So, How Are We Doing?

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As the election approaches, and ramping up, the left is going to do their best to talk the economy down and inspire lack of confidence in order to — if they can pull it off — bring about something like the crash in 08, which gives the average uninformed voter the impression that they can do better.

I don’t need to tell any of you that, right? You’ve all seen it. And you know what, they can’t do better. All they have are prescriptions for 100 years ago, and even then the wrong prescriptions. (Unless you think the economy of Soviet Russia was wonderful.)

So, in case you need warning, don’t fall for it:

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Unless of course you enjoyed your summers of recovery 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 and 7 and 8 and are ready for a return of the franchise: Summer of recovery 8, This time it’s malicious!

However, part of …. uh, inoculating against those fears — and preparing for real fears, actually — is to understand what the economy is doing.

The plural of anecdote is not data, but none of us has any good data. The media will report or not report whatever is around them as a way of influencing politics in the right (left for them) direction. They are true believers, brainwashed in J schools. And even if they weren’t, I doubt they could see it.

I see some of it, or at least some of the trends feeding into it, and I agree with some economist who, the other day was complaining the world economy is looking “Weird.”  Now in his case I suspect it’s because it refuses to comply with the Marxist “truths” he learned, but that’s another kettle of fish.

So I posted yesterday’s post in various groups full of people whose opinions and experience I trust, and who are a broader reach than my own immediate circle. (Which is about 100 people, all over the country and not particularly uniform, but never mind.)

Before we go into what’s weird, and what things are converging into what can turn out to be a perfect storm of either suckage or uplift, let’s set out what the economy — at least from me, and those I heard from — is NOT.

The economy is NOT uniform. 

This should not be a surprise to anyone, right? It never is.  In the eighties, as we were scraping, saving, working too much and  trying to get a toe hold in our fields, we used to laugh at “The future’s so bright I got to wear shades” because, you know… we weren’t that cock sure. People ten years older than us, OTOH they seemed to have it made.  It was probably not universal either. Yes, some fields and niches and age groups are doing very badly.

The economy is NOT tanking

Well, it’s not tanking right now. No, I don’t base this on the stock market, but on the fact that almost everyone I know who was unemployed (sometimes for four or five years) now has a job. Sometimes not their ideal job, but in a surprising number of cases, their ideal job.

Also things that were selling at deep discount even last Christmas are full price now. Which sucks for us bargain shoppers, but it’s a sure sign the merchants aren’t desperate.

The economy — as it is now — is NOT something that government can improve.

It can be argued that government can never improve any economy, but that’s not true. Government can undo the mess government made. In this case, that involves Obama standing astride the economy hitting it with a bag of money (in the form of “stymulus”) but also lovely ideas like not allowing fracking, piling on onerous regulations of all kinds, all the time (yes, sure, Obamacare, but also insane bullshit like requirements for energy and water use for various appliances, with built in instructions that they have to reduce more every year.)

Note that every democrat running for president is intending to stop fracking, and also that both Saudi and Russian money are financing campaigns against fracking. Just in case you wondered what all the collusion BS was. These people project more than an IMAX.

So, how are we doing?

We’re flying by instruments in heavy fog, is how and what we’re doing, since our institutions and the people who are supposed to know how to analyze trends have betrayed us in the name of their shiny socialist would-be paradise.

Here’s the thing though: analyzing trends and hypothesizing their effects is part of what I do in writing.

Future casting is not a science. I was talking to friends yesterday and noted that simply extending our life with so everyone is pretty sure of living to 100 and being functional and basically “early adulthood” level to 90 would turn society upside down, sideways, and make it sing like a cricket. What it would do to morals, manners and economics is impossible to fully forecast.

No, I didn’t say difficult. I said impossible.  Take for instance that now very old invention, the contraceptive pill. Not only have we not stopped working through the secondary and tertiary effects of it, I doubt we’re much past the early primary effects of it.

I also very much doubt anyone fully saw how it would play out when it was first released.

Or take the car, and the effect it had on our polity. States, as sovereign entities used to have far more meaning when we were less mobile.  It also apparently destroyed the mode and manners of courting. (I’m not sure of that one. I wasn’t around to observe.)

And the computer… well, the computer and its secondary and tertiary — and yeah, its primary — effects are part of what’s making everything unpredictable.

Most of us are reading this on computers, or cell phones which are as powerful as computers were 30 years ago.

And if you’ve been alive that long, you know 30 years ago the computers were almost curiosities, used for various things — husband’s early work was writing software for banking — at work, but practically not affecting our daily life.  Our daily life would have been completely intelligible to our grandparents.  Sure our phones had push buttons, and our cars had catalytic converters, but they did more or less exactly what their phones and cars did, and behaved in the same way.

I was telling the kids the other day that Dan and I had our life-hacks down pat for the 80s. Move into a new city? Secure a phone book and a map.  Drive around identifying all the things you’re going to need.  Want to find a club in your interest areas? (For us mostly writers’ groups.) Call the library and ask them. Oh, yeah, and subscribe to two or three papers (in Colorado Springs, we subscribed to the Gazette, the Denver Post, and the Wall Street Journal) so you know what’s going on in the country and the world. Also, subscribe to various magazines in fields of interest, and keep them all, so you can reference stuff you read six years ago, if you need to put it in a story.

Mind you, I wrote on a computer from the second year of our marriage, but the memory was so small I had to store individual chapters separately.  And we could — sort of — connect to the internet from the early 90s, but there was nowhere to go unless you went in with one of the services like aol.

It wasn’t till the mid nineties that I discovered the austen fanfic group and various “weblogs.”  By then I knew how to search to research stuff (mostly with Altavista) and we had an unmetered internet connection.

Because we’re down-grade consumers of almost everything and rarely jump on new tech (the exception being the Kindle Oasis, because I use it SO MUCH) it took us a while to get a GPS.  We still have it separate from the phone because I’m hard of hearing and the car is old and won’t connect to the speakers from the phone.

And then things changed. First slowly, then very fast.  All of a sudden, my social life moved MOSTLY online.  Sometimes things changed so fast I didn’t realize they had changed.

For instance when we moved from the last house, our attic was FULL of books. We ended up donating 4k books, most of them weird reference things.  For many years, I had made it a practice of buying tourist guides to places I’d never been and never intended to be, and histories of weird things “The history of chess in the 20th century” say.  Why?

Well, there was a method to my madness. in 2003 when I found myself without novel work, I made enough money to keep us afloat from doing short stories.  My two advantages for people who found themselves with a hole in their anthology were that I could write very fast and I could follow any theme, just about.

Those books were invaluable.

But here’s the thing: at the level that goes into a short story? I don’t need those books. If I need to find out who won a certain chess match in 71, I look it up at line with the names of the players.  (Also publishing has changed, but that’s something else.)

Those books, had the web never come to fruition, would have followed us from house to house, and our housing arrangements would have to take them into account.

But they weren’t needed, so I offloaded them. (Not ALL the reference books, okay? If they are things in which I’m genuinely interested and which might fuel novels, I kept them. other things I kept are the writer’s guide to (they’re a good first pass at a time period) x time, and the more scholarly version of that aimed at historians (I can’t remember the name of the press? Greenwood? The titles are Daily Life in x. No longer published, and house went under.) And then a good smattering about each period from Ancient Greece to Present. Yes, I’ve read them all at some time. No, I don’t remember them in detail. Yes, I continue to buy new ones. Ye– Well, maybe they’ll come in handy some day. But that’s more for novels, and deep-immersion research.)

And an interesting thing happened while we were offloading them. About six/seven years ago, I identified all the books I could live without, and started selling them on Amazon.  The first six months we made a respectable income.  It was work, mind you, because I had to keep track of orders, etc, but we were making a decentish income.

… then it stopped. It didn’t taper off. It wasn’t a case of having sold the more desirable books (we were selling by how we could get to them, so no particular category) but it just stopped.  Oh, okay, not totally but suddenly we were making maybe $20 a month. Which is when you get into territory where it’s easy to forget you sold it, or remember to ship it or whatever.  So I closed off the business, and started donating.

4k is a low estimate, but it’s the number I actually remembered to record.

Why didn’t I take them to a bookstore and sell them? Because by the time it got to that the used bookstores were either demanding absolutely perfect books, or straight out picking two books out of the mass you brought in. And those would be collectible and autographed. And they’d give you a token payment or token credit.

The bottom had fallen out. It remains fallen out. Paper books just aren’t selling.  Not like they used to. Sometimes not at all.

Sure, I can sell my books, autographed. But the ones I have on paper on Amazon? They don’t move. The ratio of 1 paper book per 100 ebooks is unbreakable across all indie authors I know.  The only ones making a lot of money on paper are those who go to conventions, do a big thing, autograph and move the books.  And even then, it’s often a mixed bag.  (In my case, I’m convinced for indie books hearing me speak will make fewer people buy. It’s different with traditional, because they know someone else vetted it.)

Anyway, this post is getting massive, and I’m not writing a book in one post. I’m going to list the trends hitting the economy, and then tomorrow we’ll do “What does this mean” for some of them at least.  This should explain why there are eddies like the one Leigh identified (though that has other trends, within the field) and then discuss how to cope with this entire mess and thrive.

The goal is to come through this physically and economically sound and have a say in building the future. Remember that. Even if sometimes we get tired of jumping with the change and it would be much easier to give up.

Okay, some of the things influencing the economy, things no government can alter or ease (though they can make us all massively less prosperous.)

  • The median age in the US in 2018 was 38.9 and frankly I think that’s optimistic, since we too tend to inflate the size of our population, by counting uncountables, etc. (and heaven only knows what age they assign them.)
    We aren’t as senescent as some European countries, but the balance of the population is towards older.  Specifically, our old people far outnumber our young people.  We keep complaining about how some fandom or some church or some hobby is “full of grey heads” but take a deep breath? How often have you found a group that isn’t? Unless you teach school, probably not often. Even on college campuses people look more… ah… mature than when I was in college.

    Most young people spent the last 8 years either struggling to find work or accumulating truly spectacular amounts of student loan debt, which around 2008 was made “impossible to discharge in bankruptcy” (Which should make you wonder a lot of things.)  Meaning that economically our young people are disproportionately “poor.”

  • Information, entertainment and knowledge has become almost unimaginably accessible and free compared to even a dozen years ago. It’s also become almost exclusively “intangible” and not attached to a physical object.
  • The technology revolution we’re in the middle of is a “Catastrophic innovation event.”  Why catastrophic? Because it rips apart established structures and ways of doing things that have always worked. And some of the innovations are themselves short lived. Look, 30 years ago VCRs were the way of the future. Then it was CDs and DVDs.  Yeah.
    We’re quick to embrace the convenience, but at the other end of that innovation a lot of those industries are getting hit hard and in ways and timetables that are hard to predict.
  • Our press and most of our bureaucracy are the result of the Marxist long march through the institutions. This means that most of the time they don’t report facts, they try to stampede us in their desired direction.
    It also means some states are now openly and bizarrely against letting individuals make a living. California is a good example. But others aren’t far behind, probably including mine, if we let them get away with it.

    All of this adds up to a mess, and if you can’t see it, I’ll explain at least some of it tomorrow.

    I KNOW I’ve done 6k word posts before, but not right now. I have a novel to finish.  So, more tomorrow.

 

 

243 responses to “So, How Are We Doing?

  1. The technology revolution we’re in the middle of is a “Catastrophic innovation event.” Why catastrophic? Because it rips apart established structures and ways of doing things that have always worked. And some of the innovations are themselves short lived.

    Change may be a constant; the speed at which it occurs is not.

