A good start: the President’s FY2018 budget blueprint

From CNN:

Trump releases $1.1 trillion ‘hard power budget’ with cuts to State Dept, EPA

By Dan Merica | Updated 7:29 AM ET, Thursday, March 16, 2017

(CNN)President Donald Trump released a $1.1 trillion budget outline Thursday that proposes a $54 billion increase in defense spending corresponding cuts to non-defense spending at the State Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency and dozens of other federal programs.

The blueprint features the broad strokes of Trump’s plan to dramatically remake the federal government. It includes plans to slash spending at everything from the National Institutes of Health to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, while boosting spending at the Pentagon.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, described the proposal as a “hard power budget” in a Wednesday briefing with reporters, meaning the Trump administration will prioritize defense spending over diplomacy and foreign aid.

In that vein, the administration will recommend a 28% cut to the State Department, Mulvaney said, including a 38% reduction in foreign aid spending.

A US official told CNN earlier this month that cuts would come from the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs and projects the fund programs at United Nations.

“There is no question that this is a hard power budget, it is not a soft power budget,” Mulvaney said. “This is a hard power budget and that was done intentionally. The President very clearly wants to send a message to our allies and our potential adversaries that this is strong power administration.”

There’s a good deal more at the original, including the whining complaints of John O’Grady, president of AFGE Council 238, which represents unionized workers at the Environmental Protection Agency, that the President’s budget “will be akin to taking away the Agency’s bread and water.”

In his budget message, the President wrote:

My Budget Blueprint for 2018:
• provides for one of the largest increases in defense spending without increasing the debt;
• significantly increases the budget for immigration enforcement at the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security;
• includes additional resources for a wall on the southern border with Mexico, immigration judges, expanded detention capacity, U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Border Patrol;
• increases funding to address violent crime and reduces opioid abuse; and
• puts America first by keeping more of America’s hard-earned tax dollars here at home.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney added:

Consistent with the President’s approach to move the Nation toward fiscal responsibility, the Budget eliminates and reduces hundreds of programs and focuses funding to redefine the proper role of the Federal Government.

The Budget also proposes to eliminate funding for other independent agencies, including: the African Development Foundation; the Appalachian Regional Commission; the Chemical Safety Board; the Corporation for National and Community Service; the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; the Delta Regional Authority; the Denali Commission; the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the Inter-American Foundation; the U.S. Trade and Development Agency; the Legal Services Corporation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; the Northern Border Regional Commission; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation; the United States Institute of Peace; the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness; and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Some highlights:

  • $17.9 billion for the Department of Agriculture, a $4.7 billion or 21% decrease from the 2017 annualized continuing resolution (CR) level (excluding funding for P.L. 480 Title II food aid which is reflected in the Department of State and USAID budget.)
  • $7.8 billion for the Department of Commerce, a $1.5 billion or 16% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $639 billion for the Department of Defense, a $52 billion increase from the 2017 annualized CR level. The total includes $574 billion for the base budget, a 10% increase from the 2017 annualized CR level, and $65 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations.
  • $59 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Education, a $9 billion or 13% reduction below the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $28.0 billion for Department of Energy, a $1.7 billion or 5.6% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. The Budget would strengthen the Nation’s nuclear capability by providing a $1.4 billion increase above the 2017 annualized CR level for the National Nuclear Security Administration, an 11% increase.
  • $69.0 billion for Health and Human Services, a $15.1 billion or 17.9% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. This funding level excludes certain mandatory spending changes but includes additional funds for program integrity and implementing the 21st Century CURES Act.
  • $44.1 billion in net discretionary budget authority for the Department of Homeland Security, a $2.8 billion or 6.8% increase from the 2017 annualized CR level. The Budget would allocate $4.5 billion in additional funding for programs to strengthen the security of the Nation’s borders and enhance the integrity of its immigration system. This increased investment in the Nation’s border security and immigration enforcement efforts now would ultimately save Federal resources in the future.
  • $40.7 billion in gross discretionary funding for Housing and Urban Development, a $6.2 billion or 13.2% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $11.6 billion for the Department of the Interior, a $1.5 billion or 12% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $27.7 billion for the Department of Justice, a $1.1 billion or 3.8% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. This program level excludes mandatory spending changes involving the Crime Victims Fund and the Assets Forfeiture Fund. However, significant targeted increases would enhance the ability to address key issues, including public safety, law enforcement, and national security. Further, the Administration is concerned about so-called sanctuary jurisdictions and will be taking steps to mitigate the risk their actions pose to public safety.
  • The President’s 2018 Budget requests $9.6 billion for the Department of Labor, a $2.5 billion or 21% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $25.6 billion in base funding for the Department of State and USAID, a $10.1 billion or 28% reduction from the 2017 annualized CR level. The Budget also requests $12.0 billion as Overseas Contingency Operations funding for extraordinary costs, primarily in war areas like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, for an agency total of $37.6 billion. The 2018 Budget also requests $1.5 billion for Treasury International Programs, an $803 million or 35% reduction from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $16.2 billion for the Department of Transportation’s discretionary budget, a $2.4 billion or 13% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $12.1 billion in discretionary resources for the Department of the Treasury’s domestic programs, a $519 million or 4.1% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level. This program level excludes mandatory spending changes involving the Treasury Forfeiture Fund.
  • $78.9 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, a $4.4 billion or 6% increase from the 2017 enacted level. The Budget also requests legislative authority and $3.5 billion in mandatory budget authority in 2018 to continue the Veterans Choice Program.
  • The President’s 2018 Budget requests $5.7 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, a decrease of $2.6 billion, or 31%, from the 2017 annualized CR level.
  • $19.1 billion for NASA, a 0.8% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level, with targeted increases consistent with the President’s priorities.
  • $826.5 million for the Small Business Administration, a $43.2 million or 5.0% decrease from the 2017 annualized CR level.

