Immigrants coming from the Caribbean and Latin America to the United States over the next two years should prepare for a rough patch thereafter.

The International Monetary Fund today released a report describing a robust 2017 and 2018 U.S. economy, but 2019 and 2020 may be brutal for Americans as the economy is expected to taper off during those two years.

First the good news. Growth in gross domestic product was 2.3% in 2017 and is expected to climb by 2.9% in 2018. In 2019, the United States will see a slight tapering off in GDP growth at a growth rate of 2.7%.

Now, the bad news.  By 2020, the next presidential election year, growth will fall off almost abysmally when Americans see a GDP growth rate of 1.9%. It won’t get better in 2021, 2022, or 2023 as the growth rate continues to decline with growth rates projected at 1.7%, 1.5%, and 1.4% respectively.

At first blush the unemployment rates may look good during those periods. For example, by the end of 2017, the unemployment rate was 4.1% which is considered an indicator of an economy at full employment. The numbers, at least on the surface get better. In 2018, unemployment is expected to be at 3.5%, under the historical full employment mark. The U.S. will continue to see low unemployment in 2019(3.5%), 2020(3.4%), 2021(3.5%), 2022(3.7%), and 2023(3.8%); all figures again reflecting full employment.

Now we have to reconcile the low unemployment rate with low GDP growth. I suspect that more members of the tail end of the Baby Boom will contemplate retirement and may opt for leaving the workforce. As more people leave the workforce, all other things remaining equal, the number treated as unemployed also falls. Also, as the population ages, people on fixed incomes will adjust their budgets to reflect their new spending realities. Reduced spending by Baby Boomers will contribute will contribute to the slowdown in growth.

Also constraining spending will be the rise in interest rates as the Federal Reserve exceeds its targeted 2% federal funds rate goal. America runs on credit and the more expensive is to purchase, the less of it Americans have to spend.  According to IMF data, the ten-year bond rate ended at 2.4% in 2017. The rate on a ten-year note sets the interest rates for lending in the United States. By the end of 2018, the rate on the ten year is expected to climb to 3.2%; in 2019, 3.7%; and in 2020, 3.8%.  The rate will then level off to 3.6% in 2021 and 2022; and hit 3.7% in 2023.

Inflation is expected to peak at 2.8% in 2018 but fall to 2.4% and 2.0% in 2019 and 2020, respectively. The years 2021 and 2022 will see inflation at 1.9% climbing slightly to 2.0% in 2023.

While the economy will be in a sluggish mode, immigrants should be mindful of the social mood. A lot of the animosity toward undocumented immigrants has been tossed at immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Today, media is honing in on the Trump administration’s preferred policy to separate parents attempting to enter the U.S. across its border with Mexico without visas from their children.  I suspect this treatment will be carried out at all points and ports of entry. But given the animosity hurled at immigrants during booming years of an American economy, the social fabric may be a bit worn and the welcome less warm during a sluggish one.

The court in AT&T-Time Warner produces a rule that is overall positive for Caribbean media consumers

Tom Wheeler, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, told C-SPAN’s Peter Slen on last Monday’s segment of The Communicators that the absence of open internet rules tells content providing internet service providers that they can discriminate and favor their own content.  Mr Wheeler also opined that on 11 June 2018, major local monopolies will be told that it is fair to discriminate. Over time we will see internet services discriminate in a way that benefits their bottom line. Mr Wheeler believed that an AT&T-Time Warner tie-up would present consumers that type of anti-competitive dilemma.

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia disagreed with the former Commission chairman, issuing an opinion yesterday in United States of America v. AT&T, Inc., that says that AT&T Inc.’s acquisition of the media giant did not violate anti-trust law.  Vertical mergers rarely get denied by the courts. Given that AT&T and Time Warner do not play in each other’s space, in my opinion, finding the acquisition to be harmful to consumers would have been a bit much. What I always find fascinating is the expression of entitlement by consumers of media services; as if media consumption and the digital means by which content is consumed is a right.