    • I’d even argue the biggest change affecting the global economy (and geopolitics) isn’t even discussed in that context. Fracking has broken the oil market and even, oddly, screwed up US refining because it has upped the quality of crude. Fracking, because of the underlying geology, provides very high grade crude, which refiners in the US thought were history. They had tooled to optimize for worst crude.

      But, think about this, the US no longer needs to source crude overseas except for California and that is 100% self-inflicted. With the USSR gone, a population tired of foreign wars, especially in the Middle East, and no need for the US to make sure Gulf Oil flows are open (yes, a stock to the market will affect price, but not supply nearly as much) what does that portend for an industrialized world used to letting the US maintain world order?

      • Once enough new refineries are built or existing refineries retool, the US has no need to import crude from overseas, though given transit times and pipeline infrastructure it may still make sense in some instances. As it stands now, in some months the US is a net exporter.

        Russia’s reliance on oil revenue has led to budgetary shortfalls thanks to lowered prices from US fracking, though their natural gas sales still provide some funding.

        • Not just Russia. Iran, finally able to get on the global market without paying a black market tax, thanks to Obama, is getting end just as it doesn’t matter.

          I probably won’t live long enough to see it play out, but fracking, more than anything, will be the death knell for the Breton Woods world. I suspect some version of imperial systems will return, a trade reversion to the mean.

      • Which brings up an interesting question; should we buy from the Middle East until they run out, saving our own for later? Then if they want to recede into the 13th Century, we could let them and nobody would give a rat’s ass.

  2. > Most of us are reading this on computers, or cell phones

    You can still buy a “just a phone” if you look around. But if you’re reading this on one, what you have is a small tablet computer with a cellular modem. In most cases the “phone” function is just another app, not even the default.

    • “,,,and, in a pinch, you can even make a phone call with it.”

      • I like my retarded phone. Some smartphone features (camera, minor browsing available), but it’s mainly a phone. It’s neither iOS nor Android, so not sure if apps will work. I need to try the HondaLink app.

    • I used the Kindle Fire as a tablet on a long road trip in 2014. I’ve not upgraded the browser, but it was serviceable in 2014.

    • Maybe, but they seem to be of worse and worse quality. My mom did that and it has died in less than a year.

      • The audio quality ain’t so hot on most of them, either. Though I don’t know how much is the phone and how much of it is the network. Everyone wants to play “lossy compression” games to maximize bandwidth usage, and, hey, hardly anyone ever talks on those things anyway…

        When they do product reviews on phones, they almost never mention sound quality, much less do any actual testing.

        • Timothy E. Harris

          A lot of it is the phone.
          If you get a cordless phone that connects to the cellphone via bluetooth the listening experience is much improved. You can only do so much to improve the performance of tiny speakers.
          That’s not to say the network is HiFi – The current quality is nowhere near what the old POTS network achieved.

    • And a GPS. And a magnetic compass. And a 6-axis gyro with accelerometers. (Did you know your cell phone can measure the local gravity?) (9.8056 m/s squared, locally… I used a quartz-fiber gravity meter in the ’80s that’d only go out to three figures.)

      We live in an age of wonders that are mostly invisible… but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

  3. William H. Stoddard

    California’s gig law has an obvious source in the desire to preserve the dying taxi industry, with its monopoly prices. (On a trip to San Marcos earlier this year, C and I took a taxi one way from the Oceanside train station, and Lyft the other way. The price ratio was nearly 2:1.) But it really looks like a generalized attempt to drag the state from the future (I’ve seen a claim that close to a quarter of the work force are now contractors) back to the high industrial past of the 1950s, no matter how much of the economy it disrupts.

    And aside from the practical/economic implications, I really dislike the ethical/political ones. The law seems to me to say that working people no longer are legally permitted to work as independent contractors (unless they meet very narrow standards or fall into specific exceptions). Everyone who works must be an employee—of a business, a nonprofit, or a government agency. Every man must have a master. I feel as if Hilaire Belloc’s predictions in The Servile State are coming true, a century later: California is trying to create a new form of slavery. Heinlein’s story about the man who bought a brass cannon and went into business for himself is being made obsolete by legally prohibiting such ventures.

    You could be right about this sort of thing spreading to other states. But I anticipate that California will instead be denouncing expatriates and seeking a national law that prevents other states from acting as havens for subcontractors.

    • I don’t know what the situation is in California, so someone with a business there may contradict all of this – but here in Arizona, it is taxes.

      I don’t pay Workman’s Compensation. I don’t pay Unemployment Insurance. I’m under the limit where business property taxes (on office equipment, etc.) kick in. The (prorated) property taxes for my office are deducted from my gross income. So is half of SSI.

      Now, the net effect on my State income tax is not all that much. But multiply by many thousands… (Plus the extra processing expense involved in collecting taxes from a couple of hundred different people vs. one medium-sized employer.)

      • William H. Stoddard

        The effect on the employer is at least threefold. They have to withhold taxes and match some of them; they have to provide (at least some) employee benefits; and they have to keep records that prove that they have complied with the law regarding hiring practices and treatment of employees. That’s a huge overhead. Some gig jobs are simply going to disappear.

    • it isn’t just the lyft/uber guys they are after. They are also after the people in the entertainment industry who work and contractors. By ‘entertainment industry’ i am referring to both films and video games, both of which regularly employ people as contractors even though they are required to report in to an office and work on the business’ computer in the business’ location at times specified by the business (which sounds like an employee to me, instead of a contractor).

      • Contractors can be laid off without the state gouging the “employer” for the lay off. There’s no real reason that a company couldn’t just *hire* a temporary employee except for the rules the state set up to prevent that.

      • Sure. But what it’s hitting is gig writers.

      • There are also the “Temp Agencies” who provide a variety of managerial and production services. In the last ten, fifteen years I’ve been at several plants who not only use temp accountants (not only do such people cover vacations and pregnancy leaves, they can be “test-driven” and discharged far more easily than direct hires … or switched to direct hire once you’ve trained them) but staff the production line through such agencies, reducing not only overhead (makes life much simpler for HR to have the Temp Agency handle tracking) but reduces legal exposure, benefit expenses, and other labor issues.

        One of employers’ biggest headaches — discharging employees who “don’t fit” — neatly taken care of.

        • Exactly. As I mentioned below, Nike does this. Son’s work does this. Granted son got put to the head of the line when getting hired was difficult, because multiple current employees recommended him. Ditto for my nieces in Portland Nike. (Uh, after the first one got on & established, she maybe might have had something to do with recommending her cousin, and then the cousin recommending her younger sister … but, hey, what works, right?)

          Working for the Forest Service, seasonal, during the ’70s. Got a call from the department manager and one of the permanent techs. One of the locals who worked on another crew was “encouraged” two switch crews. The crew I worked on was chosen. When the crew leads and manager said “no”, person filed discrimination suit. Why they called me to ask? Because when I said I wouldn’t work with her, they had their out. “Other female crew members won’t work with her.” No. She was a danger to herself and whomever she was paired with her. She was better off on the other crew because they worked more as a crew together, and visible to one another. Our crew were in the same general area, but often was paired off, not only not visible to one another, but not even within shouting distance of one another. (Reforestation Crew VS Presale Crew). Today it would have been even worse (well if they are even working up sales), as now technology is such that one person can perform what two people did then, as of mid-1990s (water proof programmable GPS Units, so that other than unit perimeter, profile lines, & proposed road layout, can be ran … Timber Cruise, Timber Unit Biodiversity Sampling, permanent sample plots set, etc.)

          I know hubby & co-workers put up with subpar employees because it was “too difficult to fire them”. Yes it was a required company union to work there at that job. Yes Union had to represent if someone was fired and complain. What the response was from the Union? Management needs to do their darn job. Follow the steps & procedures. But noooooo. Still was required to join union even after Oregon went “right to work”, don’t know how they managed that. OTOH union officers all did the job, they got no pay for working for the union, except if they had to take leave without pay to perform union functions. For the most part they got rid of subpar or any newer employee that didn’t “fit/belong” by layoffs, then keeping them off long enough that they lost the right to come back. Darn hard on those below that people wanted back …. or the people above who got targeted because they wanted to “hide” who was targeted. Like no one knew.

          Know of at least one former employee that should have sued over their practice. OTOH that employee was so screwed up by what they pulled, getting the job back was not a good outcome, no way, no how. Given the nature of the business, no money.

      • I tried a brief stint as a contractor, for reasons. Nope. No way. But at the time thought it was the way to break the stalemate, income wise. Only had one client, Oregon, at least believes that if you have only ONE client, you can’t be a contractor … Say what? Most (*)programmers only work for one contract at a time, unless you are doing IT (tried that too … that came under oh H*LL no), in this case I was writing up their software spec retroactively (actually finished it after I got a new software job as a full time employee). But when I first started the state wanted to classify me as the contract firm’s employee. Did not go into the office to work, they did not specify the hours worked, they did not provide the equipment. Only gotcha was they were my only client (hey was just starting out). Who knows might have been other issues as payment wasn’t exactly forth coming on time … I did get paid, or the second round wouldn’t have been done … that I got paid up front.

        Nope. No way. Isn’t the irregular payment scheduling that happened, although it didn’t help. Turns out … (drum roll) …. I despise looking for work … Kind of the definition of an independent contractor.

        (*) Guessing that is because Eugene, at one time, had a lot of gaming software enterprises, which would bring in contractors during the height of a new game release, for years, then let their contracts go. They had to go into an office, use company hardware, work company (insane) hours, work among regular employees, but they were under contract. Yes, the companies were avoiding paying employee taxes; a lot of taxes. Not surprised that state took exception. Now how they set it up can be similar, there is a sub-entity that is contracted to provide programmers or at minimum temp services hire, they are contracted out to company for 6 months, then either hired or not. Even manufacturing and the mills have gone this route. I know Nike does. Rarely does Nike in Portland direct hire into full time position. Even less that 6 months to full time position is rare. (Getting a look over nieces, shoulders … 3 so far. We’ll see if a 4th jumps in after her internship is completed. Another may jump on board depending on how long her teaching lasts … newer teacher, so reorg tends to catch her, plus PE/Health …

    • I’ve read that part of the push by California’s gig employment law is to benefit the unions. Pretty hard to organize people if they’re in business for themselves, but considering that Cali is not a right-to-work state, it wouldn’t take much finagling/fraud to get a successful unionization effort going.

      I’ve seen freelance writers complaining that if they do more than a limited number of articles (IIRC, it’s 35 in a year), they’d lose the independence. That also has the convenient characteristic of concentrating a particular voice to one outlet.

      With Oregon’s PTB tendency to embrace any bad ideas from California, I hope any effort to do so is quashed.

      FWIW, Forbes has an article on the difficulty of getting away from California taxes. A bit self-serving, (author does a tax practice) but it rings true. I had DMV on my case to license a car we had traded in a few days after moving to Oregon. The guilty until proved innocent trope is all too true with these creatures.

      https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2019/12/03/leave-california-keep-paying-california-taxesreally/#281eea634042

      • Ouch.

        When hubby was transferred to Washington our problem could have been licensing, and sales tax on the *trailer he was living in, and the car we bought for commuting home. No one complained. He wasn’t the only one doing what he did. Randle, WA has horrible housing. Limited, and expensive. Further east the winter ski staff usually pack people into what housing and apartments are for rent. I mentioned before that housing was so bad that our 27 foot, with slide was a better option than anything we found, physically & cost wise. Our argument, if it would have even worked, was my name was on titles & I wasn’t a Washington resident. (this was 2003).

