Our Lying Eyes And Portfolios

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

“Hoarding.”  Americans are “hoarding” cash in their checking accounts, rather than invest in the stock market.

The analysts quoted in the story say the economy is wonderful, the recession is over, incomes are up so people should be spending like crazy but those darn backwards fearful idiots aren’t even putting money into savings accounts that pay .0000025% interest, they’re leaving it in checking.  Morons.

Or, it could be that ordinary Americans hear the phony economics reports but see the economy around them and choose to believe their eyes.  The economy is not wonderful.  The fact they’re claiming it is, provides evidence we cannot believe them.  A bigger nest egg is a wise precaution.

Next up, watch for Liberal politicians to suggest that banks should assess a “surplus savings surcharge” on hoarders’ bank accounts, then deposit the proceeds into the accounts of non-profit companies ostensibly working for low-income clients but actually donating to Democrats.

Joe Doakes

Today’s quips are tomorrow’s Elizabeth Warren bills.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

That’s two stories [recently] about doctors who see themselves as victims.

Do they realize they’re one percenters who have nothing to bitch about?  Why aren’t they ashamed to be complaining?

They know they’re on the top rung of intelligence, we all do.  We know they have as much perseverance as any Marine – they made it through college, medical school, internship and residency.  They have enormous student loans but they also get paid a great deal of money (hard to get accurate figures but think about it, would you choose to practice a hugely in-demand trade in Worlds-End Minnesota for less than $200,000 a year?)

We know doctors are at the very top of the heap in every medical clinic; anything they say, goes.  We know they are one of the very few professions that still have any respect from the general public.

And yet these two think they are victims.  Persecuted.  Unloved.  Ground under the iron heel of injustice.  Suffering at the hands of The Man.  Precious snowflakes, unique but ever so delicate.

Makes me want to vomit.  Maybe something I ate doesn’t agree with me?  What do you think, doctor?

Joe Doakes

Can’t Possibly Happen Too Soon

I’ve been working at home for a couple years now, for two different companies.  It’s been great; the “road construction” and “first snowfall of the year” and “thunderstorms” that make Twin Cities commuting such a nightmare are pretty much non-factors for me.

Knock wood.

In the previous couple of jobs, I worked in a combination of “Open Offices” – the “airplane hangar”-style office layout so in vogue these days, which is really just a throwback to the 1940s-stylie institutional office – and, worse, the “war room” concept that’s become the fad among those subscribing to this year’s model for software development, the creaky, plodding, dinosaur called with whimisical irony “Agile”.

The only thing I miss about working in an office is…well, people,  The right people, at the right time, anyway.  And even that’s OK.  I’ve had to get a lot more diligent about organizing a social life, which is also good.

Anyway – I’m very much hoping the trend continues.  And while any trend will get to Minnesota years after the coast, there is hope.

“What’s In Your GDP?”

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Turns out my way of thinking is old-fashioned. I need to think like a millennial. I understand it all now.

The national debt is $20 trillion but interest on the national debt is only $200 billion, which is only 5% of the annual budget.

We don’t care about the total amount of debt. We don’t even care about the annual deficit, because . . .


That’s literally The Plan for running the nation. Just keep running up debt to buy what we want, and make the minimum monthly payment.

But why stop there? Why make the payment at all? Why have student loans – just make college free. Why have FHA loans – just make houses free. Government pays for everything, add it to the debt, make the minimum monthly payments.

Why go half-way? Go all the way!

Joe Doakes

It’s the “Everyone’s pal from college who just kept on running up new credit cards” theory of budgeting.

Someday – five years?  Five generations? – some government will treat “reversion to a barter economy” as “everything is free!”.

Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Reading a book from 2004 called “Dark Age Ahead” by Jane Jacobs, who has written about culture and cities and societal change.

When it was written, everybody assumed the house price bubble would never burst.

When it was written, everybody assumed that if the house price bubble did burst, the market would quickly correct itself making housing more affordable.

