Feldstein: Stocks are headed for a fall …

January 18, 2018

“The Fed’s easy monetary policy has led to overvalued equities”

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Let’s start by taking a stroll down memory lane ….

Over 40 years ago, an economist-wannabe co-authored a study in the Journal of Finance titled “The Supply of Money and Common Stock Prices”.

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The article summarized an econometric study (think: big, hairy financial model) that demonstrated a tight link between the amount of money floating around and, on a slightly time-delayed basis, the price of stocks.

That is, when the Fed adds liquidity into the market (think: “quantitative easing”), much of money flows into the stock market – rocket-boosting stock prices.

And the opposite is true. When the Fed tightens, stock prices fall back into earth orbit.

OK, fast forward to today.

Read the rest of this entry »

“When are things going to get fair?”

January 17, 2018

A hotel employee asked me that pointed question …

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This is a story with a happy ending …

We were on a family road trip, staying at the Marriott Courtyard in Princeton, NJ.

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After working out, my wife and I looked around for the usual coffee-in-the-lobby.

Not seeing any, we approached the front desk and asked where the coffee was.

The desk person said that the pay-for-coffee restaurant would be opening in 15 minutes.

A very nice lady standing behind the desk clerk offered: “Interested in a complementary cup  of coffee? Follow me …”

We did.

Here’s the rest of the story …

Read the rest of this entry »

Is there another Y2K on the horizon?

January 16, 2018

Oregon goes “non-binary”.

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Let’s connect a couple of dots today …

First, the White House recently announced  that it would eliminate dozens of paperwork requirements for federal agencies.

Included was an obscure rule that requires agencies to continue providing updates on their preparedness for a bug that afflicted many computer systems when the calendar turned on January 1, 2000 – more than 16 years ago.

Tech note: In the 1900’s, to save tape and disk space, most computer programs coded years in 2-digits, e.g. ‘1988’= ’88’.

But, coding ‘2000’ as ‘00’ would cause many problems since computers would think the ‘00’ would mean 1900, e.g  a baby born on January 1, 2000 would be 100 years old at birth.

Date-dependent programs were affected, and the fixes were both costly and time-consuming. But, the job got done!

 

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Seven of the 50 paperwork requirements that were eliminated dealt with the Y2K bug.

OMB estimates that the changes could save tens of thousands of man-hours across the federal government.

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The second story comes from the state of Oregon:

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Oregon became the first state to allow residents to identify as “nonbinary,” neither male nor female, on their driver licenses and identification cards.Beginning July 1, Oregonians will be able to choose “X” for sex Instead of “F” or “M” on their licenses and identification cards.

Most Oregonians favored the change.

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So, what’s the problem?

Read the rest of this entry »

Test your geo-climate knowledge …

January 12, 2018

What is this a picture of?

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Source

OK, let’s make the question easier – a multiple choice:

(A)  A portion of the Arctic where global warming has melted parts of the Polar Icecap.

(B)  A part of the Sahara Desert where snow has fallen for the 2nd time in 40 years?

And, the answer is …

Read the rest of this entry »

Frat boys party more, study less and earn more … say, what?

January 11, 2018

Fraternities get a lot of press.

You know: Heavy drinking, hazing tragedies and pure goofiness.

Why would anybody want their sons to join one?

Well, a couple of economists at Union College did a study that makes joining a fraternity look like a very rational decision.

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Here’s the scoop …

Read the rest of this entry »

Quick: how many 3’s in the block of numbers?

January 10, 2018

Let’s test our cognitive skills today..

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For my consulting course, I’ve been reading up on storytelling and data visualization.

Hit pay dirt with a book called  Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals.

One of the topics is how to leverage pre-attentive attributes – visual cues that can influence what information catches a reader’s eye on a slide or chart … think: “shiny objects”.

To demonstrate the concept of pre-attentive attributes: Observe the block of numbers below … how many 3’s are there in this block of numbers?

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And, the answer is …

Read the rest of this entry »

Who consumes the most fake news?

January 9, 2018

And, are they swayed by it?
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Interesting article in the WSJ channeling a study by three political scientists from Princeton, Dartmouth and the University of Exeter…

The objective of their study was to validate or refute the common Democratic hypothesis that “fake news” elected Donald Trump … that “Trump voters were duped by fringe websites that traffic in misinformation, and that if those voters were better informed, Hillary Clinton would be president today.”

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Their findings may surprise you …

Read the rest of this entry »

Disruptive innovation: How the iPhone has shaped a new generation.

January 8, 2018

A new book says that not all of the “shaping” has been good.
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According to the WSJ

Over the weekend, Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System — which control about $2 billion of Apple shares — sent a letter to Apple urging the company to “develop new software tools that would help parents control and limit phone use more easily and to study the impact of overuse on mental health.”

Apparently, they got the word that “obsessive teenage phone usage may be causing increased rates in teen depression and suicide and that phones are replacing old-fashioned human interaction.”