        * Washington allows new residents to bring one vehicle per licensed driver into the state … excluding “luxury” vehicles. Excess vehicles, and luxury vehicles, which RVs of any type, motorcycles (even if it is your only transport), and utility trailers, all count, are assessed new licensing fees based on value, but one time sales tax based on that value, no matter how long you have had it. The new car for commuting saved enough money on gas vs our other vehicles, that we actually made money. Bought it after he went up there so state wouldn’t have counted that as a prior owned vehicle.

        Although did have fun with Washington State early ’80s. We moved from college to Longview, WA. Immediately changed the license on my ’66 car, but didn’t bother on hubby’s ’58 car, because as soon as possible we were “replacing it”, which we did, paying sales tax and licensing the new-to-us used car. But we didn’t get rid of the ’58 … hubby was going to rebuild it. It was parked next to the house, on our property, not driven/driveable (until it was sold for the move back to Eugene, but I digress). The neighbor who had to look at it, turned us in. Got a letter from the state that they’d confiscate it if it wasn’t properly licensed. Without discussing it with hubby, I called and asked when they were coming to get it. I thought it was funny. Them not so much; might have been some stuttering on the other end of the phone. OTOH, they never came and got the dang thing; it sat there, growing weeds, another 2 years. 🙂

      • 35 for one outlet. They could, perhaps, piece together more. Or perhaps not.

    • back to the high industrial past

      Without the evil polluting heavy industry.

    • They’ll pass laws that require everyone to be an employee, that every man have a master, and then they’ll rail against the exploitation due to capitalism and demand, as that twit Ruffulo just did, that we do something other than capitalism because of how bad it is.

    • The law is a problem for people who want to freelance. But there’s also a *lot* of abuse of contract workers in California. It’s pretty common for “contractors” to remain at a position for years, and still never receive an offer to become a permanent employee no matter how good of a job they’re doing. At least some businesses have an automatic layoff policy of any contractor at the two year mark. And then after a six month wait, they’ll rehire you.

      Yeah, there are problems with the law. But there’s a lot of abuse of the current contractor laws.

      I’m a contractor myself (in IT support, which is almost purely contract at low levels) but I don’t know if the new law will affect me.

      • I’m half remembering a quote along the lines of “Liberals are good at spotting the problems; it’s just that their solutions are terrible.”

      • When a California company has the option of hiring “captive” (i.e. indentured) workers under H1b visas, full time W2 employees are a lot more expensive, so the competitive cost workers used to be direct contract workers. Several things happened in the past decades to curtailed this in tech, but it was still a major practice.

        The new law will basically force anyone who wants to do contract work to sign up with and work their gigs through one of the big contract employment agencies, which will carry the burden of tax payments and so on while still letting companies cut back at will with no reporting or unemployment insurance ramifications, with that overhead being added to the rate.

        And yes, the unions are pushing this mostly as a hit on Uber and Lyft and other “side work” new gig economy stuff, but I am watching the entertainment industry thing closely – I get the definite impression that the pitches to lawmakers up in Sacramento somehow failed to mention the law’s impact on editors and writers and other self contracted folks in the very much CA-government-favored entertainment industry. That business has major pull in Sacramento, so either they get a carve-out for that business, or the law will get adjusted some other way.

        • The new law will basically force anyone who wants to do contract work to sign up with and work their gigs through one of the big contract employment agencies, which will carry the burden of tax payments and so on while still letting companies cut back at will with no reporting or unemployment insurance ramifications, with that overhead being added to the rate.

          —————–

          And I’m guessing still no benefits for the employee.

        • … with that overhead being added to the rate.

          One of the “fun” things about being a contract accountant is I get to see the invoicing for my hours. That overhead can approach 35 – 40%.

      • It’s pretty common for “contractors” to remain at a position for years, and still never receive an offer to become a permanent employee no matter how good of a job they’re doing.

        California is not the only place this happens.  Once someone becomes a permanent employee all sorts of government required benefits kick in.  Then there are the benefits that are regulations once you have a certain number of employees working for the company full time.  So we see innovations to avoid having direct employees. 

        One of my first jobs was at McDonald’s, and when I worked there portion control on the soda was a big thing, as it was one of the big profit margin items.  Now, rather than have employees pour your soda (or take your order) it is more cost effective to charge a bit more let the costumer do for themselves … 

        The more the government tries to fix things the worse it gets. 

    • Underlying this is the attack on Trade Unionism, the effort by some workers to enact barriers to competitive labor. After all, what is the taxi medallion but a form of closed shop?

      As with most “Progressive” efforts, it is attempting to close the barn doors after the horses have escaped. Virginia’s governor, fresh off “leading” his party to capture of the state’s full legislative power, still won’t revoke the state’s Right-To-Work regime, a clear sign that union power is waning.

      All that California’s laws are doing is driving out businesses, entrepreneurs and people just trying to make ends meet. Pretty soon they’ll be going Full Venezuela; you never want to go Full Venezuela.

  4. Optimism is contagious so thanks for all of your blogs, especially the ones that cause a good belly laugh! Maybe it’s because Christmas is coming, but I really have a sense that all is going to be o.k. In a way, all of this Impeachment/ Ukraine/blah blah blah stuff reminds me of an old John Wayne movie, Wildcats (?). The Duke was a “wildcatter” called in to the oil fields when one of the wells would catch fire spewing smoke and hell’s fire far and wide and all attempts to put it out had failed. What would the Duke do? Just blow it up, so that the fire would put itself out. Let the Left rant and howl and do their St. Vitus dance for the cameras. They will blow themselves out – or up!
    In the meantime, here in the Shenandoah Valley, we’ve been watching the Black Friday sales for appliance “specials”. Interestingly, I’m finding foreign appliances, mostly LG and Samsung, deeply discounted. But, the American-made appliances, not so much so. Maybe it’s a regional thing, but it could also be as simple as supply and demand. American made products are apparently the most sought and recommended.

    • thereadersittingindarkness

      People have discovered that LG and Samsung have made no effort to support dealers with spare parts. When I was looking for appliances for our new house earlier this year, several independent appliance shops in both MD and VA quietly told me not to buy them because they couldn’t service them. One shop told me they carried them only because the big box stores had them and another told me they wouldn’t carry them under any circumstances.

      • GE isn’t being great for us. Less than a year old, and the repairman has been once, then yesterday it flooded the kitchen.
        Of course I think it’s made in China too. Grrrr. Argh.

        • GE sold the major appliance line and label to a Chinese firm a couple years ago. The guy who did our kitchen cabinets after our slow leak/flood told us that dishwashers (and the overly fragile bits that support them; I’ve had two of them fail, one installed by a pro plumber) cause the vast majority of kitchen floods. With that fragile adapter, I was lucky to catch the second leak right away. The under-sink cabinet now has a waterleak alarm

          FWIW, we’ve been happy with Frigidaire appliances. Not so happy with Whirlpool; the deep freeze was a disaster. $SPOUSE didn’t like the layout of the Whirlpool dishwasher for silverware.

      • We retired our 6 year old LG swashplate top loading washer after it came up with a stage IV squeak. Drove the border collie crazy, and she’s contagious. A new transmission was sort of available, but at a parts cost of $200+.

        The replacement front loader (Electrolux) cleans better, too.

        • My mother kept the same washer and dryer for nearly 20 years, 1960s-1980s, across moves to multiple states. She finally replaced them… because she decided she was tired of plain old white, and bought new ones in “harvest gold.” The old ones still worked fine when they took them away. My brother’s story was similar, 1980s-2000-ish, when he gave his old ones to us so his wife could color-coordinate their appliances or something.

          Even “premium” German brands look pretty sad compared to that.

          • The Frigidaire refrigerator came into the house before I was born (probably around 1958). When Mom passed in 2001, the brother in law took it for his man-cave. I think they still have it, actually, although I don’t check up on things like that. It was still operational about five years ago when Christmas was over at their house.

          • My father used to say you could do just fine with capable/expensive or ignorant/cheap employees. And that America had decided to go with inept/expensive for some reason and it was going to break us.

      • Our Kenmores died. Replaced with Samsung washer & dryer. No one said a thing about the parts thing. Oh well, maybe they’ll go out in two years. (Costco covers for 2 years … and Costco warranty counts. If they can’t be repaired, they refund the cost of the appliance …) If they don’t go out in two years, likely they’ll last 10 – 12, which is all the last two sets lasted.

    • That would be Hellfighters (1968)
      https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063060/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
      One of many vehicles for the Duke to act the tough independent character he did so well.

      • Based on the Red Adair and Boot & Coots methods of oil well fire fighting. Just before the major corporate buy-out (and the reason the owner was so happy to sell off) we bought out one of the many spin-offs that specializes in Tank Farms and Refineries. Deep Water (of Horizon blowout infamy) has inventory on hand that can be drawn from in emergencies, and Valero has given up bought and paid for totes of foam to put out fires (the refinery and chemical plant fires really depleted things there earlier in the year).

  5. I was going to reply to Leigh’s post last night, but was just too dog tired. (I don’t know why just sitting in a waiting room is more exhausting than being at home, where I am at least doing some physical labor during the day. Although yesterday might be partly facing a possible $2K car repair and then having it go down to less than $400. Totally unsolicited plug: If you don’t already have a good mechanic in Tucson, go see Lauren at Accurate Automotive. Period. Dot.)

    On topic: I really don’t know about housing here; we have a fixed rate mortgage, so that cash out hasn’t gone up or down. I did check out the rent for the same thing at the complex we lived in way back when – it has gone from $750 to $1200 – but plugging that into an inflation calculator gives me a 3.2% flattened rate. Not exactly massive.

    Major appliances – I just paid $700 for the new oven/range. The last one, we paid just under $600 for. But that was ten years ago, the flat inflation rate there is about 1.5%. (The new one is a convection oven, too – which were insanely more expensive back when. The fact that stainless steel was much less expensive than other finishes this go-around is a fashion matter.)

    The things I can and do track – food, fuel, maintenance, miscellaneous other things – about a 2.3% flattened inflation rate since I began tracking it for our own circumstances. A big spike during the Obama pseudo-tyranny – some months it went over 14% if annualized – but not all that much when considering a 30+ year record. (Some of this is undoubtedly due to the much greater availability – and quality – of store brand and generic products. A lot of our daily purchases have switched to those over the years, so I’m not necessarily comparing apples to apples. Although… let me see… ah. Macintosh apples appear to have somewhere around a 3% price hike. I don’t have data on whether the purchases in the past were for special sales or not, or how much the reduction from normal price was.)

  6. “impossible to discharge in bankruptcy” (Which should make you wonder a lot of things.)
    Mostly makes me wonder who in hell thought bringing back indentured servitude was a good thing.
    Despite the sad fact that it’s often abused by spendthrifts with no impulse control, bankruptcy’s intent was always to provide a way out for folks who through no fault of their own found themselves trapped in crushing debt.
    Now one might debate as to where the fault lies in cases where a student either fails to graduate or matriculates with a worthless degree, but from all accounts the “crushing debt” does seem to adequately describe the situation for far too many of our citizens.
    Credit card companies have long been vilified for their predatory methods of entrapping college kids with easy credit practically forced on them. At least they are now forced to make clear the long term ramifications of that easy money. But it seems that our Federal government, having observed such practices, decided to go them one better, lure those innocents poorly educated in the principles of economics into crushing student loans while depriving them of their one recourse once the false promise of that guaranteed “good job” fails to materialize.

    • This is one of my big complaints. I don’t want blanket student loan forgiveness. That’s not fair to people who didn’t go to college or who went but were able to make it a profitable investment. I just want the right to declare bankruptcy with all the lumps that go with it, like I could when my house was foreclosed. Hell, one of my suggestions to prevent frivolous declarations of bankruptcy for student loans is to “repossess” the degree so that it cannot be used as a credential for any professional license. You can bet that only the doctors, lawyers, engineers etc. who see no prospect of making the degree pay will choose the option then!