Nobody saw the endless string of stimulus packages and interest rate cuts to bail out foreign banks hoping to keep home prices propped up for a decade.

A whole string of public policy recommendations turned out to be based on bad assumptions.  We see it now, of course.  But at the time . . . .

So: what bad assumptions are we using today as a basis for public policies which, in 15 years, will have people shaking their heads saying “What a bunch of idiots”?

Joe Doakes

Mitchketeers?  Go to it!


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The experts confidently predicting economic collapse after Brexit might want to recalculate, factoring in these savings:

Could be there is more to Brexit that merely escaping immigrant quotas, could be there also are other policies imposed by Brussels that might be rolled back to liberate the Britons.

Like most populist outbreaks, there’s always more to it…


North Dakota Democrats – who haven’t won a statewide office since 2008, and don’t actually have enough legislators to fill their committee assignments in the NoDak state legislature – have the same city mouse/country mouse divide that Minnesota DFLers do; Democrats from Fargo and Grand Forks, bodies scarcely less dogmatically “progressive” than their cousins in Minneapolis, have come to dominate the imploding party.

How much do they dominate it?  According to Rob Port, they heckled North Dakota’s sole significant elected Democrat, Senator Heidi Heidtkamp at a recent “reorganization” meeting.

Best part?  The urban simps are so ungodly (Ungoddessly?) ouy-of-control that the rural wing of the party is thinking about splitting up along lines that go back nearly 100 years:

“[Rural Democrats] were completely ignored,” [Rob Port’s] source said, adding that he wasn’t sure what the message for the party would be in 2018 but added that it “damn sure won’t be rural friendly.”

“A number of districts wanted an economic message coming out of the party,” my source continued, adding that there was also a desire to communicate to voters that “not all Democrats are against oil.”
“They were completely ignored,” my source said.
Saying that some are calling the party the “Democrats of the Red River Valley,” my source added that “some people are talking seriously about splitting from the party and reforming the NPL.”

That would be the Nonpartisan League part of the Democratic-NPL, the history of which you can brush up on here.

My sources pointed to a Facebook event created for a “New NPL Caucus Meeting” scheduled for July. One of my sources described that as a “organization meeting” for the NPL, though the event page itself seems to describe the effort as a caucus within the Democratic party itself.

The event page does say this new caucus was created on April 8, the same day as the Democratic party’s reorganization in Bismarck.

This, as North Dakota closes in on an decade of Republican hegemony that has left it, even with the lull in wildcatting, in excellent economic shape.

The message to Minnesota voters is clear:  try conservative governance for a generation or so.

Let’s Play Restaurant Dead Pool

Two restaurants in Minneapolis abolish tipping, raise their staff wages to $15 an hour:

Common Roots Cafe (2558 Lyndale Ave. S.) and Butter Bakery Cafe (3700 Nicollet Ave. S.) informed their customers of the change by posting signs in their establishments and on their social media accounts.

In a lengthy explainer, Common Roots Cafe says it will be raising the pay of its staff from at least $11.40 per hour to a minimum of $15 per hour, plus benefits. As a result it won’t be accepting tips, something the cafe said “never felt right for our business.” To cover the extra cost, prices are rising 15 percent.

“We believe all people, regardless of where they work, should make a fair wage and should not have to depend on tips as a major part of their compensation,” the cafe’s Facebook post said, adding: “We think of this [as] a small step we can take toward making the restaurant industry more equitable and to make our workplace stronger and more supportive of all staff.”

The Butter Bakery Cafe posted a shorter message to customers on Tuesday, saying that it has “built fair wages into our menu prices” and is now a “tip free” eatery.

First things first:  their business, their choice.  Better this than the city forcing it on the businesses.

Although that’s coming.

Other restaurants in the cities have experimented with no tipping policies before but they’ve not always been successful. WCCO reports Upton 43 and Victory 44 ended their no-tipping policy last March after a trial run.

