ALITO – THE COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVE VIEW

Michael K.: ‘Death from being shot while snatching a purse is 100% preventable by merely choosing to not break the law and physically and emotionally endanger old ladies by grabbing their purses. You are wealthy; you can pretty well see to it that street crime does not affect you. This is not true for many others.’

☞ This is what makes horse races. Given your view, you are right to vote Republican. (Any thoughts on what the founders meant by ‘cruel and unusual punishment?’)

FACT CHECKING

Mark W. Budwig: ‘In his State of the Union address, President Bush stated, ‘On September 11th, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country.’ A glance at an atlas shows that Afghanistan is much farther than 7,000 miles from our east coast. So what state did the president mean? Saudi Arabia? Or was he yet again tying 9/11 to Saddam Hussein?’

☞ Maybe he was calculating the distance as the drill bit travels, direct thru the Earth? But no . . . actually, you are wrong and he was right: the City Distance Tool shows Kabul 6,740 miles from New York. Although, as the hijackers were Saudi and not Afghani, who knows what he meant?

EJECTING

Whatever you think of Cindy Sheehan, there’s a separate question: what do you think of her being ejected from the State of the Union? (As was the wife of a Republican Congressman – for wearing a ‘support our troops T-shirt,’ no less.) Here‘s how Sheehan herself describes the experience.

DISSAVING

I would be doing you a disservice if I failed to note that consumers are dissaving – spending more than they’re earning . . . and worse, as has been widely reported of late, than at any time since 1933. We are getting poorer on both a micro level (families dipping into savings to heat their homes, take their vacations, buy their iPods) and a macro level (by the time the President leaves office, our accumulated National Debt will be $10 trillion – roughly $8 trillion of it racked up by just three presidents: Reagan, Bush, and Bush).

Some of us, of course, are getting richer . . . CEO pay climbs smartly year after year. And many, after inflation, are getting poorer . . . the Republican Congress has kept the minimum wage frozen for nine years now.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The Republicans scored a close victory yesterday when they succeeded in squeezing student loans and health care for poor children, while leaving their dramatic tax cuts for the wealthy untouched. As announced Tuesday night, it is the President’s goal to further cut taxes on the wealthy (he did not phrase it quite that way) – reducing the maximum tax rate on multi-billion-dollar estates, for example, from the 55% it was when he took office to . . . 0%.

It’s well known that the President’s favorite philosopher is Jesus Christ. He and his party have not been shy about using religion to win votes. But at least a few Christians are beginning to wonder if they were sold a bill of goods. ‘Last week‘ [it was reported a couple of months ago], ‘leaders of five Christian denominations in the US jointly sent a letter to President Bush, reiterating their horrified view of his 2006 budget priorities.’

INVESTING

Pete: Yesterday, you linked back to your February 4, 2004 column where you mention Stephen Leeb’s book, The Oil Factor. I know that your general advice for the average investor is to buy and hold low-expense index (or index-like) funds. Given the potential shock wave high energy prices may send through the global economy, which may be in an already precarious position (overvalued housing sector, etc.), would it be wise, in your opinion, for an average investor to read Stephen Leeb’s book and reallocate some of his retirement portfolio away from an index buy and hold strategy? Is an index buy and hold strategy still relevant in today’s economic climate?’

☞ It would have been even wiser to read his book in February, 2004. I worry we have some tough times ahead. But I also worry it may be late to be buying oil stocks. It seems as if they can only keep going up (and I’m not selling mine, for the most part); but when it’s obvious something can only go in one direction (how could the dollar not keep falling last year?), it sometimes goes into reverse (the dollar actually gained ground).

To your question: A lot depends on your age and circumstances. If you’re 30, just keep investing that $200 a month (or whatever) forever . . . though not only in U.S. funds – it’s a big world. (And consider reading The Little Book that Beats the Market and using that strategy instead of the index funds, as suggested here a couple of months back. I owe you a lot of comments back and forth on that book, by the way . . . they’re in queue.)

If you’re 60, I wouldn’t be fully invested in index funds. (Where else to put it? Well, the simplest alternative could be – don’t gasp – a bank? A money market fund? Every so often, ‘cash is king.’ And even if such a time does not arise in the next year or two or three – as I hope it won’t – there are a lot dumber things to do with a chunk of money than keeping it someplace safe and liquid, earning a little interest to boot.)

GAS GUZZLING

Steve Baker: ‘I would be a little less skeptical of what this president says about the energy crisis if during the first month of his presidency he hadn’t relaxed the CAFE standards. The recent scheduled increase in them didn’t even take them back to where they were in 2000.’

☞ His first budget also proposed halving alternative energy research. And what a terrific tax break he gave purchasers of the Hummer.

 

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