No kidding. We were all over this topic last fall.

Here’s a timely flashback …

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Last fall, when Apple celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the iPhone and launch of iPhone X, CEO Tim Cook boasted:

Having sold over one billion units and enabling millions of apps that have become essential to people’s daily routine …

The iPhone redefined how consumers live, work, communicate, and entertain.

I chalked it up as marketing hype, but then …

I started reading a recently released book (coincidence?) called iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.

The author is Jean Twenge, a psychology prof with a specialty in “generational differences” who is credited with coining the newest generation “iGen”.

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mazon link

Prof Twenge agrees with Cook’s basic claim that the iPhone has redefined life.

But, she argues, not all of the redefinition is positive … specifically highlighting the decline in in-person social interaction and a sharp rise in mental health issues among iGens.

Let’s start at the beginning ….

Read the rest of this entry »

#12 – Why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

January 5, 2018

Reason #12 – When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?

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For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

Moving on …

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Last summer, I posted a series The 10 reasons why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

Then, I added Reason #11 – Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

Loyal readers had to know that this one was coming …

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Reason #12 – When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?

OK, I concede that last summer had some scorching moments … creating an opportunity for the “warmists” to shout from every rooftop:

“See, I told you so.  Climate is changing, climate is changing. Globe is warming. It’s your fault.”

You see, a hot spell is “climate” … and ample proof of the warming dogma.

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OK, lets fast-forward to the past couple of bone chilling weeks.

I grew up in Cleveland and lived in Minneapolis, Chicago and Connecticut … so I know snow and cold.

These past couple of weeks have been the worst prolonged deep cold spell that I can remember.

And, the record low temps are spread wide … and deep into the South.


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Of course, global warming skeptics have headlined the cold spell as an inconvenient fact for global warmists.

Not to worry.

The warmists simply school ignorant skeptics by dismissing the cold spell as “weather” not “climate”.

So, when is weather “climate” … and when it it just garden variety “weather”?

Read the rest of this entry »

#11 – Why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

January 4, 2018

Reason #11- Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

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For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

And, I’ve personally had the eyes of 2 hurricanes literally pass right over my house, so I’m aware of their devastating potential.

I have friends and family in Houston and scattered around Florida. They and other hurricane victims have my deepest sympathy.

Moving on …

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Last summer, I posted a series The 10 reasons why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

Then, a celebrity phone-a-thon for Harvey & Irma victims prompted me to add to the list.

Let’s flashback to Reason $11 to set-up tomorrow’s Reason #12

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Reason #11- Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

The quote is generally attributed to Rahm Emmanuel – former of Obama chief-of-staff and currently Mayor of murder- riddled Chicago.

Hurricanes Harvey & Irma put the credo into action …

At 8 o’clock, I tuned in the see the semi-finals of my favorite TV show: America’s Got Talent.

Imagine my disappointment when I saw that the show was being delayed (to past my bed time) for a celebrity fund-raiser.

OK, I figured … let’s watch an hour of pros sing and dance.

Cue the first act: Little Stevie Wonder … err, I mean Stevie Wonder … err again, I mean Steven Wonder … whatever.

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Pre-ambling his ditty, Mr. Wonder preached:

“It just loves. As we should begin to love and value our planet.”

So far, so good.

Then the pivot:

Anyone who believes that there is no such thing as global warming must be blind or unintelligent.”

He made a lightning-fast pivot from the hurricane disasters to climate change.

Conveniently, ignoring a few facts …

Read the rest of this entry »

Study: Chances of dying are greater if your doctor is over 60.

January 3, 2018

And, some advice for hedging your bets.
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Researchers at Harvard scoured the records of 730,000 patients treated between 2011 and 2014 by more than 18,800 hospital-based internists (now called “hospitalists”).

The results were originally published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) and recapped in StudyFinds:

Patients are 1.3% more likely to die when treated by doctors over the age of 60, than if they’re treated by doctors under 40.

That translates to one additional death for every 77 patients under the care of a doctor over 60.

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What’s going on?

Read the rest of this entry »

Will 143 million households notice that their taxes have been cut?

January 2, 2018

Trump and the GOP face some formidable headwinds …

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First, let’s deal with the numbers …

According to a recent Monmouth University poll,  50% of the public believes the federal taxes they pay will go up under the GOP’s tax plan; 25%think their taxes will stay the same, and just 14%say their taxes will go down.

Say, what?

The good news – according MarketWatchMarketWatch and the non-partisan Tax Policy Center   — is that about 143 million “tax units” (think: households) will pay lower taxes next year and only about 8.5 million will pay higher taxes. That’s a 94% / 6% split.

Note: The Joint Committee on Taxation, which is Congress’s independent number cruncher, came up with similar numbers. They found the average tax rate would fall to 19% from 20.7%. The tax rate for those with an adjusted gross income between $50,000 to $75,000 would see their tax rate fall to 13.5% from 14.8%.

