Gene Daly: ‘Please recommend a few FINANCIAL sites. You know the kind, ones that talk about market bottoms, value stocks, growth stocks, good mutual funds, stuff like that.’
☞ No one knows where the market bottom is, and if you buy mutual funds, buy low-expense index funds. Over time, you’ll beat almost all the others (and no one knows in advance the few you won’t beat).
Oh, OK. By popular demand, today’s column will be at least a little bit about money. But you know, the best thing you can do most of the time is . . . nothing. The more you trade, the more you rack up transaction costs and expose yourself to taxes. So in a way, my trying to distract you with all this political stuff is a great financial service.
What most people need is a simple, automatic discipline whereby they add to their holdings each week or month, via their 401(1) at work . . . and perhaps their automatic mutual fund investment . . . or the automatic electronic transfer they make each month from their checking account to their brokerage account. That kind of thing. Plus the wisdom to delight in the little cost savings they devise. (Some of you will recall my ode to the T-shirt as just one example.)
If markets are headed down, just say to yourself, ‘Hot dog! I am scooping up assets at even better prices! I am a lucky fella.’ If markets are headed up, you say to yourself, ‘Hot dog! I am getting richer by the minute! I am a lucky fella.’
(Fella, I have decided, is a gender neutral word. It has the male connotation from ‘fellow,’ with the Latin female suffix.)
Monday, I will take a look back at some of the (very-cautiously-couched) recommendations I’ve made in this column, claiming full credit for all the money I made you on some of them, and disclaiming any responsibility for the rest.
But for now . . . well, I’m sorry . . . I’d rather listen to you.
J Colson: ‘The inference that Bush will fail because Adams did 175 years ago is too much. I didn’t subscribe to hear graceless innuendos. Remove me from your list.’
☞ The point of Tuesday’s column – at least as I read it — was not to predict that W., if he wins, will fail. Frankly, I think either man will have a tough time. And as Joyce Chaplin reminds us: ‘After losing reelection, John Quincy Adams had an illustrious post-presidential career, especially as a critic of slavery in the big argument leading up to the Civil War.’ GWB could do worse than be compared to JQA.
Hank Gillette: ‘One thing we’ve gotten from this election, win or lose, is that the Republicans now agree that if you think your rights are being abridged by state law the proper action is to seek redress in Federal Court.’
Julia F: ‘Am I asking myself, as a Nader voter, ‘What Have I Done?’ Absolutely not. I’ve got a stack of health care bills that my HMO refuses to pay (Nader’s plan, if you don’t know, has an assurance of universal health care pronto) . . .’
☞ How wonderful of Nader to assure that for us. But what does ‘pronto’ mean – that in 20 years, when a Green party candidate somehow wins the White House, she can fight a very tough battle with Congress, as the Clinton administration did, and maybe, conceivably, 25 years from now, you’ll have it? How is that ‘pronto?’ Wouldn’t Gore likely make more progress toward this goal than Bush? And toward a true patient’s bill of rights?
‘ . . .I’m concerned about the ozone hole in Chile (Nader’s plan ended public subsidies & tax breaks for industries that harm the environment); and I am mad about corporations subsidizing campaigns (you probably understand by now that Nader doesn’t accept those contributions) . . .’
☞ I wonder how many corporate contributions he had to turn away. Of the four leading contenders for the Presidency, Gore, Bush, Bradley and McCain, all but one strongly supported the McCain-Feingold bill that would have made a good start at campaign finance reform. The one who opposes it? The one Nader may wind up having elected.
‘ . . . Most of all, I’m confounded by the fact that this is still a two-party country. I’m proud that I voted for Nader. I voted for progress. I stand behind my vote 100%. And the election isn’t over yet.’
☞ I bolded that final comment because it hints at the possibility you care who wins. If so — why? Is it because you think that one candidate is more likely to fight for the things you cite? Look at it this way. If the election came down to one vote and it were yours, would you prefer to see it go to Bush, because you voted for Nader? You are saying yes, but — at the risk of being presumptuous — I wonder whether you really feel that way.
Robert Doucette: ‘Your thought on a coin toss is not so far fetched. CNN reports that in case of a tie in New Mexico, the law provides that the winner IS determined by a coin toss or a game of cards.’
[CNN reports: ‘New Mexico statute requires that in case of a tie, ‘the determination as to which of the candidates shall be declared to have been nominated or elected shall be decided by lot.’ In practice, the usual method for this rare event has been to play one hand of five-card poker. This was last done in December 1999, in a local judge’s race. Republican Jim Blanq and Democrat Lena Milligan played one hand of poker in a courthouse with dozens of people watching, and Blanq won.]
☞ One advantage of a coin toss is that it would mute somewhat the perception of illegitimacy the winner might otherwise suffer. There are many theories about the fairness of machine counts versus manual counts. (On this point, I side with Governor Bush, who signed a 1997 Texas statute mandating that, when recounts are requested, ‘a manual recount shall be conducted in preference to an electronic recount.’) But whatever your views of chads and dimples, everybody knows that a coin toss is fair.
Jimmy Dolklyn: ‘If you laid all the journalists who called the Florida election early end-to-end across the Atlantic ocean, it would be a damned good start.’
And just how did it happen that Bush was briefly declared the winner? Which, after all, laid the foundation for the notion that the election is ‘his,’ and that all this foolishness about counting the votes is just sour grapes. The call was made by Fox at 2:16am, and the other networks quickly fell into line. The guy who made the call at Fox was a member of the Bush family, who’d been on the phone to the Bush boys all night. So one might say it was the Bushes who managed this PR coup, framing the terms of all that followed. Read the full story here.
Quote of the Day
In 1800, 75% of [an American's] working man's expenditures went for food alone. By 1850, that had dropped to 50%. Today it is a little more than 11%.~The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 1996
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