“TRUMPENOMICS”

First, let’s deal with the “500 pound gorilla” in the room.  I will stipulate that, on a personal basis, there is a lot to dislike about President Trump.  He can be inappropriate, arrogant and boorish.  His off-the-cuff tweets can and have been offensive to some.  Sometimes, he will say things tongue-in-check that are meant to be facetious that some people will take literally and misinterpret as offensive and inappropriate.  He definitely rubs some people the wrong way.  All that said, I will repeat what I and many others have been saying since Mr. Trump first declared his candidacy.  PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT HE DOES, NOT WHAT HE SAYS.

With respect to the upcoming mid-term elections the first thing one must realize is I A A T E.  It’s all about the economy.  History shows that most of the time, absent an existential external threat people vote their pocketbooks.  To quote the late Casey Stengel “you could look it up.”  The oft-used expression “are you better or worse off today than you were four years ago” resonates today as well as it did when it was first uttered by Candidate Ronald Reagan in 1984.

So, let’s analyze President Trump’s record with respect to the economy.

Unemployment/Job Creation – According to USA Today and other sources the May unemployment rate declined to 3.8%, a level not seen since 1969.  When Mr. Trump took office the rate was 4.8%.  Moreover, USA Today cited the BLS report for May that the economy added 223,000 jobs in the month.

Unemployment is even shrinking among traditionally hardcore unemployed groups.  For example, the same report revealed that unemployment among AAs had declined to 5.9%, the lowest percentage ever recorded.  The rate for Hispanics declined to 4.9%; for teens, 12.8%.  Reporting in CNNMoney, Nathaniel Meyerson disclosed that the unemployment gap between whites and AAs had shrunk dramatically, and year over year wages were 2.7% higher, a modest increase, to be sure, but better than before.

Moreover, Meyerson characterized the economy as “strong” with a “tight labor market.”  He added that “job openings were at a record high, and businesses were hungry for workers.”

Regarding job growth Josh Wright, chief economist at the software company iCMS, stated that employers are “digging deeper into the pool of [the] unemployed.”  He added, “the US economy has an incredible head of steam.”

Tempering all this good news somewhat, the same USA Today article denoted that the “labor force participation rate,” the percentage of Americans working or looking for work, declined to 62.7%, and cautioned that if the economy’s growth (2.3% in 2017) were to continue to accelerate, inflation could become an issue.  However, I don’t believe inflation is a cause for concern right now, and I should like to denote that we should expect the labor force to decline prospectively as baby boomers retire.

One final point, the areas of greatest growth have been in the blue collar, working class fields of construction, manufacturing and healthcare. Thus, the greatest benefit has been going to the very constituency that Mr. Trump’s critics have been maintaining his policies would hurt.

Stock Market – According to Market Watch the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 32% during 2017.  On January  20, 2017, when Mr. Trump took office it stood at 19,805.  Yesterday, it closed at 24,843.

What is the significance of this for the country?  First of all, some 43 million households, most of them consisting of working class people, own one or more IRAs or other retirement accounts.  So, those results are relevant to the abovementioned “Are you better or worse off…” question.

Secondly, the stock market is a leading economic indicator. Therefore, the investment community is betting on a further improvement in the economy. As the late president JFK famously intoned, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” One could question whether or not this level of optimism is due solely to President Trump’s policies, but, in my opinion he should get the lion’s share of the credit.  You know that if the economic results were different he would get the blame.

Tax Reform – President Trump and his supporters have been extolling the benefits of his tax reform package for months, and his critics have been doing their best to discredit it as a huge giveaway for the rich.  For example, Nancy Pelosi famously, or, perhaps, infamously, denigrated the $1,000 bonuses some employers had paid to their workers as “crumbs.”  This quote illustrated how insensitive and out of touch the Dem leadership is, and I believe Dem candidates will regret it in November.

I urge you not to believe the critics.  By now, many of you have seen tangible evidence of its effect in the form of higher take home pay, a better job, and/or an increase in your retirement accounts.  What amounts to “crumbs” for Ms. Pelosi amounts to real money to most of us.

Perhaps, the most significant part of his tax package was the reduction of the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% (with a special lower rate for repatriated funds).  A recent World Economic Forum survey identified high tax rates as the most problematic factor in doing business.  (One does not have to be a tax expert to realize this, just have common sense.)

I expressed my opinion of the tax package in an earlier blog, and there is no need to repeat myself now. However, an objective person would have to concede that the early returns have been very positive.  Many international companies have announced their intention to repatriate profits currently being held in foreign locations to avoid the onerous 35% corporate tax rate. The Business Insider characterized this as a “tidal wave of internationally-held cash.” According to Citigroup this amounts to some $2.5 trillion. Goldman Sachs estimates that approximately $250 billion of that amount is likely to be repatriated to take advantage of the lower tax rate.

The expectation is that this cash will be used to (a) reinvest in the business, (b) increase employment, (c) pay bonuses, and/or (d) buy back company stock.  Any of these would have a beneficial effect on the economy. Indeed, several major corporations have already weighed in.

For example, Apple, which has reported it has some $250 billion stashed overseas, announced it expects to repatriate most of those funds, expand its physical plant and create 20,000 new jobs; AT&T has paid $1,000 bonuses to in excess of 200,000 employees and pledged to invest $1 billion domestically; Comcast also paid $1,000 bonuses and announced it intends to invest “in excess of $50 billion” on infrastructure over the next five years; Fifth Third BankCorp and Wells Fargo announced they will increase their minimum wage to $15. Workers should already be seeing the benefits of the reduced tax rates for individuals in their paychecks.

CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, I believe any objective person would conclude that “Trumpenomics” has been very beneficial to the country.  After all, who wouldn’t be pleased to have a better job and more money in their pocket. Yes, I wish Mr. Trump’s personality were more “presidential,” but assuming you can’t have both, which would you want?

Please answer the following question:  If you had to choose a surgeon to save your life, would you select a nice, polite, professional-appearing doctor who is an average surgeon or a nasty, arrogant, SOB who is an exceptional surgeon?

I think the answer is obvious.  Trump haters, like, for example, the shrill far left harpies on The View, CNN, and MSNBC, (and we all know who they are) should take a figurative “chill pill” and enjoy the fruits of his policies.

And, please, leave his family alone.  Families should be out of bounds, especially children.  You wouldn’t have countenanced criticism of Chelsea, Melania or Sasha.

 

 

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HEDY LAMARR

From time to time, I receive requests from one of my readers for a blog on a specific topic.  I am only too happy to oblige.  So, Rich, thanks for the suggestion, and this one’s for you.

Some of you may be familiar with Hedy Lamarr as an old-time actress.  Indeed, she was a sensation in Germany in the early and mid-1930’s and a moderately successful actress in Hollywood from the late 1930’s until 1958, performing in some 30 movies.  Most of them were rather pedestrian.  Perhaps, the best known in the US were Boom Town, with Clark Gable, and Sampson and Delilah, with Victor Mature.  Ironically, she turned down the Ingrid Bergman role in Casablanca, which might have made her a big star.  But, in reality, acting was not Hedy’s greatest contribution to society.  Her greatest success came as an inventor.

Hedwig Eva Maria Kessler was born on November 14, 1914 in Vienna.  Her family was well-to-do.  Her father was a director of a bank, and her mother was a pianist.  Both of her parents were of Jewish ancestry, but Hedy’s mother had converted to Catholicism, and Hedy was raised as a Christian.

As a child, Hedy was drawn to movies.  As a teenager she dropped out of school to pursue a career as an actress.  She performed in a few German productions.  Her most notable role was in the movie entitled Ecstasy (1933), in which she appeared totally nude.  Needless to say, that was extremely shocking in 1933.  It made her world famous, and brought her to the attention of MGM’s chief, Louis B. Mayer, who promptly signed her to a contract.  It was Mayer who changed her last name to Lamarr, supposedly in honor of silent film star Barbara La Marr.

Hedy made her US debut in 1938 and, over the next 20 years, she appeared in some 25 movies, but few of them were successful and resonate at all today.  She had a reputation of being, as she, herself, put it, “difficult.”  The renowned costume designer, Edith Head, considered her one of the most problematic actresses she had to work with in her long and distinguished career.

Many considered her to be among the most beautiful actresses of her era.  Supposedly, in the 1940s her profile was the most frequently requested by women who were having plastic surgery.  Unfortunately, her great beauty did not translate into professional success.  After WWII her career began to wane.  In 1958 she retired from acting.