Because very few FY2017 appropriations bills had actually been passed, most of the budget is based upon the continuing resolution funding, which is why you see the contorted phrase “the 2017 annualized CR level.”

The blueprint document, linked above, makes for very dry reading, but it’s very important. However, I am concerned that the $54 billion in Defense and Homeland Security related programs is being ‘paid for’ by only a $54 billion cut in domestic spending. Director Mulvaney noted the impending $20 trillion national debt level — as of March 14, 2017, it stood at $19,902,604,401,637.92, which is still lower than the $19,947,304,555,212.49 on President Obama’s last day in office — and a budget which does not decrease the deficit certainly does not decrease the national debt.

Andrew JacksonPresident Trump drew comparisons to himself with President Andrew Jackson, a comparison NBC News tried to belittle, due to Mr Jackson’s populist appeal. The 45th President has had the 7th President’s portrait hung in the Oval Office, and though President Jackson’s legacy includes things which tarnish his reputation when judged by 21st century standards — he was a slaveowner and championed the removal of the Indians from the southeast — he has the unique status of being the only President of the United States to completely pay off the national debt.

If Mr Trump really wishes to have a legacy like his 19th century predecessor, budgets which do not cut the deficit will not be enough. Our national debt is so large, more than 100% of our Gross Domestic Product,1 that it will take several determined Presidents and Congresses to accomplish what President Jackson did, and I very much doubt that such an extended commitment will be found.

The #idesOfMarch : What a perfect day for the Fed to stab President Trump in the back!

As previously noted, the Fed are raising interest rates:

Fed raises rates, signals more to come in 2017

by Patrick Gillespie | March 15, 2017: 2:33 PM ET

The Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate by 0.25 percentage point on Wednesday. It was just the third time that the Fed has increased rates since the financial crisis.

That raises the Fed’s target for short-term interest rates to a range of 0.75% and 1.00%.

The move was widely expected after last week’s strong jobs report and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s comments that a rate hike was “appropriate.”

A rate hike is a sign that the Fed is confident about the pace of growth in the U.S. economy. The Fed placed its key interest rate at 0% in December 2008 to resuscitate the collapsed housing market. But a little over eight years later, the U.S. economy is in much better shape and has grown, albeit slowly.

“The economy continues to expand at a moderate pace,” Yellen said in a press conference.

There’s more at the original, and that story may well be updated throughout the day.

Here are the Fed’s economic projections:

Other than their 2018 GDP growth and 2017 Core PCE inflation projections, the Fed did not change any of their forecasts. Yet, as we have previously noted, the Fed got their GDP projections for 2016 very wrong, and got them wrong in mid-December of 2016! The Fed projected 2016 GDP growth at 1.9%, but not only did the initial 2016 numbers show only 1.6% real growth, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis second estimate, released on February 28th, was the same: 1.6% real growth for 2016.

Why, then, ought we to have any confidence in the projections of the Fed for accuracy, when they couldn’t even get right a year in which 11½ months had already elapsed?