Chef and owner of both establishments, Erick Harcey, said it actually went over well with customers and staff members, but caused the restaurants to be priced out with competitors who didn’t have the same policy.

Let’s check back in six months, shall we? 

Public Relations

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The guy dragged off the United Airlines flight now claims he was selected because of his race, which is discrimination.  Is that why he was having hysterics on the plane?

The guy’s response seemed disproportional.  You don’t want to be the guy forced off the plane, I get that.  But seriously, what’s the downside?  You call your work and tell them the story.  Are they really going to fire you over it?   If it’s that big of a deal that you be there to perform the brain surgery, see if they can’t get you another flight instead of a hotel room or rent a car and drive.  Don’t act like a special snowflake, that’s for college kids.

On the other hand, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the airline kicked paying passengers off the flight so they could transport a flight crew who needed to be at the destination location to fly a later flight.  This was not a disruptive passenger, it was not even an overbooking situation, the passengers were booted off the plane entirely for the airline’s convenience.  The airline could have canceled that later flight for lack of a flight crew but it would have cost a boatload of money.  More than $800?  So offer more money.  If they got up to a grand or two, somebody would have taken the bait.  And if not, for that kind of money, they could have hired a private charter to haul the flight crew.

It’s Chicago to Louisville, for crying out loud.  It’s a one-hour flight or a 5 hour drive. For the amount of bad publicity the airline is getting, they could have hired a limo to drive the crew.

And for the CEO to go public claiming the passenger was removed because he was disruptive is pure bull.  He was removed because the airline was too cheap to transport its own flight crew at market prices, i.e., what the paying passengers would accept to give up their seats.

The airline acted brutally and stupidly.  It deserves all the bad publicity it can get.  I’d start with Congress considering legislation that paying passengers cannot be bumped by non-paying passengers (flight crew, family, airline mile redeemers, etc).  Nobody else gets this kind of preferential business model.  Why should airlines?

Joe Doakes

Post-script – or, actually, two post-scripts.

First – whenever the “Free market” does somethingi stupid, or especially something brutal, always look to see if government is the real reason.  The answer, almost invariably, is “yes”.

Government regulations forbid paying premiums of greater than four times the original ticket price – to a maximum of $1350, to passengers who get bumped.


And the post-9/11 environment of security theater means that episodes that used to be simple customer service disagreements and even misunderstandings are now law enforcement episodes, and even federal crimes.  Thus, the Chicago Airport Police were involved with what should have been a negotiation between passengers and a gate agent – before boarding.   Of course, being Chicago cops, someone just had to “fall”…


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The purpose of advertising is to influence behavior, we all know that.  And the more people who see the advertisement, the more potential customers whose behavior is available to be influenced.  That’s why advertisers pay millions of dollars for a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl: they know they’ll be influencing millions of potential customers with their ads.

 Which brings up the question: how long must I stare at an advertisement for it to influence me?  Does it take the full 30-seconds for the magic to work?  Could it happen more quickly?  Perhaps even unconsciously?  Does subliminal advertising work?  Lots of researchers think so.

 If they’re right, I wish they’d explain it to web designers.  I click on links because I want to read the article.  But when the web page takes forever to load, then refuses to let me click through the ad, and auto-plays videos I don’t want to see . . . I click away, having never read the article at all.  My behavior is influenced negatively.

If they’d bring up the article right away, the ads could appear in my peripheral vision while I read.  I’d actually see them, they could do their magic, my behavior would be influenced positively.  If the blog author’s article got mentioned on Instapundit, the resulting Insta-lanche would put millions of potential customers in position available to be influenced by the peripheral ads.

 Joe Doakes

Don’t look at me.  I moved my ads to the sidebar.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The H-1B visa program was started because Americas were such a bunch of dummies, we couldn’t supply the tech industry with enough qualified people not matter how much we offered to pay them.

