March 23, 2005

Social Security--One Less Year

The Trustees of Social Security have adjusted their forecast to when the system will begin to operate at a deficit and when the "Trust Fund" will be depleted. Instead of 2018, Social Security will take in less revenue than it will pay in benefits in 2017. And the "Trust Fund" will be gone in 2041. It's a good thing we have nothing to worry about.

March 21, 2005

Weak Dollar--Stronger Blue Jays

Everyone is trying to think about ways the weaker dollar will effect the world. I was wondering how it will affect the American League East. Could the strangle-hold of the Yankees and Red Sox finally be broken because of the weak dollar?

The past 10 years have not been good ones for the Canadian Dollar. Looking at this chart (you may have to click on "all data" to the left of the chart) you see that in 2002 you could exchange one U.S. Dollar for about about 1.60 C$. You also see that the Canadian Dollar has not been this strong against the U.S. Dollar since the glory days of the Toronto Blue Jays' back-to-back World Series victory's of 1992 & 1993.

Having to pay their players in strong USD's and receiving weak C$'s as revenues from ticket sales and local TV/radio rights made it difficult for the Blue Jays to compete. Those same factors also are one of the least covered reasons why the Expos are playing in DC this year. Now that the USD is comparative weaker to the C$, perhaps the Blue Jays may surprise some people in August with a trade if they are in the race or in the coming offseason with free agent purchases.

Terry Schiavo--Living Wills & Healthcare POA

Back in January I wrote about the Terry Shiavo case and the importance of having a Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney. If you have not done so, get one. Regradless of how you feel about this particular case, make things easier on yourself and your family. Put your wishes in writing.

Most lawyers will only charge a nominal fee to set one up for you. If you want to avoid a lawyer and feel confident in your abilities to read basic contracts, type in "YOUR STATE advance directives" in a search engine and you should be able to track down approved forms for Living Wills and Health Care Power of Attorney for your state.

March 17, 2005

Is Congressman Rob Portman a Free Trader?

Yes, at least according to the Cato Institute. He scored an 82% on limiting trade barriers and a 100% for limiting domestic subsidies.

As the newly nominated U.S. Trade Representative and my soon to be ex-congressman, Rob Portman will try to get the CAFTA Treaty passed through congress. This will probably be a tougher task than passing NAFTA. Perhaps he will be on Larry King debating Ross Perot.

Who will replace Portman in congress. It sure as hell will not be Charles Sanders. This has been his opponent the last couple of times and in 2004 he lost 72%-28%. Needless to say, the next representative from Ohio's 2nd Congressional District will be a Republican. My guess is that it will be someone who is not currently holding elective office. How's that for a firm prediction?

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Doesn't look like the Irish markets were too enthused about St. Patrick's Day. You can also see from the link the chart has a steep drop off recently. This was no doubt caused by Elan going from 26.90 to 8.05 on February 28.

By having some of the lowest corporate tax rates, Ireland has definitely turned into a Celtic Tiger over the past decade. We shall see if the EU will succeed in slowing down their growth by forcing them to raise their tax rates.

March 16, 2005

Social Security--Future Deficit

I think a little historical perspective is needed when thinking about the year when Social Security's income from all sources (payroll tax, interest on the Trust Fund, taxes on the benefits paid) will become fall short of the benefits it has promised to pay. 2018 seems to be the year most everyone agrees that Social Security will begin to operate at a deficit.

2018--That seems a long way off. Most of us still have a hard time believing we are in the sixth year of the 2000's. But 2018 is only 13 years away. Think back 13 years (1992). It does not seem that long ago when Ross Perot was viewed to have a legitimate shot at the presidency or when Michael Jordan was leading the Bulls to their 2nd NBA title.

The point is, 2018 will be here sooner than we think.

Highest Oil Prices Ever?

I just received a pop-up from the Wall Street Journal on my monitor telling we that oil has hit its all-time high price. Well, I guess in one sense they are correct. The nominal price of a barrel of crude oil has never reached $56.35.

However, if you look at this chart you will see that we have a long way to go to match the historical highs after inflation is factored. Not that I am excited about $2.15 a gallon for the cheap stuff, but things could be worse.

March 15, 2005

Major Date in History

March 15th usually conjures up images of somebody getting stabbed in the back, but there are probably two more important events that took place on this date.

In 1493, Columbus did something more important than leaving for the East; he returned. The Fall of the Berlin Wall led to a huge re-opening of new markets, but Columbus returning from a New World (even though he did not realize it was new) opened up a completely new marketplace. The list of new items from the western hemisphere that arrived in Spain on March 15, 1493 and thereafter is extensive. Just on topic of food, take a look at medieval cookbook. Can you imagine Italian food without tomatoes?

101 years ago today, the Japanese arrived on the global scene by defeating the Russian Empire at Port Arthur. Over 50 years after Matthew Perry (no, not this Matthew Perry) opened hermitical Japan to the West. Their victory over Russia accelerating their interaction with the West. Many of those interaction were devastating, but imagine how different our world would be without the addition of Japan to the global community.

These two events of new markets opening up to the rest of the world have a place in our contemporary times. Everyone talks about China and their 1 billion potential customers and consumers. There are other markets also opening to the rest of the globe. India is finally starting to shed its own socialistic restraints on its population. If both the Chinese and Indians can become truly free and interact with the rest of the free world the potential human capital is astounding. Of course, there are a couple of very large swaths of the globe where people not connected to the rest of the world, but I am optimistic that they will be connected.

By adding more areas and people to the global community and free markets will make the sum total of human advancement much greater than the contributions each individual.

March 14, 2005

Social Security--Video

The internet is truly an amazing piece of technology.

The past couple of days I have been watching the Cato Instituion's four hour presentation on Social Security that Michael Tanner (their head of Social Security reform) gave to congressional staff in February. The links are not that easy to find on the web-site, however, once you do find them they are extremely informative.

Even if reform is defeated this year, this issue will not go away.

March 10, 2005

NASDAQ--5 Years Ago

Today is the 5 Year anniversary of the NASDAQ's highest close (5,049) and also its intraday high (5,133). With yesterday's close of 2,061 it will take approximately until September of 2013 to close again at 5,049, assuming an 11% average return. If the NASDAQ only averages 8% a year (somewhat more realistic) then it will not be until 2016 before it sees such loft heights.

Only the Dow Jones after the Great Depression took longer to get back to its former high. It was not until 1952 to it get back to 1929 levels. It is important to remember that the Dow Jones did not include dividends which were much higher back then.

So, for those of you expecting the NASDAQ to get back above 5,000--I hope you are not in a hurry.