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Thoughts on Labor Shortage September 26, 2022

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My son worked this summer in several restaurants. He worked 60-70 hours a week in order to save enough to head to Europe for a few months. He did well. Averaged over $26 hour. He entertained working in retail and was offered $16-$18 hour. Saw the other day that McDonalds is paying $20 hour in my area. His restaurant work was hard work, made harder by bad management (except Applebee’s) and a small number of crazy customers. In many ways he should have been an ideal employee for restaurant managers. He was motivated to make money, eager, smart, and customer focused. However, one restaurant labeled him as a poor team player, got rid of him and closed for lack of employees the next week. Took him 24 hours to get another job. Apparently, he upset some people by being eager to wait tables and do customer service (had the highest tip percentage of all servers), but questioned some decisions being made. Had to have a discussion with him about keeping his mouth shut and why some managers couldn’t handle a lowly employee criticising decisions.

After observing my son and his friends there is a different vibe from young workers. Its not that they won’t work hard. But the days of saying “do it because I told you to” are long gone. Managers have to be less autocratic. The labor pool has power they haven’t had since the 1960s-70s. Businesses need to accept that. Jobs that could be automated have pretty much been. (Still some more to come, but the majority of the change has occurred) I think this is a time of great change and the young workers are going to benefit mightily from it. Demographics will dictate it going forward. The incoming worker demographic is the smallest since the baby boomers (still not as bad as Europe, Russia, China, etc.) Admittedly I am talking about the bottom set of jobs; restaurant work. I think the attitude though and a different, less permanent oriented work ethic is here to stay.

Think that businesses/government need to rethink their systems for time off and retirement savings. 401Ks make little sense to these young workers. They are much more experiential than step onto the treadmill types. They will work hard, but then leave when they want. They recognize loyalty is a two way street and as such will not put up with typical employer attitudes toward workers. They have seen their parents get laid off, lose jobs, get divorced, etc. and think in much more temporary ways. They fully expect to do a variety of jobs in a variety of industries. All this will add up to a interesting next couple decades. What it means is anybodies guess, but it will be different than how earlier generations build there lives.

Checked your 401K lately??? September 26, 2022

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My EIUL clients sleep well at night. No downdrafts in their accounts!!!

Why we should question………..everything! July 25, 2022

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A newly published study calls into question the low serotonin = anxiety/depression theory. In fact this meta study puts a huge dent in that theory to the point that doctors should change their prescribing habits. One of the fastest growing prescriptions of the last generation is SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) used to help people with anxiety/depression. These class of drugs have significant side effects. Turns out that their primary action (increasing serotonin) does not actually decrease depression.

Conclusion from the study found at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41380-022-01661-0:

Our comprehensive review of the major strands of research on serotonin shows there is no convincing evidence that depression is associated with, or caused by, lower serotonin concentrations or activity. Most studies found no evidence of reduced serotonin activity in people with depression compared to people without, and methods to reduce serotonin availability using tryptophan depletion do not consistently lower mood in volunteers.

What does this tell us? First, this is another example of how medicine isn’t a science. Or at least, it demonstrates how physicians methods aren’t scientifically verified as most people assume. I did my PhD dissertation on an entire occupation that was based on the use of a technology that for 20 years was used increasingly until someone finally looked at it using the scientific method and found it wasn’t accomplishing what physicians assumed. It disappeared from use, while the workers remained. But let’s not pretend that this is all on medical practice. The vast majority of what we think is scientifically verified in all parts of life isn’t. It is theory based, but lacks verified evidence.

But do SSRIs work? Maybe, but it looks like when it does, it is some combination of a placebo effect and the overall masking of all emotions. This masking effect is what is described by many of its users; no more highs or lows, just the middle. This should give folks pause as the pandemic has increased anxiety/depression acutely in teenagers and young adults who are the prime candidates for being prescribed this class of therapeutics.

In a study published on the CDC website it states that over 13% of adults had used SSDIs WITHIN THE LAST 30 DAYS (2015-2018). Let that sink in. In any given month during that time period 13% of all adults had been taking a drug that doesn’t have any direct effect on the problem it was believed to alleviate. So before you get all up in arms, it’s not my intent to call into question a lot of well meaning people trying to help others. Yes, this is an indictment of the medical industrial complex, but that is not the take away I am looking for.

