Saturday, July 31, 2021

Tough Questions Generate Weak Common Assumptions

Picture Of Space Tourists 
An article suggesting how common space travel is about to become highlights how willing people are to accept opinions as fact. Most people make assumptions based on a number of factors. These include what they see, what they hear, and more importantly, based on the general direction that things have been going. This means we as a population have developed "kind of a feeling" about what the future is likely to hold. Sadly, the way people form assumptions is heavily swayed by mainstream media and big tech's hold over how we get information. 

We live in a world where reason and critical, independent thinking is in very short supply. This has created a situation where, we may someday find that we as a society, have been a bit overly optimistic about our potential. Black swan events do occur and when they do they can be game-changers. The world and life as a whole is full of risk. With this in mind I write this article to address a few questions that have been bothering me and a few other people that make a concerted effort to see past the hype, propaganda, and bull shit we are constantly fed by those with an agenda.

Frontline, on PBS, recently ran a program titled, Power Of The Fed. It reiterates how when COVID-19 struck, the Federal Reserve rapidly stepped in to avert an economic crisis. It looks at how as America's central bank continues to pump billions of dollars into the financial system daily, who is benefiting, who is not, and whether their policy is working. The question is also raised as to what happens if they try to turn off the flow of easy money

The Frontline documentary makes it clear the Fed's monetary experiment carries side effects and a great deal of risk. It also, shines a light on the fact even before the weight of a global pandemic was placed upon us the Fed had still not resolved many of the problems that surfaced during the financial crisis of 2008. How it all plays out we will not know until it has.

Below is a list of just a few of the questions that bother me. They are followed by what I consider "the common assumption" that usually accompanies them. 

  • Even as powerful as it is, how long can the Fed keep the ball in the air? The fact markets are hitting new highs indicates a widespread faith this will continue.
  • Can we stay in front of attacks from cyber hackers or will they eventually win? Most people feel all that is needed is a patch here and a reinforced gate there to keep the internet safe and functioning.
  • As we become more dependent on others have we lost our survival ability? The accepted belief is that by specializing, we become more valuable to society and this pays big dividends.
  • What is the possibility of a major nuclear war? People have worried about this for a long time and it has yet to happen, they won't let it happen, don't worry, be happy.
  • Will AI and big tech render mankind redundant? Most people feel technology has and will continue to make our lives better and it will not become the tool that enslaves us.

Or course, most of the common assumptions above are based on the feeling that today and tomorrow will be much like yesterday and the days before it. This is why it is common to become complacent to risk and forget things can rapidly change. An example of this is how we credit big pharma and the scientist for pulling us back from the brink when Covid-19 hit.

It could be argued that the thing that saved us from Covid-19 was not the vaccine or the medical sector but rather the fact it has been far less deadly than was first thought. We could add to this that no rational cost-benefit analysis could justify what has occurred in the past 18 months and no government is in a rush to release such data. Also, what has occurred does not eliminate the possibility that some "super-bug" or variant of Covid-19 will not decimate our ranks in the future.  

Some of those painting a picture of the future have been busy showing it as a brave new world but is that accurate? All in all our assumptions of what tomorrow might bring tend to be based on the successes of man rather than his failures. Overlooked are some rather apparent faults, for example, when it comes to our financial system, the Fed is credited for sending the stock market ever higher. Instead, it should be blamed for soaring inequality and inflation due to its inability to come to terms with the financial crisis of 2008.

We Have Rapidly Progressed A Great Deal
Mankind has progressed and come a long way during the last 220 years and we remain an optimistic bunch. Even through major wars, we have endured the trials and tribulations put before us with what most of us would view as a resounding success. This, however, is no guarantee the financial system will not blow up in our face. That hackers might create the ultimate virus rendering the internet unusable, or that a nuclear holocaust might test our survival skills. 

Regardless of our expectations, we should try to remember the future is not carved in stone and our input is important. If we, as a people, if we, as a society disengage from making decisions and simply allow ourselves to be guided by false assumptions we will not like where life takes us. The way governments have treated us over the last year and a half makes it clear that between AI, big tech, and several forces competing to dominate us, our freedom can vanish in the blink of an eye. I continue to be astonished that people are willing, almost rushing, to surrender their humanity to a machine or entity that could not care less about them.  

