Category Archives: Money and risk

Penny-sucking economics – part 1

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The comic books of my youth often had a section in the back advertising the opportunity to purchase something wondrous for only one dollar plus a self-addressed, stamped envelope. While these offers were usually disappointing once received, I remember my first get-rich idea was to try to get one million people to send me a dollar. It turns out that… Read more »

When debt is not debt

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This post is a basic “explainer” reminding readers of a problem endemic in the popular press when it discusses debt of various kinds, and as we watch our government’s deficits explode after the ill-advised tax reductions of 2017. There is are fundamental economic differences between consumer debt, business debt and government debt, and yet most people do not make that… Read more »

David’s Bridal gets milked to near-death

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At the outset, I will admit that I have never gone into a David’s Bridal store, but there are commonalities in its announcement of entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection that closely mirror other dominant retailers recently in trouble like Sports Authority, Toys-R-Us (both now defunct) and Guitar Center (still around but struggling). Most news stories about these firms focus on the changing… Read more »

Listen to the actuaries if not the scientists

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While I still don’t understand why most Republicans continue to see science and scientists as the enemy, especially in the area of climate change, let me suggest that if you don’t want to hear what the scientists have to say, would you perhaps listen to the actuaries instead? I’ve known a number of actuaries over the years, and I have… Read more »

The “Big-box Challenge” and why Lowes is closing stores

The big-box hardware retailer Lowes has announced that it will soon close 51 “underperforming” stores. The financial comparison of Lowes with its competitor Home Depot provides an interesting look at what I call the “Big-box Challenge,” the risky financial bet that has been a boon to many chains, but at the same time has dragged others, like Borders bookstores and Sports… Read more »

Tax avoidance, tax evasion and Trump

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The New York Times recently published a deep dive into some of the questionable tax practices of the Trump Organization going back to the days of Donald’s late father Fred Trump and his transfer of many millions of dollars in assets to his children through methods of dubious legality. [1] The gist of the story is that first, the Trump… Read more »

Politics informed by math #3 – “Money is speech”

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Supreme Court Justices may know the law, but I am not convinced that they know math. This post is a little exercise in the math behind the conservative dictum that “money is speech.” To cut to the chase, and if indeed, “money is speech,” then a family whose net wealth in 1963 was in the 99th percentile of U.S. families… Read more »

Stock buybacks and income inequality

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In an earlier post I began a discussion on the recent upsurge in corporate stock buybacks, looking at this financial strategy from a basic probabilistic perspective of “good move/bad move.” In this follow-up, I want to explore the impact of stock buybacks as an exacerbation of the continuing problem of income equality in the United States. In that earlier post… Read more »

Rolling the dice on stock buybacks

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A recent opinion piece in the New York Times suggested that we need restrict stock buybacks in order to “save the economy.” [1] While the authors make some good points about long-term effects, I want to lay out a more basic position here. The fundamental problem with stock buybacks is that they are wise financial moves at most 50% of… Read more »

Why taxing churches is harder than you think – part 2

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In Part One of this series of posts, I described how, except for a few notorious churches, enforcing a corporate income tax levy on these organizations would not likely have much impact, nor raise substantial money. In this second part, I will look at the issue of property taxes and tax-free housing allowances granted to many ministers, as well as… Read more »