What Color is the Dress? Political Edition

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I had a conversation with a medical doctor 2 days ago-we looked at the now infamous Inauguration comparison images and he stated that “he wasn’t quite sure which image had the largest crowd”. Wow. We are just in a brand new place where objective facts and evidence are meaningless to a large group of people. Psychology does provide justifications for this. Cognitive biases like the confirmation bias and the backfire effect can explain why people would reject evidence that does not conform to their worldview. It is just so amazing to engage with people who you think should know better resort to mental gymnastics to explain their unsubstantiated worldview.

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Last night, Rachel Maddow  discussed results from a PPP poll asking about the new Trump administration. Take a look at the chart below.  There is a bubble alright…two bubbles. The Trump supporter bubble…and the everybody else bubble.

President Trump appears to have his own reality where he is sacrificing trust in the White House to claim that 3-5 million undocumented immigrants illegally voted in the election and that his Inauguration was the largest ever–both easily prove falsehoods (or lies).  The good news is that a plurality of the people still believes in the objective truth.

 

Why discuss politics and psychology on a personal finance blog? Now, this is a matter of financial security for our customers and readers. White House policies from Obamacare repeal with no real plan for replacement, deregulating Wall Street and eliminating Dodd-Frank, weakening the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Infrastructure spending plan that is just tax breaks for Trump’s friends, and a tax reform plan that may raise taxes on the middle class are all affronts to the financial wellness of our customers. Trump’s Tax plan has been published and analyzed-it benefits top earners the most-as much as 7% and only 0.6% on the bottom quintile.

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“A single parent who’s earning $75,000 and has two school-age children, they would face a tax increase of over $2,400,” Batchelder says. That’s if they had no child-care deductions; the increase in taxes comes partly because the Trump plan eliminates the $4,000 exemption for each person in a household.

Source: NPR, Who Benefits from Donald Trump’s Tax Plan

Facts matter. The truth matters. It matters that the Obamacare repeal and replace plan will leave more people without health insurance. President Trump may try to shower himself with praise after the Obamacare repeal and claim that the replacement is “terrific!” We the People, need to embrace the truth and recognize that the “shower of praise” isn’t rain-it’s something entirely different.

Ashe v. PNC Goes to SCOTUS

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Paying for the Right to Work

President-elect Donald Trump made a deal with the CEO of United Technologies to keep some US jobs from moving to Mexico. At stake were 2000 jobs moving from a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, Indiana that manufactures air conditioners down to Mexico where labor is 80% cheaper. The nuts and bolts of the deal where that Indiana Governor and Vice President-elect Mike Pence promised $7 million dollars in tax benefits to Carrier. Carrier promised to keep approximately 800 jobs in the US. Moreover, Carrier also plans to invest $16 million in automation which would eventually eviscerate the remaining jobs at the plant. Additionally, this deal left hundreds of workers at a nearby Carrier plant in Huntington out in the cold.

United Technologies CEO admitted in an interview with Jim Cramer that 10% of his company’s revenue comes from government contracts. Hence, President-elect Trump actually had huge leverage. Yet, this was a sweetheart deal for Carrier including tax breaks , positive press, and increased profits for shareholders..

What about the workers?

The union leader at the plant, Chuck Jones, was not even consulted or invited to the bargaining table. Moreover, Chuck Jones called Donald Trump out for “lying his ass off” regarding the number of jobs saved. President-elect Trump has taken to Twitter to call Chuck Jones out by name and criticize him. Mr. Jones is receiving death threats  – for telling the truth about the deal and expressing concern for the workers who will still be laid off. I think that Mr. Trump has taken union-bashing to a presidential level. Trump’s next tweets went on to claim that unions are the reason why American jobs are being shipped overseas – a blatant lie.

This Deal Doesn’t Scale

Critics like (surprise, surprise) Sarah Palin have come out and said this deal is just “crony capitalism”. Will Trump starting picking up the phone and calling CEOs to offer more deals? Does this deal create a perverse incentive for CEOs to announce moves overseas in search of tax breaks and other government goodies? This deal simply doesn’t scale. Globalization encourages companies to seek out more favorable regulations and low-cost labor. Innovation, cost-cutting initiatives and automation exacerbate the job-crunch from globalization.

Moreover, Trump is promising more benefits to corporations including eliminating environmental regulations, allowing corporations to repatriate money overseas, and lowering the top marginal corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. The funny thing is that the effective corporate tax rate was 19.4% between 2008 to 2012 and some corporations little or no tax at all.

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Source: White House Historical Tables

The reality is that the burden of paying taxes has shifted dramatically  from corporations to individuals. The Revenue Act of 1916 established annual income taxes in the United States. Between the inception of the annual tax to the 1960s, individuals and corporations contributed roughly the same amount in U.S. Federal taxes. The 1:1 ratio of individual and corporate tax burdens ran away in the 70s and 80s. The ratio as of 2014 is 6:1. Yes, individuals contribute 6 times the amount that corporations contribute in U.S. Federal taxes. This does not take into account Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, state taxes, property taxes, or sales and use taxes. Moreover, this data does not account for the fact that some S Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, and Sole Proprietors allow profits and losses to flow through their personal income taxes. The raw deal for the American people is that we must engage in a race to the bottom with weakened environmental regulations, lower pay, reduced benefits and greater tax benefits to “enable” corporations to compete with globalization and automation. Americans must literally pay for the right to work.

The Millennial Vote

Most UK millennials voted for to remain in the European Union and most US millennials voted for Hillary Clinton. Nationalism, economics, and passion against immigration and loss of traditional culture where a major part of the discussion in the UK referendum and the US election. Why do you think that more millennials voted against Brexit and Trump? What does this say about how millennials perceive the future?

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Take A Closer Look

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Keep Your Head

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you”

Excerpt from IF by Rudyard Kipling

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It would be an understatement to say that this has been an unpredictable, crazy and extremely negative election cycle. The good news is that we have only 5 days left! Additionally, America has been through tough election cycles in the past  including  hanging chads (Bush-Gore 2000), campaigns with divisive rhetoric (a la Game Change/2008), and even during a civil war (Lincoln 1860). Cooler heads shall prevail.

The media is pitching the story of a horse race and tightening polls. Yes, national polls are tightening. Yet, that’s not how the Electoral College works. A presidential candidate must win 270 of 538 electoral college votes that are granted based on popular vote by state. Organizations like FiveThirtyEight and the Princeton Election Consortium provide predictions derived from running simulations of state polls weighted by accuracy and sample size.

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I am personally a registered Independent and not backing either the Democratic or Republican candidate ( I am personally no fan of either). Nonetheless, numbers are numbers. Hillary Clinton’s probability of success has decreased since FBI Director Comey’s no-investigation, investigation news. Yet, she is still greatly favored to win on November 8th. We can all breathe a sigh of relief on November 9 and enjoy at least 2 years of campaign-free life.

The US election cycle is 596 days long or approx. 2 years from the primaries to national election day. A good idea may be to follow the lead of countries like the United Kingdom (139 days), Canada (78 days) or Japan (12 days by law) to limit the election cycle. Check out Sheryl Crow’s Make It Short petition. At the end of the day, we have the democracy that we accept (or demand). It’s time that we demanded a lot more from politicians (and each other).