When The Promise Was Broken – A Steinbeck Odyssey

The scene in front of our car’s windshield seemed a living tableau straight out of a 1930’s Dorothea Lange photograph from the Great Depression.

On that day in late December 2015, I desperately wanted to be a reporter, the kind of brave journalist who goes to the scene of the action and digs deep into the facts of what had happened.

When the day started I had a miserable cold that colored everything I saw in grey, when we first encountered a situation that seemed straight out of the Twilight Zone.

We’d visited the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. Driving down the one-way street in front of of the building to park we found only another one-way street coming from our left, thus forcing cars from both streets to enter a parking garage and take a ticket to pay for parking.

Ironically all of the downtown streets in Salinas as we entered it were empty of both cars and people that day.

Against the bitter wind of the coldest day ever in this Northern California winter we made a dash for the giant glass architectural monument devoted to one of the greatest authors of the 20th century. We expected to spend hours inside. Continue reading →

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Congress – Wolves Guarding the Hen House!

Author’s note: It’s no surprise this week that the Financial Times ran an article titled “Republicans drop plan to gut ethics office after outcry“. Even Donald Trump sent a tweet rebuking them. Think our Congress doesn’t need guidance on ethics? Think again!

Protection of others or sheer hypocrisy?

If Mr. Trump was serious about cleaning up corruption in Washington DC, the first place he needs to start is with the US House of Representatives and the Senate.

In recent news, it was reported that Senators Bob Corker and Mark Warner made a bundle back in 2008. They made it off of Goldman Sachs’ subprime mortgage-based CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) called Abacus. Both Senators reported that they made millions of dollars from shorting the Abacus fund.

As is typical with the US government regulators, such as the SEC and Department of Justice, no CEO, top executives, or board members at Goldman were prosecuted for this notorious scam.

In fact no one was ever criminally prosecuted for actions in the Financial Crisis of 2008. Continue reading →

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Will We See Inflation in 2017?

Now that the US Presidential election is decided, it’s time for us all to try to anticipate what it might mean for each of us. For some, inflation would be a good thing; for others it won’t be. You know what it would mean for you.

Many people, and particularly investors, seem to be convinced that Fed raises in interest rates will bring on inflation. Why? That’s what has happened in the past.

But we are in a whole new world right now. A world that will be hugely shaped by Donald Trump and company. And by robots which Oxford University experts expect “will replace almost half of all American jobs in the next two decades.”

During his campaign, Donald Trump counted on corporations’ ability to step up and provide new jobs for Americans via funding infrastructure projects using their own money.

Trump soon ran into trouble, halving his estimated spending on new jobs from $1 trillion into $500 billion. My last post, “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” explained why even that estimate might be too much.

The Fed is hoping that an interest-rate rise in the cost corporations pay to borrow capital will bring on a cycle of new investment by corporations. But right now, making capital more expensive will not encourage corporations to spend more.

As of spring 2016, 99% of 2,000 US corporations were deeply in debt. Only 25 large companies hold half of all US corporate cash. Even the amount of cash the richest companies hold is nowhere near the billions of dollars needed for new jobs. Continue reading →

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