Despite the obvious……Team Trump claims a great week while insisting no crime has occured?


cartoon courtesy of David Brown studios (Los Angeles Sentinel)

“After two years and millions of pages of documents (and a cost of over $30 million) no collusion!” Donald Trump – Dec. 7, 2018
“If the President puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russia connection,” the White House spokesman insisted during a contentious exchange with reporters.
He said every official that’s been briefed on the matter has said there’s no sign of “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia.”  Sean Spicer March 2017
“from what we know on the public record, Mueller has failed to prove the Trump-Russia collusion that he was appointed to investigate 19 months ago.” Fox News

“I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no investments in Russia, none whatsoever. I don’t have property in Russia. A lot of people thought I owned office buildings in Moscow. I don’t have property in Russia … I built a great company, but I’m not involved with Russia. I have had dealings with them over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago. I had the Miss Universe pageant which I owned for quite a while. I had it in Moscow a long time ago, but other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia.” Donald Trump


[Postscript]  This was a critical week for a few of Donald Trump’s close allies who have pled guilty and simply are waiting for their sentencing.  The filings regarding Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Michael Cohen provide the public a better picture of what occurred during the 2016 presidential campaign.  Despite emphatic communication from Trump supporters, their claim is despite the filings no crime has been committed and proves people are out to get Donald Trump simply because he won the election!

In the meantime, those who swore the SC investigation is a witch-hunt or it would end in a few days……might want to wake up and stop their prognostication.

.

Both mortgage rates and applications jump


This morning the benchmark 30-year mortgage jumped eleven basis points and came in at 4.15%.  Likewise, mortgage applications also increased almost five percent from week over week reporting.  As the economy continues to pick up steam consumers can expect to see rates increase accordingly as they are cyclical in nature and move based on a variety of economic factors.

Also, it is noted consumer confidence has improved.  Combined with the heralded tax cut and the recent announcement of companies providing bonuses to employees, the result is more household cash to work with.  Some analyst caution the giddiness being reported about the bonuses and cuts.  Just this morning Home Depot joined the list of companies who will provide bonuses to eligible staff to the tune of up to $1,000.  For most, the additional cash might seem like a great windfall but in the larger picture higher interest rates or higher cost of goods will reduce perceived savings.

Short term gain, long-term loss

Could the tax cuts touted by Donald Trump be another one of his “slight of hand” hustles?   Throwing a bone to average people, while he and his elite group escape with the real riches?

Let, take a look.  As an example, assuming a mortgage of $200,000, prior to the tax cuts rates where around 3.90%.  Compared with today’s mortgage survey release of 4.15%, the difference is 25 basis points here is the bottom-line.

 

3.90% principal and interest  = $943

4.15% principal and interest = $972

The difference is a motley $29 per month which seems nominal.  However annually it is $348 and factoring seven years (which is the average time consumers keep their mortgage) the result is $2,436.  So, while the bonuses are great in today’s dollars, it is more than wiped out based on higher cost.

 

Short term gain, long-term loss

There is a long-standing political debate on what effect the tax cut has for the “average” family that typically lives paycheck?  No doubt in the capital society which we live in it is great to receive extra money such as bonuses or tax cuts, however the issue for many is sustainability or how long it will last?

 


The jump is interest rates is one sign attributed to the increase in mortgage applications.  On one hand consumers may have extra money but on the other hand those who are in the market for a refinance or new mortgage realize any delay in making an application or locking in a rate may subject themselves to higher movement or additional cost to their budget.


The mortgage rates which are reflected are from the Freddie Mac weekly rate survey.  The mortgage application data is from the Mortgage Bankers Association from the “Mortgage Application Weekly Survey.”