In order to go about modern life we need to take a whole lot for granted. It would be impossible to get through a day not doing that. But maybe, the life skills needed to be taught, is when one might want to do actual research into things they are asked to do and how to go about that research? (Have to say that last part because going to some ideologically driven website to parrot someone else’s critiques isn’t doing research). Now in practical terms, we know that most people don’t have the time nor the ability to read scientific journals and decipher what each study might mean. And the folks who are suppose to do that for us, journalist, are an archaic occupation that largely doesn’t exist. But, next time some “expert,” no matter what alphabet letters they have by their name, asked you to do something that could have life altering consequences, maybe folks should at least try. We do have the internet now which puts information at our fingertips. Maybe folks will at least get some questions to ask the expert and can evaluate their reaction to help guide them to a decision.

Finally, we should all recognize the inability of anyone or any method to be 100% right about anything. A little humble pie for those who think they might have answers including yours truly.

Back from my Sabbatical July 17, 2022

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I haven’t been posting or even looking at my blog for a good long time. I started this blog to speak about financial planning in general and EIULs specifically. And I think the posts have stood up to the test of time. Basically, I found myself in an endless loop of repeating myself ad nauseam. I specifically tried to stay away from politics as I found political ideology limiting and warping of the thoughts I was trying to convey.

So, as I start writing again, I am going to spread my wings and talk more philosophically about topics that interest me. There will still be tie-ins to financial planning and to EIULs, but the general thrust of this blog will mutate. I have taken the last couple of years to read extensively, to think about, and to critique on a variety of topics I have found interesting. There is a tendency to absolutism from folks. That is, to latch on to one view point or one person’s thoughts as the one right way. I have found that, even the best, have no more than 25% correct. Our systems are so complex at this point, that it is impossible, even using computer modeling and advance math, to come up with anywhere near a complete theory. What is even more alarming, is that some of the most popular thinkers, are closer to 1% right, than than 25%

I am going to start by writing on freedom. Freedom is something that has always been a part of the human psyche. The general course of human history has been positive for human freedom. But, human freedom is also something that is misunderstood by most. Politicians have warped the entire concept to their own uses. Suffice it to say both political parties have no interest in creating a “free” society. Both, want to establish rules that limit freedom, just in different areas. Of course, the thought of absolute freedom is psychotic and anti-social. Not, that some haven’t come close, but we now look at these folks as madmen (and they were). The various systems; economics, legal, social, political, are all designed to limit freedoms while encouraging others. I don’t think that is surprising to most people.

Now is a time for me to tell the reader where I stand on the basics. I prefer capitalism over other systems. I believe in democracy. I think our legal system makes sense, though there are huge problems within it. And I believe in loose voluntary social systems. I believe that Capitalism needs systems of redistribution through taxation. I believe democracy needs checks and balances to protect the minority from the majority. I believe violence is not to be tolerated whether a school yard bully or enforcement of social beliefs like drug laws, abortion, or equality of outcomes. I believe the military and the police are needed, but need to be tightly controlled to prevent them serving to maintain the status quo or acting in their own behalf. I believe freedom also means allowing people to make their own mistakes. You can’t protect people from themselves! Outside of violent behavior, we should be a forgiving society.

One of the most alarming thing that is happening now, is the rise of authoritarianism. Specifically, religious authoritarianism. It takes about 5 minutes of a google search to recognize the damage that religious orthodoxy mixed with power does to individual freedom. But, let’s also be honest, that any form of authoritarianism is a danger whether it is political, ideological or religious. Again, not a surprise for most folks. But, here is something to think about. Throughout history, authoritarianism was brought about as much from the bottom as the top. Feudalism was top down. But, capitalism was a people’s movement as was socialism. The Soviet system was brutal, run by brutal men, but it was fought for and maintained by true believers, most of which didn’t come from the top strata. Capitalism the same. (Just take a look at Charles Dickens, Karl Marx’s, and even Adam Smith’s work which looked at capitalism in 19th century England. Or take a look at the labor movement and Rockefeller’s et al. reaction to it) No doubt the people thought they would be better off with a new system of domination.

