration reform is just one part of their failing to deal with the United States in the 21st century.

Those jerks in Congress that believe that this will not hurt our economy and have no affect on the world's economy are stupid or they just don't care how much they hurt people.  This brings me to a point that some people will disagree.  The Republican Party doesn't care about people.  It is that simple. Their values are the values of selfishness and indifference.  Most people are seeing this now with the Federal Government shutdown, and they will remember this too at the next election.