Rate recap

January 25, 2018

30-Yr FRM 15-Yr FRM 5/1-Yr ARM
Average Rates 4.15% 3.62% 3.52%
Fees & Points 0.5 0.5 0.4
Margin N/A N/A 2.75

Trump administration comes up short on first jobs report of 2018


The Trump administration woke up this morning knowing many eyes and ears would be focused on Michael Wolff’s scathing new book “Fire and Fury.”  In the past several days regardless of how they have attempted to dismiss it as full of crap, fake news or otherwise unreliable, their strategy has backfired as even with the bitter cold in the east coast, the public is snatching up the book in record numbers.

Customer at book store in D.C. Photo credit ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Many supporters of Donald Trump and his administration cry foul that the media refuses to focus on all of the great things they are accomplishing.  The problem with that narrative is perhaps more focus would be given on accomplishments and positive news if Trump and his administration didn’t have so many self-inflicted issues which become newsworthy, thus journalist and reporters have an ethical obligation to report that, as well of other issues of the presidency!

 

The book Fire and Fury is just one example that is blocking great news such as the soaring stock market.  The other may be the January jobs report which was released this morning by the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).   Unfortunately, the 148,000 jobs reported in December fell 42,000 short of projections.  While the news is not alarming or worthy of concern, it does present an awkward sign for a person such as Trump who likes to boast of his success

 

The reduction in numbers have been attributed to the decline of jobs in the retail sector.

 

“A little bit of a disappointment when you only get 2,000 jobs out of the government and get retail at the absolute busiest time of the year losing 20,000 jobs. It just goes to show the true struggle that traditional brick and mortar is having now,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

 

Just today while discussing President Trump, nationally acclaimed journalist David Gregory reported on CNN, “He is his own worst enemy.”

One more critical point and indicative of Donald Trump’s communication style is this afternoon on his way to Camp David but taking time to have an impromptu chat with the media belted out, “the jobs report released this morning is good.”  A perflexing comment when you compare January 2016 data while President Obama was in office as the numbers were 151,000 but better than the 148,000!

“Never apologize, never back down, never admit you were wrong, use every means possible toward achieving your ends,” Donald Trump as private citizen

Read the full BLS report HERE

What in the hell is Net Neutrality: Donald Trump’s continued revenge?


Some who were in attendance at the 2011 Correspondent’s Ball have suggested it was that event which convinced Donald Trump revenge was the only remedy to the humiliation Present Obama dumped on him.  On that chilly night in April Obama’s team of writers had him buzzing better than the late Richard Pryor or even the late Redd Foxx as he had the entire room in laughter while chastising Trump over his ill-advised birther crusade.

 

As Trump was forced to sit in his chair all the while seething, you could see his mind was plotting the next move.  During the 2016 presidential campaign he swore to his supporters that if elected he would take on an aggressive strategy of attempting to rescind any order approved by Barack Obama.  Interestingly, even as his supporters wildly cheered his proclamations, they were not aware or didn’t pay attention that some of those orders actually benefitted them!

 

Nevertheless, Trump was determined and hell-bent on getting even.  Fast forward to the holiday season of 2017 and we see first hand how Trump is obsessed with getting even with Obama, as he can’t find enough orders to rescind while suggesting they ALL were terrible.

 

The latest charade is the Net Neutrality issue.  It doesn’t matter that in 2015 the Federal Communications Committee approved a guideline committing to equal access to the internet.  With a majority in hand the Committee led by Ajit Pai felt obliged to help Trump in his quest to remove yet another Obama order.  In the guise of increasing competition or the notion that any regulation is bad for consumers, on Thursday, December 14th the Committee  voted along party lines to remove net neutrality guidelines.

Commission’s Statement

 

The beneficiaries are the large communications companies such as A.T.& T, Verizon, Sprint and others known as internet service providers (ISP’s).  The result of the vote means they now can manipulate internet speed which will affect traffic and in many cases, send a signal to consumers to be prepared for a price hike.

 

As simple as Net Neutrality is, it just sounds complicated.  No doubt there is always room for improvement and yes, those consumers who use more than others should be expected to pay more.  Surely, you can’t blame the ISP’s for having the desire to charge you for services which you use.  The rub is consumers already have the option of improving internet speed by the tiered pricing structures  ISP’s have.

