Farmers Got Billions From Taxpayers In 2019, And Hardly Anyone Objected : The Salt : NPR

This NPR article is a very concerning read. Unfortunately, it exemplifies how the current administration operates. Farm bailouts are another government agency sidestepping congress to spend taxpayer money to advance the administration’s political agenda.

A quote from the article:

“ According to studies by several independent economists, the USDA is paying farmers roughly twice as much as the actual harm that they suffered from the trade war. And the payments are based on production; the bigger the farm, the bigger the payments. Thousands of farmers got more than $100,000 each. According to an NPR analysis of USDA records of payments made through July 2019, 100,000 individuals collected just over 70% of the money.“

I can’t speak for others, but I can speak for myself: this sure looks like buying (and overpaying for) votes of rural America while making everyone else (taxpayers) foot the bill. Paying larger farmers more money than smaller farmers appears similar to civil war times where those who owned “enough” slaves didn’t have to fight and die in the war. The effect? The many poor fought and died so the few rich could maintain and expand their ownership of slaves.

To me, small farmers getting paid little to secure their vote while larger farmers get paid substantially more is the same perpetuation wealth transfer from the many poor to the few rich. In other words, the wealth gap is widening at the behest of the current administration. And the widening is implemented on multiple fronts.

This administration, with tax breaks on both personal and corporate income, has done far more for the likes of Tim Cook (Apple up 80% last year) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) than virtually the entire base that voted for the administration. The rich have gotten way richer. The poor were bought off with some peanuts – and in some cases had peanuts taken away from them (700,000 losing food stamps this year).

Sorry this turned into an opinion piece. But hopefully this sheds some light on the tools used by the administration to widen the wealth gap.

Happy New Year!

-Dr. Moore

The Efficient Christmas: Why Economists Hate Gifts : Planet Money : NPR

For this one you’ll have to listen to the nine minute podcast. It is pretty entertaining. I don’t want to give away the punchline but I’ll paraphrase the Efficient Gift Hypothesis:

“The gift that is wanted is already owned by the recipient.”

I’ll throw in a couple quotes that I keep in mind as my refuge during this time of year:

“I don’t commercialize Christ.”

“The greatest gift you can give someone is your presence, not presents.”

Happy holidays everyone.

-Dr. Moore

Lawsuit Claims SAT, ACT Are Illegal In California College Admissions : NPR

Just as important, in my opinion, is the article’s mention that “research has since shown that SAT scores are strongly linked to family income, and a student’s high school academic record, regardless of what school they attended, does a far better job of predicting college success.”

So, if there are better measures of predicting college success, why not just use those? I’m afraid, as usual, it comes down to money. But I won’t go into that here. It sounds like school systems like the University of California are already considering doing away with SAT/ACT in admissions. Perhaps it will take hold.

I told my son to pay attention, learn as much as possible, and get better grades in high school. I encourage all of you out there with children in high school (or earlier), particularly in California, to do the same. There’s a chance that either by law or by policy that your child’s high school GPA will be of critical importance in college admissions.

-Dr. Moore

Coal ?!?!?!: how an unwillingness to adapt and hypocrisy lead to bankruptcy – CNN

On Tuesday CNN released an article titled “America’s largest private coal miner files for bankruptcy”: HTML.

Allow me to quote the first eight words of the article:

“The slow death of the American coal industry” -CNN

I interpret this as: the industry had time to adjust to a changing environment and marketplace, but did not. The next sentence in the article states “bankruptcy has been telegraphed for years.” Again, no adjustments, just lobbying the government to help your business survive in a disappearing market. What I highlight in red draws attention to hypocrisy: On one hand, people like Murray Energy’s CEO push for “free markets,” “less government,” and “deregulation.” Then when stuff hits the fan those same people and entities crushed by the free markets they advocated go to the government they criticized for a bailout. Allow me to illustrate with another quote from the CNN article:

“The president [Trump] moved swiftly to slash environmental regulations and even installed a former coal lobbyist to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency. But the deregulatory push has been overwhelmed by market forces. Coal just can’t compete with cheap natural gas and the plunging cost of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy.” -CNN

Note those market forces are not solely reduced demand in the United States. Coal exports have declined steadily as well. The demise of the coal market was clear, companies like Murrary Energy did not adjust, and now they file for bankruptcy protection. But before bankruptcy protection there was the desperate plea to the government (remember, the “less government” originally advocated for in the “free market” push) for a bailout. Another quote from the article bringing the “free market” hypocrisy to the fore:

“In August 2017, Robert Murray, a forceful Trump supporter, wrote a letter to the Trump administration urgently requesting an emergency order to protect coal-fired power plants from being closed.” -CNN

Note the request for an “emergency order.” Is this how the United States government should be run? Whenever Congress disagrees with the President the President declares a “national emergency”? Fortunately, in the case of Murray Energy “the Trump administration rejected that cry for help because officials determined there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant the use of emergency authority” (CNN).