Take for example the reaction to the merger by a leading member of the Fake Left, Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts:

“This ruling is an assault on consumers, choice, and innovation,” said Senator Markey.  “The telecommunications market needs more competition, not more consolidation. We need a telecommunications market where pay-TV gatekeepers don’t favor their own content providers, but allow minority, diverse, and independent programmers to reach Americans’ screens. I fear this decision will only further fuel merger mania in the telecommunications and other markets.” 

“Today’s decision underscores the need to restore robust net neutrality rules, so broadband providers like AT&T cannot use their gatekeeper role to harm competing services and content. Without net neutrality protections in place, AT&T will be free to block, slowdown, or charge fees to competitors like Netflix and Hulu to favor their own DirecTV Now streaming service and HBO content. Speaker Ryan should schedule an immediate vote on my CRA resolution to restore the FCC’s net neutrality rules.”

Both Mr Wheeler and Mr Markey come around and paint yesterday’s court ruling with the net neutrality brush while at the same time, unwittingly, making the court’s argument: that there should be a showing that this vertical merger would substantially erode competition. Bear in mind that United States of America v. AT&T, Inc. has nothing to do with net neutrality per se, but Mr Wheeler and Mr Markey have opened the conflation door by arguing that application of Title II-based net neutrality rules would mitigate AT&T’s gatekeeper role. This is speculation and fades further when you compare their speculation with the court’s description of how the industry works.

While I found the first 30 or so pages of the opinion to read like a script proposal for a Netflix docu-drama, the court’s description of how the video distribution industry works makes Mr Wheeler and Mr Markey’s assessments sound like paranoia. AT&T has no incentive to hoard content. On the contrary, part of the company’s reason for acquiring Time Warner is to create another stream of revenue: advertising fees. As more consumers cut or shave the cord at home and go mobile, AT&T’s lost subscriber fees must be recovered from other sources. AT&T decided to chase advertisement revenue. Time Warner’s content is traction for advertisement revenue. It is more efficient to get this new content on to as many distributor platforms as possible in order to maximize revenues. This means licensing content to a Netflix or Hulu or even using Time Warner’s production capacity to create content for these other platforms. Blocking or slowing down access to Netflix or Hulu would make no sense because AT&T would risk degrading the value of the content it provides to these platforms as a result of licensing or sales agreements.

Would Title II-based net neutrality rules increase competition in the production and delivery of content? No. Netflix and Hulu were spawned in a light touch, Title II free regulatory zone. They didn’t need permission to create the applications necessary for accessing content. They didn’t need permission to place those applications on the internet. The demand for content comes from consumers and the data on consumer tastes allows Netflix and Hulu to create even better more engaging content. A socialist-style, government approach to dictating how consumers access content and transmit their preferences about content is not what the consumer needs.

This is why the decision in United States of America v. AT&T, Inc., costs me nothing. I am not being compelled to buy content I don’t need because the light touch environment that went back into effect on Monday means that over the top platforms like Hulu and Netflix and the new AT&T will provide me with even more enticing offers to view the edgier content I suspect that will be spawned from competition. Consumers have put content providers and distribution platforms on notice that they can choose providers and distributors at the swipe of a smart phone screen and by allowing vertical mergers and the convergence it spawns, those screens will carry more interesting and diverse content.

Dear United States. Get Out of the Korean Peninsular. You Lost the War

Watching the press conference being held by President Trump regarding his summit with Chairman Kim. The questions from the press corp are pretty empty. Questions like, “Can we trust North Korea?” “How can you call Mr Kim a talented leader given North Korea’s human rights abuses?” “How will you verify that North Korea has completely denuclearized?” The usual, arrogant blah, blah from empty headed journalists chasing ratings, Emmys, and Peabody awards.

From my view, the real issue is why has the United States not reconciled the current scenario with the fact that its reason for inserting itself into a civil war was bogus? None of these reporters has posed the question, “Why are we here in the first place?” Statists on the left have lobbed criticism at Mr Trump, either in traditional or social media, but none have educated the American public on the underlying flawed philosophy of American faux imperialism. To do so would require Americans to take another look at themselves in the mirror and come to grips with a the idea of taking a foreign policy path that says, “America will keep its nose out of another country’s business.”