At the same time the entire focus of net neutrality was to make the internet accessible for all, not to use it as a commodity to penalize those who simply lack the resources to obtain.  Internet pricing has moved just like cable television.  What seemed like a bargain at $29 per month has morphed to over $100, $200 and more.  Companies offer a variety of rebuttals to justify the price increases, so as long as your budget allows you to pay, you simply keep moving.   The ire for those protesting the commission’s vote is the core question; what happens to those who are priced out?

 

While the commission did indeed vote to rescind Obama’s 2015 guideline, it appears the last word on this issue has not been spoken.  Just after the vote, public outcry reached a fever pitch as people from across the nation, even those who claim support for Trump have started their plea for Congress to overturn the commission’s ruling.

Protestors claim the fight has just begun

For those such as Trump, the issue does not appear to be what is in the best interest of the public as evidenced by public opinion.  The issue for them is to use elements of our government as tools for revenge.

Richard Cordray:  Partisan politics or service to the people?


U.S. President Barack Obama nominates Richard Cordray a former attorney general of Ohio to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as Elizabeth Warren, the Obama administration adviser who is setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, listens during an announcement at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, July 18, 2011. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

If you thought president Barack Obama was a person the Republican party despised, you are correct.  Or, in addition to him, you may have noticed that Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren have also gotten in the craw of the party?   And, in Warren’s case, even Donald Trump takes great glee to call her out of her name.  If this is so, you may have missed the lad by the name of Richard Cordray who was selected the first official director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, after Warren set up the frame-work and subsequently trekked back to Massachusetts to reclaim Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat.

 

Cordray has caused much consternation for the Republicans.  You would think the remnants of the 2008 financial meltdown was only felt by those who claimed not to be Republicans (i.e., Democrats, Independents, Green Party, etc.)?  Cordray is the director of the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CFPB).  Created out of the Dodd-Frank legislation designed to offer consumer protection from banks and those in the financial industry, their mandate was simple.  Yet, many and particularly those who identify as Republican policy makers have gone to great measures to reduce the agency’s effectiveness and have been vocal that such protection is no longer needed.  It’s the same example, anything the other team did, especially if named Obama must be dismantled or vilified as ineffective.

Fret no more!  Today Richard Cordray announced he is stepping down from the CFPB and plans to leave by the end of this month.  He has done a remarkable job to “steady the ship” in some very turbulent political waters.  His eyes are laser-focused on moving back to Ohio and to throw his name in the hat for the run of the Governor’s race.

“The new director of the CFPB must be someone with a track record of protecting consumers and holding financial firms responsible when they cheat people. This is no place for another Trump-appointed industry hack.”   Elizabeth Warren

Since the director of the CFPB is an appointed position, it will be interesting who the Trump administration appoints or even if they feel bold enough to try to eliminate the agency altogether?    It’s one thing to be partisan, as if there is only one way to do things, it’s another to use government as a tool to protect the people and that is all of the people, especially those who are not in your party.

Review: Ta-Nehisi Coates “We Were Eight Years in Power – An American Tragedy”


Ta-Nehisi Coates “We Were Eight Years in Power – An American Tragedy” is a must read for those who desire to stay informed in our current environment.

CLICK PHOTO ABOVE TO VIEW ENTIRE VIDEO.  (L-R), Ta-Nehisi Coates, author and national correspondent for The Atlantic, and moderator Michele Norris, freelance journalist and author, participate in The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, DC hosted “A Conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates: We Were Eight Years in Power”, on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto)

We Were Eight Years in Power” showcases Coates’ voice who is a Gen X’r but offers credible perspectives as seen through the African-American lens, or at least from those such as his. The book weaves eight essays and demonstrates a new thought of how our world is changing. The notion of Barack Obama running for president, let alone thinking he could get elected seemed like a lark, if not an impossible reality to so many. Yet, people like Coates and later generations such as millennial’s write with pride as Obama defied the odds to become President and successfully completed two terms. Starting as a Blogger, Coates joined the team at the Atlantic and in a short period has taken off.