Pressure from below, the people, is not always a good thing. Especially if it comes from popular emotions of the moment. Our founding fathers knew this. But, that leaves us with another problem. Who to follow, who to believe. For 70 years now, there has been a willingness to not believe experts, to see experts as part of a conservative class holding down the average person, holding up the ruling class. Instead people want to install folks who have little technical expertise, but folks that can satisfy the emotions of the day. And that is where we are today. Populism……………But, history has told us that when the people install their new “experts,” they will quickly grow weary of them and demand a new set. This seems to be happening more quickly than before.

On one side you have a group wanting to allow historically oppressed folks to be relieved of obligations, laws and mores that we have developed over the last century. On the other side we have groups who want to be free of facts and historical narratives to rely of raw emotion. I don’t find either side to be palatable.

Two sides, fighting to see who can impose their will on the people. And the majority sitting in the middle watching our freedoms turn into dust. And the worst of this is we, the people, have allowed this to happen. Covid pandemic proved this. Supreme Court is proving this. Surveillance technology is proving this. Policing is proving this. (As an aside, defund the police, is probably the stupidest political idea I have ever heard. No one wants this, not the elites, not the middle classes, not the poor people living in the inner cities and rural counties; The second dumbest is to force women, sometimes really young women, sometimes rape and incest victims to have babies)

Since we have become human, there are behaviors that are basic to being human. The control of these behaviors is also consistent with all societies. But, most of these behaviors are not terminal to the group, and as such, are more about application of power, then survival. If you believe in freedom, then you need to understand that many behaviors are human in genesis, and as such we need to apply a light touch on prescribing them, generally only to protect the group’s survival. Explain to me how the drug laws have made us a better, more free, society? Or, how Title 9 panels in universities, are a fair way to hand out discipline? Or how teenagers carrying AKs make us a freer society? Or how today, in 2022, demanding favoritism to certain groups isn’t divisive? The list can go on and on.

People will argue against and for each idea that has been presented and will take sides on the specifics of the previous couple paragraphs. I’m sure emotionally. Not that emotions are bad, just it makes for quick and superficial discussions. But, they will miss the point. It’s not which side you are on that is important, but that you recognize you want to take away someone else’s freedoms. That you want to use force in some form to do it. Be honest with yourself in this matter. Own it. And don’t fool yourself with some expert’s words, or some pseudo-scientific explanation or some politicians ability to create emotions and turn it into actions. Recognize it is you in the mob, using the power of the government to get your way.

Shout out to the good work of Doctors/Nurses/Researchers October 16, 2020

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While I have been and continue to be highly critical of public health officials and politicians, we have seen remarkable work and progress from those treating Covid 19. Although there has been a lot of give and take about what works and what doesn’t, the overall CFR (Case Fatality Rate) has dropped significantly in all age groups. I note that 90 year old football coach Bobby Bowden was positive for Covid, went into the hospital and has recovered and is at home all in less than a week. But, of course that is one case. Here are the charts that demonstrate how well medicine is doing with this illness:

Note the graph above. In the first wave, deaths are way above daily cases. Frankly, we were killing people with our care, specifically with the ventilator use. But we got better. The second wave the CFR was 75% lower. Note that the red line, the daily case count, went from half as tall to twice as tall. And now with the third wave, 1 month in, we see the death rate going the opposite direction as the case count. Three cheers for our medical doctors, nurses and researchers.

Here is the daily case count and the current hospitalizations. We start out with the hospitalizations roughly twice as high, the same as the first graph. In the second wave the two lines are basically identical. Now we see a divergence with the case count separating from the hospitalizations. This points to the younger ages of those in the case counts, but also with a better understanding of how to deal with the disease and getting patients in and out of the door faster, like Bobby Bowden.

