Federal Government · Personal Finance

Our Man In D.C.

I tend to deliver a lot of realist commentary, which can come off at times as “black pill” or “depressing” to different people. While I disagree with the characterization, from time to time we encounter brilliant rays of hope to uplift the broader gloom of the time. In this case, the glimmer comes in the form of Mark “The Rejector” Calabria.

Mr. Calabria is the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and the strongest line of defense against further corporate rescues by the federal government. Just to place it in perspective, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac already have their hands in over half of the $11 trillion mortgage market,  and advocates are clamoring for a lot more.

No dice for them so far. Calabria has continued to block their hopes, and even suggested he would have not permitted the 2008 rescues which handed cash to select industry failures. Imagine that.

It remains to be seen how long he can hold out before someone higher up (read: McPelosi) overrides the move and dishes out money, but for now the horizon is splendid.

Here’s hoping for more Calabrianism.   

#VanLife · Personal Finance

The Van Life Squeeze

How do you crap and wash, when the washer and crapper are locked?

One of the central problems to any “lifestyle” is the existence of the single point of failure, a factor which can bring down the ship despite an otherwise solid condition. In the case of #VanLife, this rests around the brick and mortar facilities used to discharge waste and feel like Mr. Clean.

Ever since the coronavirus pandemic erupted, governments have been instating draconian shutdown orders which force businesses like gyms and recreation centers to close. The result has slammed mobile life residents, who rely on those spots to release and refresh. With work gyms and showers being similarly shuttered, the list of hygiene allies grows thin.    

There is always the possibility of purchasing a solar shower or portable toilet, though the former can be less ideal in colder climates, and the latter takes that sweet aroma out of the #VanLife romance, depending on one’s typical diet.

Other pandemic problems include the impact of social distancing on parks and parking lots, where many car lifers will camp for the night. Closures in the first case and closer scrutiny from department stores or police on the other create a significant problem. Plus we have the “watchful neighbors” turning into Stasi informants for the government in some areas.

Yet another factor would be the restrictions on access to libraries, where VLers may use Wi-Fi and check out movies, or simply enjoy the AC.

This is not to say the lockdown will be indefinite, although some crazies want it extended for years. Instead, people who romanticize the mode of living need to understand what difficulties and sacrifices are entailed.

If you want a clearer idea before taking the leap, check out my book: Six Months In A Van

Personal Finance

Did Nature Punish Humanity With Corona?

The empowered conservative blogosphere was recently alight with outrage over Papa Frank’s suggestion that the coronavirus might be one of nature’s responses to climate change. Breitbart commenter John Truman Jr. received over a thousand upvotes for responding as follows:

“Francis preaches the anti-gospel of Karl Marx. He is a leftist activist when we need a spiritual leader. Worst. FakePope. Ever.”

Laying petty politics aside, the Supreme Catholic Diversity Warrior might have a point, although he reaches poor conclusions elsewhere. Frank’s opinion harkens back to the George Carlin bit where the comedian predicted that nature would eventually get rid of humans and then proceed to “heal and cleanse itself.” He added that the planet might use VIRUSES to eliminate the human population, referencing HIV.

Sure, coronavirus hasn’t been all that devastating yet, but some peculiar data did emerge concerning pollution. In Venice, a drop in canal boat traffic left the waterways looking clear and beautiful when compared to before. Across the Atlantic, reports suggest a 30 percent decline in air pollution for the Northeastern United States, attributed in large part to the lower flight totals caused by the outbreak. Similar information has emerged in India due to less airline usage.

What’s interesting is that prior to these developments, suggesting policies to avoid sharp population growth in the West (and the accompanied pollution it entails) was responded to with the “Ecofascism” or “EcoNazism” slurs. Now we see how much of a toll globalization, mass immigration, and liberal transport policy have had on the environment, all because of a pandemic.

Will attitudes change for the good of the planet, or are we destined for a Carlinist judgment day?

Federal Government · Personal Finance

Why A Balanced Budget May Not Work

Ever since at least the 1990s, conservative Americans have been fixated on the importance of a constitutional amendment to ensure federal revenues do not fall short of expenditures. The idea picked up a lot of steam during the rise of the Tea Party movement in 2010, and now some Democrats are even advocating for such a reform.

At its base, the notion is attractive. By placing legal limits on spending, we might prevent the runaway inflation and financial ruin likely to be foisted upon ours or future generations. In his book The Liberty Amendments, Mark Levin expanded the concept by suggesting a cap on the size of government spending at 17.5 percent of GDP, and a mandatory 5 percent cut in overall spending if Congress fails to adopt a budget.

This all sounds great, but several problems remain. First off, most plans include exceptions for emergencies and times of war. The obvious fail point would be politicians declaring a health crisis like coronavirus to be indefinite, or using the so-called “War On Terror” as justification to spend without limit.

