The success sequence

family-2057301_640If you follow this sequence, exactly, in this order, there is only a 3% chance that you will become poor:

(1) Graduate from high school.

(2) Get a job.

(3)  Get married.

(4)  Have children.

If you omit any of these steps or if you do them in a different order (such as have children before you get married), your chances of becoming poverty-stricken skyrocket.

A recent study demonstrates the validity of this “success sequence” and goes on to observe that large numbers of today’s young adults are not following it and are experiencing the consequences.

After the jump, George Will discusses the findings.


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The Democrats’ dilemma

6262125702_a086dd49f1_zThe Democrats should, theoretically, have a big opportunity running against an unpopular Republican president.  But they so far are not getting much traction.

One problem, according to experts both within and outside the party, is that the Democrats have placed their hopes in identity politics.  But catering to specific groups–blacks, Hispanics, women, gays, etc.–puts off the general public.  And just about everybody is put off by the antics of the liberal fundamentalists with their policing of political correctness and their sensitivity shaming.

Leading Democrats are calling for a return to Bill Clinton’s formula:  “It’s the economy, stupid!”

But some of Donald Trump’s highest ratings are for his handling of the economy!  Also, as Michael Barone’s trenchant analysis shows (after the jump), it isn’t clear what a winning Democratic economic policy would consist of.
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Dissolving Illinois


Due to its long history of corruption, political paralysis, and bad management, the state of Illinois is a basketcase.  It has $15 billion in unpaid bills, $251 billion in pension liability, and a looming revenue drop.  It hasn’t had a budget in three years.

State lawmakers are meeting in a special session with a July 1 deadline, but are making little progress in finding a way forward.  If they don’t, two major bond-rating services are saying they will downgrade the state’s bonds to “junk.”

Any attempt to raise money by selling bonds–which is inevitable, since the state has such a big shortfall–would demand the highest interest rates, assuming any investors would take the risk.  That, in turn, would mean the state would have even less money, which sets up a death spiral.

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass is proposing that Illinois just be dissolved.  Distribute its land to the surrounding states.  Chicago can be split between Indiana and Wisconsin (which can rename its part of the city “South Milwaukee”).  We can have the Milwaukee Cubs and the Indiana White Sox.  He goes on in this vein for Iowa, Kentucky, and Missouri.

He is being (mostly) facetious, but I don’t know what happens if a state implodes on this scale.  Any ideas or suggestions (facetious or serious) about what Illinois should do?

Read both an account of the problem and the proposal for dissolution after the jump.

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Is Amazon a monopoly that needs to be broken up?


Imagine a store whose clientele is not one city but the entire country, if not the world.  And that sells nearly everything–books, electronics, clothing, toys, food.  That is what has become.  Does that constitute a monopoly?

Corporations in a free market often grow until they become monopolies, whereupon the free market ceases to function because there is no longer any competition.  At that point, according to economic theory and government policy, they need to be broken up, so competitive forces can click in again so that the free market functions.

Has reached that state?  Does need to be broken up?

Normally, monopolies, by eliminating competition, raise prices.  But Amazon’s dominance is lowering prices!  Also, Amazon works by giving manufacturers and publishers (including self-publishers) access to customers, providing consumer information about their products and offering inexpensive shipping.  So maybe it’s more like infrastructure.

Economist Douglas Rushkoff, in the article linked after the jump, says that represents a different kind of monopoly in a different kind of free market than that of the industrial revolution.  But he concludes that it is important that Amazon be broken up.

What do you think? [Read more…]

Amazon will buy Whole Foods

Whole_Foods_Markham_Canada has announced that it is buying the Whole Foods grocery chain for $13.7 billion.

Commenters are saying that this will help sell groceries on-line.  At the news the stock of traditional grocery stores, including Costco, have plummeted.

But the draw of Whole Foods its organic offerings and the attractive atmosphere of the store?  I don’t know that Whole Foods–with its high prices and its high social status–would work if customers shopped privately without the social dimension of shopping.

Maybe Amazon will keep the bricks-and-mortar concept, but Whole Foods has been losing money and its new owners are probably planning a technological solution.

Would you buy groceries on Amazon?  Would you ever come to the point of never going shopping for anything, just having everything delivered?  Wouldn’t you sometimes want to leave your house? [Read more…]

Should we sell off half the oil reserve?

The federal government has stockpiled a massive amount of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.  The purpose is to have an oil supply to keep the country going in the event of an emergency or shortfall (as in the Mideast Oil Embargo that was slapped on the United States back in 1973 for supporting Israel).

Now, as part of his budget proposal, President Trump wants to sell off half of the oil reserve.

Dumping such a large amount of oil into the market would send prices plummeting, which would not be good for America’s oil industry, which is finally recovering from the price fall of the last few years.  (So much for accusations that Trump serves the interests of big business.)  Consumers would presumably be happy, paying even less than today’s low prices.

Some are saying that America’s shale is a de facto oil reserve, though it would take time to ramp up production in an emergency.

Do you think Trump’s proposal is prudent, a good way to raise revenue to help make up for our budget deficit?  Or is it imprudent, like spending your savings account?
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