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For the most popular bracket — the $50,000 to $75,000 range – the average tax cut will be $870.

Technical note: The Tax Policy Center slots folks based on “expanded cash income” that includes cash income plus tax-exempt employee and employer contributions to health insurance and other fringe benefits, employer contributions to tax-preferred retirement accounts, income earned within retirement accounts, and food stamps.

The big question is whether the tax cut beneficiaries will notice the difference and applaud the tax cut.

My conclusion: The GOP is facing some perceptual headwinds…

Read the rest of this entry »

Merry Christmas … 45 Lessons in Life

December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and HAPPY NEW YEAR  to all !

This short video was sent to me by a friend a couple of years ago

It really resonated with me, so I like to share it at Christmas time.

 … back with you after the New Year

* * * * *

       click picture  to launch ( best with audio on)
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>> Latest Posts

Obama’s tax cut bigger than Trump’s … say, what?

December 23, 2017

There’s spin … and then there’s dizzying spin.

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I like to tune in to MSNBC to get a sense of what the far left is saying … and, for pure entertainment value.

To say the least, I was surprised that a constantly looped headline following Trump’s signing of the tax reform package was:

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I had to scratch my head: What Obama tax cut?

At first, I assumed that they might be referring to Obama’s billion-dollar stimulus program which gave a dollar-a-day Tax Credit ($400 per worker and $800 per couple) in 2009 and 2010.

Nope.

Here’s what they were talking about …

Read the rest of this entry »

Uh-oh: Cable companies threatening crackdown on password sharing …

December 22, 2017

Will Amazon Prime be next?

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You had to know that this one was coming.

According to Bloomberg:

“Using someone else’s credentials to stream for free will soon be a $10 billion problem for pay-TV companies.”

Apparently, the problem isn’t just a matter of sharing passwords across extended families.

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There’s reportedly a thriving market for passwords-to-buy (at deep discounts, of course) or password swapping (I give you my NFL password and you give me your HBO password).

And, the problem has reached epic proportions: as many as “30,000 simultaneous streams from a single account.”

So, what is the cable industry going to do about it?

Read the rest of this entry »

My biggest beef with the GOP tax plan …

December 21, 2017

… and still, nobody seems to be talking about it.

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Now that the tax reform package is in the books, I should be elated, right?

But, I’m quite ambivalent.

On the plus side, I do think that the stock market will stay el fuego.

Selfishly speaking, that dwarfs all of the negatives.

But …

  1. Based on my calcs, I’m in the 20% of folks whose taxes are going up, not down.  I’m thinking that I may be the only person who doesn’t reside in CA, NY and NJ whose taxes are going up. Ouch.
  2. Carried interest is alive and well.  C’mon Donald, you promised. And please, don’t tell me that hedge funds and private equity are engines of growth.  May be small potatoes re: tax revenue, but it’s what Rudy Giuliani would call a “broken window”.
  3. Are Google and Facebook really going to invest their tax savings here in the USA? I’m betting the under on that one. Wish the corporate tax benefits were tied more directly to employment levels.

And. my biggest concern is the long-run tilt in voting dynamics.  Tax cuts will no longer have any campaign whallop.

Why?

Remember Mitt Romneys ill-timed observation about “47% of Americans”.

No, they weren’t deplorables, they were simply the folks who pay no Federal income taxes.

Well if the GOP tax plan goes through, the 47% will be be alive .. and well … and growing.

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Source

Let’s start with some data…

Read the rest of this entry »

What word annoys you the most?

December 20, 2017

Marist Poll releases 2017 list … mine wasn’t on it.

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Every year, the Marist Poll conducts a survey to ID the word that most annoys Americans.

For the 9th consecutive year, this year’s winner: ‘whatever…’.

According to the folks at Marist, ‘whatever’ first gained infamy about 20 years ago  in the movie Clueless.

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Here are the runners-up and my pick ….

Read the rest of this entry »

The non-science President redirects NASA to re-focus on space exploration.

December 19, 2017

You might have missed this in the flurry on news last week…

President Trump issued an Executive Order redirecting NASA’s mission:

The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.

It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use.

This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints — we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond — and bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.

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I know what you must be thinking: What’s newsworthy about that … hasn’t that been NASA’s mission all along?

Nope.

President Trump’s Executive Order reverses former-President Obama’s marching orders for NASA.

In case memories have faded, let’s flashback to 2010 ….

Read the rest of this entry »

Polls: Near-majority opposes GOP tax plan.

December 18, 2017

Gomer Pyle observes: Surprise, surprise, surprise.
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MSM is taking great delight reporting polls that show a near- majority of opposing the emerging GOP tax plan.

Some polls have the opposition as high as 55%.

USA Today reports that 48% oppose it and explains:

“53% of those surveyed predict their own families won’t pay lower taxes as a result of the measure.”

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Let’s unpack the survey results ….

Read the rest of this entry »

Do you drink red wine at room temperature?