Various Federal Reserve officials have already said that they see little need for further ‘stimulus’ spending, and Governor Lael Brainard indicated that the FOMC might seek to raise interest rates if President Trump’s policies focus on stimulus. While I happen to agree that ‘stimulus’ spending is not a good or effective thing, it’s becoming clear that the Fed are not being apolitical, but are actively attempting to fight President Trump’s economic policies, and that is definitely not their job. If the government are going to try to use some form of stimulus program, such as the President’s suggested $1 trillion in infrastructure programs, that is the decision of the Congress and the President, and not something that the Fed has any legitimate right to fight.

So, what has happened? With a completely unnecessary increase in interest rates, the Fed have just made any stimulus program by the government more expensive, by increasing the rates for whatever money the government borrow.

How Video Games Can Keep You Sane During an Election Year

How Video Games Can Keep You Sane During an Election Year

With all the craziness and fighting that comes along with an election year, it can be difficult to handle it. As social media becomes more prominent in daily life, it can be impossible to escape it. If you are tired of hearing about elections and all the news associated with it, then you are probably trying to find something that can take you away from it all. One option is playing games, which have actually been proven to be the perfect way to beat the stress of an election year.

Providing Escapism

Escapism is a great byproduct of playing video games or digital games. They allow you to immerse yourself in a different world. The rules of everyday life no longer apply. You can become someone completely different than yourself and live a life that is completely different than your real one. Depending on the game you choose, it can be a great distraction that allows you to forget about the election and its associated stress.

Making a Connection

One of the things that is so great about video and digital games these days is how they allow you to connect with other people. Most games are no longer one player. Instead, they allow you to connect with people from all over the world. You get to still have that personal connection that you crave as a human without having to talk about the election or argue over stances on issues. You are coming together with like-minded people and playing a game that allows you to get away from your daily struggles and the people with whom you may constantly be butting heads with.

Giving You Control

Another aspect of elections is that they can make you feel like you have no control. After all, until you actually cast your vote, you don’t have any control. You can’t stop your candidate from doing or saying things that make headlines in a bad way. You can’t make others change their opinions about your candidate. All you can do is sit by and watch as things play out. It is a helpless feeling.

With video games, though, you can feel like you have some control. Whether you are playing a game where you can create your own village or an online political game where you are actually put in the driver’s seat of an election, you get to have more control. It can be a great stress reliever to be able to affect the outcome, even of your imaginary world.

Allowing for Stress Relief

Playing video games also allows you to get some stress relief. While the game may work you up and get you excited about conquering foes, it is not going to stress you out on a real world level like the elections. If things go wrong when you play, you can remain calm because it isn’t real life. It isn’t as if anything happening in your game will directly affect you in any way. It is a nice way to push aside the things about the election that are stressing you out. You get to focus on a world where mistakes and bad choices really don’t matter.

Getting Through an Election

Games offer you the chance to expand your world beyond reality. Through making connections with others and getting back some control, you are able to get through the election cycle with less stress. Many people simply don’t realize the benefits of games, though. It is common to think that gaming is something for kids or to think that if you have a job and responsibilities that you can’t take the time to play a game. These things are wrong, though.

You can use games as a way to escape. You don’t have to play all the time, but when you are feeling especially stressed about the election, it can help to take an hour or two and get away from it all by playing a game. It can be amazing just how beneficial it can be. So, when you are feeling really down about an election or you simply are getting fed up with hearing all the bickering, consider finding a video game or an online game that you can immerse yourself into and get away from the world for a while. 

Top 5 Helpful Tips For Tax Season

Top 5 Helpful Tips For Tax Season

The 2017 tax season is winding down, and you may still be in the thick of things. Whatever your situation, know that there are tax benefits available to you throughout the year. Tax season doesn’t have to be as painful as you imagine. There are some ways you can get more out of filing your 2016 tax return. First, you want to make sure you get organized and have one place where you have all of the information you need to fill out the tax return. Aside from that first priority, here are 5 helpful tips for tax season.

Keep Your Identity Safe

If you received an Identity Protection (IP) pin in the past, then you must provide this number on your tax return this year and on all future returns. The IP PIN is a six-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers to help prevent the filing of fraudulent returns under their social security numbers. Consider the IP PIN to be your friend in getting your tax return accepted by the IRS. The pin changes every year, so you have to keep up with notifications. If you do not receive the notification in the mail, you can go to the IRS website to retrieve your PIN.

Get Health Coverage In Order

When it comes to your health insurance, make sure you know what you need to report to the IRS. You and your family are required to have minimum essential coverage or qualify for a health coverage exemption, due to the shared responsibility provision. Most taxpayers just have one responsibility: Check the box indicating that you had health coverage for all of 2016. If not, you may need to fill out Form 8965 (Health Coverage Exemptions) and Form 8962 (Premium Tax Credit).