Now this brings us to Dave Chappelle. What’s a comedian got to do with this? Well if you have Netflix (which I don’t) you may have seen his Equanimity series. In that series Chappelle references the coal industry times (transcript available here: HTML). In reference to listening to alleged coal miners in line to vote in the 2016 election:

“I listened to them say naive poor white people things. ‘Man, Donald Trump’s gonna go to Washington, and he’s gonna fight for us.’ I’m standing there thinking in my mind, ‘You dumb ****. You are poor. He’s fighting for me.’”” -Chappelle, Equanimity

Back to the CNN article, let’s see what is in store for coal mine workers:

“Mine workers stand to lose in the bankruptcy — not just in jobs but potentially in the erosion of healthcare and pension benefits. Murray Energy is the last major company contributing to the pension plan of the United Mine Workers of America. The pension plan’s depleted funding will only get worse if Murray Energy is relieved of its pension requirements.” -CNN

The Trump Administration has already cut taxes for corporations and lowered the rate for top earners (like CEO Murray, and people like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Dave Chappelle, and other rich people.) So yes, Dave Chappelle, while standing in line to vote in 2016, was absolutely correct: President Trump, and his Administration, worked for wealthy people like Dave Chappelle and not the mine workers who are looking at losing their jobs, pension, and healathcare.

Now, why would a bankruptcy court relieve Murray Energy of is pension requirements? Again, to ensure wealthy people who invested into Murray Energy can recoup some of their investment. Again, this would be an example of the Administration working on behalf of the wealthy – and the very people harmed by this (the mine workers) are the very people that voted for this Administration. The same story can be told of the erosion of healthcare benefits: why erode them? So wealthy corporations and individuals can profit more at the expense of those who voted themselves on the path to that erosion.

I’ve rambled on enough now. However, I will share one more quote from Chappelle’s equanimity that humorously speaks to capitalism:

“I want to wear Nikes. I don’t want to make them shits. What the *** are you doing? Stop trying to give us Chinese jobs. ‘I am going to bring back coal.’ Coal?! I’m not even exaggerating… I have never in my life even seen a ******* lump of coal. I honestly don’t even know what coal is for. If you gonna have ******* digging in the dirt looking for shit, find me some truffles” -Chappelle, Equanimity

Actually, I believe truffles are found by certain dogs in certain regions of the world. But I’m not a truffle expert. I trust you get the point Chappelle was making and hopefully this CNN article about Murray Energy puts everything in context.

-Dr. Moore

Wells Fargo Must Offer 66 Jobs to People It Rejected in 2014

More bad press for Wells Fargo. This time it is discrimination in hiring. I am curious if the plaintiffs that won this settlement would actually apply and accept a job at Wells Fargo. I wonder if any of the 2300 people it discriminated against still bank with them. I know I wouldn’t.

Consider banking with a credit union as opposed to the large major banks. I do and have been quite pleased with the service and rates.

-Dr. Moore

Wells Fargo Must Offer 66 Jobs to People It Rejected in 2014

Globalization Is Narrowing The Wealth Gap, One Nation at a Time

This is an interesting read that surveys a handful of up and coming countries. I wonder if concentration of wealth within superpower countries like ours leads to the rise of other country’s relative standing (and consequently, a lowering of the superpower relative standing). That’s some food for thought….

Dr. Moore

Globalization Is Narrowing The Wealth Gap, One Nation at a Time

Goldman Plans Hiring Spree in Trading (Only Coders Need Apply)

I’ve been telling students for years: get comfortable with programming and automation or be replaced by a robot. This plan to hire programmers by Goldman is not new to the industry. Last year I posted an article about Citi doing the same thing:

So when you took/take my class, be mindful of why I weave programming into the course.

-Dr. Moore

Goldman Plans Hiring Spree in Trading (Only Coders Need Apply)