December 15, 2017

Experts say that’s too hot … not “flavor optimal”

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Taste research conducted by Sydney Wine Academy and Taylors Wines observes that most people drink red wine at room temperature … and, concludes that’s to hot.

Conversely, most people serve white wine too cold for optimum flavor.

 

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Here’s the logic …

Read the rest of this entry »

Is repatriation of cash really a big deal?

December 14, 2017

The WSJ and FT disagree on the impact.  I disagree with both.

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Let’s start with some background …

Currently, when a company earns money abroad, it’s taxed in the local jurisdiction where it’s earned … and then the Feds collect U.S. income taxes when the company brings the cash associated with the earnings back to their U.S. accounts.

Most folks agree that represents punitive double taxation.

So, companies tend to keep the cash associated with offshore earnings parked offshore … deferring U.S. income taxes as long as possible.

Currently, the 50 top overseas cash holders have almost $1 trillion parked outside the U.S.

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click for full top 50 list

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The GOP tax plan moves towards “territorial taxation” … meaning that U.S. companies will only be taxed in the jurisdiction where money is earned.

That makes complete sense to me.

The GOP tax plan also  includes a one-time “deemed repatriation rate” on earnings now held abroad … that rate is proposed to be 14% to 14.49% … lower than the current corporate rate of 35% or the proposed rate of 20%.

Why not a deemed repatriation rate of zero?

I guess the logic is that the current stockpiles of offshore cash were earned under the old double taxation rules … so the companies “owe” the Feds around 35% … offering a deemed rate of 14% roughly splits the difference between 35% and zero.

Here’s were things get interesting …

Read the rest of this entry »

Which states get hit hardest when SALT deduction is eliminated?

December 13, 2017

Looks like it might just be rich folks paying their fair share.

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Everybody knows that tax-payers in liberal-leaning states (CA, NY, NJ, MA, CT) will get hit the hardest when the GOP plan to eliminate the SALT (state & local taxes)  deduction is disallowed.

And, everybody has probably heard Chuckie Schumer whine about how New Yorkers toss more into the government coffers than they get back.

The Rockefeller Institute of Gov’t pulled together those 2 observations into an interesting (albeit a bit complicated) chart.

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click to enlarge

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Let’s decode the chart …

The vertical axis basically indicates if a state puts a low or high SALT burden on its residents.

The horizontal axis indicates if a state’s Balance of Payments with the Feds is positive (to the left) or negative (to the right).  That is, does the state get back from the Feds (in goods and services) more or less that its residents pay in Federal taxes.

For example, Hew York is in the upper right quadrant.

Chuckie is right: New York (a high SALT state) pays more to the Feds than it gets back.

Maryland and Virginia are in the upper left quadrant: residents pay high SALT but get more back from the Feds than they pay in Fed taxes.

All of which illuminates a couple of interesting points …

Read the rest of this entry »

Newser: Now, this is funny …

December 12, 2017

CNN goes from the sublime to the ridiculous.

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MSM reporting has had a bad couple of weeks …

Off the top of my head:

  • ABC’s Brian Ross caused a 350 point drop in the Dow by reporting exclusively that “Candidate Trump” instructed Flynn to make contact with the Russians. Turned out to be “President-elect Trump” and the contacts were completely legal
  • It was revealed that the FBI did, in fact, tell Sessions he didn’t have to report his Senatorial meetings and incidental contact with Russians.
  • CNN scooped that Donald, Jr. was emailed an encryption key to open purloined DNC emails before they were publically released.  Wrong. It was after they had been posted to the internet. Oops.

Now, CNN has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Yesterday, a mere hour after the Port Authority bombing, CNN started headlining another breaking news story.

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Source: TownHall.com

Note that the times on the 2 screen shoots are identical … then glance at the headlines.

Fox was still on the bombing story.

CNN, not so much.

They were reporting leaked information that President Trump drinks up 12 Diet Cokes every day … and, on the campaign trail, would often down a couple of Big Macs every day.

They  failed to present some exculpatory evidence: To keep his svelte physique, Trump doesn’t eat the Big Mac’s buns.

You just can’t make this stuff up …

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#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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Reality Check: How much will YOUR income taxes go down (or up)?

December 11, 2017

Here’s a simple online  calculator that rudely awakened me.

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My son who admonished me to “stop calling it a tax cut until you run your numbers” … I finally did run my numbers.

For me — a discounted-rate college prof – my Federal income taxes will go up about 30%.

Whoa, Nelly.

What’s going on?

The key drivers: (1) loss of personal exemptions ($4,050 times 2)  (2) non-deductibility of state income taxes (Virginia has turned purple with a Dem governor) and (3) loss of 1/3 of my local real estate taxes (assuming the House version that still allows $10,000).

The alleged reduction in rates doesn’t offset those deductions lost.

Nuts.

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If you want to see what the likely impact will be on you, pull out the first couple of pages of your 2016 tax return so you can plug a few numbers into the CALCXML online tax calculator.