An equally significant issue is the risk of “off-the-books budgeting,” which has been practiced for years by government officials. In Nazi Germany, it was employed to get around the Versailles Treaty restrictions concerning maximum outlays on military buildup projects. During the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, the Greek government acted with related malevolence, only in their case it was to complete corrupt real estate deals and hide inflated salaries that violated EU standards.

Believe it or not, America is hardly free of these unethical strategies. The Central Intelligence Agency has been allowed to evade federal budgetary restrictions for decades, and a recent audit of the DOD revealed the agency is incapable of accounting for billions – if not trillions—of taxpayer money spent on a variety of projects.

The upshot is that while a balanced budget amendment might improve the nation’s solvency on paper, it fails to prevent the eternal scheming of the political class to bankrupt our treasury in pursuit of their own interests.    

investing · Personal Finance

Why You Should Work For The Government

Some years ago I was party to a conversation about various career fields. One participant noted they hoped to get hired by the federal government, which another dismissed as “under-achieving.” This did not seem to faze the first chap, who just shrugged and gave off a satisfied smile.

Looking at some recent stats, we can see why. As private sector industries such as hospitality and leisure bleed jobs like the hemorrhoid circus, government is one of the few examples with a net positive rating, and the highest performer among the winners.

Even as the economy goes bad, the government continues to operate, paying out salaries to workers who might be deemed “non-essential” and laid off if they were in the private sector. This gives state employees a tremendous economic advantage over those who are losing their jobs (or getting less hours). They will not face the disruption native to other industries, and therefore can more easily buy into the discounted stock market or real estate.

Beyond this, government workers aren’t treated all that badly. The current federal model of FERS, which has been replicated by many state and local governments, provides a far more stable benefits package than the vaunted private sector. Participants get access to a Thrift Savings Plan (basically a 401k) with up to 4 percent matching, and a pension that comes to around 33 percent of their highest three-year salary, along with Social Security. Healthcare plans are decent as well.

The skeptics among you might point to the recent government shutdown as an example of disadvantages, but government workers ultimately received back pay, while most of the workers affected by coronavirus will not.

So if you have a child someday, recommending a career in the civil service isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

Culturalism · investing · Personal Finance

The Federal PRESERVE of Wall Street

Some people ask me how I’m able to stay sane as an investor during times like these. The answer is quite simple: just pay attention to the federal government.

As most already know, the Congress approved a $2 trillion monstrosity by voice vote yesterday, with the only visible opposition coming in the form of representatives AOC and Thomas Massie. Beyond its inclusion of various stimulus programs, the legislation creates a fat bailout fund for larger companies, and allows the Federal Reserve to leverage up to $4 trillion in support of the economy (Read: Wall Street ).

In the words of Powell the Owl:

“Effectively one dollar of loss absorption of backstop from Treasury is enough to support $10 worth of loans. When it comes to this lending we’re not going to run out of ammunition.”

Some Democrats openly demanded oversight for $500 billion in assistance that corporations will have partial access to through the bill, and succeeded in establishing an inspector general to monitor disbursement of the money. In response, Republicans began to weep miserably.

Just kidding. In reality, El Orangelo was several steps ahead of them, placing his ink on the bill accompanied by a fancy signing statement, which effectively allows him to ignore parts he doesn’t like. According to the man himself:

“I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the [inspector general] to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required.”

In relation to congressional oversight requirements for specific funds he added:

“These provisions are impermissible forms of congressional aggrandizement with respect to the execution of the laws.”

In other words, the money is already compromised. If that wasn’t enough, the legislation also shrouds Federal Reserve meetings in deeper secrecy, establishing an effective wall against FOIA requests.

So Wall Street will be fine, although your currency is another question. But don’t worry, you can forget all that and just rage against Thomas Massie.

Culturalism · Personal Finance

Paranoia Nation

We have already considered the negative impacts of Corona Derangement Syndrome (CDS) on the economy and the world. But even all that pales in comparison to a new story on the block.

On Hufflepuff.net, an article was published with the title “My Grandma Isn’t Taking Coronavirus Seriously Enough And It’s Terrifying.”

At first glance, the piece might come off as a touching tribute to an elderly relative at risk from the advancing virus. That is, until the reader reaches sentence two:

“In New Jersey, a quick 18 miles and two river crossings from where I am in Brooklyn, my 88-year-old nana is probably sleeping after another long, semi-quarantined day of watching the news, chain-smoking cigarettes and worrying about me.”  

Yes my economic chickens, our author is petrified over an octogenarian who apparently partakes in multiple cigarettes daily. God bless the grandma for her old age, and I wish her 88 more, but doesn’t the granddaughter’s reaction seem a bit odd? Her nana was presumably warned of the risks of smoking at some point, yet continues on regardless. She has lived longer than most people, and still appears tough as a cookie. Coronavirus would probably die trying to make her sneeze even once.

As it has been said, what makes a crisis devastating is less the cause, and more the reaction.