 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Focus On Productivity Creates High Barrier For Socialism

When observing a worker that is incompetent, slow, or just plain lazy it becomes obvious that productivity matters. While some workers move along with purpose others appear as motionless bumps on a log. This is why an employer will quickly tell you who is a "good worker" and who is not. The sad reality that many workers would like to deny is that they are more trouble than they are worth or that other employees are several times more productive than they are.  

It seems Americans sitting at home during the pandemic and getting checks while not working has allowed the myth to grow that you can indeed get something for nothing. This may be why we are seeing many people embrace the idea of socialism and many of the theories associated with such systems. A lack of understanding on the part of workers concerning their role in the workplace seems to be on the rise.

Some workers feel that just by showing up they deserve to be paid and it is the obligation of the employer to make them happy. Sadly, this is not true, the economy suffers when workers are not productive. The fact John consistently and without error, performs three times the work Joe is able to output logically means he is worth far more to his employer and deserves and can demand a much higher wage.

This Is An All Too Common Sight
This post is the result of watching an older city park employee go about his job on Saturday morning. It was almost like watching a sad comedy. This was not a case of him simply being over the hill it appeared he had never mastered the skill of being productive. Another thing society often ignores is whether a person is actually doing a task that needs to be done. A huge amount of labor is wasted on tasks that do not need to be done.

Some activities are a waste of time or even harmful to the overall health of the economy and environment. The government sector of our economy presents a great example of how labor can be diverted to uses that are non-productive. Since governments do not need to make a profit but can merely raise taxes to cover revenue shortfalls they tend to employ a lot of workers from which it demands little.

Cell-Phones Are Crushing Productivity
Several factors come into play when we are looking into the issue of productivity. Dependability sits high on this list. The ability to pound out a consistently good job is important. Mistakes cost money, sometimes lots of it. This means employees can be a curse as well as a blessing. Companies can be held liable for mistakes and problems flowing from the actions of employees. Often for years, even long after an employee has left a company is forced to pay for that worker's sins or inattention to detail.

Sadly, to many people profit has become a dirty word. These people don't understand that in a capitalist system profits are the lubricant that allows us to move forward. While some people are down on capitalism it remains the most responsive economic system because of its ability to rapidly adjust supply to demand. This is why such a system has a history of providing good products and services at the best price.

Small Businesses Are Being Hurt The Most
Businesses need productive employees that are dependable and productive. Productivity is particularly important to small businesses since they generally lack a lot of the expensive tools that their larger competitors can afford. The fact government regulations and mandates have added to the advantages big businesses have over their smaller competition. One of the biggest problems small employers face is that big competitors are constantly "poaching" their best workers simply because they can afford to pay them better.   

While employers continue trying to find ways to reduce mistakes and errors, not every job can be "idiot proofed." The subject of "Productivity Matters" is important in that it dovetails with an article about the call for a mass strike all across America on Oct. 15th. The basis for such an event is the growing feeling that businesses and the U.S. government have failed to protect and properly serve workers over the decades. Those behind this strike say, "This demonstration serves to show your company, and our country as a whole, that you deserve basic human rights. Your labor is a bargaining tool, and you are worth more than what society is offering you."

If this so-called general strike garners enough support to bring a large part of the economy to a standstill it would be a real eyeopener and possibly be a watershed event. The backing of organized labor unions would add a great deal of kick towards making this a success. What those promoting this strike want is significant, their goals are listed below.

Below is a list of their demands which could be difficult to bring about: 

  • A firm % corporate tax rate (No loopholes)
  • Free Healthcare for all
  • 12 weeks paid paternity and maternity leave
  • $20 minimum wage
  • 4 day work week
  • Stricter Environmental Regulations on Corporations (Bans on single-use and microplastics, and limited emissions)

At this point, America is in the grasp of a labor shortage flowing from several factors. These include not only people feeling they are not getting paid enough but the idea they have enough money that they don't need to work to get by. While those people that have made an effort to take full advantage of the safety net society offers claim "it ain't enough," it seems more than generous enough to meet their basic needs and allow them to get by.