Here’s an example for a family of 4 – husband, wife, 2 kids under 18 … filing jointly … $150,000 combined income … no “unearned investment income” (dividends & capital gains which get taxed at a preferential rate) … $500,000 mortgage @ 4% …. $5,000 local real estate taxes .

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click for CalcXM’s online tax calculator

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And, the answer is …

Read the rest of this entry »

Living high off the pork …

December 8, 2017

According to the Census Bureau’s “American Community Survey” …

The five richest counties in the United States are all suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Loudoun County, VA tops the list … the median household income there is $125,672.

As a benchmark, the median household income in the U.S.  $55,322.

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Following close behind Loudoun are:

  • Falls Church, VA ($115,244)
  • Fairfax County, VA ($114,329)
  • Howard County, MD ($113,800)
  • Arlington County, VA ($108,706)

New York, New Jersey and California have a total of 8 counties on the top 20 list.

Here’s the full list …

Read the rest of this entry »

Have business gurus (and business schools) lost touch?

December 7, 2017

Some pillars of management theory are weakening.

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Interesting article in The Economist asserts that “business gurus have lost touch with the world they seek to rule” and that “management theory is ripe for a reformation, especially at Business schools — the cathedrals of capitalism.”

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More specifically, the author argues that: “Management theories are organized around four basic ideas, repeated ad nauseam in every business book you read or business conference you attend, that bear almost no relation to reality.”

Here are some snippets on those four disputable basic ideas …

Read the rest of this entry »

Who would vote for a creepy old man?

December 6, 2017

Answer: Probably a majority of Alabama voters.

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Have you noticed what’s been happening in the Alabama Senate race?

Note that – after a couple of weeks of losing poll numbers – creepy old Roy Moore has pulled back into the lead.

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Let’s dissect the numbers a bit …

Read the rest of this entry »

Flashback: ANWR in Pictures (and Words)

December 5, 2017

To win Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski’s vote on the tax reform bill, a provision was slipped in to open part of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. Source

Though the provision hasn’t got much coverage, I suspect that it will eventually cause an uproar.

To prep HomaFiles readers, we thought it would be a good time time to reprise a HomaFiles blast-from-the-past …

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According to Jonah Goldberg, writing in the National Review Online:

Both the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards enthusiastically supported drilling in ANWR in the late 1980s.

The Post noted that the area “is one of the bleakest, most remote places on this continent, and there is hardly any other where drilling would have less impact on surrounding life. . . . ”

ANWR is roughly the size of South Carolina …

However, the area where, according to Department of Interior estimates, some 5.7 billion to 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil reside is much smaller and …  would amount to the size of Dulles airport.

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Tempted to vacation there?  Keep reading …

Read the rest of this entry »

What if the Russians, North Koreans, Iranians or Mother Nature were to jam GPS satellites?

December 4, 2017

An interesting question posed in a WSJ commentary …
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Answer: We’d be in deep yogurt … and it just wouldn’t be an inability to drive to an unfamiliar destination.

To that point, according to the Department of Homeland Security has identified “18 Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource sectors” … and, 15 of the 18 are GPS-reliant.

That makes sense since the satellite-based Global Positioning System was built primarily for U.S. military ops and then repurposed to civilian applications air traffic control, weather monitoring and precise time-synchronization.

For background, according to NASA:

The Global Positioning System is a United States space-based radionavigation system that helps pinpoint a three dimensional position to about a meter of accuracy (for example latitude, longitude and altitude) and provide nano-second precise time anywhere on Earth.

GPS is currently comprised of a constellation of 24 US government satellites flying in six orbital planes … circling about 12,550 miles above the Earth … monitored by an extensive network of land-based receiving stations.

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So, what’s our Plan B if the satellite-based GPS system goes down?

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s the biggest tax loophole ?

December 1, 2017

… and, why isn’t it part of the tax reform conversation?

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I’ve been scratching my head over what the Senate & Congress are going after under the “tax reform” umbrella … and, what are being treated as sacred cows.

For example, the deductions for mortgage interest and state & local taxes are on the chopping block … but the biggest “Federal tax break” according to Simpson-Bowles and the Pew Foundation is the tax-free status of employer-paid health insurance.

Real tax reform would put employer-paid health insurance under a microscope: it’s clearly compensation that should be recorded on W-2s and taxed at ordinary income tax rates, right?

And, the loophole creates a severely unlevel playing field.

Think of the small business owner (or his employees).

They have to buy their health insurance with after-tax dollars …

That’s not fair, is it?

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Before you hit me with the “healthcare is different (and untouchable)” argument, consider this:

Read the rest of this entry »

How the super-rich shelter their income & wealth from taxes …

November 30, 2017

While keeping (or increasing) their financial and political might.

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For years, I’ve ranted whenever Warren Buffett whined that my taxes should be increased because he pays a lower income tax rate than his secretary.