      As it is, the only option to not pay the full amount is stay in the Income Based Repayment program, praying that a) it still exists in 15 years when the feds will be searching the couch for loose change to pay for blue-hairs’ welfare, b) it still will cover the full amount I need “forgiven”, and c) I’ll be able to afford the massive tax bill when the IRS imputes my forgiven balance as income. Luckily, tax debt *is* forgiveable if I feel like declaring Chapter 7 at the age of 55.

      (For the record, we actually have a decent chance of being able to pay my loans off in the next 15 – 20 years, but it won’t be pretty.)

      • I was joking with my mom this past weekend that if (God forbid!) President Warren did get a student loan forgiveness passed, I would have to send her a card. It would say “Thank you, but I’m still not voting for you.”

        • I’m pretty given I’m white, male, nominally straight, cis, conservative, and have a STEM degree I’ll be told I don’t “deserve” forgiveness and get to keep paying.

        • I’ll be sending a different note. Not very flattering. We not only paid off both our original loans that we paid off regardless of a good options in our field (stupid owl), we also paid for me to go back to school while we were paying for original loans, without taking out more debt in loans. THEN we had the gall to scrape to save for our child’s continuing education, make him get involved paying for it while perusing it (scholarships, small rewards, work) and get him through all without any loan. Loan forgiveness my ass(ets). Sisters did the same for their kids, and they have more kids each.

          I am for loan forgiveness if you join armed services and are killed during service or are discharged honorably. If you go to teach in known dangerous school districts or medical areas, or small rural towns lacking in medical care personnel.

          • Oh, I absolutely agree a blanket forgiveness would be a terrible precedent, not to mention a strain on our government and economy we can’t afford. But it would be enough of a short term benefit that a thank you note — again, not a vote — would seem to be appropriate for me.

            • Nope, nope, nope — blanket forgiveness would be an economic boon.

              Provided it also refunded tuition and related payments by those who did pay off their loans or who paid their way through — such integrity and prudence deserves double the money back.

              It would be only fair!

              When to date it back to is the main question. When the Feds took over the management, when the law made the debt non-dischargeable? The founding of the nation?

      • Well, and I’m reasonably certain–from having observed my own student loans–that the corporations the loans were sold to are playing shenanigans with the interest rates. (And income based repayment has catches as well, as I found out. Like if you’ve deferred your loans “too often”–in my case because of longish-unemployment or intermittent employment, as I had the misfortune to leave university in 2009, so there were no jobs to be had–they, or at least the company that held my loans, basically shrugged and said “Can’t do anything”). I had been growing increasingly suspicious, because I had been faithfully paying my payments for several years–though they kept hiking the amount up, and it made it impossible for me to even afford rent where I live, and so I was living with family–but the principal never seemed to decrease by more than a tiny amount.

        Finally, after making a payment, I checked the interest increase over the course of two weeks. The interest was compounding daily–and at a rate that essentially meant that less than a THIRD of the payments I was making every month was paying down the principal. And when I could scrape together money for extra payments–essentially by then it only went to interest (you could not, as you can with, say, a house mortgage, say “I want x amount to go to the principal). And therefore did me no good at all.

        I got lucky: I was able to buy my grandmother’s old house (owned by my parents) for virtually nothing, and get a mortgage on it that allowed me to pay my loans off in full (and have a bit left over to fix the house up.) Now, a mortgage IS dischargable in bankruptcy–and while I have no intention of getting to that point, it’s nice to know that should I get deathly ill or something unexpected occur, I won’t still be trapped. I’d lose the house, of course, but I’d be freed. Certainly, I am a lot happier paying my monthly mortgage payment–which is *also* tax deductible, and in more tangible ways than the supposed tax deductibility of student loan payments. And even better, having a mortgage and paying it off has a far more positive impact on credit ratings.

        I didn’t know that the whole “can’t discharge in bankruptcy” thing came about in 2008. That is deeply suspicious. Just like how my interest rates started doing shenanigans after the feds “bought up” the student loans. Claiming, of course, that this would “help” students–instead, it became very clear that I was never going to escape that debt. (And mine wasn’t even astronomical!)

        And sure, I bear responsibility for some of the mess–I thought I was getting a useful degree but it kinda wasn’t, and more to the point I found I hated the field. I enjoyed taking classes and so farted around for FAR too long in school, which was also stupid. Had I a time machine, I’d go back and smack Younger Self upside the head and tell her to get a computer programming degree with a MINOR in graphic design, not a major. And to get out of school sooner, and NOT take out loans.

        But yeah. There is something very hinky going on with the student loan thing and the gov, and I am very, very glad to have found a reasonable means of escape from it. Because they way they’re heading, I forsee debtor’s prison coming back, and that is Very Not Good.

        • Weird.

          Both our loans were no interest until graduation + six months, then deferred payment start for 6 months. The fixed rate, determined at loan signing, when taken out. His was 3%, mine was 5%. Then that was really good. We kept a tight thumb on the payments and amounts owed. Yes. Try shenanigans with a math major (well former, he didn’t get out of math because of math, he got out of teaching). Honestly the worse we got was “we’ll forgive a little amount if you pay it off now”. We were making more off of the money than what they were willing to write off. They even tried “until you pay it off, we can’t loan it out” … pull the other leg … or AND????

      • DH graduated law school in 2010. Which year, new law grads in the top firms were being told they had a job, it just didn’t start for a couple years. He got work with the state of Indiana, and we’re praying they don’t find some way of weaselling out of giving him his PSLF here in a couple years despite jumping through all their hoops.

        • Same. Doc Review is the only thing I’ve done that needed my degree, and I had to take law school *off* my resume to get my first office job. I watched my dean brag that they managed to place 75% of my graduating class into jobs within 9 months — and the sad thing, it was something to brag about, because the national average for that class was 63%

          • Yep. He’s been laywering this whole time, but all government. That’s how we ended up in American Samoa.

          • Ya. My UG wanted to hear how good they did a year or so after I graduated. Told em that the career resources were worthless and the job I got was more from my department than the school.

      • I strongly believe that any student loan forgiveness ought include a bite of the endowment of the diploma mill that accepted* the money — and that definitely includes the Ivy league institutions which are nearly impossible to flunk out of.

        *by “accepted” I mean persuaded the applying student the money was available, easily repaid and totally worth it for a degree in heuristics of gender and racial identity. Given my way every college loan application ought come with a school’s best estimate (as in: legally actionable for any prevarications) of the career path open to holders of various degrees, especially with ten-year projection of tenure likelihood for any “academic” credential.

      • I’d like to see colleges that sell worthless degrees with ANY sort of implication in their literature that those degrees will net employment brought up for fraud, somehow.

        The VAST majority of non-STEM degrees qualify you to study for the next degree, period. That’s fine if you’re a scholar. My father was, and lived a happy and (thanks to the times and his industry) well paid life. But society only needs so many PhDs in English Literature. It needs even fewer in Victims’ Studies, and the colleges damn well know it.

        • There was a class action against one of the shadier law schools a couple years ago. They’d “misrepresented” read “lied” about their average bar graduation, placement percentage, and average starting salary. The court threw it out on the grounds that no one should have trusted numbers provided by the school.

          Seriously.

          Try that argument with the SEC sometime.

        • To be fair, my first “worthless” degree, wasn’t worthless until after I graduated (stupid owl). Second one wasn’t over staffed until the DOT COM busts … and who knew it would be ageist? Also, what is the attrition rate for computer science freshman? How many really make it into the actual program, no matter how good a programmer they might be? I know I didn’t make it through the traditional path (not a chance in H*LL).

          Even today employment agencies, especially government ones, strongly push computers as careers. How many here gave up looking for programming/IT work? I remember my long stint between jobs when I went into the employment office for help. To get help/counseling, you have to jump through their hoops, one of which is job assessment questionnaire. The only difference between ’96 (dislocated timber company worker) and ’03 (dot com bust), was in ’03 it was computerized … result (both times FYI) results was “highly tech and math oriented, with preferences for outdoors (can we say “DUH”?) First 25 job “suggestions” were computer software. When I met with the councilor my first response wanted to be “no sh*t Sherlock”. Instead I modified with “um, uh, have you looked at my file?” No, because she wanted to go over it all with me, because that works “better”. I kindly suggested she take a few minutes … response? “Oh. Not a lot we can do to help.” (Another silent “no sh*t Sherlock”, but modified, to “had to try”.) Took me another 6 months but I did get work.

    • I watch the Acorn To Arabella channel on Tubes of You. The videographer was talking about how he was, for a while, paying interest only, and then just stopped paying his student loan, because they would not refinance at a more reasonable level. Don’t know how he got suckered into it, (looking at the rates etc, I’d’ve told them to pound sand) but it was not a full Gov’t version, so he was dealing with a private company. They refused to refinance until he was on YouTube telling folks how even when he was teaching, here and abroad, he was unable to pay the interest only, let alone the full principle and interest.
      Last update on finances they gave he was now paying it at iirc $250 or so a month, so they finally decided to work with him and he started paying them off again. he loans they talk kids into is nuts, and like a buddy of mine said. early days they told folks they really didn’t need to pay it back, and then they were hinting “It’ll be forgiven and become free” to get kids to sign, then demand the money when none of that turns out to be true, penalties and additional fees added.

      • The federal loans don’t have all the same interest rate. I think my highest ones are 6%. But I remember a few years ago when they were raising tuition (because why the hell not) the Dean of the University sent emails out and stuff saying that if it was too much you could also take out “parent” or private loans.

        They’re all pushing this stuff, while they and upwards from half a dozen sub-Deans get middle six figures and the classroom teachers have to count their copier use.

        • feh, higher ed has long stopped worrying about the actual education, and it is all about position, power, and sinecure for all the right thinking types . . . and money laundering for pet things, and, and, and.

        • “sent emails out and stuff saying that if it was too much you could also take out “parent” or private loans.”

          Our response as parents. Sat down with kid and went over consequences. As a family the chorus back was “H*LL no”. The response from “nothing is free … and we can do the math” oriented.

          Yes. We would look a gift horse in the mouth. Why do you ask?

      • Will admit I’m surprised. My private loan was 4%. .Gov are 5-7.

        • yeah, I about chocked when he mentioned how much his payments were., for a not-a-bigname college . . . the other fella is paying less than $200/month iirc and he too did actually use his degrees. Heck still is.

        • I will say this… it probably had nothing to do with Trump but last year the Fed Loan payment system suddenly changed to display your loans separately and to allow you to pay on specific loans separately. It’s now easy-peasy to sort which loan has the highest balance and highest interest rate so you know what to pay down first.

          • It might be a consequence of Trump’s (and DeVoss’) push for less regulation. It is not normally the inclination of government bureaucracy to make output more easily available to citizens.

    • Mostly makes me wonder who in hell thought bringing back indentured servitude was a good thing.

      People who aren’t happy with just their gardener and nanny being de facto indentured servants (which is what illegal employees are in the end).

      Also, H1B Visas are effectively a form of indentured servitude as well. I’ve long claimed that aspect is more important than paying lower wages (I’ve even seen H1Bs paid effectively the same as citizens or even a bit more).

      • We’ll talk about H1B too…. in a later post.

      • H1B workers should be the global experts you hire because you can’t find them locally. Thus they should be premium hires payed above standard rates.