Those proposing this display of laborer's dissatisfaction with the status quo say this demonstration will make the statement to your company, and our country as a whole, that workers deserve basic human rights. A worker's labor is a bargaining tool but in the end, what it is worth is related to their ability to be productive. While  many of the participants of such a movement are correct that some members of society are getting far more from the system than they put in, this is happening both at the top and the bottom. I contend that when all is said and done, the reality is many people don't understand that productivity matters. 

 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Ugly And Difficult Hunt For The True Economy

Good luck with acquiring a clear view of our economic future. It is shrouded and cloaked under an ocean of often irrelevant facts and figures. Somewhere between what we are told is occurring in the economy and what we see happening on Main Streets across America is the real and true authentic economy. It is ironic that every sign the economy is not getting better only reinforces the idea that the Fed needs to goose things and pour even more fuel on the fire. This is exactly what many of us oppose and consider pure insanity.
A false economy of fraud is created by seizing on a few positive numbers that can be spun and hyped to convince people all is well. Even as I'm writing this, a MarketWatch article just came out saying the U.S. stock-index futures were trading higher after a report on June retail sales came in stronger than expected. To that, I say, what do you expect, people are busy spending what they see as "free money." Sadly, people buying goods made in China from Amazon does little to enrich our communities or the American economy.
The justification for continued Fed intervention is often attributed to the idea inflation is not a threat and further action poses little risk. Those behind increased and continued easing say more action is needed or a loop will develop that feeds on itself and ends in a deflationary depression.
Most of us are familiar with former President Bill Clinton's infamous line; “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Well, when it comes to the hunt for the true economy, it all depends on your definition of true. In a true economy things such as sustainability matter, deficits matter, savers being able to get a reasonable return on their savings without taking on undue risk also matters. Simply put, the economy currently before our eyes is as false as it can get. 
Before us is an illusion created by papering over the truth with unbelievable amounts of newly printed money. Of course, it is not just money, it is a combination of things. Artificially low interest-rates, the creation of new and easy to obtain credit, and promises that these policies will continue. The fact is, since 2008, even after years of expanding money supplies and dropping interest rates the economy has not fared as well as many top politicians have led us to believe.  
We have witnessed some major distortions in the economy since 2008 that have rendered many of the comparisons used in the past as obsolete. An example of this can be found in healthcare. Following the passage of Obamacare, the money flowing into healthcare massively added to America's GDP, this went on for years. While many people are wowed by these huge expensive new buildings, on the flip side, it has resulted in the shuttering of many smaller local and rural hospitals and clinics that were adequate to care for patients at a much lower cost. Today many of these massive new hospitals standing as monuments to Obamacare run far below capacity again confirming that planners with little skin in the game love to overspend the money of others and we have the healthcare bills to prove it. 
Those that see beyond the illusion created by easy credit and money printing, often loudly state that in the future both the economy and society will pay dearly for the sins of the Fed and that no options exist to get out of the box they have put us in. The fact is low-interest rates have punished the very people who have done the right thing by saving and sacrificing to put away money for future needs. It must be noted savers have been encouraged and forced to take on risky investments as they search for higher yields that are unavailable in safer more conservative options. 

This debate continues to polarized those who study the economy and play in the dangerous land of investments. Meanwhile, the failure of a crash to materialize and bring markets back to reality over the years has caused a breaking in the ranks. The songs of the market sirens that promise both wealth and profit has lulled many into complacency. We have reached the point where many of the nonbelievers in current policy are capitulating and joining with those who live by mantras like, don't fight the Fed, buy the dip, and to the "fear of missing out."  Each day more investors surrender to lure of the markets and buying into what they had only a short time ago seen as the dark-side. 