And, I even offered up a suggestion (think: “Buffett Rule”) that might assuage Mr. Buffett’s guilt.

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For background …

Buffett benefits from the preferential tax rate on capital gains … but his mega tax dodge is bequeathing a big chunk his estate to his buddy Bill Gates’ tax exempt foundation … part, I guess, to “give back to society” … but in large part to dodge estate taxes.

You see, that part of Buffett’s estate escapes death taxes  (since it’s a “charitable donation”) … and, while alive, Buffett can still wield unfettered financial and political clout.

So, I proposed a simple tax reform to nullify the loophole and provide Warren with the opportunity to pay some serious taxes (and spread his wealth around).

Ken’s “Buffett Rule”: For purposes of estate taxation, estates shall be limited to a maximum deduction of $1 million for charitable donations.

It turns out that my focus on estate taxes was way too narrow and may have missed the forest for the trees.

Read the rest of this entry »

To bring back jobs, don’t cut the the corporate tax rate … here’s another idea.

November 28, 2017

Last week, we asked: if increasing the number of well-paying manufacturing jobs is important —  then rather than the usual proposed bromide of just cutting corporate taxes across-the-board, why not offer employers a double tax deduction for workers’ wages earned in the U.S.?

Here’s a complementary idea (to doubling the wages deduction) that might be worth worth considering …

Read the rest of this entry »

Answer to: Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

November 28, 2017

Yesterday, we posted a question posed to me by my soon-to-be 9 year old granddaughter … and challenged you to give it a try:

Determine the numerical values for a roasted turkey, a slice of pie and a cob of corn.

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Here’s the answer … if you haven’t already done the problem, do it before peeking:

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Are you smarter than a 3rd grader?

November 27, 2017

A Thanksgiving Day puzzle from my granddaughter.

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What does your family do for fun at Thanksgiving?

Nowadays, mine tries to stump me with math problems.

This year, my soon-to-be 9 year old granddaughter brought over a set of puzzles that she’d been working on at school (3rd grade).

Give one a try:

Determine the numerical values for a roasted turkey, a slice of pie and a cob of corn.

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We all like to whine that American students are slipping behind other countries in math and science … which begs a basic question:

Are you at least as smart as a third grader?

I’ll post the answer tomorrow …

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Thanks to AMH for feeding the lead.
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Happy Thanksgiving !

November 22, 2017

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

To bring back jobs, don’t cut the the corporate tax rate …

November 21, 2017

Rather, double the corporate tax deduction for workers’ wages earned the U.S. workers.

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Let’s start with an interesting analysis from Nate Silver’s  535.com titled Manufacturing Jobs Are Never Coming Back

“It’s understandable that voters in 2016  were angry about trade. The U.S. has lost more than 4.5 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA took effect in 1994. And, there’s mounting evidence that U.S. trade policy, particularly with China, has caused lasting harm to many American workers.”

“Manufacturing in particular embodies something that seems to be disappearing in today’s economy: jobs with decent pay and benefits available to workers without a college degree are vanishing. The average factory worker earns more than $25 an hour before overtime; the typical retail worker makes less than $18 an hour.”

“In 1994 there were 3.5 million more Americans working in manufacturing than in retail. Today, those numbers have almost exactly reversed, and the gap is widening. More than 80 percent of all private jobs are now in the service sector.”

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How can that be?  Aren’t we hearing a lot about “re-shoring” and foreign capital investing in U.S. based manufacturing plants?

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My biggest beef with the GOP tax plan …

November 20, 2017

… and nobody seems to be talking about it.

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Remember Mitt Romneys ill-timed observation about “47% of Americans”.

No, they weren’t deplorables, they were simply the folks who pay no Federal income taxes.

Well if the GOP tax plan goes through, the 47% will be be alive .. and well … and growing.

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Source

Let’s start with some data…

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At what age did women get married in the 1970s?

November 17, 2017

An odd question motivated by recent events.

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First the disclaimer, Judge Roy Moore creeps me out … and I’m certainly no apologist for older men who hit on teenage girls. Period.

That said, two comments got me wondering.

First, a Clinton apologist was on TV saying that Bill deserved a pass for his sexual transgressions and abuses because “things were different in those days.”

Say, what?  Different how?

Separately, a friend bad-quipped about the sterotype of Southern girls marrying young – often in their early teens.

So, I started to wonder: what were things like in “those days” – specifically,in Alabama, when Judge Moore is alleged to have been hitting on teenage girls.

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What I discovered certainly doesn’t make Moore any less creepy or exonerate him, but it is interesting.

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More Disney: How does Mickey fingerprint me?

November 16, 2017

The tech behind biometric fingerprints
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Note: We’ve been doing an amusement park case in my current course.  So, we’re reprising a post from the archives.
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In prior posts, I gushed over the technology applications at Disney World … and recounted the plausible explanations for why Mickey digitally records guests’ fingerprints when then enter the park.