The content of the book takes you on a journey of historic reality. Some may be troubled from how Coates portrays racism and how it has shaped our culture. He admits there has been progress but while so many dismiss the gains as we are “so better off,” his point is to remind you of the vestiges created from the notion of using race as a benchmark.

Regardless of whether you agree with some of Coates perspectives or not, the book is chalk-full of personal examples and other documented facts which allow you to better appreciate his writing style. He is unapologetic and reminds you how African-American’s have risen to tremendous levels of success, despite the barriers of how life is conducted in the United States.

Through his credibility as a journalist/writer he was given the opportunity to be in the company of Barack Obama. The first meeting morphed into a relationship where then president Obama invited him to the White House for more robust discussion centered around race and progress. Coates writes how much he treasured the invite and subsequent relationship.

The chapter “My President is Black” came from an essay which received international acclaim. Despite your feelings of Barack Obama, Coates allows you to better understand the rise and how he and first lady Michelle took the notion of being the first African-American president with pride and conducted themselves impeccably.

As this review is being written, Coates is concluding his book tour. Also, the recent elections of November 7, 2017 which brought a solid rebuke to Donald Trump, his politics and the rhetoric he spews is a point Coates makes, still in disbelief the voting public elected him as the 45th president is very interesting. The book references this point with a unique twist. Coates brings it home by helping the reader understand the dilemma and pressures Obama had to contend while, while Trump with just the reality of being a “white man” desiring to be president never had to deal with the continuousness. His primary issue was brought on by his own actions, not from systemic racism.

Coates admits not trying to be a “voice” for people or causes, but through his writing and how he has penned this book you quickly are thought to elevate him to a credible voice, which will be prominent for years to come.

The book which is a tad under 400 pages is a quick read. The good news is each chapter is its own separate essay and does a very good job of referencing how Coates saw things during the eight years of Barack Obama’s presidency. It is a worthy investment for your library, especially if part of your frequent communication is on politics and race, and you truly desire a different perspective.

Janet Yellen:  time to move on


Today, Donald Trump appointed Jerome Powell as the next chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve system (Fed) replacing Janet Yellen.  The announcement was expected as Powell must now prepare himself to go through the gauntlet called confirmation.  Since he is already part of the board there should be no surprises and he is expected to be in place when Yellen’s term ends in February.

“I congratulate my colleague Jay Powell on his nomination to be Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Jay’s long and distinguished career has been marked by dedicated public service and seriousness of purpose. I am confident in his deep commitment to carrying out the vital public mission of the Federal Reserve. I am committed to working with him to ensure a smooth transition.” Janet Yellen, 11/2/17

 

Yellen was appointed as chair by President Barack Obama in 2014 and her term officially ends February 3, 2018.

Generated by IJG JPEG Library

Prior to taking over the chair’s functions she was second in command under then Fed chair Ben Bernanke.   Many in the financial sector applaud her tenure as being a steady force in guiding the United States monetary policy.  Even though the position is supposed to be non-partisan, her primary criticism came from those on the opposite side of President Obama who took fault with anything and everything he proposed.  Yet, like most things history has the final say and the economy is in much better shape as she exits – stage left!

Not fake news

Her critics and several others have short memories or blatant amnesia as they forget about a decade ago, the United States economic condition was becoming quite perilous and eventually exploded in 2008 resulting in hardships for millions of citizens and people around the globe.  It was through focus and commitment that Bernanke and his team as well as the leadership of President Obama who accepted the daunting task of stabilizing the markets.  The rest is history and the residual effect is an economy which has regained its footing, including a stock market which has grown to unprecedented levels.

Fed rate remains unchanged

Yesterday the Fed’s Monetary Committee met and decided to maintain the fed discount rate, although it is still projected to increase before the end of the year.  The concern conveyed by members was acknowledgment the economy is moving is a positive direction.