        The fact that usually they are anything but that is a clear sign of abuse

        And note the theory behind a 3 year H1B visa is that by the end the foreign expert has trained his replacement and so can go back to foreignland

        The thing is that’s not how H1Bs are actually used today by the vast majority of the organizations applying for them.

        FWIW I’ve had 2 different H1Bs, one in the 1990s and one in 2013-16, and in both cases I was paid at or above prevailing market rates. I also left the US afterwards both times. That may actually be unique.

        If I were running the H1B program I’d keep the cap and simply hand out the H1Bs based exclusively on salary with the winners being those that paid the most. Oh there’d be some monitoring tweaks – but that’s the basic. And the primary monitoring requirement would be that the H1B worker would have to provide his W2 to prove that he was paid as promised in the H1B application. Employers who were found to shirk would
        a) be black-balled as an org and
        b) have CEOs, COOs, legal and HR staff black-balled as individuals in that they could never work for any future company that applied for H1Bs

    • But it seems that our Federal government, having observed such practices, decided to go them one better, lure those innocents poorly educated in the principles of economics into crushing student loans

      I’d point out the beneficiaries, college profs and admins, are also the biggest collection of Marxists in the country (or at least biggest concentration)

    • Impossible to discharge in bankruptcy
      Equals
      Dedicated obedient indentured supplicants for relief.

      How to welfare-trap folks who start out non-poor.

      Yes, that was the intent, both of the student loan system (Debt Peonage) and the “no bankruptcy discharge” system (Viva Revolucion!)

    • who in hell thought bringing back indentured servitude was a good thing.

      Oh c’mon! It has been, one form or another, Democrat Party gospel since the party’s founding. What is slavery but indentured servitude? What is being forced to pay union dues to earn your bread if not indentured servitude? What is Welfare if not indentured servitude — although the service is admittedly mighty poor?

      Everything about the “You Didn’t Build That!” party is one way or another naught but a mess of pottage in exchange for your birthright.

    • The teens and young adults (kids only to old coots like me) saw almost nothing of that money.

      Every dime went to some college or university. They took the Federal largesse and by God, if there is any justice in the world, they’ll pay it back.

  7. Yet another change due to technology: I used to subscribe to several magazines, ranging from US News to Handloader, but now, I’m down to one magazine, and the only reason I get it as print, is because they haven’t gone digital. (Home Shop Machinist, by a small publisher in Michigan). Doesn’t look like they have the resources to do the switch.

    With USPS closing our local sorting center, that bimonthly magazine is now arriving 2-3 weeks late. The people at our mail drop say magazine deliveries are way down from even a few years ago.

    • I do Classic Motorcycles. They’ve an electronic version included but it is a nice thick bi-monthly.
      I used to do Make, Race Tech, and Racecar Engineering (last two imports from the UK), and also I had Cycle World for a bit but Pete Egan retired, so I dropped it.

      • At one time I was subscribing to a dozen magazines at once, but sanity prevailed. I have a year and a half left on Home Shop Machinist; I hope they go digital by then. I’m looking into scanning relevant articles and getting rid of the paper copies, but the effort is non-trivial.

    • I still get the Experimental Aircraft Association’s magazine in print, because I like to look at it at night, when my eyes are tired of looking at a screen. Besides, the pictures are far, far prettier in print.

      • Yeah the EAA really upped the print quality, unlike some others.

        I used to get AutoWeek in hardcopy, but it was both getting printed on thinner and thinner paper and the writing was shifting to “lifestyle” instead of actual car news. That subscription was on the list to not get renewed when it came up, but last month they up and stopped publishing the print version at all, so problem-self-solved.

    • The last I got was Strategy & Tactics and its two (then) spin-offs. Once I realized I was not getting a chance to play any issue games, I dropped them, as that was the whole point of buying them in print.

    • I understand the economics of small-distribution publishing, and I like HSM, but I don’t like it enough to pay to become a subscriber.

      They could “go online” by adding a pay section to the forum they’ve had since forever if they felt the need, but the forum already got cut off at the knees by the Photobucket Apocalypse, and if HSM itself went away, the future of the forum would be iffy. I’ve already seen several gun and machinist forums go 404.

      I just offloaded some paper magazines that were a hundred years old, and the only thing needed to access those was a modest amount of ambient light.

      • I called Village Press when the Sep-Oct issue was late and asked about digital. Sounds like much of the problem is that their people are set up for physical pasteup, and going online would require a whole new production crew. The Sep issue showed up mid September, with the Nov issue on the same timeline.

        I took a brief look at the HSM forum some years ago, but haven’t paid it much attention. The Photobucket fee issue sounds devastating, and again, I can’t see them having the money for server space, much less the technical chops. The last issue has production numbers; about 19K for HSM. I haven’t picked up Live Steam’s successor and long since dropped Machinist’s Workshop, but I’d assume numbers are similar. The other specialty mags should be tiny. Nope, not enough money.

        A long time ago, I picked up a magazine (Nuts and Volts, maybe) that was independently published. A true DIY case, in that the lead author/editor/publisher managed to score a used full-color printing press and the related equipment to put a magazine together. I assume he was going to do contract publishing for other small magazines, but I can’t see quite the same model working for digital. Page-Makeup-To-Go, Honest Bob’s Used Servers plus Bandwidth ‘r Us? Nope.

        • Almost all of the machinist forums are bitchfests for Angry Old Men now, except for a couple that are mostly populated by the clueless. Sometimes there’s something nifty, but you have to wade through a lot to get it.

          The “maker”, “welding”, and “3d printer” guys all have their separate ponds, with almost no crossover, and the signal to noise ratio is very poor.

          • There are one or two bright spots; Ed Nisley’s softsolder dot com blog is good. (He does columns here and there (Digital Machinist, and maybe Dr. Dobbs)). He’s into CNC and 3D printing, though as he puts it, most of his printed pieces seem to be brackets. He’ll blog on other aspects from time to time, including the travails of trying to bicycle in decidedly bike unfriendly New F’n York (and that’s largely from TPTB.) Not too many comments; a dozen makes it a hot topic. Good S/N ratio.

            I’ve seen the greying of the home machinist hobby. In Silly Valley, I was with the Bay Area Engine Modelers, and I was one of the younger ones. In general, the most active project guys were those who were freshly retired. No idea how it’s going to progress.

  8. I just lost my entire comment. I basically said– if I continue writing continuing my mind isn’t doing too well lately– I will only do digital. Paperback doesn’t sell at all now. And I lost the one person who wanted a paperback book.

  9. the people who are supposed to know how to analyze trends have betrayed us in the name of their shiny socialist would-be paradise.

    Here I am going to have to push back a bit.

    This is more an issue of gatekeepers (the press) only giving access to a big audience to those people.

    The rest of us are still honest for one simple reason: money.

    I’m not sure I’ve ever gone into detail what the day job is so I’m “briefly” go over it so my point makes sense.

    I working in a quant group for an organization that owns a lot of mortgages. Banks have to maintain a capital ratio to their outstanding loans. It works better if the value of your various capital accounts are constant so things whose value may vary get hedged. The value of a mortgage is the present value of its stream of interest payments (yes, principle as well, but its value isn’t as interest rate sensitive). If interest rates go up the value of a mortgage goes down because you can get a better return for the same risk on the prior value. If interest rates go down, the opposite happens.

    My group supports, among other things and this was our first purpose so it’s our bread and butter, a desk that buys interest rate sensitive instruments that will move opposite our asset to maintain a constant value for capital purposes. To aid the traders we provide a grid of potential market changes and how they will change the value of mortgages and hedging instruments.

    We do not predict the future. We describe several thousand futures and how that future would affect the value. To do that we track three major things: the forward interest rate curve, interest rate volatility, and mortgage “pre-payment”. Early payment, refinance, and default are both “pre-payment” as we’re talking about a premature end to the stream of interest payments. The forward curve is a curve fitted to current interest rate quotes for things like US Treasuries or LIBOR (different curves for different instruments). We use the curve to read what the market says they think interest rates in the future would be.

    Simple example. Say I give you a quote for how much it is to borrow $100 for one year and for two year. Implied in that is what I think, today, a one year loan will cost a year from today. It has to cost whatever would make up the difference between what I earned in the one year loan and the two year. We take that curve and how interest rates are changing, volatility, and use that to create the thousands of futures.

    Then today, our traders take the actual market and use the two futures we created the bracket it to decide how to hedge.

    In theory hedging should have zero profit. It is a form of insurance and thus a cost. Still, we run a daily PnL because that lets us know if we are hedging correctly and who doesn’t like a spare buck or two. The amounts in question are such that “a buck” means $1,000,000 when we talk around the office.

    When your daily PnL is in the millions you cannot sacrifice honesty in analyzing trends. Not if you want to stay employed. I have coworkers who are full blown TDS, but when it comes to our numbers they are hard eyed realists. Yes, we know we’re analyzing and making “predictions” (although we never say “the market will do this”, we say “if the market does this, then that will happen to us”).

    So, those we trust with our money to know how to analyze trends are being as honest and trustworthy as possible (unless they are dishonest because they are committing fraud directly to steal your money). Our livelihoods depend on us.

    Now, often upper management doesn’t listen (I suspect this is true in a lot of “get woke, go broke” situations) and we don’t get on ABCNNBCBS or called by a House committee, but we are out here.

    And from my very limited seat, things are better than three years ago and much better than six.

    • Herb, I don’t mean private people like you. Of course you have to be honest. I’m talking about idiots like “economists” who teach in colleges and help shape government policy.

      • The problem is, especially after the crisis, too many people think those groups are the same.

        We hear “why didn’t the bankers see this coming?” I know here we did and told upper management not to do certain things, that we had incomplete numbers at best and fraudulent numbers at worst and that we couldn’t even finish due diligance on a purchase that led to a lot (if not all) of our subprime exposure (and legal exposure after…even time we make the news for a fine for some business practice I want to scream “it wasn’t us; it was $FOO and we are paying because we bought them).

        Yet “the quants” are blamed. Some deserve it, but many don’t, having tried to warn about what was coming.

        • The Lazarus Long comment about Cassandra comes to mind. Sigh.

        • No, the problem is that people like Paul Ehrlich are not paying any price for their foolishness and folks like you are.

          How are Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman still occupying valuable editorial page space when their record of accuracy makes stopped clocks look reliable?

        • I want to scream “it wasn’t us; it was $FOO and we are paying because we bought them

          Pish-tosh. You know it is never the fault of the people in charge. That’s why they spend so much time schmoozing politicians, bureaucrats, regulators and reporters: so they will be known and able to toss underlings under buses.

          I saw the same thing happen locally when Wachovia did FDIC the favor of buying the financial black hole known as Golden West Financial.

          Wachovia Bank, a major institution, has seen its stock plummet and its continued viability called into question, as the nation’s financial crisis muddles forward. [Update: shortly after publication of this article, Citigroup agreed to purchase Wachovia’s banking operations in a deal facilitated by the FDIC.]

          Largely ignored in this crisis is the key role played by Herbert and Marion Sandler, founders of Golden West Financial (GDW), one of the largest savings and loans in the nation. Wachovia purchased GDW for $24 billion dollars in 2006. This was one of the worst merger and acquisition deals of all time for the buyer, and remarkably excellent timing on the part of the seller. In essence, Wachovia bought a financial time bomb ticking away, one that exploded this year, bringing down yet another former financial titan and further wrecking Wall Street.