A More Recent Chart Hard To Find! (Click To Enlarge)
Surging inequality is not an indicator of economic health and neither is the sign that millions of jobs are about to vanish due to automation. Economic inequality is not only a profound social and economic issue but flows into forces that affect financial-market stability. Unfortunately, current trends indicate we should not expect improvement in economic equality. 
Wealth inequality now stands at the worst it has been during the entire U.S. post-war period. Studies show that the U.S. middle class has been “hollowed out.” In terms of income "by manufacturing jobs" it appears any gains made by the lower-middle class were sharply reversed after 2007. Using certain data we get the picture that racial economic-equality disparities are as bad as they were before the civil rights era. Driving a decent car doesn't make a person middle-class or economically equal, especially if they are up to their eyeballs in debt to do so.  
Covid-19 has moved into the rear-view mirror for many of us but for political reasons Washington will not move on. When all is said and done many people object to the way the pandemic was handled and the huge financial burden it created. Still, it is difficult to deny the damage wrought by Covid-19 continues to remain an excuse for continuing a rash of policies that are responsible for bringing us where we are today.
It is likely the true state of the economy will only be resolved after abundant solid undisputed growth is evident or we have sunk into a mess so dire that financial Armageddon is upon us. Our current perplexing economic state continues to confound and confuse. It seems every time the numbers fail to meet expectations or fall short those in power or the media raise the bar and crank out the fairy dust, some hype, or spin a tale of coming promises and stories of better times soon to come. This has postponed the day of reckoning and a resolution to this debate. 
The Spring of 2020 Sell-off  (click to enlarge)
The conundrum we face is how to resolve this toxic mess in the least damaging way. To those of us troubled by the direction the Fed has chosen to take, the massive problem of how to exit the current path remains. Adding to our concern is that rather than warning politicians of the danger involved in spending trillions of dollars on "human infrastructure," a program that sounds akin to welfare, the Fed has remained silent. Going forward with such spending is likely to yield little other than weaken the dollar and endanger its status. Grant’s Interest Rate Observer founder and editor, Jim Grant, has stated; “I think that the 40-year bond bull market is arguably over or ending and what lies ahead of us is important inflation with rising interest rates.”
The original formula for measuring economic growth was full of flaws but over the years we have allowed even more numbers that mean "nothing" to seep into how the GDP is calculated. The motivation for such adjustments has always been to move forward the illusion of growth. In 1962 Kuznets, the chief architect of how to measure the GDP again emphasized the importance of keeping in mind the difference between quantity and the quality of growth. We need to face the fact the illusion the economy is continuing to strengthen is completely based on "government deficit spending" coupled with the Fed's very easy monetary policy.
To say the economy we witnessed during 2020 was a bit bizarre is an understatement. Nobody ever predicted anything like what unfolded. As money continues to be created out of thin air we are witnessing bailouts and crony capitalism on full display. Every trillion dollars the Federal Reserve and our government injects into the economy adds approximately $3,333 per man woman and child in America. Recently aid packages from Washington alone have put about three times that into the mix. With this in mind, the whopping ten thousand dollar bang dished out for each of us was bound to move the economic needle. 
Adding to this distortion is Fed policy has enabled countries throughout the world to enact similar stimulus packages without lowering the value of their currencies in relation to the dollar. Adding to the bizarre nature of this economy is that this is the first recession where incomes have gone up rather than down. Many seasoned investors feel we have entered the area of  “peak insanity.” We are in the kind of market that only emerges during credit bubbles and no method exists to adjust the skewed data we are fed. One lesson we have learned is we should not expect things to revert to normal anytime soon.
 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Thursday, July 8, 2021

We Are Entering The Age Of "Full John Galt"

We are entering the age of "Full John Galt." This is a time where society and politicians are rapidly dismantling the rights of ownership. This transfer of rights constitutes a transfer of wealth whether we wish to call it by that name or not. This is a time when people can just walk into a small privately-owned convenience store, then, without paying walk out with an arm full of merchandise with little or no ramifications. This is a time when government deficits have lost all meaning and people are being paid not to work. This is a time when saying what you feel can garner you massive negative attention and ruin your life.

The idea the economy can be planned by a central force has yet to succeed anywhere. The failings and ills of such programs are rooted in the fact that central planning tends to produce enormous unintended malign effects owing to erroneous incentives and price signals. The new mechanisms of socialist control often created to guide the economy are generally not up to the task of maintaining control. In the old Soviet Union, for instance, nail factory managers got measured and rewarded by the tonnage produced. The story goes that one enterprising factory started massively exceeding its quota by producing only ten-ton nails.