As Yellen is preparing to move on the one concern being voiced is the GOP’s proposed tax reform bill.  Monetary policy is a methodical process and it takes extreme discipline to not allow partisan politics to be the guiding force to ensure normalization.

 

“That task could be complicated  by the GOP plan to inject huge stimulus into an already-healthy economy. Doing so may force the Fed to more aggressively raise rates to prevent the economy from overheating. “

33,000+ jobs lost in September


Photo courtesy of Getty Images. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

[Washington, DC] To the chagrin and frustration of Donald Trump and his administration, today the Bureau of Labor Statistics released employment data for September.  The decline was expected but goes against the mantra Trump spouted about the HUGE success workers would see once he was running things.

 

No one can predict natural disasters.  Hurricane season is common for the Caribbean and states which buffer against the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s something you can never get use too, however the magic of those states, territories and countries is why people choose to call it home.   Harvey and Maria packed a punch not seen in years.  The result was pure devastation and many workers were sidelined as whatever job they previously performed disappeared.

Unemployment rate dips to 4.2%

Even though job numbers dipped, there was good news as the unemployment rate slid to 4.2%.  These numbers are important as they affect the psyche of those in the workforce and have a direct impact on consumer confidence.

Trump is known for his bombastic rhetoric and marginalization of anything which places him in a negative context.  Ever since taking over as the president, he coined a new phrase to counter such news as “fake.”  He was warned repeatedly that running government is different from a family held business.    Yet, he boasted tremendous improvement that has never been seen before would occur!  The big difference is accountability and factual public data which will contradict even the most confident-appearing person.  While the clock is ticking, reality is setting in for many and they are pleading for his critics, “just to give him a chance.”

 

As we move into the fall season, October is also projected to be down as the employment effects of hurricane Maria will be announced.

The etiquette of Protesting: Respect or outright lack of Respect?


Students attending school are required to take United States history in the eighth grade.  The basic curriculum is intended to provide the fundamentals of how our government was created and how it has transitioned through the years.   Sadly, not everyone who took the class received a passing grade.  Or, perhaps they did at the time but as years have gone by they may have forgotten the basic tenets of what they learned, especially the facts of the United States constitution?

 

Protesting is a basic and fundamental privilege of citizenship. 

 

Protesting is a basic right covered in the first amendment.  It is very clear.  There is never a right time to protest.  The primary intent of protest is to raise awareness.  In doing so, some may feel institutions, symbols or things they view as sacred are being disrespected.  That is a false premise, especially with the Colin Kaepernik and the current NFL’s reaction.

Protest is meant to be disruptive.   Protesting is often non-violent, but it is not to be confused as a courteous gesture or something where the protestor’s say “excuse me.”

 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” First Amendment of the United States Constitution

 

 

Is Trump allowing Puerto Rico to be his “Katrina”?

 

The Colin Kaepernick protest started over a year ago.  Just this past week it picked up steam as Donald Trump felt it was his duty to admonish the NFL teams for showing support for Kaepernick and disrespecting the flag, the anthem and anything else determined by him to be patriotic.

 

 

In doing so, sadly Trump demonstrated his sheer ignorance of the first amendment.  His public outcry was done and played out while Puerto Rico and victims of the recent hurricanes are in desperate need for government intervention.    He has been stubborn to understand the genesis of the protest and instead has insisted the narrative he created is the truth; the protest disrespects the flag, the anthem and the military.

Worse, this week he and his administration have taken to the airwaves to report how well the recovery is going, specifically in Puerto Rico.  Unfortunately, reporters on the ground and spread over the island have been in stark contradiction to the administration’s assessment.

“They require policy guidance from the president on what he wants them to do,” Honore said while reacting to the administration’s slow response time. “I think that’s where the gap is. Should have been moving the military last Saturday, the president was out playing golf and twittering.” Lt.Colonel (retired) Russell Honoree

The question begs for many?  With human life at stake, why in the world is Trump so focused on the NFL and the player protest?  Yet, while he claims such patriotism, he has never served in the military and has taken glee in criticizing and making derogatory comments about those who indeed have served or who have lost loved ones while in military service!

