WAS A NEW ONE.
A phishing phone call
kept us on the line until the caller got too nosey.
We thought we heard them all, including the "Hey, Grandpa, you'll
hever guess what happened." It was a scamster pretending to
be a grandson with a cold.
Friday we heard from someone claiming to be an agent of the Federal
court. He knew our name and said we had not appeared, as summoned, to
service on a jury the previous Monday morning. We replied we had never
NOT responded to a call to jury duty, and moreover, were exempt from
such duty on grounds of old age.
The caller said he had brought "our information" up on his
computer screen. "What is your date of birth?" he asked.
We weren't about to tell him, but asked him for a phone number so we
could "clear up this issue." He provided a number plus names
of two "agents" who could confirm the legitimacy of the
It would have been fun to take the bait and find out what our
"fine for non-appearance at court" would be and how the
scamster planned to collect it. But our curiosity doesn't run deep
enough to bother with it.
like citizens, are expected to live beyond their means.
many expect a Day of Reckoning.
“We’ve spent the money. The
concept of the debt limit is somewhat of a ridiculous concept.
I am hopeful that this is something Congress addresses before the
[summer] break. I think everybody understands we need to raise
the debt limit, and that’s something we’re going to do.” ~Steve
Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury
concept of the debt limit is somewhat of a ridiculous
concept" says Mr. Mnuchin.
a congressional vote on raising the public debt limit creeps
into the spotlight we''ll hear more suggestions about
eliminating the debt ceiling altogether and just borrow as
need to cover annual budget deficits. Someone will raise
the old saw, "After all, we only owe it to
This is not true, of course. We have borrowed and spent
the money. Our descendants, including the unborn, will be
stuck with the bill. The line shouldread "After all,
our chidren and grandchildren owe it to
| ITEM: "You’re
probably going to die with some debt to your name. Most people
do. In fact, 73% of consumers had outstanding debt when they
were reported as dead, according to December 2016 data provided
to Credit.com by credit bureau Experian. Those consumers carried
an average total balance of $61,554, including mortgage debt.
Without home loans, the average balance was $12,875."
acquaintance says that when he dies he wants to be "Five
dollars overdrawn at the bank." That's shorthand for
wanting to check out at almost break-even between assets and
hardly ever works that way. After
one's assets are sold to clear whatever debt remains the
residue, if any, goes to heirs. Happily, heirs may inherit
net assets, if any, but are not liable for unpaid debt
owed by the deceased's estate. It's up to Probate Courts
to iron out complications.
"A columnist’s job is to tell readers things that they already
believe. His function is purely confirmatory. What he confirms may be
nonsense, and often is, but this is irrelevant. There is after all
everywhere a boom market in nonsense." ~Fred ReedFred Reed.
"A boom in in nonsense,"
says curmudgeon Fred Reed , a columnist writing about
columnists. It's a timely touch at the moment columnists
are turning themselves upside down and sideways in attempts to explain
to we-the-people how awful Donald Trump is and how inept Republicans
are in attempting to replace Obamacare with something else.
We'd love to read a columnist arguing against the idea of the federal
government running an insurance scheme in the first place.
Anyone remember when insurance was bought in the hope it would seldom
MEDICAL INSURANCE PREMIUMS:
People don't want to spend too
much of their own money for medical services.
After the federal government got into the medical insurance business
people lost sight of the basic insurance principal - - that issuers of
the insurance have to bring in more money in premiums than it pays
out. This accounts for the mess Medicare and Medicaid have
become. It's not unusual for much of the population to rush to
the nearest ER for ingrown toenails and scraped knees.
Comedienne Ellen DeGeneres presented herself recently at an ER with a
dislocated finger. We haven't a clue what the total bill will
be, but a competent Doc-in-a-box could probably have re-set the finger
at a fraction of the cost of the Emergency Room with its costly
overhead. But with the flood of money available from third
parties...including "endless" funds from government, thrift
in buying medical services is rarely considered.
. . . so the prices continue to rise.
"University of Michigan
economist Mark Perry discovered illuminating numbers. From 1998 to 2016, the
overall inflation rate was 47.2%. But for medical care services,
prices went up 100%. And for hospital services, the inflation
rate was 177%." Medical Care Price Inflation
hot topic right now is not the steadily rising prices of medical
care but of the complication of subsidizing sickness care
INSURANCE. Generations of us have been taught that medical
care is a "right" whether we can pay for it or not,
and no one has much interest in the economics of the
issue. Suggest that insurance companies must clear a
profit in order to stay in business and eyes roll. Point
out that most customers (patients) of medical care pay only 10
percent or so of the actual of the cost after the insurance
providers have been billed and the eyes will roll some
all about money...as usual. Medicare, for instance, was
founded on the principal of more people paying into the fund
than drew payments from it. A well-intended idea ruined by
too many being attracted to a big pot of money. Think of
the providers who feel obliged to overcharge or the persistent
phone callers trying to sell you a back or knee brace promising
that if you're on Medicare it "won't cost you
We're lucky to live in the 21st century in which medical
knowledge and technology have become so far advanced that life
has been prolonged far beyond the norms of only a century
ago. Now we must figure out how to pay for it. One
thing that could make a huge difference would be for customers
(patients) to stop leaving everything to third parties and take
a keener interest in the prices of medical care. It would
also help if they put some effort into maintaining their own
health at a higher standard. Obesity should be the
national exception, not the rule.
