A Key to Life

“Single men could die about 8 to 17 years earlier than their married male friends. Mortality risk is 20% higher for those who are socially isolated and 32% higher for people who live alone. We are pack animals, and mortality rates, especially among men, skyrocket when you’re not actively engaged in other people’s lives. Most studies on longevity across genders cite the strongest signal of a long life is how social (engaged) you are in other people’s lives, whether it’s marriage, friends, children, or colleagues. For a 50-year-old, the biggest predictor of your health at 80 isn’t your cholesterol level, but the quality of your relationships.” – Scott Galloway Continue reading

Prosper and Live Long

Spock on Star Trek would often say, “Live long and prosper.” But it appears he had it backwards. It would have been more accurate to say, “Prosper and live long.” Why? Because life expectancy is correlated with wealth.

The poorest 5 percent of Social Security claimants live on average six years less than the broad population, and the wealthiest live an additional six years on average. So if you want to live as long as possible, it pays to have wealth. And it most certainly pays to avoid poverty.



Football Destroys Brains

“The reality is that this game destroys people’s brains,” renowned sports announcer Bob Costas said. And that statement, it seems, ended Mr. Costas’s career with NBC Sports.

Your grandmother was ahead of her time in this regard, Vera. She refused to allow her sons (your dad and uncle) to play football because of the bodily harm the game can inflict. Now, we’re seeing more and more parents come to the same conclusion, and football, if current trends continue, may become a game primarily for the lower class, where the prospect of financial rewards seems to carry more weight or, possibly, the prospect of injury seems less concerning.

Not surprisingly, more and more empty seats are appearing in college football stadiums on Saturday afternoons, and it’s not unusual to see NFL stadiums half empty. One wonders whether football will go the way of boxing given enough time.

As someone who’s been knocked unconscious and experienced the aftereffects of a major concussion, I have a hard time understanding why people would want to put themselves at risk for recurrent incidents and permanent brain damage. I have a harder time understanding, given what we now know, why parents allow their kids to take these risks. Yet I also recall it was your grandmother and not me who imposed the prohibition on football, which leads me to conclude some of us are slow to come to terms with the reality of the situation.

Of course, there are risks in most activities, even something as simple as driving to school or work. We can’t live our lives with all risks removed. Each of us must decide which risks are acceptable and which ones are not.

When it comes to football, it seems the tide has turned.

Best Paying Jobs, with Projected Demand

People are happier if our work is interesting and satisfying. But we like to make money, too (for obvious reasons), which means there has to be a demand for our services (just ask most artists).

Here are some interesting data, with two comments: 1) salary data is median, not mean or ranges (average salaries and salary ranges can be quite different than the median), and 2) take projections with a grain of salt (humans are terrible at predicting the future).

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The Wealthy Are Seriously Misjudging the Situation

This memo from one of the most revered icons of the investment world, Howard Marks, is typical of the public clamoring from the wealthiest elites in the face of rising populism from the Left. Mr. Marks, who has freely given sage advice over the years, benefiting many a budding investor, decries proposals from the Left that would impinge upon owners’ rights to run their companies as they see fit. This is typical of the elites’ response to rising populism, the diminishing share of profits going to labor, and the resulting gross disparity in income and wealth–in short, to what many consider gross unfairness and injustice.

I actually agree with much if not most of what Mr. Marks writes and do believe the risks from proposed solutions that would prove to be counterproductive are significant if not outright dire. What I object to, however, are the tactics of the elite, and what I am most concerned about is their obliviousness.

The tactics are to criticize and warn while ignoring or dismissing the problem out of hand. There are exceptions of course, but they are rare. To this point, the elite routinely dismiss the warnings of their more prescient members such as Ray Dalio.