Social Unrest May Be Unavoidable
A slew of news headlines give the impression we as a society are on the verge of becoming unhinged and totally dysfunctional. We, as a population have become polarized and poisoned by the decisive messages flowing from those with self-serving agendas. With governments and various agencies busy issuing mandates and ordering things like a halt on evictions while they lock down cities, it is difficult to argue this is business as usual. Big tech seems to be guiding much of what we see and even the government appears under its spell. Add to this the constant flow of propaganda from mainstream media and the drumbeats of war that are growing louder and it is easy to claim, we do indeed live in interesting times. 

Recent headlines such as the condo collapse in Florida and hints that many other towers may also be in a precarious condition sends shivers down the spine of those living there. Signs of poor construction or architectural incompetence does little to comfort those that have invested their savings in these buildings. The financial ramifications that could flow from this event are enormous. It may reshape or massively increase the cost of getting a mortgage or insurance on many buildings.

Another concern is the lack of concern about political corruption. Even the recent headlines about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) disclosing that her investor husband made several now-profitable trades in various securities brought hardly a stir or screams of insider trading. Her husband bought Amazon calls on May 21 when it closed at $3,259.05. This was just six weeks before the Pentagon suddenly pulled the rug out from under Microsoft's $10 billion JEDI cloud computing deal. This has caused Amazon's stock price to soar by giving Amazon and Bezos a good chance of landing this very lucrative contract. 

Debt Is Now Above 28
Like so many people linked to Washington decision-makers, it seems Paul Pelosi has done very well in the markets, according to Fox Business, "The speaker has no involvement or prior knowledge of these transactions," and "The speaker does not own any stock." Yes, this is a time when such thinking is not only common but acceptable, and yes, this is a time when many of the hard-working people and savers that made America famous are being thrown under the bus. 

The Government-Financial complex, a combination of the Fed, the too big to fail, and the government has become a great threat to our freedom. Following the 2008 global crisis, the authorities acting primarily to prop up governments and the economy took actions to save the financial system by bringing big banks deeper into the fold. Over the years, as the Government-Financial complex and big tech came together the mix of concentrated power they now yield has become toxic. All this has resulted in a false economy and a soaring national debt that is now over 28 trillion dollars.

Their argument that it is better to intervene heavily in markets rather than do nothing repeats the mistakes that created the Great Depression. Lawyers and politicians historically garner rather low marks when it comes to ethics. Ironically, we allowed these same people to pound out the 2,300 plus pages we call the Dodd-Frank Act. This is said to be our new shield from abuse. With this in mind, we should not be surprised the steps taken over recent years to save the financial system have resulted in destroying true price discovery and led to the creeping nationalization of markets.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Deluxe Small RV Trend Highlights Fast Growing Sector

Traveling in a small RV gives those wishing to roll across America many options and choices that are not available to most travelers. Most people agree that size matters. A slew of smaller coaches are now being offered which allows the owners a great deal of freedom. This is one of the fastest-growing segments of an exploding market bolstered by people wanting to get out of their homes and cities but hesitant to leave the country due to travel restrictions. The strong demand for RVs is coming from both the baby boomers and millennials. RV sales have hit record highs over the past year as Americans have been out rediscovering national parks, small towns, and friendly rural communities.

The Hot New Choice Of Travelers

The tall vans made by Ram, Mercedes, and Ford have become the top-end choice of many individuals dedicated to true travel. Often these smaller deluxe RVs, similar to the one in the picture, are decked out with everything including the kitchen sink. Many come not only with a toilet but a shower and a self-contained power source. While costly per square foot they offer flexibility to their owners that no other RV can afford. While the initial price may be a bit salty, with many ranging well over $125,000, a smaller coach offers an incredible amount of freedom over its larger brethren. This makes them especially popular when occupied by only one or two people.  

Not only are these tall vans easy to maneuver and able to fit into a regular parking space, but many also get better mileage per gallon than the vehicles many people drive each day. Unlike campers that are pulled and mainly built to remain in one place for a long time or the gas-guzzling monsters that need a huge amount of maintenance and time to make ready for a journey, these coaches can be off with far less preparation.

