FOURTH QUARTERLY ESTIMATED TAX DUE TODAY

(unless you’ll be filing your return, with any balance due, by February 1)



INSURRECTION

This piece argues that what Republicans did shortly after the insurrection was worse:


. . . The 139 representatives and eight senators who voted to reject the results of a democratic election, were certainly well mannered—speakers wore formal clothes such as ties and suits rather than the outlandish outfits of the mob. The legislators adhered to time limits rather than putting their feet on desks while hamming it up for photos. But this veneer of respectability makes what happened on the floor more dangerous, by making it harder to recognize as a violation of democracy.

The legislators were there to count the votes certified by the states—after months of review by election officials, and after endless court challenges were rebuffed—and, instead, they voted to throw them out. They did this after months of lying to the public, saying that the election had been stolen. They crossed every line a democracy should hold dear. To my knowledge, not one of them has yet apologized or recanted for their participation in what even some Republican senators are openly calling the “big lie.”

Some, like Senator Ted Cruz, have tried to cover up their attempt to overturn the election by saying that their constituents (and indeed tens of millions of Americans) believe that the election was stolen, and that they were merely honoring their beliefs. However, it was they, along with the president, who convinced those millions of people that the election was stolen in the first place, and that Joe Biden was not the legitimate president-elect. Convincing people of outright lies does not excuse attempts to pander to those lies later; if anything, it makes the whole act more damning for those who carry it out. . . .


Worth reading the whole thing, as our democracy hangs in the balance.

As is watching Steve Schmidt’s powerful 4 minutes on Morning Joe“This undemocratic moment must be met head on.”

Joe is a conservative former Republican Congressman; Steve worked to beat Obama in 2008.

I don’t buy their politics; but I do buy their patriotism.



INEQUALITY

If the gains of the last four decades had not skewed so heavily toward the wealthy, would any of this be happening?

Economic hardship and inequality are fertilizer for fascism and revolt.

It’s time once again to highlight Nick Hanauer’s The Pitchforks Are Coming For Us Plutocrats.

The fun part is how he made his fortune, but then it gets serious:


. . . Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.

If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when. . . .

What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. . . .

The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.

The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren’t only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they’d be able to afford his Model Ts.

What a great idea.

. . . the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around.

On June 19, 2013, Bloomberg published an article I wrote called “The Capitalist’s Case for a $15 Minimum Wage.”  Forbes  labeled it “Nick Hanauer’s near insane” proposal. And yet, just weeks after it was published, my friend David Rolf, a Service Employees International Union organizer, roused fast-food workers to go on strike around the country for a $15 living wage. Nearly a year later, the city of Seattle passed a $15 minimum wage. And just 350 days after my article was published, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed that ordinance into law. How could this happen, you ask?

It happened because we reminded the masses that they are the source of growth and prosperity, not us rich guys. We reminded them that when workers have more money, businesses have more customers—and need more employees. We reminded them that if businesses paid workers a living wage rather than poverty wages, taxpayers wouldn’t have to make up the difference. And when we got done, 74 percent of likely Seattle voters in a recent poll agreed that a $15 minimum wage was a swell idea. . . .


That was seven years ago. Joe Biden is calling for a national $15 minimum wage. Nick is looking as prescient as he does now for having seen the possibilities, years ago, for a start-up on-line bookseller he funded called Amazon.

But the point is . . . ironically, those who stormed the Capitol worship someone — Trump — who’s made the inequality worse, backed by a party that sees tax-cuts-for-the-rich as the solution to almost any problem.

Somehow, he’s managed to get them to believe that, despite all evidence, “he alone can fix it.”

  1. He paid someone to take his SATs
  2. He lied to avoid the military
  3. He stiffed creditors with multiple bankruptcies
  4. He stiffed contractors and exploited workers
  5. He took a full-page ad calling for the death of 5 black teenagers, expressing no regret when it was proven they were innocent
  6. He was fined $25 million for the conduct of his “University”
  7. He was fined $2 million for the conduct of his “charity”
  8. He cheated on his taxes
  9. He bragged about “grabbing pussy”
  10. He watched gleefully from the White House as the Capitol was being sacked by a mob out to murder senators and representatives and keep him in office

But so mesmerizing can a demagogue be — so powerful and enduring can a Big Lie become (his landslide victory was stolen!) — that, well, here we are.

Oh!  And the Dow is near its all-time high!

Which brings me to . . .



YOUR STOCKS

I’ve recently become a fan of Jim Scurlock’s blog (examples here, subscribe here) and found this one from a couple of days ago sobering:


Since it’s been mentioned here—more than once!—that every signal of a market top is upon us, an accounting seems in order:

·      Stock indexes are all at record highs—not just nominally but also as a multiple of both earnings and quantitative value.

·      Last year was the busiest year for IPOs since 2000, and this week at least eight new companies are poised to hit the market. BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) fintech Affirm, the most well-known of the group, lost over $112 million in 2020 and has just been priced at $12 billion. Which, naturally, is above expectations.

·      There is a pronounced deterioration of quality in new issues, i.e. they’re younger and less profitable than ever.

·      Financial engineering, aka manipulation, has become too blatant to hide. Many companies have over-leveraged in pursuit of juicing short-term earnings per share while the popular SPAC—aka blank-check company—scheme is a classic symptom of a market gone crazy. Ten SPACs are scheduled to go public this week alone, which kind of suggests that their backers realize time is of the essence. If you know what I mean!

·      Stock options volume was up 70% last year, and actually accelerated into December. At the same time, there is evidence that stock options trades are far less profitable than they have been historically.

·      Interest rates are already maxed out at zero, so all the Federal Reserve can do to boost stock prices is inject money directly into the markets. However, there is no longer anything the Fed can do to boost profits.

·      Name games, not prevalent since before the dot-com collapsed, have resurfaced.  Nikola is a prime example, chosen for its association with Tesla. Also there’s a SPAC whose symbol is LMFAO.

·      Performance funds, i.e. funds that buy growth stocks regardless of price, are in vogue.

·      A record number of foreign companies, many Chinese domiciled in the Caymans, are going public on U.S. exchanges.

·      Momentum, i.e. the belief that the higher stocks go the safer they become, is once again the market’s reigning dogma.

·      A lot of smart money is staying out. See: Warren Buffett, private equity, etc..

·      Scarcity trades, most notably in crypto-currencies and real estate, have surged as investors chase yield in the riskiest of places.

·      Day-trading in new and unproven technologies is rampant. AI, biopharma, EVs and solar/alternative energy are all areas where unsophisticated investors are placing bets. Even if the technology itself is proven—and in many cases it is not—the profitability of all of these technologies remains in question.

·      Facts are being constructed in order to fit conclusions, none more striking than a fictional relationship between (temporary) interest rates and stock prices.

·      GM shares hit an all-time high yesterday because its CEO announced a flying Cadillac.

Full stop.


Have a great weekend!

 

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