Category Archives: Economics

FIRE on Campus

This morning, Joe Scarborough invoked similar protests against the Vietnam War in 1968 to warn participants in pro-Palestinian activities on college campuses that such behavior is counterproductive to their cause.  He rightfully pointed out that chaos on college campuses and in the streets of Chicago at the 1968 Democratic National Convention contributed to Richard Nixon’s election and prolonged the war for five more years.  What he did not say was, “Students who participated in that movement were RIGHT!”  The war, based on a questionable premise and which propped up a corrupt government in South Vietnam, was a blemish on America’s standing in the international community and robbed America of the potential of tens of thousands young U.S. citizens who died or were physically and mentally disabled.

The students to whom Scarborough referred were a very small percentage of those who sought an end to the war.  And as I wrote about my own experience at the University of Virginia during the Vietnam era, some of the more radical members of the movement tried to lower the temperature when they personally witnessed the consequences when rabble-rousers hijacked the cause.  That is why so many of us find the campus protests so conflicting.  We believe Hamas is a clear and present danger to Israel which is justified in eliminating that threat.  We mourn for both victims of the Hamas terrorist attack and innocent Palestinians who suffer from the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza’s population centers.  We share the protesters’ concern about the aspirations and dignity of Palestinians.  Yet we agree that harassment of Jewish students and calls for the destruction of Israel are totally unacceptable and understand the Israel/Hamas conflict has empowered some individuals to go public with their long-standing antisemitism.

I have no doubt the presidents of universities which are now being highlighted by the media are similarly conflicted.  They have probably made mistakes and could have done things differently.  I will get to that.  But equally important, they have been given mixed messages.  Perhaps the best example is the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) whose mission statement reads, “FIRE defends and promotes the value of free speech for all Americans in our courtrooms, on our campuses, and in our culture.” One way FIRE does this is rankings based on the extent to which a university adopts and implements a statement of principles originally drafted at the University of Chicago.  Of the 248 institutions included in the rankings, Harvard is #248, the University of Pennsylvania is #247 and MIT is #132.  For 10 years, FIRE chastised the administrations of these schools for supposedly suppressing free speech. 

[NOTE:  The rankings do not include the following institutions:  Hillsdale College, Liberty, Pepperdine, Brigham Young, Baylor and Saint Louis University.  What do they have in common?  All are private and have a religious affiliation.  FIRE explains their exemption as follows:

The following schools have policies that clearly and consistently state that it prioritizes other values over a commitment to freedom of speech. These colleges were excluded from the rankings and were scored relative to one another.

I guess free speech and expression are critical unless your God tells you they are not.]

Speaking of religious exemptions, one of FIRE’s celebrated causes involved student protests at Stanford University to a speech by Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan of the U.S. Fifth District Court of Appeals.  For the record, Duncan opposed same-sex marriage, was instrumental in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores which allows corporations to exclude birth control from their health insurance plans on religious grounds and upheld Texas’ abortion ban.  All this in spite of his response to a question by Illinois senator Dick Durbin during his confirmation hearing, “Where do we draw the line with your right as an individual as opposed to my right to assert religious liberty?”  Duncan’s response?  “It’s a balance, it’s got to be a balance,” and used the Hobby Lobby case as an example, calling it a “close call because women would be deprived of contraception.” 

His rulings since confirmation have seldom acknowledged that balance.  So Stanford students yelled questions at him and booed his responses.  To which the distinguished judge said to one questioner, “You are an appalling idiot, you’re an appalling idiot.”  Were the questions and booing not free expression and Duncan’s response not an attempt to suppress that free expression?  I use this example to agree that (to use Judge Duncan’s words) there must be a balance between First Amendment rights and disruptive or threatening behavior.  However, wherever you stand on the issue, it cannot be selective.  To quote Jedi master Yoda, “Do or do not.  There is no try.”

There is one other pressure university administrations face every day.  For lack of a better term, call it “helicopter parents.”  I know from experience.  In 2005, two other Miami University faculty and I taught a summer program at our European campus.  When a student did something that we determined could result in harm to other students, we put him on the next plane home.  The next day I received a call from his father who wanted me to justify our action.  Fortunately, there is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which forbids a faculty member from talking with parents without the student’s permission.  I told the father, “If your son will sign the FERPA form which gives me permission to discuss the matter with you, I will gladly tell you everything he did and why we sent him home.”  I never heard from the parent again.