For those eager to hit the road without a lot of baggage and in one of these smaller rigs, the Harvest Hosts community, an enterprising group of winemakers, farmers, museums, and attractions have opened their doors. This outgoing group invites Harvest Hosts RV Members to visit and park on their property at no charge for 24 hours in exchange for supporting their business. This allows travelers to come into contact and undergo a wide range of experiences most people never have an opportunity to enjoy.

For many RV owners its is all about the journey, and the experience of visiting a Harvest Host is akin to "A Moveable Feast" by Ernest Hemingway. These travels are likely to generate marvelous memories that will last you a lifetime. In the book, Hemingway writes of his memories of his life as an unknown writer living in Paris in the twenties in a way that is deeply personal, warmly affectionate, and full of wit. This look back includes tales of not only his own much younger self but also several other writers who shared Paris with him - James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Scott, and Zelda Fitzgerald, Hemingway recalls in this book the time when poor but happy, he wrote in cafes while soaking in the life around him.

While the characters you meet During your travels may not attain the status of the famous writers Hemingway writes about many of them are guaranteed to be notable and the experience is certain to widen your horizons. Over the years my interest have changed or rather evolved. I moved from sailing on a small inland lake to sailing lake Michigan, or as Gorden Lightfoot, in his song, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" says, the big lake they call 'Gitche Gumee.' After that, I "blitz traveled" across a chunk of the world seeking out the most treasured jewels the planet has to offer. This has galvanized my belief that when people think back over their life, memories of their travels tend to stand out like precious gems.

Big Often Means Less Flexibility
The idea of traveling without taking a massive amount of stuff with you gives a person a great deal of freedom. It allows you to pass by all those burdened with more than the basic essentials. The RV boom is expected to remain through this year and into the next as more Americans rediscover our great country. This mode of travel grants them the joy of being with their families in a safe and controlled environment. Covid-19 has caused Americans to reevaluate how they travel, instead of jumping on planes and going to resort towns many are visiting our country's wide-open spaces.

Small Coaches Open Many Options

Several other advantages exist when you own one of the smaller totally self-contained coaches. You are able to pull over just about anywhere and get a few hours of shut-eye in reasonable comfort. Whether it is on a city street, along a stream, in an interstate rest area, or at a truck stop. Some of this is sometimes referred to as "stealth camping" or "boondocking." This gives you a great deal more control over your schedule. Such a setup permits you to skip having to stay in expensive campgrounds and always having to have a reservation where ever you go. This also means if you decide to stay in a hotel now and then, you can check in early in the day at a place of your choice rather than wandering into a lobby late at night when you are dead beat. Years ago my father took a bunch of us on a whirlwind tour of California, we still smile when we remember him saying, "get out and take a look at this but don't linger." Yes, there is always more to see. 

(Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)

Friday, July 2, 2021

Road Trip Through Cities And Towns Raises Concerns

Small businesses remain the backbone of the economy. These businesses comprise a huge part of the economy and are an important part of commerce in America. Small businesses employed 60.6 million people or 47.1% of the workforce in 2017. Simply put, casual observance indicates the state of these businesses is poor and for most little help is on its way. The true state of these often struggling enterprises is evident in small towns and cities across America. Simply put, the crew at Marge's has to sell a lot of ice cream cones every hour just to keep the lights on.

A recent road trip through both large and small towns in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan has raised my concern over the economy. What I witnessed is not good. A great number of businesses were closed, some for the day or weekend, others I suspect were because of labor shortages. More troubling than anything else that I encountered was the huge number of for-sale or lease signs plastered everywhere. It is important to remember that just because a business is still open does not mean it will be next week or that it is meeting its financial obligations. Many small businesses have suffered greatly during the pandemic and have not been making rent or mortgage payments. 

Several years ago a multi-state engineering firm that specialized in the expensive process of "sprucing" out downtown commerce districts leased space in one of my buildings. Unbeknownst to the cities and small municipalities ponying up money for studies and ideas on how to up their game, this firm ran out copy after copy of the same well worn-plan merely changing the name on each booklet to correspond to the client. Below are a few pictures of what has happened to Main Streets across the country as a result of such work and a great deal of money. 