Be Smart With Filing

The quickest, easiest way to receive your tax refund is to file your return electronically and use direct deposit. If you owe anything, use IRS direct pay, connected to your savings or checking account. Make sure you keep a copy of your filed tax return. This can save you a lot of trouble just in case you happen to need it.

Declutter and Get A Tax Break 

You can make money by donating your unneeded items. There are many charitable organizations that accept certain items such as books, electronics, clothing, and other household items. The item’s fair market value sets the limit of the deduction, and items must be in at least good condition to be deductible.

Put Your Refund To Good Use 

It’s best to make wise decisions with your tax refund. Consider putting your money to work, increasing your 401(k) contribution after adjusting your W-4. Your money can go toward your retirement and you won’t feel guilty for throwing it away.

Author – This article was written by a member of Abajian Law

Will the Federal Reserve openly fight President Trump’s economic policies?

The United States’ gross domestic product grew by a paltry 1.6% in 2016, the worst year since 2011, and that growth rate was lower than the Federal Reserve Board’s projection of a 1.9% growth rate, made when the year was already 11½ months over. The growth rate for just the fourth quarter of 2016 was only 1.9%

So, naturally, if we get a couple months of (relatively) good economic news, the response of the Federal Reserve ought to be to try to slow down growth, right? From The Wall Street Journal:

Economists React to the February Jobs Report: ‘A March Hike Is a Done Deal’

A robust employment report cements expectations the Federal Reserve will raise rates next week

By Jeffrey Sparshott | March 10, 2017 9:42 am ET

U.S. employers added a seasonally adjusted 235,000 jobs and the unemployment rate ticked down to 4.7% in February, the Labor Department said on Friday. Underlying details on labor force participation and wages were relatively strong, likely adding to expectations the Federal Reserve will raise its benchmark interest rate at its policy meeting next week.

Here are initial reactions from economists and analysts:

  • “The U.S. labor market is running hot, tight and past full employment. The stage is set for a noticeably improved wage picture in 2017 and with the improvement in the underlying economic fundamentals, the Fed will almost surely hike rates by 25 basis points at its March 15 meeting. With the labor market this strong, the economy is not only capable of absorbing the 75 basis points that the Fed forecast implies, the hawks on the committee likely have gained the initiative, opening the way for another 25 basis points on top of that by the end of the year.” — Joseph Brusuelas, RSM US
  • “A March hike is a done deal. The report was the last piece in the puzzle and there is nothing here that will make the Fed want to step back from their recent signaling. The challenge for the Fed now is to ensure that the market doesn’t start extrapolating a much more rapid series of hikes. Investors are comfortable with three hikes this year but any suggestion of four will probably cause a wobble.” — Luke Bartholomew, Aberdeen Asset Management
  • “It’s too early to tell if the pickup in job growth in early 2017 is due to the Trump administration. Given that few actual policies have changed, it could be that businesses are feeling more positive in the early days of the new administration; this might be one reason for the big jump in manufacturing jobs in February. But the underlying trends for the economy now are similar to those in 2016: more jobs and higher wages boosting consumer income and spending, and an improving housing market.” — Gus Faucher, PNC Financial Services

Board of Governors logoIt is that last quote, from Gus Faucher of PNC Financial Services,1 which caught my eye. He stated that “the underlying trends for the economy now are similar to those in 2016,” but last year was the slowest rate of economic growth in five years. Why, then, would Chairman Janet Yellen and the Board of Governors choose a policy designed to slow down economic growth?

FOMC projectionsThe FOMC justified its policies back in December of 2015, when it “decided that economic conditions and the economic outlook warranted the commencement of the policy normalization process and the Committee voted to raise the target range for the federal funds rate, the first change since December 2008.” Trouble is, the actual results did not match the economic outlook on which the Board took its decisions. They got it wrong in December of 2015, and got it wrong again last December, the chart at the right having been taken from the Fed’s projections.

But, as always, there’s more to it.  We noted, back on inauguration day, that the Fed saw little need for further economic stimulus, and that I agreed with them, though for a different reason: I do not believe that the Keynesian notion of economic stimulus is a viable one any longer,2 and believe that the continuation of the huge deficit spending of the Obama Administration is ultimately harmful.

Nevertheless, any stimulus program put in place is a decision for the Congress and President, not the Fed. Both Dr Yellen and Fed Governor Lael Brainard have indicated that the FOMC might seek to raise interest rates if President Trump’s policies focus on stimulus, Dr Brainard saying, on January 17th:

[F]iscal expansions that affect only aggregate demand and are enacted when the economy is near full employment and 2% inflation are relatively less likely to sustainably boost economic activity and relatively more likely to be accompanied by increases in interest rates.