 But according to this article, it’s now being used to bring in foreigners who can be paid less than qualified Americans.  The problem now isn’t that there aren’t enough qualified Americans, it’s that they cost too much.

 The program was never supposed to be about cost, only supply.  If we have an adequate supply, we don’t need the program.

 Joe Doakes

Oh, it’s about cost.  How else can our high tech industry compete on commodity products like code?

All The Usual Caveats Apply

But Trump’s first month of employment numbers are pretty darn good.

“GREAT AGAIN: +235,000,” Trump posted on his Twitter account in a retweet of a Drudge Report headline on Friday minutes after the Bureau of Labor Statistics released payrolls data for February showing the U.S. added a net 235,000 jobs during the month.

Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. president who’s now director of the National Economic Council, used the report as validation of Trump’s approach to bolstering the economy, which has included bringing in corporate executives to the White House to press them for hiring commitments and publicly scolding companies over plans to move production abroad.

Like I said, all caveats apply; there are a lot of people out there out of work and off the grid, vis a vis the Bureau of Labor Statistics top-line unemployment nmbers.

But the stats show a rise in pay – which has been fairly absent from Obama’s “recovery” so far.  There is a long way to go, and one month of good news isnt’ “Morning in America” just yet.

My personal jury is still out.  But it’s not a bad start.

To The Minneapolis And Saint Paul City Councils

To:  Our Bobbleheaded Overlords
From: Mitch Berg, Irascible Peasant
Re:  “Fight For Fifteen!”


From a friend of this blog, here’s where the $15/hour minimum wage leads, inevitably and inexorably:

It’s at Seattle/Tacoma International Airport – an early adopter of the #FightFor15 – in case you were wondering. Photo courtesy Brian Skon.

Let me just take a moment to say, I don’t think the “#FightFor15” has anything to do with raising worker wages, or taking any sort of care of the little guy.  If it were, you’d be fighting for the only sustainable minimum wage there is – widespread prosperity

No.  This is about virtue-signaling to your base (and I don’t mean minimum wage earners) and showing small business who’s boss.

That is all.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Just before handing over power, the Obama Justice Department sued Klein Bank for redlining.  Prosecution exhibits at the link include a map of Klein’s service territory, a crescent around the West side of Minneapolis.  They don’t lend in the inner cities, that’s not their business model.  But those are the highest concentration of people of color!  Why wouldn’t Klein want to make loans there? 

 Gee, I wonder: why would any prudent lender think race or neighborhood would have anything to do with loan profitability?  Have you ever driven through North Minneapolis or Frogtown?  Looked at all the foreclosed properties? Why would any sane lender want to lend money there?

 Social Justice types insist there’s no difference in foreclosure rates between Black and White neighborhoods, that’s just a racist stereotype.  And yet every study by Social Justice types undercuts the narrative supporting the Community Reinvestment Act’s requirement of lending to people who can’t afford to repay.  Here are some from the Twin Cities, who see the damage:



 http://www.irpumn.org/uls/resources/projects/IRP_mortgage_study_Feb._11th.pdf which contains this especially good paragraph:

 “The enormous costs of foreclosures—to families who lose their homes as well as to cities and towns losing tax resources—have been greatest for communities of color. Both subprime lending rates and foreclosure rates have been highest in neighborhoods with the highest percentages of people of color. The impact of these patterns is especially notable in North Minneapolis, an area where prime lenders are noticeably under-represented and subprime lenders are significantly over-represented.”

 Prime lenders are underrepresented?  Why would that be?  The Community Reinvestment Act demands that banks lend money to persons of color.  But that group tends to have worse credit ratings and (at least in some people’s minds) a culture that fails to emphasize adhering to your contracts.  So lenders don’t consider them prime candidates for a loan; instead, lenders demand a risk premium in the form of higher interest rates to make those loans, which makes it harder for the borrower to pay the loans when there’s an economic hiccup, which results in massive foreclosures in neighborhoods of color.  Not all of them, mind you – the foreclosure rate in the Asian community is a fraction of that in the Black and Hispanic community – which gives support to the notion that cultural differences matter.