That is not always the case.  At my alma mater the University of Virginia, parents of Jewish students have called for president Jim Ryan’s resignation for not sufficiently addressing the safety of Jewish students on campus.  Their grievance includes an instance where a Jewish student accused a Palestinian protester of threatening her.  The alleged perpetrator denied such behavior and filed an honor code violation accusing the Jewish student of lying.  A hearing was scheduled by the Honor Committee.  UVA has one of the most stringent honor codes at any university.  It is based on a simple proposition.  “A Virginia student will not lie, cheat or steal.”  How stringent is it?  During my time in Charlottesville a student was expelled for calling in a bomb scare.  He was expelled for LYING about the presence of a bomb.

Before the hearing took place, the Jewish parents organized to hire a lawyer to seek Ryan’s firing without realizing the Palestinian protester put himself/herself (I do not know the gender) in jeopardy by filing the honor code violation.  If the panel finds there was a threat, as reported by the Jewish student, the accuser rather than the defendant could be found guilty of lying and subject to suspension or expulsion.  I understand the Jewish parents’ concern but both students have a right to “their day in court” without parents on either side trying to delegitimize the process.

As I wrote following the infamous hearing before the House Education Committee, this is a lost opportunity for universities to do what they do best.  TEACH.  Not ideologies, partisanship or even facts.  TEACH students how to learn.  And there is a model to do that, the case method based on Socratic dialogue.  Its academic origins were rounds at medical schools.  Diagnose the patient and recommend treatment.  Medical students were encouraged to question each other and defend their own conclusions.  Soon after, case method became the standard at law schools.  And eventually migrated to business schools.

Here is how it worked in one of my entrepreneurship courses at Miami.  The case involved investment in a high risk start-up.  As a homework assignment. students analyzed the facts, choose an option and a rational for their decision.  When they walked into class, the room was divided in half.  Students who wanted to invest sat on one side, those opposing investment on the other.  I asked representatives from each side to make their case.  Then I sat back and let them verbally “duke it out.”  At the end of the discussion, I asked any student who had changed their choice to switch their seats.  Never in nine years did every student stick to their original preference, proof that fact-based debate has the power to alter and sometimes change perspectives.

Imagine a classroom where the professor presents a teaching case where the goal is peace in the Middle East.  The homework assignment is for each student to read and analyze the historical background leading up to the current situation.  Based on the facts, each student must choose a path to ending this centuries old conflict:  a two-state solution or total elimination of one of the two combatants.  Then build a fact-based case to justify their decision.  I would not be surprised to see pro-Israel and pro-Palestinians student initially intermingled on both sides of the classroom.  The discussion would be riveting.  And as I always experienced, I suspect some students would switch sides before the exercise ended.

One last thought.  The cover story on the latest issue of Forbes magazine features an exclusive report produced by staff member Emma Whitford.  “Employers Are Souring On Ivy League Grads, While These 20 ‘New Ivies’ Ascend.”  Whitford’s team interviewed HR executives from 300 of the nation’s largest corporations.  One of the employers suggested graduates of these “New Ivies” are less entitled and more productive.  This may be true but I wonder if “more productive” is not code for “they do exactly what we ask them to do.”  Having just binge-watched “The Dropout,” I could not help but wonder if Theranos would still be in business and valued at $9.0 billion, while endangering the lives of those who used its service, if Elizabeth Holmes had hired more “productive” employees from the “New Ivies” instead of Stanford graduates Erika Cheung and Tyler Schultz or British molecular biologist Ian Gibbons who received his Ph.D. at Cambridge University, the three people who blew the whistle on her scam.


I do appreciate the fact Forbes included both my undergraduate and graduate schools–UVA and Johns Hopkins University–among the “New Ivies,” further inflating my academic credentials.  If only they had done it while I was still in the job market.

For what it’s worth.

Demand Side Economics

We hear a lot these days about the effects of inflation on average Americans (whoever they are).  And we see a lot of finger pointing when it comes to the causes.  Greedy corporations.  Supply chain disruptions resulting from the lingering effects of the pandemic.  Federal Reserve policies.  The growing federal debt.  You know what we do not hear.  Anything about the responsibility of consumers to fight inflation.

Despite the fact the current inflation rate remains almost twice the Federal Reserve target of two percent, consumer spending continues to rise.  Which suggests, every consumer could help by following what I call the Dr. ESP “Fight Inflation Now” shopping principles.  Making discretionary purchases only when they are on sale or looking for a less expensive brand substitute or generic alternative.  Let me give you an example based on my most recent purchases at Publix.