Really? The New York Times profiled Dr Brainard last July, saying:

Lael Brainard is poised to win another round this week in her fight for the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low.

Ms. Brainard, a Fed governor in Washington since 2014, has emerged over the last year as a leading advocate for patience, pressing the case that low rates are important for domestic economic growth and for global stability.

The Fed is expected to announce on Wednesday, after a two-day meeting of its policy-making committee, that it again will pass on an opportunity to increase its benchmark interest rate, although officials have said they are still considering rate increases later in the year.

Ms. Brainard has become the leading voice among Fed officials for a concern widely shared among left-leaning economists: that the central bank will raise rates too quickly, potentially stifling economic growth. It is a role that has raised her profile in Democratic circles, and driven speculation that she is in line for a top job if Hillary Clinton wins the White House.

Dr Brainard contributed the maximum amount allowed by law to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, something which certainly calls into question her political impartiality as a member of the Board of Governors.3

Ms. Brainard’s case for caution combines the idea that the domestic economy is not ready for higher rates, with something new and controversial: that the Fed should care about other countries.

The American economy, until recently, seemed impervious to all but the largest global shocks. But the integration of financial markets has increased the importance of events elsewhere. The rest of the world plays a growing role in determining American mortgage rates.

“The world has just changed fundamentally,” Ms. Brainard said at a New York conference in February. “What China does matters to the U.S.”

In placing greater weight on the global economy, Ms. Brainard has argued that the Fed needs to consider the impact of its decisions on other countries. She said at the February conference the Fed might achieve better results by coordinating with other central banks.

Lael Brainard

Lael Brainard

I find this wholly inappropriate. The Times reported the speculation that Dr Brainard might be in line for a top economic position had Mrs Clinton won the election, which is bad enough, but it now appears that she is reversing her previous views “that low rates are important for domestic economic growth and for global stability,” seemingly due to the fact that Donald Trump, and not Mrs Clinton, is now the President. That she is concerned with the impact of Fed decisions on other countries, rather than what is best for the United States, is also inappropriate.

Dr Brainard herself said, last September:

The apparent flatness of the Phillips curve together with evidence that inflation expectations may have softened on the downside and the persistent undershooting of inflation relative to our target should be important considerations in our policy deliberations. In particular, to the extent that the effect on inflation of further gradual tightening in labor market conditions is likely to be moderate and gradual, the case to tighten policy preemptively is less compelling. …

From a risk-management perspective, therefore, the asymmetry in the conventional policy toolkit would lead me to expect policy to be tilted somewhat in favor of guarding against downside risks relative to preemptively raising rates to guard against upside risks. …

This asymmetry in risk management in today’s new normal counsels prudence in the removal of policy accommodation. I believe this approach has served us well in recent months, helping to support continued gains in employment and progress on inflation. I look forward to assessing the evolution of the data in the months ahead for signs of further progress toward our goals, bearing in mind these considerations.

Fed GovernorsEverything I can find concerning Governor Brainard indicates her preferences for lower rather than higher interest rates, and a caution toward raising rates or taking Fed action which would restrict economic opportunity, yet now, with Mr Trump in the White House, it seems that her views have reversed. It should not be the job of the Federal Reserve to fight the elected political leadership of our country!

Alas! The Governors are appointed for fourteen year terms, and every member of the Board of Governors has a confirmed term which lasts longer than that of President Trump! More, despite Governor’s terms lasting fourteen years, every current member of the Board was appointed by President Obama; there isn’t a single Bush Administration holdover.  The staggered terms are meant to prevent that type of situation, but that’s what we have, five members, a solid majority even once President Trump fills the two vacancies, who were appointed by the previous President, all of whom have terms as Governors which will carry them through the entirety of the President’s first term.

If the Board weren’t acting politically, this shouldn’t be a concern.  However, the Board are already signaling that they will oppose President Trump’s policies, and that is political. Just because I may wind up opposing some of the President’s economic policies does not mean I find it proper that the supposedly impartial Federal Reserve should fight them.