 The Social Justice solution, of course, is not to work with persons of color to raise their credit scores or change their culture.  Their solution was to lower the lending criteria for a prime rate loan.  That way, everybody would get the cheap rates so nobody would default.  Except it didn’t work, as a decade of foreclosures and bailouts has amply demonstrated.

 The Community Reinvestment Act is unicorn thinking and bad banking practice.  It caused the real estate crash that cost an entire generation most of its life savings.  The Act should be repealed before it causes another.

 Joe Doakes

Fake Economic News

As Joel Kotkin points out, Donald Trump faces two major hurdles.  One is the structural mess Barack Obama left; a shallow, fragile “prosperity” (nonetheless called a “boom” by the Democrat media) built on hoarding low-interest cash.

The second?  The perception that the media is pumping out that this potemkin prosperity is actually a “boom” (emphasis added):

Yet this is more a matter of perception than reality, a kind of “fake news.” To be sure, President Barack Obama inherited a disastrous economy from George W. Bush and can claim, with some justification, that on his watch millions of jobs were restored and the economy achieved steady, if unspectacular, growth. Under Obama average GDP growth has been almost twice as high as under his predecessor, but roughly half that of either President Reagan or Clinton.

(And, lest anyone forget, “under Clinton” really means “under Gingrich”, since Clinton showed every sign of being no  better than Obama for his first two years).

Less appreciated, however, are the fundamental long-term weaknesses in the U.S. economy that Obama and Bush have left for Trump. A recent report from the U.S. Council on Competitiveness details a litany of profound, lingering flaws — historically slow growth, rising inequality, stagnant incomes, slumping productivity and declining lifespans. As the report concludes: “The Great Recession may be over, but America is dangerously running on empty.”

Like everything by Kotkin, it’s worth a read.


Last summer, when the people of the UK voted to leave the EU in the fabled “Brexit”, the same pundits who routinely Americans for “voting against their best interests” took a time out to chide Brits for voting…against their “best interests”.   The Brit economy was going to tank, returning the UK, if not to the Third World, at least into an impemetrable economic fog.

The landed punditry hasn’t been doing so well this year:

Business activity hit a 17-month high last month, meaning that the economy grew by 2.2 per cent last year — more than the six other leading nations, including the US, Germany and Japan.

Far from slowing after the referendum in June, as predicted by the Treasury and Bank of England, [and a rogue’s gallery of American pundits with portfolio – Ed.] growth appeared to have improved. GDP grew at 0.3 per cent and 0.6 per cent in the first two quarters of last year, compared with 0.6 per cent and an estimated 0.5 per cent in the final period.

On the one hand, time will tell.

On the other hand, our departing president wishes he’d had two consecutive quarters as good as that particular “failed experiment”.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Liberals object when I say we ought to run government like a business.  Here’s an example why we should (from the public land records, nothing confidential, all public information):

 House in the 1300 block of Fremont Avenue in St. Paul sold in 2007, peak of the market just before the collapse.  First mortgage $164,000 federally insured loan; second mortgage $20,000 to Family Housing Fund; third mortgage $3000 to Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.  Fourth mortgage in 2010 for $6,000 to St. Paul HRA.

 House was foreclosed in 2016, bank bid $97,000, sold it this Fall to new buyer for $90,000 using a realtor, for which the bank paid the commissions.

 All told, the public lost about $100,000 on that single deal. 

 Yeah, but it helped out a poor person, right? She had a place to live for nearly 10 years. 

 Sort of.  She made payments on four mortgages – that’s enough to cover a ton of rent – and now she has a foreclosure on her credit report and possibly an eviction on her judgment history.  Nobody will lend her any money now, and no landlord wants to rent to her, either.  So did pouring that public money down the drain really do her any good?

 I wonder if she got a participation trophy?  Seems like the least they could do.