          [SNIP]

          Herbert and Marion Sandler, a New York lawyer and Wall Street analyst respectively, bought a small California thrift in 1963 and built it into GDW — one of the largest thrifts in the nation. The company’s business was built on adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs. These were mortgages offered at low “teaser” rates that ratcheted upward as interest rates increased. They were often sold aggressively to unsophisticated home buyers who did not comprehend the vast financial risks they were taking, or who assumed that housing prices would rise high enough to provide a profit to them when they sold their houses. They were targets for lenders peddling mortgages that should have been stamped with a skull and crossbones, for these were among the most seductive and dangerous types of mortgage.

          [SNIP]

          The collapse was primarily caused by the GDW purchase, which became an albatross around Wachovia’s neck soon after the purchase. “Wachovia found itself in ARM’s Way” was the headline of a recent Wall Street Journal article. A huge percentage of these Wachovia ARMs were made to deep subprime borrowers with very poor credit scores. Most of these were “inherited from its ill-timed acquisition of Golden West” at the end of the housing boom in 2006.

          The Sandlers have started to invest their billions of dollars politically, in the manner of George Soros, sugar daddy of many far-left wing groups and an early and prominent supporter of Presidential candidate Barack Obama. Soros has developed an empire of so-called 527 groups, putatively independent political activists groups that have influence within the Democratic Party. These 527 groups include the Center for American Progress, MoveOn.Org, Human Rights Watch, Media Matters and a slew of other like-minded groups.

          [SNIP]

          While the Sandlers personally made 2.4 billion dollars on the 24 billion dollar sale of Golden West Financial to Wachovia, the employees (including their own former employees) and shareholders of Wachovia, including those who have invested their retirement money and children’s college funds in Wachovia stock and bonds, are not doing nearly so well. Communities where Wachovia has branches that may be closed as a cost-saving measure will also suffer. But worst hurt of all will be the homeowners who were sold mortgages that they should have never been offered, by a lender far more sophisticated than they were.

          Ed Lasky, news editor of American Thinker., 2008.

          After all, when the fecal matter hits the vertical impeller somebody’s got to be the ablative meat shield. You don’t expect friends of Bill (and Hill) to get splattered!

  10. On the one hand, I do get a sense from others that the economy is doing better.

    On the other hand, last year was a mess for me. I turned down a much better paying job for a raise at my curreny job that was subsequently nixed by corporate. A promised job transition (new company taking over the contract I was working) never materialized, despite widespread acknowledgement that I was one of the best employees at the job (and most of my fellow employees receiving the promised offers). Then when my supervisor (who wasn’t transitioning) personally intervened to bring me over with the new hires, I got cut in a round of layoffs not long afterwards. Ironically, at my (unbeknownst to me) last day at that job, I told someone that I wasn’t worried about lack of work since the economy was doing well.

    I then spent the next several months mostly unemployed (I did manage to get some low-paying short-term jobs). I finally got a new job this year, albeit with notably less compensation.

    So, no, I’m not personally feeling the effects of the great economy, even though I know that many people are. It’s frustrating.

    • I lost my “real job” in 2012, and have had very little success finding jobs or interviews at all. Some of it is the HR software, some of it is my age. I am tired of it.

      OTOH, the severance from the “real job” and my 401K got invested, and that is doing more than okayish. And that is the stock exchange and the wider economy.

    • Sympathies. Been there.

      ’96 when company sold division assets, and division was shut down, I applied to one of the two companies that were dividing up the main assets (timberland). Nope, they had enough computer people (never mind they called me 10 months later for “help” … conversation, because I was < 6 months into my new job, was "Thank you. No Thank you.").

      '02 layoff was due to company going bankrupt. Really no severance. [At least I didn't buy into the discounted stock offered to employees (in fact hubby was looking to get stock after we'd been bought out of our old stock … company that went bankrupt had bought the old company … probably one and only time my answer on stock discussions went beyond "what does your research say?" My answer was "NO. H*LL No. Don't you dare!" Company wasn't that bad off yet. Just an itch. Not enough standing to be insider "trading".) Employees that did, got hurt, bad.] I was off work for 18 months and before I found work, hubby's company discovered they could force transfer him and he "wouldn't quit".

      '03 (after hubby was transferred to Randle) I even approached the other company with my resume (based out of Morton, just east of Randle), noting that I was the primary programmer on software they'd acquired in '96 … not much help (would have been a bad move but hey …)

      I got a LOT of promising phone interviews, that morphed into in person interviews, where the job dried up … always the bridesmaid, never the first choice. Excuses were blatantly ageist, if not explicitly stated. What HS graduation '74 wasn't a clue? I was mid 40's. There were a lot of resume black holes too (HR screening software).

      Job I finally got? Made less than I made in '90!!!!!! Didn't get to 2002 income rate until I got the bonus for 2015. I retired Jan. 2016, right at end of my 12th year, for reasons.

      • Mandatory medical benefits make hiring older persons a bad risk Labor laws mean that even if you have the kind of gung-ho run toward -the -problem character, it is ILLEGAL to work while on any kind of medical leave. Ask me how I know.

        It’s not an -ism it’s the Regulatory State.

        We’re all stainless steel rats.

  11. Statistics always offer an illusion of exactitude, a lie of precision, as if by aggregating data in the millions our errors cancel out rather than accumulate.

    If I ask a thousand people how much change there is in their pockets, add it up and divide by one thousand the result is not only likely to match the exact change in nobody’s pocket it is also probably wrong because at least a few people will have mis-counted — Oh! There’s a dime I missed! Oops, that quarter is actually just a nickel — a few will have mis-typed, and some probably didn’t even bother counting it up.

    The fact that the answer is stated to two decimal places does not make it accurate to two decimal places.

    • Oh, do I deal with that every day.

      In some reports people long before me gave more digits of precision than they should have and we occasionally have freakouts when the sixth decimal place moves.

      • I’ve heard of cases where people were freaked out by the same data getting different results where the root cause was that the report took several hours to calculated the data, and calculated something from a past date until “now.” Several hours later was a different “now.”

    • I’m recalling the various Spock lines where he’ll give a number for $BAR that has an improbable and totally unnecessary level of precision. For that matter, it reminds me of a Climate Alarmist’s warning that we’re all going to die from Gorebull Climate Inconvenience next February 17. 12 years. Really? Show your work, Greta.

      • Oh yeah – never trust anybody providing more than three significant digits; either they’re trying to put something over or they’re ignorant of the effects of underlying assumptions.

  12. “at the other end of that innovation a lot of those industries are getting hit hard and in ways and timetables that are hard to predict.”

    No kidding. The movie industry was SURE that the VCR was going to doom them. Seriously; there’s a (good) book about it called FAST FORWARD by James Lardner. Instead it totally saved their collective ass. For a while.

    And this is the thing; I’m far from sure I buy the whole Future Shock narrative. The idea that just recently things have started to change so fast it’s impossible to predict what will happen. I think that’s an illusion. Ok, we here are a little MORE aware of history than most,people, but it can still sneak up on you. For example, it just occurred to me to wonder, how long prescription bottles have been made out of translucent orange plastic. And I find that the internet doesn’t seem to know. I learned recently that the first cartridge firearm was invented in 1830 (patented, in France, in 1835).

    Does this matter? Well, how do we know until we look at each case? We have Progressive ninnies poo-pooing the modern Industrial Age. I kind of doubt that have any grasp whatsoever what living without it would be like. Or how important each step was. How the industrial textile industry made in NORMAL for poor people to have NEW CLOTHES. How transatlantic telegraph cables changed finance (hell, I don’t know that one myself, I just know it had to). How did the development of the screw-driven ship change ocean going navigation. How did British dependence on steam vessels change the face of Africa?

    • How the industrial textile industry made in NORMAL for poor people to have NEW CLOTHES.

      Or for any other than the rich to have very many clothes at all.

      I once worked out what it would take to make a shirt by hand:

      2 hours cutting and sewing to make the shirt
      6-8 hours weaving to make the cloth, including setup
      20-25 hours spinning to make the 12,000 yards of thread
      2-4 hours carding and preparing the raw fibers

      None of those are unskilled jobs. I figure a common short-sleeve work shirt made entirely with preindustrial technology — spinning wheel, hand loom, hand cut and sewn — would cost $600 to $800 in today’s economy.

      The Luddites were even stupider than most people are aware of.

      • Listen: I grew up in a place and time where people would unravel old sweaters, re-dye the wool (and discard the weak/frayed spots. Then pay my mom to re-knit them in the knit machine.
        Contemplate the fact this was WAY cheaper than buying a new sweater off the rack, if that was possible. And more worth it than just buying fricking knitting yarn new.

      • The luddites weren’t STUPID, per se. They were the people that the new machines were putting out of work; they had a legitimate problem. It’s every generation of neo-luddites after them that are brain dead.

        • No, they were too stupid to see how reducing cost by 90% would expand the market and lead to more demand for their labor. How they would make more money by becoming that much more productive.

          Damn, it’s hard to type with a band-aid on my finger. Have to back up and correct every word two or three times.

          • Eh, I think it’s unfair to call them stupid. First, it was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, so they had no experience of what might happen. Moreover, the fact that in future people like them would be richer both in goods and opportunity did squat to help them put food on the table that night.

            The free capitalist market is not God, making sure that all the virtuous are rewarded and all the sinful are punished. It simply provides less bad outcomes for fewer people than any other system. (Much as democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the other ones.) Decent hard-working people can still find themselves impoverished with few options, whether in the 1700s or today, and telling them that their suffering will allow others to live better (even though it’s true!) is as cold comfort to the Rust Belt as it was to English textile workers.

      • I remember a SCAdian who decided she was going to make a cloak where step one was “sheer sheep”.

        It took her over a year. She had a great cloak, a nice write-up of the whole thing in either the kingdom A&S newsletter or TI, and a determination to never do that again.

        • Step 2: replace second ‘e’ with ‘a’

          Also, I understand the concern about putting a single value for inflation, but those of us doing back-of-the-napkin comparisons with historic data need something to get an approximate idea of the price per pound of a Wright Model A in current year dollars ($1000/lb. For comparison a C-17 in current year dollars costs $1000/lb. So say what you will about housing, it seems to work for aerospace vehicles. Want to know how much the first manned interstellar starship will cost?)

        • A friend decided to make himself a mail shirt. Full sleeves and thigh length. He bought a bunch of music wire and some side cutters.

          Some months later he had lumpy calluses from the side cutters, a mail shirt, and a burning desire never to do that again.

          The shirt was… heavy. The most practical method of getting into it turned out to be to spread it on the floor and crawl in.

          And shortly after taking it on its first outing, this being Arkansas, it started to rust…

          • “Knitting chain mail in a bus stop in New Jersey”

            We did that. Once. It wasn’t especially good mail as the ends weren’t riveted. It DID start my Lady playing with patterns of rings in various colored metals and making jewelry. She even made a three dimensional chain mail dragon, with wings stiff enough to stand out from the body..

            I wonder if the person who eventually bought it still has it.

      • William H. Stoddard

        Is that spinning by wheel or by drop spindle?

        • Given SCA I assume drop spindle as the wheel is late period, but I read her report 25+ years ago when SCA was part of my life so I could be wrong.

          • But even in ancient or medieval times, most people did not do every step from sheep to cloak. Even within most families, there would be division of labor.

            • Even if not division shared, there was a time for shearing sheep, a time for cleaning, carding, and spinning. Cleaning after the rest of the harvest was in, but before it got really cold. Carding & spinning were done in the winter during the dark times when most activities were not done, or by oldsters who were too old for other chores but could sit and pull (card) or spin wool. And those youngsters the oldsters were teaching. FYI. While they were carding & spinning they were also watching the household babies, toddlers, and youngsters that still required it; and/or enjoying information sharing around the fire (gossip).