  • Every Thursday, Publix publishes a list of BOGO (buy one, get one free) items for the next seven days.
  • Make a list of products you normally buy that are on the list.  Last Friday this included a favorite brand of cereal, Thomas’ bagels, Philadelphia cream cheese, side dishes such as Betty Crocker mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese, pulled pork BBQ, buns for the BBQ and frozen pizzas.  For perishables, one is consumed immediately while the other is frozen for later use.
  • Next look for sale items, even if the sale price is at or slightly more than you used to pay “in the good old days.”
  • Finally, get the staples (e.g., milk) you need that may not be on sale.

Did it make a difference?  The receipt showed that even though I purchased milk and toilet paper at the retail price, the total bill was $58.67 after a savings of $38.13.  There has been one other side benefit from this system.  By substituting brand names, we have discovered new favorites which have permanently replaced old standards.

Why does the system work?  Instead of supply chain disruptions, consumers create demand chain disruption.  Consider the following.  If consumers follow the Dr. ESP “Fight Inflation Now” principles, prices decline as consumer behavior works its way through the demand chain as follows.

  • Sale items lower the retailers’ revenue, squeezing their already narrow profit margins (especially for grocery stores).
  • Stores will then order less from brokers or produce account representatives whose commissions will suffer.
  • These middle agents will then do one of two things.  Independent brokers will devote their time and energy to higher volume products.  Manufacturers’ product representatives will report decreased sales to the home office.
  • In either case, manufacturers, facing potential loss of market share, will likely reduce prices or offer more promotions.

Can it make a real difference?  I will let Arlo Guthrie answer that question.

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they’ll ignore him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re crazy.  And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking into Publix, only buying products on sale and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking into Publix, only buying sale items and walking out. And friends they may think it’s a movement. And that’s what it is, the demand side inflation massacre movement.  And all you got to do is follow the Dr. ESP “Fight Inflation Now” process the next time you go into Publix or any other retail store.
For what it’s worth.

The Dog Days of Reaganomics

“The Dog Days of Summer” is an expression that one hears often in baseball. The phrase comes from the very challenging days of playing baseball in the heat of the summer. Not only are players contending with the heat, but they are also contending with the length of the baseball season. The excitement of the beginning of the season has certainly waned, and the end of the season with championships on the line is too far away to make a difference. Added to this is the sad reality that some teams recognize that their championship hopes have all but been shattered. Championships are won or lost in these “dog days of summer.”


Sometimes you find the best definitions for a word or phrase in the most unlikely places.  In this case, Dr. Horn used baseball as a metaphor for life.  For Christians, he compares it to the time between the excitement of rebirth and the ultimate reward of eternal life in heaven.  I may not share his belief in salvation, but from his perspective, the metaphor is valid. 

When friends and family tell me they no longer pay attention to the news, what I believe they are saying is, “These are the dog days of political discourse.”  I understand completely.   The excitement of Joe Biden’s victory in 2020 has waned.  And the 2024 election is still too far in the distance.

I too find the heat and humidity of this warmest of all summers draining.  I prefer the comfort of air conditioning, and rather than watching the evening talk shows, I now make a nightly habit of following the Baltimore Orioles’ hold on the top spot in the American League East. (NOTE: I became an Orioles’ fan during my time as a graduate student at John Hopkins University (1971-73), when Memorial Stadium was a 10-minute walk from my apartment and bleacher seats were 85 cents.)

This morning, as I glanced at the AL East standings, I observed what can only be called “a metaphor within a metaphor.”  Despite a blown save last night, Baltimore is still in first place, two games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays.  Meanwhile the New York Yankees continue to go back and forth with the Boston Red Sox for last place in the division, 11.5 games back of the Orioles.

It is no stretch to think of the Yankees as the latest incarnation of Reaganomics which depended on two theories of growth:  supply side economics, and by increasing the wealth of the rich, benefits would “trickle down” to the poorest workers. Owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman have spared no expense ($187 million this year) when it comes to supplying the team with talent. In one more example of failed “trickle down” impact, more than half of that investment ($108 million) goes toward the salaries of just three of the team’s 26 active players: Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton.  And yet, the Yankees remain a half-game out of the AL East cellar.

In contrast, the Orioles’ active roster has a combined payroll of $65 million.  Instead of buying talent, the Orioles have developed a cadre of exciting young players through what baseball writers credit as the best farm system in baseball.  And the team’s success is not likely to end any time soon.  Eight of the top 100 2023 draft choices are future Orioles, waiting in the wings, playing in the minor leagues for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides and Double-A Bowie Baysox.

Think of infrastructure, sustainable energy, workforce heath care and investment in critical  industries  as the farm team of the American economy.  Americans are better served by investments in these building blocks which can be the foundation of sustainable growth.  Massive tax cuts to a few rich people and multinational corporations may give the economy a short-term shot in the arm, but as we saw at the end of the last three GOP administrations, the benefits are short-lived ending in economic recession, higher unemployment and/or stagnant wage growth. 

The Republican Party has given this Orioles-like approach to economic policy what they thought was a derogatory name:  Bidenomics.  Their error is evident every time the president retweets one of his detractors blaming him for the bi-partisan infrastructure legislation, CHIPS Act and the Inflation Reduction Act with the tag line, “I approve this message.”  In my July 6 post, “Shoot the Messenger,” I chastised Biden’s communications team for failing to make the connection between Biden economic policies and America’s leading global standing.  Even I could not imagine Marjorie Taylor Greene and other MAGA mouthpieces would fill the gap.

For what it’s worth.

Random Thoughts 9 June 2023

If you expected a diatribe about the indictment of Donald Trump, I’m afraid you will be disappointed. Unlike a majority of GOP representatives and Senators and non-Trump contenders for the party’s nomination for president, I am keeping my powder dry until I have a chance to read the actual indictment.  So, today I want to return to my other obsession, the corrupt deal between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF).


Much is being said about the $11 billion investment by the PIF being “blood money.”  Critics point to the Saudi government’s financial support of terrorism and the killing and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Yet little, if any, of the discussion focuses on the source of the money.  Yesterday, the BBC described the PIF as “a big pot of money – £514 billions to be exact.”  They went on to say:

The reason there’s so much cash in it is because of the massive amounts of money Saudi Arabia has made through selling oil.

Yes, the PIF is investing in golf, but they are investing with your money.  According to The Guardian:

Saudi Aramco has reported a record $161bn (£134bn) profit for 2022, the largest annual profit ever recorded by an oil and gas company, fueled by soaring energy prices and rising global demand.

The soaring prices are a direct result of Mohammed bin Salma’s decision to cut Aramco production contrary to recommendations by other OPEC oil ministers.  Producing an average barrel of crude oil costs Aramco $4.50 which is then sold to American customers today for $72.00/barrel.  In March 2023 alone, based on reported sales to the U.S. of 427,000 barrels, the PIF coffers increased by $28.8 million.  Which suggests the Saudi investment in global golf involves more than just “blood money.”  It is also extortion money.  Yesterday, the Washington Post reported:

In private, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman threatened to fundamentally alter the decades-old U.S.-Saudi relationship and impose significant economic costs on the United States if it retaliated against the oil cuts, according to a classified document obtained by The Washington Post.

As if you needed another reason to boycott the PGA Tour, just think about how much of the next increase in gas prices is going into the pockets of hypocritical PGA Tour golfers, commissioner Jay Monahan and the board of directors of the still unnamed global golf governing body.


After one day, I’m still on the wagon.  I did not watch a second of TV coverage of the Canadian Open broadcast.  However, I did plan to tune into the LPGA Shoprite Classic being played in Galloway, New Jersey.  I increasingly find the women’s tour more entertaining.  The pace of play is much faster.  The ladies, so far, do not feel a need to straddle every inch between one’s ball and the hole to read a putt.  And success depends on the ability to master the full range of clubs in one’s bag rather than relying solely on a titanium driver and three wedges.

However, I am having a change of heart after reading the statement on the PGA Tour/PIF merger issued by LPGA Commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan.

As we have consistently said, a fractured ecosystem is not good for the game and we look forward to learning what today’s announcement means for the growth and impact of global golf. We remain focused on growing the LPGA, continuing to work with the top partners in the world to provide the best opportunity for our membership and to make sure that everything we do continues to allow us to inspire, elevate and advance opportunities for girls and women, on and off the golf course.

What message does the PIF buyout send to young girls about opportunity?  There are joint PGA/LPGA events.  Will these also fall under the umbrella of the PIF?  Does Ms. Samaan realize LPGA affiliation with the Saudi venture represents more than greed?  Is she ignoring Saudi allegiance to Sharia law and its suppression of women’s right and criminalization of homosexuality?  It is a slap in the face to female golfers and particularly openly gay LPGA professionals such as Ryan O’Toole and Georgia Hall whose story is featured during Pride Month on the tour’s website.

Hopefully, members of the women’s tour have more cajones than their male counterparts, if and when, the PIF proposes bringing the LPGA into their gold-embroidered tent.


Kurt Streeter, golf analyst for the New York Times, summarized the PGA Tour/LIV merger this way.

The PGA Tour presented itself as the guy who calls a penalty on himself if he accidentally moves his ball a quarter-inch. Turns out it was the guy who makes a double-bogey and marks it down as a par.

For what it’s worth.




A Fool and Your Money

Every year, about this time, we are treated to images of three wise men on camels following a star to Bethlehem. This year is no different. However, this December there is a different triad of not so wise men, and the only star they are pursuing is their own. Instead of Magi, I prefer to call them “The Unholy Trinity.” Or “The Axis of Weasel.” Or “The Three Jackasses of the Apocalypse.” You may know them better by their real names: Elon Musk, Sam Bankman-Fried and, of course, Donald J. Trump.

The stimulus for today’s blog was an encounter with an elderly man leaving “Kendall’s Bagels and More” in Palm Coast, Florida. He appeared somewhat disgruntled so I asked him, “How are you?” He replied, “Fair to middling, but the day is still young.” Not wanting to assume what he meant, I continued, “Young in a good sense or bad sense?” His cryptic answer, “I read the newspaper this morning.”

Sadly, many of today’s headlines are not likely to be the harbinger of good feelings. What might he be referring to? I thought I would share my reasons for being less than forlorn. “You know, any day you do not hold Tesla stock or invest in cryptocurrency is a good day.” He chuckled and we departed, still not knowing whether he shared my relief at not having spent $800 for a share of Tesla stock or $64,000 for one Bitcoin. Or whether he rued having made the same mistake so many others have in search of a quick return on investment.

Which brings me to the three perpetrators. Compared to Bankman-Fried, Bernie Madoff was a piker. Madoff’s mere $64.8 billion in fraudulent transactions on behalf of 4,800 clients is sofa change when stacked up against the 1.2 million registered users of Bankman-Fried’s cryptocurrency exchange. Two participants, Silicon Valley venture capital fund Sequoia and Singapore based investment company Temasek, stand to lose more than $200 million each following FTX’s bankruptcy filing. To promote his Ponzi scheme, Bankman-Fried recruited celebrities including “Seinfeld” co-creator Larry David and sports figures Tom Brady (is he now an actual goat in lower-case letters), Steph Curry, Shaquille O’Neal and Naomi Osaka.

Talk about karma, when Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried gave birth to a son in 1992 who chose to take both his parents’ surnames, the die was cast. I anxiously await the banner headline in the Wall Street Journal upon this scammer’s conviction on 1.2 million counts of financial fraud. “BANKMAN FRIED!”

On the other hand, Elon Musk would do well to heed the advice of Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, the M*A*S*H character portrayed by the late David Ogden Stiers. When asked to hurry up with a patient to assist with another, Winchester replies, “I do one thing at a time. I do it well. Then I move on.” We now know TWO things at a time (Tesla and SpaceX) were Musk’s limit. Forays into social media, cryptocurrency and high-speed transportation (the Hyperloop) took his attention away from the enterprises that were paying the bills.

Musk, Tesla owners and Tesla stockholders have all suffered. Tesla recalls have increased ten-fold in the past two years. And brand loyalty has suffered from more competition in the EV car market as well as Musk’s success in offending demographics who were the most likely purchasers of his pro-environmental poster child. Note to Musk’s secret Santa: Give him a copy of King Midas and the Golden Touch.

I have saved the Donald for last for one simple reason. Adding the NFT Trump Superhero trading cards to all the other grifts associated with the Mar-a-Lago Prosperity Church is clearly one more act of a desperate, modern-day P. T. Barnum. I would not be surprised if the plaque on his desk reads, “A sucker is born every minute.” And while sane people may consider Trumpism an on-going threat to democracy, Trump loyalists’ more pressing concern should be Barnumism, a clear and present danger to their wallets.

There is one more thing these three incorrigibles have in common, an affinity for using the internet and social media as an instrument to promote their various hustles. Musk now has Twitter and StarLink. Trump created Truth Social. And before his arrest, Bankman-Fried talked about partnering with Solana Breakpoint, the blockchain provider for FTX, to extend use of the same technology to gaming and other on-line activities.

Maybe they could pool their declining resources and establish a single website where gullible investors could be recruited. Except for the fact it is already registered to a major sporting goods retailer, the obvious domain name for their site would DICKS.COM. NOTE: Dick’s Sporting Goods purchased the domain from its original owner (you don’t want to know), and it immediately redirects the user to

For what it’s worth and Happy Holidays,