  1. Full disclosure: I have IRA accounts with PNC Financial Services, and use PNC as my regular bank.
  2. I’ve said it before: I do not believe that ‘stimulus’ has any positive reward anymore, because we have not been following the economic models for stimulus. The Keynesian argument that governments need to run deficits during poor economic times has seemed particularly blunted to me, because the second part of John Maynard Keynes’ point, that governments need to balance their budgets and pay down their debts during good times, simply hasn’t been part of the plan. Our continual deficit spending, during good times as well as bad, has taken us completely away from Keynesian ideas and has, in effect, inoculated our economy to any projected benefits from stimulus. Constant stimulus has already been figured in to our economy.
  3. Dr Brainard was an Obama Administration political appointee as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs prior to being nominated for the Fed. Dr Yellen served as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers for President Clinton, another political job for a Democrat President.

The #DefiantGirl statue

From CNNMoney:

Fresh evidence women are better investors than men

by Heather Long | @byHeatherLong | March 8, 2017: 3:45 PM ET

Defiant GirlHave you seen the statue of the “fearless girl” facing the Wall Street bull?

State Street Global Advisors put up the statue to mark International Women’s Day and it’s getting a lot of attention.

Here’s one more reason to sit up and take notice: Women are better investors than men, according to a growing body of evidence.

The big investment firm Fidelity says that female investors outperformed males last year by 0.3%. In fact, Fidelity found that females outdid men in the past decade.

Data from Openfolio, an investment tracking app, also found the same trend. Women have topped men every year for the past three years since Openfolio began tracking results.

“Women are doing better than men and with a lot less risk,” says Kathy Murphy, president of personal investing at Fidelity.

Men have a bad tendency to buy and sell stocks too often. Very few people have mastered the art of timing the market. So too much trading eats into the guys’ returns.

There’s more at the original, plus a move to keep the Defiant Girl stature there permanently.

Thing is, the reasons listed in the story for people wishing to keep #DefiantGirl aren’t really what the creators had in mind.

One woman went to see the “Fearless Girl” statue — defiantly staring down the famous Wall Street bull — on Wednesday after she heard about the statue from her child.

“My daughter called me at 6 a.m., and says ‘You’re in New York, you have to take a picture, you have to take a picture of the girl!”

“No matter what, no matter how big that bull is, women can defy all odds,” she said.

“Fearless Girl” was installed Tuesday by State Street Global Advisors as part of the asset-manager’s campaign to increase the number of women on their clients’ corporate boards.

A group of women who work together also came to the financial district to see the statue on International Women’s Day. “We really like the little girl standing up to the bull,” one said.

A man who works nearby said, “I have two daughters and I thought it was pretty impressive that they have this up here.”

Il dito statue, at the Milan bourse, pointing away from Milan's stock market. It's an open criticism of the international financial management that led to the great crisis of 2008. Photo by the Editor, 30 June 2016. Click to enlarge.

Il dito statue, at the Milan bourse, pointing away from Milan’s stock market. Photo by the Editor, 30 June 2016. Click to enlarge.

The public impression of Defiant Girl — a notable difference from the official name of Fearless Girl — is less one of inclusion of women into Wall Street firms, but of her standing up to Wall Street. It reminds me very much of another public art statue, one I saw in Milan. The statue, il dito, an open criticism of the international financial management that led to the great crisis of 2008, and it is my impression that the Defiant Girl stature on Wall Street is seen by the public as something closer to what il dito means to the Italians than what Fearless Girl’s creators meant.

Are women better investors than men?  If that’s what the data show, then that’s what the data show, and to me only results count; anything else is just spin.  But the only way that men and women can really make things work is to work together, and not as adversaries.  Men and women are complementary, not competitors.  Wise companies give prospective employees, and rising employees, an equal opportunity to succeed, and recognize that they also have an equal opportunity to fail.


It’s All in the Home

It’s All In The Home

If you find that you’re going to be out of town for work or for issues with the family, then you might want to consider a short term housing arrangement. Most short term furnished housing options have the basics that you will need while you’re away from home, such as beds, a couch and a refrigerator and stove. This will give you a way to settle in to the home without worrying about where you’re going to find furniture. It also allows you to concentrate on the reason you’re away from home whether it’s to get work done or to take care of family members.

As with any housing option, there are positives and negatives that you will see with a furnished house. When you look at furnished homes, you will find that all of them offer different types of furnishings. Some will have just the necessities that you need, such as the larger items that include the sofa and kitchen appliances. Others will include everything that you would have in your own home, such as curtains, sheets, towels and decorations. There are some homes that will have a washing machine and dryer to make life as convenient as possible. When you talk to the landlord, ask what will stay and what will go so that you can be prepared when you move into the house.