Ostensibly, the purpose is fraud protection – keeping folks from passing along their partially used tickets for reuse.

Of course, there are other sorts of uses for digital fingerprints (e.g. catching bad guys) … and ways that the information can be misused.

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With my curiosity aroused, I did some digging re: digital fingerprints.

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More Disney: Why is Mickey fingerprinting me?

November 15, 2017

A plausible “why” and a very interesting “how”.
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Note: We’ve been doing an amusement park case in my current course.  So, we’re reprising a post from the archives.
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In a prior post Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney? , I gushed over the technology applications at Disney World … the Magic Bands than let me into my hotel room & the park, Fast-Passed me to the front of lines, and “personalized” my family’s experience with real-time greetings and photos.

I noted that I was digitally fingerprinted when I entered the park and asked if anybody could tell me why.

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A couple of loyal readers clued me and provoked some digging.

Here’s what I learned …

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Seriously, why not outsource TSA ops to Disney?

November 14, 2017

Disney’s technology applications are impressive.
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Note: We’ve been doing an amusement park case in my current course.  So, we’re reprising a post from the archives.
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Last Spring, I took a fact-finding trip (aka. family vacation) to Disney World.

I was amazed at the way that Disney uses technology.

My first “wow” was at the entrance gate.

No surprise, there was a huge rush of “guests” entering the Magic Kingdom when the gates opened at 8 a.m.

The crowd measured into the thousands … all needing to be security-screened.

All bags and strollers had to be hand-checked … all kids – big & little – had to be ushered through metal detectors.

Nightmare, right?

Maybe at the airport, but not at Disney.

Our wait & processing time: less than 10 minutes.

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Then came the good part…

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Facebook’s addictive dopamine hits “exploit a vulnerability in human psychology."

November 13, 2017

Co-founder admits: ‘God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains’

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Loyal readers know that I’m not a big fan of Facebook.

Besides the obvious privacy issues, I’ve been swayed by the mounting evidence that mental health deteriorates with heavy Facebook “engagement” … and that heavy Facebook engagement is becoming the norm … especially among teens.

So, I wasn’t surprised — but, I was shocked — when Sean Parker – one of Facebook’s co-founders – “unloaded on Facebook” … confirming many suspicions and bluntly admitting that it was all part of a master plan that may have “created a monster”.

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Here are some highlights of Parker’s catharsis (and a link to the chilling video) …

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How physically fit are folks in your city?

November 10, 2017

Washington, D.C. rated as “most fit city” for 3rd year in a row.

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Every year, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Anthem Foundation rates the “fitness” of major metro areas based on a number of health behaviors and environmental factors such as access to parks, recreational facilities and walking trails.

According to this year’s  report, Washington, D.C. topped the list again.

 

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What makes D.C. so fit?

• Lower (than target) percent currently smoking
• Lower death rate for cardiovascular disease
• Higher percent of city land area as parkland
• Higher percent bicycling or walking to work
• More dog parks per capita
• More park units per capita
• More recreation centers per capita

And, my favorite:  More farmers’ markets per capita

Say, what?

D.C.’s score got a couple of dings including  a biggie: Fewer golf courses per capita

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Which of the 50 biggest metro areas scored the worst?

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Studies: More time on Facebook … and it’s not good for you.

November 9, 2017

“Negatively associated with overall well-being … particularly mental health”.

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Let’s connect a couple of recently reported studies …

First, the BLS periodically reports how Americans spend their leisure time.

According to the NYT, channeling the most recent BLS report:

The average time that users spend on Facebook is nearing an hour.

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Putting that hour of Facebook in perspective:

That’s more than any other leisure activity surveyed … with the exception of watching television programs and movies (an average per day of 2.8 hours).

It’s more time than people spend reading (19 minutes); participating in sports or exercise (17 minutes); or social events (four minutes).

It’s almost as much time as people spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours). NYT

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And, a recent study published by the Harvard Business Review indicates that all that Facebook time is unhealthy.

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Happy? Sad? Excited? … Facebook can tell.

November 8, 2017

And, has been caught doing just that.

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It always amazes me what people post on Facebook. Their daily activities, their deepest emotions – you name it.

By now, every Facebook user should know that FB sifts through their content – posts, pictures, links, emojis – to determine, for example, what topics are hot; what people are doing; which brands people are buying, recommending, trashing or considering; whether users are feeling happy, sad, scared, excited.

The latter is called “sentiment analysis” using computer algorithms to take users’ “emotional pulse”.

Of course, FB promises that they’ll protect users’ privacy and would never even consider divulging that information to outsiders, say, advertisers or political campaigns.

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Bad news for believers: FB was caught “sharing” sentiment analysis data.

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According to USA Today

Documents leaked to a newspaper, The Australian, indicate that Facebook executives prepared a report for one of the country’s top banks.

The report described how Facebook gleans psychological insights into the mood shifts of millions of young people in Australia and New Zealand by monitoring their status updates and photos.