 Joe Doakes

When you make something “worth” other than what people would pay for it on their own, there will be unintended consequences.

Brown Bag Nation

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The Post makes a discovery.  About 20 years behind the rest of the nation, but yeah, lunch is expensive.  How is this possible, since there’s no inflation under the Obama administration?  The article doesn’t say.

The correlation between price and the decline in visits is a revelation to the Post but glaringly obvious to me.  Prices have shot way up.  Three years ago, the Golden Arches offered several value meals for under $5.00.  Now there aren’t any, most are in the $7.00 range.  A 40% price increase is noticeable to guys like Joe Shlabotnik, whose disposable income has not kept pace.  So he packs a lunch from home, which pointy-headed economists call “substitution” but which everybody else calls “the new normal.”

 More proof of the utter disconnect between coastal elites and fly-over country hicks.  We knew about this years ago; they’re just now figuring it out.  So who are the real dummies?

 Joe Doakes

Rhetorical question, right, Joe?

Diminished Expectations

I find myself more and more these days trying to give historical context to current events, to clarify current events for the various millennials in my life.

Here’s a big one:  while the media is turning cartwheels about the “Obama Recovery” (happening an unprecedented eight years after the crash – worse than the Great Depression), the best quarter of GDP growth in this “recovery” is lower than the worst quarter of Reagan’s recovery, from 1983 through 1987.

But never mind – the media will keep the narrative of Obama the Economic Lightworker warm and dry.

But with Hillary Clinton in the picture, there’s another wrinkle.   John Hinderaker notes at Powerline (with some emphasis added):

n 1992, Bill Clinton announced that “It’s the economy, stupid.” That was pretty much the sole theme of his campaign. He ludicrously claimed that the country was then experiencing “the worst economy since the Great Depression,” a lie that the press, to its everlasting shame, not just allowed but often endorsed. So what was the level of GDP growth that Clinton relentlessly denigrated?

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the quarterly growth numbers for 1992, in chained 2009 dollars, were 4.8%, 4.5%, 3.9% and 4.1%. That’s right–the growth that Bill Clinton derided as the “worst economy since the Great Depression” was around four times what we are now seeing under Barack Obama. And Hillary Clinton promises to continue Obama’s anti-growth policies.

I remember the recession at the tail end of the Bush 41 administration – as the economy adjusted from a Cold War economy to civilian spending – very well; it slowed down my transition from radio to IT by a few harrowing months when I was welcoming a couple of new children into the world.  But it was a short recession with a sharp recovery (“Thanks, Ronald Reagan, for that “peace dividend!”) that led to 15 mostly-prosperous years…

…whose various windfalls are long in the past.

Some Poor Chump Is Always The Last To Get The Word

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The US economy grew in the first quarter of 2016, but only a tiny bit, 0.5%.  That’s technically enough to keep us out of a “recession.”

 First, do you believe that number?  Economic estimates are routinely announced with pronounced spin showing how well the administration’s policies are working, then quietly revised downward a few months later.  There’s not much room to revise this number downward.

 Second, look at the formula for calculating GDP: 

Gross Domestic Product = Consumption + Investment + Government Spending + (Exports – Imports)

 If the federal government wants the GDP number to look good, it can manipulate the result by increasing government spending to offset decreases in Consumption, Investment and Net Exports.  But federal government spending slowed down in the first quarter as Quantitative Easing winds down.  And the GDP number is falling as a result.  The implications are important.

 It means there never was any growth in the Consumer or Investment side of the economy, that’s all been propped up by federal government spending.  In other words, we’ve been experiencing negative economic growth for months, maybe years, but it’s been masked by federal government spending.  I’m looking at you, Barack Obama, and your $20 Trillion national debt.

 The take-away is simple: don’t worry about Great Depression 2.0 coming; it’s already here.  Worry about what happens when the ordinary public figures it out.

 Joe Doakes

Look!  Bathrooms!