In former times, when things got bad enough, the wealthy, powerful elite had to worry about insurrection and revolution. But today no one takes the threat of guillotines seriously. Today, serfs in western democracies have other options, the power to vote to be precise. And history shows they can be pushed quite far before becoming immune to manipulation by propaganda and threats; indeed, modern humans can be cowed fairly easily. We are a passive bunch.

The last time American serfs threatened to overturn the established order was during the Great Depression. The country was fortunate enough then to have a leader as astute and wise as Franklin Roosevelt. He understood the threat and headed it off. Social Security was born. Jobs programs were enacted. The role of the federal government was fundamentally transformed.

Roosevelt understood that unfettered capitalism was unworkable over the long term. I suspect Mr. Marks understands that as well, but after reading his memo I can’t be sure. Even if he does, it seems doubtful many of his fellow billionaires and multimillionaires get it. They seem to have been lulled into thinking their positions were secure since the guillotines have been dismantled and are no longer a response available to the masses.

Of course, if things got bad enough, they might be surprised at how quickly things could be reassembled, but we’re probably a long ways from that. What’s more likely is a political response that could strike at the heart of the elite: their balance sheets.

Which could be problematic, for some of the so-called “solutions” being proposed by the politicos on the Left would end up hurting the people they are designed to help, of that I am sure. But of course that’s not the real objective in most cases anyway. The real objective is to win an election and claim power.

It would be nice if Mr. Marks and a substantial number of other elites would do something other than complain and warn; it would be nice if they proposed and implemented solutions. But that would mean giving something up, and as of yet that doesn’t seem to be in the cards. So the power of the Left swells. And the risks increase.

To  be fair, in a parenthetical near the end of this memo, Mr. Marks concedes there is room for increases in tax rates. He cites the fact that today’s top rate of 37 percent is one of the lowest in the 106-year history of the U.S. income tax (thanks, of course, to Mr. Trump and the Republicans in Congress). But it was a mere parenthetical. And there is no evidence Mr. Marks is exhibiting any leadership in addressing the issues. He’s apparently content with writing memos.

My fear is that the wealthy are seriously misjudging the situation and that a global backlash may be unleashed which does more harm than good, to just about everyone. Of course, there are never only losers; there are always some winners, no matter how much the sands shift.

It’s time, I suspect, to be particularly attentive to ensure that, even if you can’t be a winner after this has played out, your losses will not be crippling.

Nobody Cares, About That Thing They Used to Say They Cared About

When asked whether the president was going to address the ballooning federal deficit in his state of the union address, the president’s chief of staff said “nobody cares.” And he’s apparently right: nobody cares about the deficit, including all of those Republicans who used to feign concern.

Nonetheless, when Democrats take control of the White House, whenever that might be, expect the phony Republicans (pardon the redundancy) once again to feign concern over the deficit as a reason to oppose the president’s spending proposals. That’s the game they play. And it seems to work, at least with the gullible voters who delude themselves into thinking either party is fiscally responsible.

Of course, if the MMT (modern monetary theory) proponents are right, then perhaps the deficit doesn’t matter. Until it does. Until inflation is fueled and the currency debased. When would that happen? Your guess is as good as mine. My best guess is, we’ll learn from experience. The hard way.

In the meantime, don’t fall for the fake concerns Republican lawmakers throw our way from time to time. Fake concerns are every bit as bad as fake news, maybe worse.

Ignorance Is Unbecoming

There has been intense reaction to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to increase the marginal income tax rate to 70 percent on income over $10 million. Which is good. Debate is what democracy requires. However, I am stupefied by the ignorance on the part of some people who should know better. For instance, billionaire Michael Dell, when asked about AOC’s proposal at the World Economic Forum at Davos (a retreat for the world’s billionaires and power brokers), remarked, “Name a country where that’s worked. Ever.” The answer, Mr. Dell, would be the U.S.A.

No matter one’s position on marginal tax rates or any other public policy issue, there really isn’t any excuse for ignorance of basic facts. And here are the facts with respect to marginal federal income tax rates in the U.S.