You need to ask if there is an additional cost for items that you want to stay in the home or if there is a cost associated with the home being furnished in the first place. One of the benefits to getting a furnished home is that you won’t have to move your own heavy furniture, especially if you don’t plan on making the move a permanent adventure. It’s ideal for being away from your home for a few months at a time. You won’t have to buy as many items to make the house feel comfortable. If you do plan on bringing your own furniture, then you might not have a lot of space. If you need to move some of the items out of the home, then talk to the landlord about taking a bit off of the monthly rent.

The February unemployment figures

From The Wall Street Journal:

In Office, Trump Changes His Tune on Job Growth Numbers He Once Denounced

Democrat Party chief says ‘Thanks, Obama!’

By Daniel Nasaw | March 10, 2017 | 12:44 pm ET

President Donald Trump and his allies on Friday cheered a report that the U.S. economy had created 235,000 jobs in February and the official unemployment rate had ticked down to 4.7% — figures close to those he routinely denounced on the campaign trail as “phony.”

Mr. Trump’s press secretary wrote on Twitter:

The president himself retweeted from his personal account a message from the Drudge Report declaring: “GREAT AGAIN: +235,000.”

The job growth reported by the Department of Labor for February, the first full month of Mr. Trump’s presidency, exceeded analysts’ expectations and surpasses average job growth over the past three months, 209,000, and the 179,000 monthly pace September through November. The unemployment rate has now been consistently below 5% since April, and the U.S. economy has been adding jobs since October 2010.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump regularly dismissed the Department of Labor figures, suggesting they underrepresented the unemployment picture. He preferred what he referred to as “real unemployment,” which could be one of several alternative measures of labor underutilization that include discouraged workers not actively seeking employment and others marginally attached to the labor force. Those are higher than the official unemployment rate because they take into account more people who aren’t working in fulltime jobs.

There’s more at the original.

Your Editor does not believe that the President creates any jobs, other than those directly for the federal government, but Presidents always claim the credit for good economic reports, and get the blame for bad ones. As a candidate, Mr Trump continually assailed President Obama for our long-term economic malaise, and harped on the U-6 rather than U-3 unemployment numbers. Having won, he has now taken responsibility for those, for good or for ill.

I have noted previously that I find the U-6 unemployment number the most important one, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin prefers U-5. U-6 dropped to 9.2%, while U-5 declined to 5.7%. But while the numbers are an improvement over January’s figures, other than U-1,1 the February numbers are exactly the same as the December 2016 figures.

However, while those percentages are the same, there was improvement in some absolute numbers. While the work-eligible population2 increased by 164,000 since January, the number of people in the workforce increased by 340,000.3 The workforce participation rate increased from 62.7% in December, to 62.9% in January, and 63.0% in February. The number of people who were working part-time, but wanted full-time positions that they could not find, decreased by 136,000.

Naturally, the Democrats are claiming that the slightly better numbers are due to policies left in place by President Obama, few of which have been changed this early into the Trump Administration. Republicans, on the other hand, are noting the positive feelings people have in the economy due to President Trump. I have added CNNMoney’s “Trump Jobs Tracker” to the left-hand sidebar, for quick reference. President Trump promised that there would be 25,000,000 new jobs created over ten years4 by his policies, or an average of 208,333 jobs per month, so at least with his first full month, he’s slightly ahead of the track he’s set.

President Trump’s first full month is starting off with improved numbers, and whether the future numbers are either good or bad, he’s going to have the self-claimed responsibility for them.

  1. Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force.
  2. Listed officially as the ‘civilian noninstitutional population,’ or those who are actually free to get jobs.
  3. The Department recalculates population figures in January, making comparisons with December problematic. Using the December figures, we’d show a population loss of half a million people.
  4. Even if he runs and is re-elected, he only gets eight years!

Democrisy! The Washington Post is terribly upset that Amal Clooney gets so much attention due to whom she is married


A lawyer named Amal Clooney gave a powerful speech at U.N. Some only saw her baby bump.

By Samantha Schmidt | March 10, 2017 at 6:44 AM

An accomplished, international human rights lawyer delivered a potent call for action at the United Nations on Thursday, urging the organization to back an investigation into crimes committed by the Islamic State in Iraq.

“I am speaking to you, the Iraqi government, and to you, U.N. member states, when I ask: Why? Why has nothing been done?” Amal Clooney, the British-Lebanese barrister who represents victims of ISIS rapes and kidnappings, said.

She implored Iraq and the world’s nations: “Don’t let ISIS get away with genocide.”

It was a day after International Women’s Day, and a renown female lawyer was giving a powerful speech addressing one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian threats.