Phase One - A Major Facelift Takes Place
Phase Two - Then Little Happens

Of course, some towns are more successful than others at creating the illusion of financial success. It may be because of their location or simply because it possesses an almost magical "je ne sais quoi." this is a French term used to refer to that woman with the special something. While projecting the image of traditional hometown values, the reality is, much of what is being done in these cities and towns will do little to correct the trends and imbalances in our economy. 

I could not help noticing that a fair amount of infrastructure work is already underway. Many of these towns have already undergone programs that have updated them to where they reflect America's "cookie-cutter" image of small-town USA. Since our government has already invested in putting a fresh coat of paint on Main Street with past infrastructure improvements, it is very likely they have already brought forward most of the gains we might expect from such an investment. Spending more money on similar solutions holds little promise.

For the entrepreneur with a small business that decides to invest and locate on one of these "streets of dreams," they often find their financial life becomes a nightmare that ends in tears. Due to many factors, these charming streets often have a difficult time being competitive. Wall Street money flows and a combination of policies favoring big business are proving toxic to those conducting business in these areas. While we cannot turn back time and the trends that have resulted in destroying so many of our towns and cities, we can focus on leveling the playing field to create a more vibrant and stable economy.

Quintessential Small-Town USA Hangs On By A Thread
If asked the question of whether those in the government and financial sector are competent in shaping the future of our economy, the answer is no. The idea of what we know as the quintessential small-town USA is hanging on by a thread and most cities are also in dire shape. 

The way government taxes small businesses and the expensive mandates it places on them ties them up in red tape. Instead of supporting their existence, the infrastructure programs that Washington touts as our salvation tend to generate boondoggles that continue to create and add new competition to these businesses. The Fed and politicians simply don't understand that where and what people buy has long-term ramifications on society and the economy. This dovetails with the idea that little gets fixed in our modern consumer-based society, instead, things go straight to the landfill.

This became even more evident during the pandemic when online commerce soared shifting sales from small local companies to large online retailers. Much of the money was spent on goods made in China. Such sales do little to help local economies or create jobs here in America. It could be argued that China and companies such as Amazon have benefited greatly from this hollowing out of Main Street. To make matters worse this trend is ongoing and expected to grow stronger as little is being done to slow online commerce.

Americans should have learned during the last few decades that tearing up the good with the idea of replacing it with better does not always result in a tremendous improvement. With this in mind, expect the promise of trillions of dollars in infrastructure will benefit the few at the expense of the many. Attempts to tie the need for such expenditures to the idea it will slow or stop climate change borders on ridiculous. Fed policies that fuel inflation and flood developers with money to build more storefronts while so many sit empty boggles the mind.

The sad reality is that a road trip through America's struggling cities and towns underlines the fact that small independent businesses remain under assault from every side. It does not help that hiring workers has become difficult and expensive. Wall Street is so eager to snap up any opportunity it can with cheap money that even the idea of building a chain of units by franchising your idea and recruiting owners with skin in the game is on the wane. Big money grabs it all and this means more competition for the independent little guy. The sad reality is that even while many of these places come across as quaint, they represent a very challenging place to run a business.

These areas should take little comfort in the fact that many local and state governments have yet to spend all the money showered upon them during the shutdowns. Under the idea of "spend it or lose it," local and state governments have rushed into place some rather bonehead ideas to use the money flowing out of Washington. This squandering of resources is guaranteed to generate a big number for upcoming GDP but little of real value to the economy. This is evident in the fail policy of empty city buses going up and down the streets of America under the idea public transportation is good for the environment. 

Never before has our country ran such a huge deficit to transfer wealth to the poor in order for them to buy goods that create the illusion the economy is strong. This is occurring while stock buybacks continue to hit new highs and inequality soars. We have created the mother of false economies by pushing on this string for so very long and this action has yielded little in the way of positive results. All of the above could be an indication we are closer to the economic and financial end game than many people acknowledge. Again I submit the idea that economic growth does not always result in a stronger economy just a bigger one. 

Footnote; An example of how the extra Covid-19 funding is being wasted is that you can now ride the money-losing city bus program in my city for free. The bus company is offering free fares on all services until November 30th. It should be noted, these buses are still running close to empty with few passengers.


 (Republishing of this article welcomed with reference to Bruce Wilds/AdvancingTime Blog)