Is this a diversion?   Has Trump found yet another wedge issue where people lose focus on his lack of legislative success?   Is it a coincidence that the majority of NFL players are African-American and the obvious factor of race is quite clear?  Football is a game.  The current situation in Puerto Rico is real life.  People have short memories but they tend to remember who was in office during natural disasters.    They remember their actions, as well as their inactions.

 

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former NFL player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.  Colin Kaepernik, August 29, 2016

 

Facts get in the way

 

Whatever motivation Trump felt to unleash his tirade against the NFL players or his insistence to go on twitter spewing irritation of the protestor’s actions, history will be the ultimate judge.  The United States is replete with examples of those who staged protest and at the time suffered tremendous public scorn.  Yet, as time elapsed and their actions were better understood they took on martyrdom status and many are in the annals of historic figures.

 

The notion of Kaepernick disrespecting the flag might be a plausible conclusion or might make sense and convince the most patriotic person he is subject to treason.?   This becomes truer for those who support Trump and his ideology.  They refuse to accept anything contrary to what they believe, or have been told by Trump that it is the truth.  The problem and this is where so many who blindly follow others leave you shaking your head; Kaepernick got the suggestion to kneel and continue his protest from a decorated Green Beret, Nate Boyer!!!!  Now how patriotic can that be?  Kaepernick headed his advice and to the chagrin of many, to this day, they have a very positive relationship.  Why is this important?  Because Boyer has a better understanding of the privileges of the first amendment better than Trump or those like him who feel it is okay to dismiss this basic fact.  Why do they dismiss this fact?  It appears the narrative does not jive with the way they see things.

“Until that flag represents what it is meant to represent, ” Colin Kaepernick, August 29, 2016

Homework assignment

For Trump and those who support his position I would plead they do some homework and understand what and why was Colin Kaepernick protesting in the first place?   To be generous they will be given one week to turn in their assignment.  LOL.  Second, they must study protest movements and get a handle of the strategies used in protest movements?   Again, protest is not meant to be comfortable.  However, as mentioned many are very peaceful.

 

Who qualifies as the protest police?

Who among us can claim to be the authority on acceptable protest?  Donald Trump?  The Military?  Further, who can dictate which symbols we allegedly treasure within our society that are off-limits to protest?

While there are many traditions within our society that we treasure, over the years and surely with the Kaepernick incident those on the opposite side of whichever issue is being protest swear outright disrespect and crying foul by interpreting the actions as unacceptable.

The genesis of the Kaepernik protest

What is ironic is it appears the very people claiming the flag, the anthem or even the military is being trampled care very little of why Kaepernick protest in the first place.  If they did care, surely their position may be changed as why they still may have a problem with what they view as a sacred symbol, in the final analysis they would have to conclude Kaepernick and all those who took a knee or didn’t take a knee, stood or didn’t stand, clap or didn’t clap are well within the protections of our constitution.

Donald Trump takes great pride as a successful businessperson.  Some might conclude he is a master manipulator.  He appears to relish in the notion of speaking for “the America people.”   Perhaps, but over the past several years it has been documented his commentary is strategic in creating a divide.  Oftentimes the divide is on racial lines or to stoke discontent among various groups.    Yet, as mentioned those who support his ideology are swayed by the rhetoric being fomented and have been conditioned to marginalize any other perspective.

 

The Bottom-line

All you have to know is a person has the right to protest and does not require approval or permission! 

It is also your right or reaction to dismiss or despise the method of a person’s protest.  Just because you don’t approve of the method of protest, does not mean you are right and the protestor is wrong.  The first amendment gives protection for both positions.

 

It can’t be stressed enough, assuming you are truly seeking an objective analysis on protest that it you feel the person is protesting something you hold sacred, it is your right to not support them.  Period!  But, you must be very careful in maligning them as in the end, you wind up trying to dictate behavior.  So, you can’t claim allegiance to the Constitution while refusing the basic core of protest.