The 23-page report showed Facebook’s ability to detect when users as young as 14 are feeling emotions such as defeat, stress, anxiety or being overwhelmed … and. other information on young people’s emotional well-being such as when they exhibit “nervous-excitement” are “conquering fears“.

FB claimed that it can track how emotions fluctuate during the week.

Anticipatory emotions are more likely to be expressed early in the week.

Reflective emotions increase on the weekend.

Monday-Thursday is about building confidence.

The weekend is for broadcasting achievements.

At a relatively benign level, advertisers can use that information to target ads to certain age groups … and they can time them to run on a certain day.

That’s apparently what FB got caught doing – revealing anonymous and aggregated data – to a potential advertising client.

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Let’s go a step further…

According to the article: “Facebook has also come under heavy scrutiny in the past for secretly conducting research that manipulated the emotions of users by altering what they see in their News Feed without their consent.”

So, it doesn’t take much creativity to imagine the collection and dissemination of individuals’ sentiment data that could be used to target advertising to specific individuals at specific times – say, when they’re feeling down and are vulnerable to buying certain products geared to giving them a pick-me-up, say, some new clothes, a fancy car or miracle drug.

Pretty unnerving, right?

Of course, FB assures users that it would never consider divulging that sort of data.

Yeah, right.

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Connecting dots

In a prior post, we reported on a study that concluded time on Facebook can be hazardous to your mental health.

For details see Studies: More time on Facebook … and it’s not good for you.

So, being on Facebook can make you emotionally vulnerable.

Facebook can determine when you’re vulnerable.

Facebook can sell that info to advertisers.

But, FB assures us that it won’t sell that data.

Whew … that’s a relief.

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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A prof says: “You earn exam points … and, the burden of proof is on you”

November 7, 2017

Students often take issue with grades … sometimes understandably, sometimes not so much.

For perspective, here’s an interesting op-ed by an econ prof …

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Should my trash pick-up be tax deductible?

November 6, 2017

… and what about HOA fees?

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For openers, let me declare: I think that I end up worse off under the proposed GOP tax plan.

That said, I’m all for eliminating the deduction for state & local taxes.

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Here’s why I’m not swayed by the whiners in the high tax & spend states ..

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Are you a nice person?

November 3, 2017

You probably over-rate your “niceness” … but that’s OK.

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According to the UK Independent

You may consider yourself to be a nice person, but  a new study concludes that you’re probably not as nice as you think.

Psychologists at the University of London have discovered that 98 per cent of British people think they’re part of the nicest 50 per cent of the population.

Participants in the study were given a list of “nice” behaviors and asked which ones they do.

They claimed to do easy stuff like giving directions to lost souls, holding doors open or giving Granny their seat on the bus.

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But, their niceness had limits …

The respondents stopped short of giving money to needy strangers (less than 1 in 5) or helping Granny cross the street (about 1 in 4).

Still, there’s some very good news …

 

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All of the info I’ve collected says I’m right … so there!

November 2, 2017

Dan Lovallo, a professor and decision-making researcher says, “Confirmation bias is probably the single biggest problem in business, because even the most sophisticated people get it wrong. People go out and they’re collecting the data, and they don’t realize they’re cooking the books.”

What’s this “confirmation bias” that Lovello is talking about?

No surprise, people tend to seek out information that supports their existing beliefs.

You know, liberals watch MSNBC, read the NY Times listen to BBC podcasts; conservatives watch FOX, read the WSJ and listen to Rush.

Behavioral psychologists call the he dynamic “confirmation bias”.

 

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In socio-politics, the confirmation bias tends to harden polarized positions. People just gather debate fodder rather than probing both sides of issues.

In the realm of decision making, confirmation bias has a dysfunctional effect: it leads to bad decisions.

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Should you put your extracurricular activities and interests on your resume?

November 1, 2017

More than you think, they may impact your chances of getting an interview.

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Interesting study reported in HBR

The study investigated whether applicants got invited to interview at highly prestigious law firms (though the findings are probably generalizable to other top-notch professional firms).

Here’s the drill:

Imagine four applicants, all of whom attend the same, selective second-tier law school.

They all have phenomenal grade point averages, are on law review, and have identical, highly relevant work experiences.

The only differences are whether they are male or female and if their extracurricular activities suggest they come from a higher-class or lower-class background.

Who gets invited to interview?

More specifically, the researchers used a technique — known as the resume audit method — randomly assigning different items to the resumes and sending applications to real employers to see how they affect the probability of being called back for a job interview.

All applicants were from 2nd tier schools (where top firms don’t typically do on campus interviewing).

All educational, academic, and work-related achievements were identical between the fictitious candidates.

To test gender effects, the applicants were first-named James or Julia.

To “signal” social status, last names were either prestigious sounding “Cabot” or more common “Clark” … and commonly used and and often required portions of resumes were varied: awards and extracurricular activities:

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The experiment confirmed some expectations, but there were also surprises …

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