OK, Mrs Clooney is an “accomplished, international human rights lawyer.” And she was making an important presentation. But this is where it gets funny:

But a number of headlines seemed to focus elsewhere: her baby bump. And her daffodil-yellow dress and matching coat. Oh, and in case anyone forgot, she’s married to Hollywood movie star George Clooney.

The tabloid Mirror published the headline, “Amal Clooney is a vision in yellow as she shows off hint of baby bump in chic dress.” Entertainment Tonight went with, “Amal Clooney Stuns in Yellow While Delivering Passionate Speech at the United Nations.”

The day before the speech, Motto, Time Inc.’s website aimed at younger women, displayed the headline “Amal Clooney Shows Off Her Baby Bump at the United Nations,” publishing an article written by People magazine, which began:

Amal Clooney was all business on International Women’s Day. The mom-to-be (who also happens to be married to George Clooney) stepped out outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City on Wednesday, showing off her baby bump in a dark gray pencil skirt and matching cropped blazer.

Then there was E! News: “Amal Clooney Shows Baby Bump in What Could be the Ultimate International Women’s Day Poster.”

I’m sorry, but Samantha Schmidt is surprised that celebrity news sources are interested in Mrs Clooney’s speech because she is a celebrity?

On Tuesday, one question in an interview with BBC News spurred angry, eye-rolling tweets.

“The fact that you are now not just a human right’s lawyer but you are known, obviously because of your marriage to one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, does that help in terms of giving you a bigger platform and getting more people to listen to you?” the reporter asked.

The barrister gave no reaction to the subtle reference to her marriage, and responded by saying a great deal of her work “takes place behind closed doors” and is never seen. If more people now understand what is happening regarding the Islamic State and the Yazidis, and some action can result from the extra publicity, she said, then it is a “really good thing.”

Clearly, Mrs Clooney recognizes that her celebrity does give her a larger platform and gets more people to pay attention to her. Why do you think that celebrities have attention paid to their political statements? That’s reality, and they use it for things they believe are to their advantage.

But, funniest of all is the lawyer to whom The Washington Post paid so much attention, and gave so much support, due solely to the man she married. How many people would have heard of Hillary Rodham, the woman supported for President by the Post, had she not married Bill Clinton? The Post spent eight years telling us how stylish and graceful Hillary Clintonand Michelle Obama after her1 — was as First Lady, even though both were attorneys.2

The Post is, like virtually every other media source, interested in celebrity; celebrities sell, which is why they are on the covers of countless magazines and paid millions to do commercials and other advertising. Mrs Clooney might be an accomplished attorney, but there are a million accomplished attorneys; she stands out from most of them because of her celebrity status, and she’s willing to use it . . . just like some of the other women the Post so greatly admires.

  1. You should see all of the articles returned by a Google search for Michelle Obama run for President Washington Post. The left clearly want to see Mrs Obama run, even though she has no record of notable accomplishment.
  2. Oddly enough, the Post seemed to tell us less about how stylish and graceful Laura Bush was as First Lady, but maybe I missed something.

Wait a second! Weren’t we told that it was the Russians who hacked the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign?

From CNNMoney:

Wikileaks claims to reveal how CIA hacks TVs and phones all over the world

by Jose Pagliery | March 7, 2017: 2:26 PM ET

The CIA has become the preeminent hacking operation, sneaking into high-tech phones and televisions to spy on people worldwide, according to an explosive Wikileaks publication of purported internal CIA documents on Tuesday.

To hide its operations, the CIA routinely adopted hacking techniques that enabled them to appear as if they were hackers in Russia, Wikileaks said.

Wikileaks also claimed that nearly all of the CIA’s arsenal of privacy-crushing cyberweapons have been stolen, and the tools are potentially in the hands of criminals and foreign spies.

Wikileaks claimed the stolen tools ended up in the hands of “former U.S. government hackers and contractors… one of whom” leaked documents to Wikileaks.

Emphasis mine; there’s much more at the original.

So, now that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have revealed this, just what are we to make of the various intelligence agencies telling us that WikiLeaks’ source for the hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta was the Russians? Of course, WikiLeaks could be lying about this, but they don’t seem to have much of a record for lying, do they?

If Wikileaks claim that “the stolen tools ended up in the hands of ‘former U.S. government hackers and contractors… one of whom’ leaked documents to Wikileaks,” is true, such would explain why there were any Russian signatures — if that information from the CIA can be trusted — on the hacking.

Don’t get me wrong here: WikiLeaks is a scum organization, and Mr Assange is personally a scumbag, and possibly a rapist as well, people putting American security in danger. But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t do us a huge favor by exposing the equally scummy behavior of the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC.