Making Sure Your Help Gets to Hurricane Harvey’s Victims – (Issues at the Red Cross) – NYT

“A 2015 investigation by ProPublica and NPR documented the Red Cross’s glaring failure to account for how it spent the $488 million it raised in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, including such basics as how many people were assisted and how much money was spent on overhead.”

The comments are helpful. There are endorsements for the Salvation Army, The Houston Food Bank, and religious relief organizations like the Episcopal Fund for Relief.

There is an endorsement for the United Way, and another comment criticizing it. Everyone agrees that we have to spend time at Charity Navigator or Charity Watch.

Advertisements

At BlackRock- Machines Are Rising Over Managers to Pick Stocks – The New York Times

“Still, the monster in the mutual fund room by far has been Vanguard, which, via index funds and exchange-traded funds, has had historic inflows.Last year, for example, $423 billion left actively managed stock funds and $390 billion poured into index funds, according to Morningstar. Of that amount, Vanguard captured $277 billion, nearly tripling the amount that went to its nearest rival, BlackRock.”

Here is a colorful comment, which makes cents to me.

James Osborn

La Jolla, CA 51 minutes ago

Over 90% of fund managers do worse picking stocks than trained monkeys throwing their poop at a stock list. Hedge funds over the long term are getting killed by brainless index funds. And for this horrendously poor performance, these guys make millions a year? On top of that they still demand that their income (it’s just that because they don’t their own money on the line) be treated as capital gains? It’s the biggest theft of money in the history of the world. It’s no wonder that computers will take over their jobs. At least computers have a chance of doing as well, if not better than trained monkeys. Idiot fund managers and so-called investment bankers certainly can’t.

Buffett Asks Big Money: Why Pay High Fees? – The New York Times

““Much of the financial damage befell pension funds for public employees,” he wrote. “Many of these funds are woefully underfunded, in part because they have suffered a double whammy: poor investment performance accompanied by huge fees. The resulting shortfalls in their assets will for decades have to be made up by local taxpayers.”

For the past several years, Mr. Buffett has told anyone who will listen to avoid attempting to beat the stock market by investing in hedge funds or actively managed funds. Instead, he has counseled buying a low-cost S. & P. 500 index fund. (He has said he plans to advise the trustee of his estate after he dies to invest 90 percent of it in an S. & P. 500 index fund and the rest into government bonds on behalf of his wife.)

However, much of the biggest money in the nation hasn’t taken his advice and continues to pay enormous fees for underperformance.”

Profits Without Prosperity – by William Lazonick – Harvard Business Review

“Five years after the official end of the Great Recession, corporate profits are high, and the stock market is booming. Yet most Americans are not sharing in the recovery. While the top 0.1% of income recipients—which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives—reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity.

The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame. Consider the 449 companies in the S&P 500 index that were publicly listed from 2003 through 2012. During that period those companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees.”

Source: Profits Without Prosperity

Are Your Investments at Risk of Becoming Stranded Assets? | Saturna Sustainable Funds | Saturna Capital

“At one point or another, we have all heard the saying “out with old, in with the new.” We do not need to look too far in this modern technological age to find cogent examples, including: The telecommunications industry’s transition from landlines to cell towers and the subsequent ubiquitous use of personal electronic devices; The growing transition from large, desktop computers to lighter, smaller mobile devices; The evolution in how we consume information, from physical newsprint media to the internet.

In each example, a new industry or firm establishes market leadership, typically at the expense of an industry or firm that is not able to keep pace with the times. Investments in industries and firms unable to keep pace become “stranded assets.

“Creative Destruction

Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan used the term creative destruction in his 2007 memoir, The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World. Originally coined in Joseph Schumpeter’s Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942),¹ creative destruction denotes a “process of industrial mutation…that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.”² Mr. Greenspan expressed sympathy for the stresses and challenges that creative destruction can have on people’s lives in his July 2005 US Senate testimony to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, in stating, “The problem with creative destruction is that it is destruction, and there is a very considerable amount of turmoil that goes on in the process.”³

Source: Are Your Investments at Risk of Becoming Stranded Assets? | Saturna Sustainable Funds | Saturna Capital

Promises, Promises From AT&T – The New York Times

“AT&T’s $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner would transform it from a landline, wireless and satellite TV company into one of the most important media gatekeepers in the country, giving it a strong financial incentive to use its programming to hammer competitors.

The company agreed to pay Time Warner, which owns Warner Bros. studios, HBO, CNN, TNT and other TV channels, a 35 percent premium over its market value. AT&T executives say the deal would benefit its customers by leading to new innovations. But it would only be logical for the company to use Time Warner’s trove of movies and TV programming to keep and attract subscribers to AT&T while making it harder or more expensive for competing telecom and streaming companies to get access to that content.”

Source: Promises, Promises From AT&T – The New York Times

I am against this deal, for all the reasons above, and because I think AT&T is a horrible company.

Here is a useful comment:
Bruce Rozenblit is a trusted commenter Kansas City, MO 13 hours ago

“I viewed an extensive interview today on CNN.com with both CEO’s. The AT&T CEO kept using the words “mobile subscriber” over and over. He states that the future of delivering video is over phones and tablets, not the living room TV. OK now! It all fits together. AT&T has a huge base of wireless subscribers. Think of the increase in cash flow, revenue, if they start selling those customers video programming. Now, the plot thickens. AT&T is one of Time Warner’s biggest customers. Instead of sending vast amounts of cash outside of the company to Time Warner, AT&T can now essentially pay itself with that cash. It is buying it’s own product. The can then retain the profit from both components. This will give them much more cash to do ?????.

It’s a brilliant move for the business. It also gives them a tremendous increase in power in the marketplace. They will be able to more effectively wall off threats from Netflix, Amazon and other direct streamers as well as future threats from Google and Facebook.

For us the consumer, not so good. More money, more power concentrated in fewer hands. This is like Ford or GM owning the roads we drive on, collecting tolls, and then selling us the vehicles we use. All the while, they will keep telling us how much better off we all are. We have heard this story before.”

Reply 162 Recommended

Swift Opposition to Resurrection of AT&T Giant – The New York Times

“Over three decades ago, such was AT&T’s monopoly over the nation’s communications networks that the government forcefully shattered its empire.Now, as one of its successors again seeks a formidable business empire by buying Time Warner, lawmakers, analysts and advocacy groups are closely watching to see if the union, or any that follow in its wake, poses harm to consumers.Reaction to AT&T’s $85.4 billion purchase was swift — and, outside of Wall Street, full of skepticism. Much of the concern was rooted in how consumers have fared since Comcast bought NBCUniversal, a deal that provided a template for the consolidation of media and telecommunications.

Acquisitions in general raise warning signs for regulators because of a reduction in competition. But combining a telecommunications company with a media company, in particular, raises questions about whether consumers would have less choice because the conglomerate both creates its own content and provides the pipes that deliver both its own offerings and its competitors’.”

Source: Swift Opposition to Resurrection of AT&T Giant – The New York Times

I’ve been a disgusted ATT customer for many years. These folks are greedy bullies and scoundrels. All they seem interested in, is what the market will bear in price increases. What little I know of Time Warner is that she is a beautiful and talented woman. She should not sell her liberty to a profit pirate. The government should act like the mature parent, and stop this marriage, as bad for the community.

Apps That Make Saving as Effortless as Spending – The New York Times

“A new crop of electronic financial tools is trying to help Americans save.The fledgling apps are appealing to consumers like Brittney Gould, a 28-year-old retirement plan consultant in Rockville, Md. Ms. Gould dutifully maximizes automatic paycheck deductions to fund her own workplace 401(k) account. But for shorter-term savings, she uses the mobile app Qapital that lets users set multiple savings goals and have cash transferred into savings, based on rules the user sets.Users can, for instance, tell the app to save $5 every time they buy a latte.

Ms. Gould likes being able to customize her account. When she peeks at her iPhone to see how much she has accumulated for pet expenses, she sees a photo of her dog. “It’s more motivating, and meaningful,” she said. Since she began using the app last June, she has saved about $5,000.Qapital, along with apps like Digit, Dyme, Acorns and many others, strive to use mobile technology to make saving easy and automatic. Aiming mainly at a young clientele, the new tools offer an updated take on traditional, somewhat stodgy savings advice — start small, contribute regularly and take satisfaction as your balance grows — in an effort to make saving fun.”

Source: Apps That Make Saving as Effortless as Spending – The New York Times

Close My Tax Loophole, by Alan Patricof – The New York Times

“My fellow venture capitalists and private equity investors are paying close attention to the heated election-year rhetoric about the future of “carried interest,” which is the performance fee we charge to manage other people’s money. Carried interest is the fund manager’s share of the earnings from a profitable investment, normally paid on top of a much smaller management fee.

It’s also a subject of increasing political disfavor. Over the past year, every major presidential candidate — from Jeb Bush and Donald J. Trump to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders — has called for an end to a tax loophole that exists for carried interest. Mrs. Clinton has vowed that if Congress does not close the loophole, as president she would ask the Treasury Department to use its regulatory authority to do so.Ultimately, the controversy has to do with tax fairness, or the lack thereof. Instead of being taxed as wages or commissions earned, carried interest is currently taxed as if it were a personal investment, or capital gains. This gives us a significant tax advantage since the capital gains tax rate is about 50 percent lower than the top rate on ordinary income.”

Source: Close My Tax Loophole – The New York Times

Here are good comments from the NYT:

Thomas Zaslavsky

is a trusted commenter Binghamton, N.Y. 8 hours ago

“Mr. Patricof is on the right track, for which I thank him. Has he purchased any Congresspersons that he can get to vote his way? I doubt it. He might even be too honest. I expect no change in the foreseeable future.

I would ask Mr. Patricof to consider one more step: eliminating the favorable treatment of capital gains (both in income tax and estate tax). We don’t actually need to give investors extra incentive. Investment is going along just as one would expect in an economy that is demand-limited. Moreover, most “investment” is just shuffling money around from one security to another; it doesn’t constitute productive investment. It isn’t all speculation, but it doesn’t contribute to investment in the real economy.

Finally, our financial sector is vastly overblown and paying rent (in the economics sense) in huge quantities by skimming off the flow of other people’s money. That has to be stopped. Good tax policy can do it. Forbidding companies from deducting from net income the cost of handing out bonuses and other grossly exaggerated compensation would be a starting point.”

NYT Pick

Nancy Parker

Englewood, FL 4 hours ago

The excess and unfairness and income inequality in this country is so bad that wealthy people of conscious like Mr. Patricof – who suggests this first step – and Mr. Buffet and friends pledging billions of what they refer to as their “personal” fortunes”, are recognizing the obscenity of it.

People insist on saying that because some people are rich does not make others poor, but a snapshot of time, with a finite amount of wealth, shows that the more held by the top 1% means the less to be shared by the bottom 99% and with everyone all the way down fighting for as much as they can get, guess how much is left for the bottom 1%.

A country that can support obscene wealth at the top can afford to make sure that people who put in a 40 hour week make enough money to live in dignity in their communities – and to dream of a future for themselves and their families.

And that same country can afford to make sure that those people who hurt, physically and mentally, who are not capable of being trained as IT techs, who in a past world could have worked on cars, or worked on a factory line, or taken in kids to watch, or punched a cash register – all jobs either on their way out or requiring licensing and/or tech training now, have something useful to do and a wage to earn or financial assistance.

We do have to “change”. But not into the hateful, racist, isolationist, blaming culture Trump would “change” us to. Now, more than ever, we need to kind, innovative, and cooperative.

NYT Pick

MGrantS

Chicago, IL 4 hours ago

Well said. But capitol gains should also be taxed as ordinary income. The idea that we need to give tax breaks to the wealthy to encourage investment in the market is ludicrous. Trickle down economics doesn’t work. What investor is walking away from a good investment due to tax obligations and why is it the taxpayers obligation to subsidize their risk? Income is income.

david

is a trusted commenter ny 7 hours ago

Taxing carried interest as ordinary income is an excellent idea.
This tax preference costs about 10 B /year.
However not taxing capital gains and all dividends as ordinary income costs about 160 B /year.
Not taxing unrealized capital gains at death[step up in basis] costs about
43 B /year.
About 400 B in tax due under the present tax code is not collected.

see http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/03/17/business/tax-breaks-mostly…

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21578387-irs-has-behaved-bad…

Conservatives will complain that I am assuming that dividend and cap gain income is the government’s money and not the property of the citizen.
But the same could be said about wage income.
People with the same income [no matter the source] should pay the same total tax.

NYT Pick

Peter K

NJ 4 hours ago

What a novel idea that people who move money around for a living, and get incredibly rich in the process, should pay at least the same as the rest of us whose sweat equity, toil and tears earn a fraction as much.

I’m guessing that Mr. Patricof will be vilified by his own, as it’s hard to imagine very many of his fellow investors being so altruistic. No, so patriotic and fair-minded, as to admit openly that they are getting away with cheating the rest of society by not paying their fair share.

The blame however, rest squarely on lawmakers who allow this to continue, as they shamelessly favor their big donor corporate masters over their constituents.

How Private Equity Found Power and Profit in State Capitols – The New York Times

“PHOENIX — Inside a cramped committee room on the cactus-dotted campus of Arizona’s Capitol, Kelsey Lundy stepped to the podium to detail new legislation and the higher costs it would impose on struggling borrowers.But Ms. Lundy is not a lawmaker, a government employee or even a statehouse intern.

She is a lobbyist for one of the nation’s largest lenders.That lender — controlled by the Fortress Investment Group, one of Wall Street’s most powerful private equity firms — wrote the bill. Months later, in 2014, the state’s legislators passed the law, making it easier to charge interest of 36 percent to borrowers living on the financial margins.”

Source: How Private Equity Found Power and Profit in State Capitols – The New York Times