      • I’d add several hours to the cut and sew, particularly if it’s hand sewing. I used to do repairs to my clothes in college (I was cheap), and hand sewing is not fast. And then you get button holes. Without a machine, you either need a lot of time or a cheat (leather strip on the shirt, or sewn on loops).

    • “If, on the arrival of an European mail at one of the northern ports, the news from Europe reports that the supply of cotton or of corn is inadequate to meet the existing demand, almost before the vessel can be moored intelligence is spread by the Electric Telegraph, and the merchants and shippers of New Orleans are busied in the preparation of freights, or the corn-factors of St Louis and Chicago, in the far west, are emptying their granaries and forwarding their contents by rail or canal to the Atlantic ports.”

      –An English visitor to the U.S., quoted in Nuts and Bolts of the Past by David Freeman Hawke.

      By 1866, the Atlantic telegraph cable was in place, and it was no longer necessary to wait for the arrival of the vessel carrying the European mail.

      Another thing changed by the transatlantic cable (and fast steamships) was the ability to maintain connections with friends & relatives in other countries. The British actress/writer Fanny Kemble, writing circa 1882 in annotation of her earlier comments about the difficulties and emotional pain caused by slow communications between the continents:

      “To those who know the rate of intercourse between Europe and America now, these expressions of the painful sense of distance from my country and friends, under which I suffered, must seem almost incomprehensible,—now, when to go to Europe seems to most Americans the easiest of summer trips, involving hardly more than a week’s sea voyage; when letters arrive almost every other day by some of the innumerable steamers flying incessantly to and fro, and weaving, like living shuttles, the woof and warp of human communication between the continents; and the submarine telegraph shoots daily tidings from shore to shore of that terrible Atlantic, with swift security below its storms. But when I wrote this to my friend, no words were carried with miraculous celerity under the dividing waves; letters could only be received once a month, and from thirty to thirty-seven days was the average voyage of the sailing packets which traversed the Atlantic. Men of business went to and fro upon their necessary affairs, but very few Americans went to Europe, and still fewer Europeans went to America, to spend leisure, or to seek pleasure; and American and English women made the attempt still seldomer than the men. The distance between the two worlds, which are now so near to each other, was then immense. ”

      This phenomenon, and more recent advances in communications, have surely had a huge impact on the immigrant experience: less disconnect from the original homeland, less incentive to adopt the ways of the new country.

    • Knowing a bit of History rarely hurts. Beloved Spouse was quick to note that the Internet Boom was very much like the early railroad days, and the automobile industry some time after: initial boom of wide variety of variously capitalized players and varying formats eventually washing out weaker players and consolidating into a few market leaders. The internet did it in about twenty years instead of fifty is all.

      Technology changes but I’ve yet to see any compelling argument that human nature does.

    • There were two or three fundamental developments around 1800.

      1. The development of scientific farming which eventually led to Borlaug but even before that radically improved the ability of humanity to actually feed itself. Before Jethro Tull & co mankind as a whole was living a couple of poor harvests away from disaster, afterwards it was only parts that were mismanaged (starting with Ireland and continuing to the PRC’s Great Leap Forward).
      2. The development of steam power to do things. Before steam power there was no way to efficiently apply much more energy to a task than could be provided by human or animal power. Sure wind / waterfalls etc. allowed you to substitute for human power but the total amount available at a location wasn’t much greater. That energy allowed for the mills to make cheap fabrics, to make metal fixtures, pots, pans, plates etc.
      3. The development of mass transport. Which is related to steam power but is not the same. Before 1820 no one on the earth had ever travelled (for more than a few minutes down hill) at a speed faster than a horse’s gallop. Goods and people that had to travel travelled on land at speeds of ~20 miles per day unless they were imperial messengers with a huge infrastructure to support them. For longer trips water was usually faster because you didn’t need to stop so they sometimes did 100 miles a day but the speed was still a max of about 5mph sustained for several hours. By 1860 even poor people could travel hundreds of miles a day on railroads and on steamboats

      All three of those things radically changed the world and it took a good century for the various changes to work their way through

      I strongly suspect that the development of the computer and the internet and their various related technologies is doing the same thing only faster

  13. forgot the clicky box

  14. Dear hostess you said:

    We’re flying by instruments in heavy fog, is how and what we’re doing

    It’s worse than that, something has tumbled the gyros and both the artificial horizon and the compass are spinning wildly.
    Essentially all our instruments (i.e. sources of information) are give us false information and in some cases its intentional. We are in serious trouble.

  15. Oh, and Pluto TV has a “channel” called Nature Vision. It was just playing “Dramatic Coasts of Portugal,” but now it is streaming “Beachside Hut, Dominican Republic.”

  16. … my own immediate circle. (Which is about 100 people, all over the country and not particularly uniform …

    Wait, What? Some Huns haz uniforms?

    Why is I sure it involves kilts for guys?

    Are fur-bearing Hums expected to shave? ‘Cause that ain’t happening!

    • Only if you want a kilt.
      I hear wallabies got sexy legs. (Bat’s eyelashes. And you should see the bat I cut them off of)

    • Are fur-bearing Hums expected to shave? ‘Cause that ain’t happening!

      My one great failing as a more medieval or Viking guy (SCA, metalhead, etc) is I’m very Roman when it comes to not having a beard.

      Hot summers and submarine days I even kept my pits shaved. And I’ll freely admit there is no sensation like clean sheets on freshly shaved legs.

  17. The other thing is the catch-up requirement for all the “absolutely no inflation no sir it might even be negative inflation” price inflation that happened during the Soetoro Interruption – prices sure as heck were rising significantly while pay was certainly not rising, and there’s a bunch of catching up left to do just to come out even, let alone get ahead.

    People who were actually buying milk and bread during that time know the impact, and that awareness is independent of the economist pronouncements.

    • Inflation is one of those weird things that really shouldn’t have one number assigned to them. So many different kinds of things are shoved into that one concept: money supply fluctuation, changes in production methods, changes in consumer desires, different time horizons for effect, and plenty of others make creating an inflation value hard. I’d say it’s even harder than employment numbers or money supply.

      And that’s before politics gets involved.

      • “Inflation” is one of those things that is very local – as in household level. See my probably over-long response. It applies to nobody else, not even my next door neighbor. For instance, I have very good numbers on canned store brand tuna (up 23% in the last ten years). I have no numbers on fresh salmon, which my neighbor to the north regularly grills out in his back yard.

        “Income” is slippery, too. The son just moved jobs and is making much more than he was a couple months ago. One daughter is actually unemployed right now (very hard degree program). The other one is making marginally more a paycheck, but on a 7% lower wage (full time now, where the last one she was lucky to get 15 hours a week out of season). And the wife just took on a seriously much harder classroom and is making twice what she was at last year.

        (Me, my income has doubled from last year, too. But that is meaningless when it was as close to nil as you can get.)

        • “Income is slippery too”

          Yes. Son is actually making more currently than his manager. On a 40 hour week that wouldn’t be true. But his manager is salary, exempt. Son gets supervisor pay, plus OT, which right now is 1.5x 41 thru 49th hour, and 2x 50 hours plus. As supervisor son has been regularly working 60+ hours a week (his manufacturing crew is limited to 60 hours/week, so is son of actual manufacturing, but paperwork hours doesn’t count). Son has explicitly stated he won’t take a managers position where he works. We told him, we agreed that was smart, not unless it was Salary, not exempt (or salary + OT).

          Not many salaried positions are salary, not exempt. But they are out there (hubby had one).

      • Ha-hah! you speak as if they assign a number to inflation for legitimate purpose!

        I am sure there are many government bureaucracies keeping their own set of inflation books, which are not publicly reported. Just as I am sure the reported number is essentially equivalent to the Lotto winnings reported: a way to keep the suckers playing.

        I keed – I know you know and I appreciate you lobbing that hanging curve for me.

        • The market keeps a very effective inflation book. I’d recommending indexing the UST plus a fixed spread set by law. That would be very close, especially if the UST was defined as the average of the calendar year rates.

        • Government inflation numbers seem to fall into that class of Statistics, as in Lies, Damn Lies and statistics…

  18. I didn’t say difficult. I said impossible.

    Beware the Velikovsky Effect. Getting lucky on a guess or two is not the same as actual forecasting.

    • You’re much better off identifying how to calculate the effects of a change and then make lots of “I’m not saying this will happen, but if it does this will be the outcome” statements.

      You can be on much firmer grounds with a lot of those.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Comes to mind if the predictions are not numerical ‘if x, then y’, then it would be really easy to get odd clustering of forecasts, which would eliminate the benefit in having many if-then forecasts.

        Reason it comes to mind is that most of my forecasting is not numerical. I need to better remember that my models have flaws, and what they are.

  19. … economically our young people are disproportionately ‘poor.’

    More importantly, their expectations are that they will remain poor. (For certain values of poor.)

    I presume that does not require elaboration, but it does affect how they approach life.

  20. bring about something like the crash in 08

    Ah, yes, the ‘economic crisis’ of 2007-2008. Except for those of us without a ridiculously large variable-rate mortgage, it was no crisis at all.

    And although the Democrats blamed it on Bush Jr. it was mostly Bill Clinton’s doing; it just took his buzzards from the ‘Community Reinvestment Act’ eight years to come back and roost. (C.R.A. — just needs something starting with ‘P’ to complete it!)

    That was what inflated the ‘housing bubble’ and what finally popped it. They should have seen it coming; the ‘boom’ came from buying and selling houses at higher and higher prices, not from anybody creating value.
    ———————————
    Governments can only print money; they can’t make it worth anything. They can make it worth nothing.

    • Much more than the CRA it was just basic fraud.

      I’m not fan of government regulation, but it did show one regulatory issue, that was at home in the S&L crisis (some of the same players were involved). Mortgage companies which originated loans the laundered them through sold them to Fannie and Freddie were under a different set of regulatory standards through a different regulator than banks, credit unions, and thrifts just as thrifts had been in the 80s. Another issue was people chasing high quality safe investments because there was more money for them than there was actual investments. This created a market for “high quality” “safe” investments that provided for a way to get the fraudulent loans converted to cash.

      I’d say if there was a federal issue, much more than the CRA, which didn’t apply to most of the companies creating (although not holding) the bad loans it was:

      1. Failing at the duck rule when regulating mortgages. If you are going to regulate writing mortgages than treat all mortgage writing the same.

      2. Fannie and Freddie which converted any mortgage into a high quality safe investment once it passed through their hands by putting the US government on the hook for their quality instead of the originator. Even now, institutions that both write and hold mortgages like to package mortgages they write and sell them to F&F then buy packaged mortgages from F&F to hold. The small loss from the transaction is less than self-insuring them is.

      3. Regulations limiting the types of investments various funds could hold, helping create a demand/supply imbalance for those types of investments.

      CRA was an issue, but the consensus among mortgage people I know in various institutions puts it lower down the list. It seems to have be more a multiplier once things went bad, not a necessary condition.

      • So an artificially propped up “market” for mortgages launderable via no-questions-asked sale to Fannie and Freddie, with no recognition in such sale of quality (i.e. unlikelihood of default), leads to crazy market fluctuations, arbitrage, “innovative” financial instruments, and in the end collapse of said market.

        I am shocked, shocked.

        • “Innovative” is a funny word.

          Look, I have no issue with MBS. Yes, they are derivatives, but they are a basic bread and butter asset backed security. Everyone own their share of every loan and gets paid p&i as the loan pays. While not exactly the same as a mutual fund or a bond fund it’s close enough for this discussion.