Hedy was married six times and bore three children – two sons and one daughter.  Her first husband was Friedrich Mandl, a wealthy arms merchant and manufacturer whom she married in 1933.  They were an unlikely pair on many levels – (1) their respective occupations had little in common, (2) their wide age gap, (she was 18; he was 33.), but most of all, (3) Mandl’s close association with Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler.  I don’t know what they thought of her Jewish heritage or what she thought of their Fascism.

In any event, Hedy soon became very unhappy in her marriage.  Mandl was very overbearing and kept her a virtual prisoner in his castle.  As Hedy recalled “I knew very soon that I could never be an actress while I was his wife….  He was the absolute monarch in [our] marriage…. I was like a doll.  I was like a thing, some object of art, which had to be guarded – and imprisoned- having no mind, no life of its own.”  Wow!  Eventually, she ran away disguising herself as her maid.  She fled to Paris and, eventually emigrated to the US.  She became a naturalized citizen in 1953.

Being a woman, she was considered to be an unlikely inventor in those years, and her ideas were dismissed by the contemporary scientific community.  The thinking of the day was how could a woman, and a beautiful one at that, possibly make a meaningful contribution to science.  During WWII she applied for membership in the National Inventors’ Council.  A few of its members dismissively suggested she could be more useful selling war bonds.  In other words, “Go away.  Don’t bother us.  Leave the science to the men.”

As I said, her bigger and more enduring contribution to society was as an inventor. What was the genesis of her ideas?   Perhaps, it was from being around her arms dealer husband, but, more likely she just had a natural gift for it.  Think about it.  She had no formal training.  Essentially, she was self-taught.  She loved to tinker in her spare time.   Two of her early inventions were an improved traffic light and a tablet that would fizz and dissolve in water.  Sound familiar?  Alka Seltzer, anyone?

During WWII she came up with a military application that could have been very useful to the Navy.  Radio-controlled torpedoes, which were a new and effective weapon, were prone to jamming.  Hedy and an associate, composer George Antheil, had the idea for a frequency-hopping signal that would render the torpedoes virtually impervious to jamming.  They even patented it.  However, the Navy expressed no interest.  Probably, they didn’t trust something developed by “outsiders.”  Too bad.  It could very likely have been useful.  As a footnote to this story, the Navy did commence using a version of their invention in the early 1960s.

Incredibly, the principles of this technology contributed to the development of Wi-Fi, cell phones, and Bluetooth.  All this, from an amateur with no formal training who just liked to “tinker.”  Unfortunately, Lamarr and Antheil did not profit from this as their patent had expired.

CONCLUSION

The later years of Hedy’s life were, to put it mildly, not kind to her.

  1. She was arrested for shoplifting twice – in LA and later in Florida.
  2. She became estranged from her sons.
  3. She became addicted to pills.
  4. In a vain attempt to maintain her renowned beauty she turned to plastic  surgery, but the results were, in the words of Wikipedia, “disastrous.”
  5. Hedy valued her privacy.  She lived in virtual exclusion.  Her only means of communication with the outside world was by telephone.  Consequently, she lamented that the 1974 comedy, Blazing Saddles, in which producer Mel Brooks created a character named “Hedley Lamarr” had severely infringed on her privacy.  Brooks, who reportedly was a big fan of Lamarr’s claimed he had done it as an homage to Lamarr and that she Lamarr “never got the joke.”  Nevertheless, the studio issued an apology and settled out of court.

As sometimes happens, recognition came belatedly.

  1. In 1960 she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  2. In 1997 she received an award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for her work in spread-spectrum technology.
  3. In 2008 the lives of Lamarr and Antheil were featured in an off-Broadway play entitled Frequency Hopping.
  4. In 2010 The New York Public Library exhibit, Thirty Years of Photography, featured a topless Hedy Lamarr, circa 1930.
  5. In 2011 the Science Channel featured Lamarr’s and Antheil’s frequency-hopping spread spectrum invention in one of its programs.
  6. According to actress, Anne Hathaway, who played the “Catwoman” in the 2012 movie, The Dark Knight Rises, her character was based on Lamarr.
  7. Hedy was inducted into the National Inventors’ Hall of Fame, posthumously, in 2014.

Hedy passed away on January 19, 2000 in Casselberry, FL.

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