I thought I would leave this one with you from the CDC. Of the 99,000+ excess deaths listed by categories, 31% of the excess deaths were in the Alzheimer/Dementia category. The next two were hypertension and Ischemic Heart disease, followed by Diabetes. Given that the deaths are so skewed to the older than 70 age group (median age of death 78), this might give some clarity as to who are the vulnerable populations in need of protection.

I won’t add the chart, but we are almost back to the 5 year average death rate after seeing deaths spike in the early months of the pandemic here in the US.

The media continues to put politics over accurate coverage of Covid 19 August 7, 2020

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Another article that calls into question what the media is putting out there and this has serious ramifications for the way people with Covid are treated in the USA.


Covid Tradeoff July 25, 2020

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So, little is talked about the tradeoff between mitigation of Covid 19 and jobs. But it is clear that there is a tradeoff.

For example, Vermont. The Republican governor, Scott, has been very aggressive with mitigation despite the numbers of infections being low and percent positive on testing being the lowest of all states. Just yesterday he ordered a face covering mandate. This in a state that hasn’t had a death in over a month, has one of the lowest deaths per million (90) and is presently averaging 7 positive tests per day and has 2 people in the hospital in the whole state for Covid.

So how is Vermont doing with jobs? Vermont has lost 13.2% of their jobs due to Covid. Well, they are 5th worst behind Hawaii (15.8% loss of jobs), New York (15.1%), Massachusetts (14.4%), and New Jersey (13.5%).

Hawaii is an outlier because of its dependence on tourism ie people flying from various places. The other 3 states had a severe outbreak of Covid that required the harshest mitigation possible.

What about the current surging states. Well Florida, Arizona, Texas and Utah never had a harsh shutdown and their economy is much better than average. Florida -6%, Texas -5.3%, Arizona -3.3% and Utah lost 2.8% of their jobs. Utah stands out as having 85 deaths per million, one of the lowest among the states. Arizona is 432, Texas is 170 and Florida 263. Of note is that Arizona and Florida have large numbers of older folks living both within long term care institutions and outside of them.

So while the media is screaming because of the surges in those states, the vast majority of people are better off with at least a job to pay the bills. And the vast majority of deaths still is among the elderly with 45-50% of deaths being among nursing home patients.

Again, it’s a tradeoff. But, let the politicians be honest about it. Sacrifice 50 million jobs to attempt to protect elderly folks (and fail at that for the most part). I’m not a proponent of either side, just feel a conversation needs to be had on it for the future.

Good News on Covid July 10, 2020

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Decided to do a comparison from 1 month ago to today. Picked a state that is considered a hot spot and a place I use to live:

Just did a cursory view of hospitalizations from Florida comparing rates from 1 month ago to today: Ages 15-24 Hospitalization rate went from 3% to 1% of positive cases. age 25-34 from 6% to 2%. Age 35-44 10% to 4%. Age 45-54 13% to 6%. age 55 64 19% to 10%. Age 65-74 33% to 19%. So, in the younger age groups it dropped 66%. Middle age groups it dropped 50% and older age groups 40%.

Percentage of cases (due to who they test most likely) Age 15-24 increase from 9% to 16% Age 25-34 increase from 16-21%. Age 35-44 stayed the same 16%. Age 45-54 Dropped 17% to 15%. Bottom line is that hospitalization rates dropped in all age groups, but most acutely in younger age groups. And average age of cases are trending much younger.

So combining the two; the recent surge in Florida is concentrated in the younger age groups where we are seeing significantly less hospitalizations.

Isn’t this good news? I mean really good news…….why isn’t it being covered? Without testing demographics, we can’t state definitively that they are testing more younger people than 1 month ago, but the evidence seems it is more likely than not that they are.

And here is another thought; Since the percentage positive in Florida has gone from 5% to 15% in that time period, doesn’t this mean that Florida is getting to some level of herd immunity protection soon?

For Perspective CDC Mortality Chart July 10, 2020

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Most Recent CDC Mortality Chart

CDC estimates for Infection Fatality Rate May 25, 2020

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I will save you the math:  .26% IFR for all cases.  But half the cases are from nursing homes, so it is significantly less, perhaps half as much for non-nursing home individuals.

Now will you start to believe me?