"Take a look South
Carolina’s government pension plan, which covers roughly 550,000
people— one out of nine state residents — but is a staggering
$24.1 billion in the red." ~Zero Hedge
We'll go to our grave believing that excessive debt leads to
ruin. "Excessive" is the key word, here.
idea of spending money one doesn't have is well rooted. Students
borrow huge amounts of money for their college training in the belief
they'll land high paying jobs that will allow them to make good on
their obligations. It was an attractive idea when it was launched but now is in trouble, having run up on the
shoals of reality.
Pension plans are another example of programs launched on a rosy
scenario which now find themselves in big trouble. Where, for example,
will little ol' South Carolina find $24 billion it needs to put its
promises to pensioners in the black? It has boosted the cost of
participation for eligible state workers, but is still in the
Pensioners quite rightly expect government to make good on its solemn
promise to make good on the pension plan even it requires drawing on
general taxes - - yet layer upon layer of tax eventually builds to a
limit of what the public will pay. This is estimated to be roughly 50 percent of income, above which many
more people will become tax cheats. (By the time total tax
reaches 75 percent of income we'll ALL throw in the towel.)
Student debt, pension debt, public debt. . .it al must be paid, either
by the borrowers or the lenders. Prospects for future prosperity
seem not to be as bright as political leaders promise.
ITEM: " President Donald Trump made good on a long-time
conservative goal in his first proposed budget Thursday morning,
targeting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National
Endowments for the Arts and Humanities for complete
Well, no one expects President Trump's initial budget to get off
the ground. After all, the idea of cutting federal funds
to PBS, NPR, the Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, etc.,
etc., is unthinkable. How could a nation's citizens
appreciate art and enlightenment if the government didn't spend millions of tax dollars promoting these
On the other hand, if the military budget to be sharply
increased without adding to the budget deficit from whence will
offsetting cuts come? The liberal approach has been to let
the deficits run. The debate promises to be noisy and
This curious fact: The U.S. Constitution calls for funding
a Department of War but has nothing to say about spending tax
dollars to entertain the masses. Defenders of the status
quo will argue in support of NEA, et al, because of their
"vast educational programs." Harking back to the
Constitution, where is the mandate for the federal government to
spend tax dollars in overriding the public educational tax
of states, counties, and communities?
We await the furor with interest.
WILL IRRITATE THE ANTI-GOLD CROWD.
an overwhelming 56-13 margin, the Idaho House of
Representatives today voted to end all Idaho taxation on
precious metals, e.g. gold and silver coins and bars.
"Bill sponsor Representative Mike Moyle (R) and the entire
Republican caucus voted for the measure. If the
Republican-controlled Idaho Senate follows suit and Governor Butch
Otter (R) signs the bill, Idaho citizens will better be
able to use gold and silver as a form of savings which protects
against ongoing devaluation of America’s currency." Zero
One of these days this issue will wind up before the U.S. Supreme
Court, although decide if gold is
"money" is something jurists have avoided for a long
time. The hypocrisy of claiming a gold U.S. Eagle is
legal tender for only $50.00, while it simultaneously fetches well
over $1,200.00 in the market place, would be a juicy puzzle for
the superior courts.
Were you to pay taxes with a gold eagle or deposit one in your bank
account, it would be legally accepted at its face value -
$50.00. However, if you were given one for a piece of work for
somebody the IRS insists you report it as income at its market metallic value,
which is presently in excess of $1,200.00. No wonder jurists run
away when the subject is raised!
Ides of March had many economics newsletter writers predicting chaos
of one kind or another today. The changing status of the PUBLIC
DEBT CEILING for instance. It had been suspended in late
October, 2015, to be reinstated March 15th, 2017.
It's a problem that must
be faced...but not at this moment. It turns out that Treasury
Secretary Mnuchin has an arsenal of bookkeeping tricks to keep paying the
federal government's bills for a few more months. Congress must,
however, belly up to the question well before the year is out and
decide whether to drop public debt limitations altogether or set a new
ceiling that will let them run their usual budget deficits.
And this is the day the
Federal Reserve Open Market Committee is expected to nudge the federal
funds rate up by another fraction. Will the banks start paying
as much as 1 percent on checking account balances above a certain
level? Maybe. But with price inflation running at 2 percent or
higher, annually, those deposited dollars are losing purchasing power
at the rate of 1 percent or more each year.