          Now, collateralized mortgage obligations? No one I works with thinks they were ever a good idea, although we inherited some. We’re a modeling shop and they are pretty much impossible to model well due to the tranching issues. Tranching lets you buy the first 10% of loans to stop generating interest streams, in theory by pay off, instead of 10% of each loan.

          So, which loans will be the first 10%? Who knows. We can try to model that, but that’s where you get the classic probability problem of I can tell you how many of each number you’ll be close to on ‭1,679,616‬ rolls of 2 dice, but I can’t tell you what any dice roll will result in. That’s why you buy a MBS and take 10% of more loans than you can make yourself. You have a much more predictable income stream.

          Plus, there are other kinds of tranching just as crazy to model. And like it or not, financial instruments need to be able to be mathematically modeled to be real investments(1).

          Also, MBSs tend to be advertised as loans meeting specific requirements: minimum 4.2% interest and minimum credit score of 720. You can put better loans in (and sometimes have to because you misguessed your origination when you entered into the contract), but you know everything meets the minimums.

          CMOs mix mortgages, MBSes, and other CMOs so there can’t be this kind of requirement. Instead you get a summary or average which is more…a judgment call.

          (1) This is also why I think the double taxation of dividends is bad policy. It encourages investors to see stock price appreciation over cash flows from business operations. Special tax treatment of capital gains doesn’t help(2). It is easier to green eye shade cash flows and impossible to hide that you don’t have cash to pay a dividend. It is much easier to hide debt, and thus juice the book value, in off balance sheet entities than hide an empty bank account.

          (3) My three basic principles of an income tax, which would address all of this are:

          1. Income is income is income. Tax it the same regardless of source.
          2. Only real income is taxed. Assets bought and sold generate income equal to the sale price minus the current dollar value of the purchase price. Yes, I know I said no inflation measure is perfect, but there are several. If you pick one and use it consistently it’ll be close enough for government work.

          3. Income is taxed when it is received by someone who controls its spending. Corporations don’t control the spending of dividends so dividends would be a deduction against type ‘C’ corporate taxes. This is essentially the case for Type ‘S’ corps…not exactly but effectively as the whole of corporate incomes passes through to be taxed at the shareholder level.

          • This is not my day job as it is yours, so I defer to your grasp of detail on this, and I hear everything you are typing (Wait; I see everything you are saying. No, wait… WTH: Onward we go) but then we have the actual proximate stuff around the 2008 crash panic implosion whatever, the many and various bailouts (GM was not bailed out; The United Auto Workers was bailed out), a total skip-past on anything like consequences for the too-big-to-fail companies (Stress testing? Really? If they are too big to fail, they are too big), the absolutely total skip-past for any individual CEOs or CFOs that failed to have their company stand back from that cliff edge (and conversely, no reward for the execs that didn’t have their companies jump up and down on the crumbling edge of that cliff either), and then the Soetoro Stimulus junk like Solyndra.

            The main thing that I see is marketplace intervention for “policy” objectives and connections (see again Solyndra) that blow up the entire concept of a market, and nothing ever done to look back and say “Yeah, CEOs, that was a thing we want to disincentivize strongly going forward, so YOU get a jail cell, and YOU get a jail cell…”

            • Solyndra? Ah, dear over-looked Solyndra!

              Any corporate president pissing away the kind of money that was wasted on Solyndra or Andy Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” would be discharged so fast that somebody else would take care of cleaning out his desk. The people responsible for those (and other) government rounding errors got re-elected.

          • 1. Income is income is income. Tax it the same regardless of source.

            Wellllllll … not exactly. The thing about Capital Gains is that they include a poison pill, of a sort.

            Say you buy a stock (or a house, I don’t care) for $75K in 1975 and sell it for $150K in 2000 — that’s $75K income you ought be taxed upon, right?

            Except inflation has not been accounted for, so that your $75K appreciation may be mostly or entirely the effect of inflation or even represent a loss once inflation’s taken into account.

            Besides, taxing it as income encourages you to stay in that investment longer, perhaps even to die and pass it along to your heirs with that step-up untaxed (well, except by the estate tax.) Clearly there is a vested government interest in not taxing inflation (can you imagine the SCOTUS argument over reliance on government recorded inflation?) just as there is social benefit to encouraging investment.

            I agree that income is income, but how and when to recognize income is an accountant’s primary obsession. I am confident Nobody wants to see that discussed.

            • Did you read the part about inflating the basis to compute the gain.

              • Yes, but I don’t agree that the “current dollar value of the purchase price” is a viable metric.

                • What would you propose over calculating the PV of the original purchase price in currency?

                  The point of income is income is income is not primarily economic, but political/social because I believe the current income tax code is the most corrosive government policy. It isn’t as big and flashy as gay marriage or impeaching Trump, but it is a constant corrosive force wearing away trust. The problem is the lack of transparency leading everyone to think someone is getting away with paying less than their fair share. Income is income is income is designed to cut the first half of that. The other half is no deductions beyond a standard deduction based on census area (which level I’m open to debate).

                  The idea of using inflated basis on capital gains is an attempt to minimize the economic effects of such a system.

                  Personally, I’d prefer going to an Article I, Section 9 direct tax assigned to the states to collect. My second choice would be a universal consumption tax (again, avoiding carve outs). Neither is something I would politically support until the 16th Amendment is repealed.

                  • If only there were some inanimate non-deteriorating material, say some sort of metal, which one could reference to get a non-inflationary look at the relative value of things absent monetary manipulations.

                    For giggles I occasionally go look up the sales price of my house when it was first sold after being built in 1963, convert that price in JFK-dollars to ounces of gold, and then roll forward and convert back to DJT-dollars given the spot price today, just to get an idea of what the non-inflated-by-Silicon-Valley-dirt-underneath value of the property would be in a rational world.

                    I know there’s lots of issues with a metal-backed currency, but it would have some advantages over a faith-backed currency as we have today.

                    • and then we get one space rock and the monetary system breaks.

                      yeah, in know the average nickel-iron asteroid will do it as well, or the average light metal (i.e. platinum group) one

      • Darn you Mssr. Renault return our hostess’ shocked face immediately. She needs that for her work over at Instapundit!!!

  21. Twenty-one shopping days left.


    Gather ye chestnuts while ye may.

  22. Stephen J. Simmons

    Folks familiar with me here(i.e., LibertyCin regs) know I work for “A Major Defense Contractor”. One of the guys in the Contracts Department makes a point of maintaining a single-sided-printed copy of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (aka “The FAR”) and the DEFENSE Federal Acquisition Regulations (“The DFAR”). Combined, they fill TWENTY-EIGHT FOUR-INCH BINDERS. On the shelf below that, he keeps TEN MORE four-inch binders filled with other assorted federal regulations that impact our business, like the “Export Control” laws that we have to understand before we can IMPORT parts from foreign suppliers. Note, these are just regs that directly impact buying parts and selling finished products to the Government. These completely exclude all the rules about Equsl Opportunity and paying benefits and whatever else.

    Oppressive regulation is a Very Real Thing.

  23. I’ve found that, at least in my job, that things have been going more “corporate”-it’s all interchangeable parts, the more they can stick in call centers in Texas than having people in California, etc, etc, etc.

    When I started this job, it was something to keep me from starving while I got a new contract gig in the tech industry. While I don’t particularly like this job, I wouldn’t take a tech job at most companies these days for love or money. I don’t have the depth of history or the sheer tech wizardry to not run afoul of HR in very short order because I offended some special snowflake.

    But, when I started at this current job, 6% was the best possible raise you could get. Now? 3%-and that requires HR and Corporate to be on board with your manager.

    About two years go, something…popped, and now the stories stuck in my head want to get out.

    Soon enough, one of them will…

    • “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”

      — Louis L’Amour

      • I’ve written…but, I’ve never been a writer. But, I’m getting close to that state of grace.

        • Same here – I can hack out a well-turned phrase pretty well, but cannot tell a story for love nor money. No plot to plod along and (as all here can testify) I’ve no character.

          No matter how well you polish up cubic zirconium it still ain’t diamond.

          All the more do I appreciate a tale told well with characters about whom I can care. It’s why I give my money away to those who do it well (for certain values of well, so put your hat back on your scalzi head.)

          • There’s a non-fiction market for those who can turn that phrase and are good at explaining things. A knack for organization helps too, because dollars to donuts, even if you go trad, you’ll be doing your own index. There’s even a certain local fame involved -“It’s a Seymour Simon book. Bound to be good. ”

            So while you mayn’t be a storyteller, if you wanted to be a writer, you clearly have the wherewithall.

        • State of grace…
          AHAHAHAHAH. (Stares in unhinged.)

          • State of grace as follows-
            “Book’s done! On KDP! People are buying it!”
            (Cue bright golden mood lighting, angel chorus, and State Of Grace for one minute. Then, it all goes quiet.)
            “Wait a minute, got to write the sequel, get the cover for the third book done, write that blog posting for the short story anthology…”

          • Am I going to find you hanging from the rafters, hissing “preciosa” the day that I announce a story anthology for my series?

      • Mary, that quote is the best. I love L’Amour anyway and I’m certainly going to print that one up and tape it to the wall near my work space.

    • I stayed out of HR hell because I stayed out of sight. But, yes, you aren’t far off. I was very lucky to be overlooked by the big techs.

      Raises. I got soooo, tired of “You do a fantastic job. Great at what you do. Learn what you need to. Blah, blah, Blah. But we were give X amount of money, so I have to limit your raise to small X percent.”

      At least my last job, for all that I was under paid from the get go, we all were. Was even with raise percentages, and any extra you got, was 100% based on time on the job. He had a standard schedule that applied to everyone. What it like now that the firm has sold, I have no idea.

      • I worked for big tech in the early ’00s and for what I was doing, it was okay. I was left alone, they let me do my work, I worked in an office with a door that locked, and I could earn all the OT I could ever want. They even had good onion rings in the cafeteria.

        • I worked in Silicon Valley tech for more than 20 years up through about 8 years ago when I finished my tunnel and escaped, and I never, not once, ever had an office with a door, or even hardwalls – just cubes.

          The only hardwall offices and anyplace I worked were VPs and C-suite execs.

          But at least I never worked anyplace that had the stupid no-privacy-at-all half-height cubes, or the no-wall common table open plan things.

          • My current job went from “cubes” to “open plan” (because open plan in SF is cheaper than trying to get more office space), and that made me utterly miserable. What makes you think that I want to associate with my cow-orkers all the time? And the noise of a loud customer bullpen doesn’t help any.

            I managed to snag an open office with two other people, then I got the office to myself for eight glorious months. Now, I’m sharing a different office with two other people. Ugh.

  24. Having read the post and comments I am now very grateful I paid off my student loans six years ago. And next Halloween I might bring out my “ghost of student loans” costume again.

  25. The greying factor: Emerald City Comic Con and the smaller Geek Girl Con have plenty of young folk. However most of the kids and young adults are being raised as mules. It’s trans and LGBTQ and gRRl power as far as the eye can see. Basically Questionable Content’s mouse utopia IRL.

    So bad news. But! And! As a gal from the list-serve era of the internets when we all had to telnet to talk to each other would say, folks like Foxifer rarely run about proclaiming their bio-wealth and I suspect probably sick the dogs on census takers.

    So it could be better than we know.

    • Weird but good possible cultural indicator:
      It might just be Iowa’s laws being favorable to homeschooling, but it sure seems like a lot more folks are asking “oh, homeschooled?” rather than “Oh, is school out today?”

      Even when I only had my eldest with me.

  26. Oh, nearly forgot: Daily Life Through History went digital a while ago which is hard on print.

    Here: https://www.ebsco.com/products/research-databases/daily-life-through-history

    Some libraries subscribe to it, some don’t.

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