The United States lost the Korean War. Let me repeat that. The United States lost the Korean War. It failed at its objective. It should not now be in any position to dictate terms to the winner. It should leave … now. The premise that intervening in the war between North and South Korea was necessary in order to stop the domino effect of communism throughout Asia was bogus to begin with. As your own Robert F. Kennedy surmised, communism eventually feeds on itself. Time proved him right.

Today, you have a state-based capitalist political economy in China poised to take over the space held by the market-based capitalist political economy of the United States. Soon, a number of you will be holding yuan as your own personal reserve currency because Asia and Africa would have switched to it.

America looks like a sleeping drunk old man who has been startled to consciousness. Its influence in Asia is slipping away. It can only buy influence in Africa by selling weapons. Europe laughs at it and is resolved to go its own way. America’s self-righteous sounding commentary on human rights abuses is empty rhetoric given its level of police brutality toward blacks. As we say in the Virgin Islands, “Ah you need to go sid down and shut up.”

Bottom line, America. You lost. Unless you are selling goods and services to a country, you shouldn’t be there. Get out of the Korean peninsular….

If you needed the internet that bad, you would have created it yourself

Monday 11 June 2018. We will see a repeat of the weeping and wailing that Hillary Clinton’s supporters did as they witnessed what they thought was impossible: an electoral loss to Donald Trump. Advocates for the treatment of broadband access as a telecommunications service will weep and wail not because of the loss of internet service, but because they will be out of bullets when the scare tactics imposed on millions of consumers do not come to fruition. As June goes into July into August into election season into Kwanzaa, another argument for attracting anti-Trump voters will fade away.  As the tyrannical Fake Left jump onto social media and create new forums and hashtags for the next rally, they will soon take for granted that the internet still works after all.

What I find disconcerting is the emotion attached to internet access. “If everyone is not connected, we will all sink into the pits of Hades.” “If I am not online, I am inconsequential.” “The internet is crucial to our daily living and well-being.”  None of this is true. Unlike water and energy, internet access is not a necessity for the continuation of life. Approximately 11% of Americans do not use the internet, according to data from Pew Research. More than likely, these individuals are getting information they determine as pertinent to their lives from old tried and true sources: first hand observation, published news sources, direct contact with government agencies, family and friends. These data sources are not as fast or as glitzy, but they have worked for centuries and more than likely were used by the individuals who built this digital world.

I expect the percentage of Americans not using the internet to fall over time when you consider that in 2000 approximately 48% of Americans were not online.  Our children are already internet savvy and this use of online services will only continue as they get older. As we on the tail end of the Baby Boom enter retirement, we may find ourselves using it more to connect with fellow Boomers who, unfortunately, may not be up to travel for various reasons.

What we need to avoid is allowing political factions such as the Fake Left to play on the emotions stemming from the belief that without net neutrality rules, consumers won’t be able to get to the websites of their choice, see speeds from their favorite websites slow down, or have their data sold to third parties they did not approve.  This narrative should be seen for what it is; another way to get votes.

If the Fake Left were really concerned about protecting your privacy and the speed at which you access data, they would tell you that you are responsible for reading the fine print of every service agreement for every information service provider you access. Arguing that terms and conditions are written in “legalese” is no excuse for skipping over disclosures and subjecting your privacy to abuse.  If, as the Fake Left argues, the internet is that crucial to everyday living, so crucial that it should be treated like a utility, then equal fervor should be applied to the consumer who decides to use online services.  In other words, the Fake Left should stop encouraging people who can’t fly to buy an airplane and attempt to fly it without bearing the consequences.

If you can’t get what your want from an information service provider in terms of privacy or speed, then maybe you should invest in consumer encryption services such as a virtual private network, or using a heavily encrypted network or browser such as TOR.

There are also the old methods of information gathering: a telephone (landline) and a newspaper, from which you can access by paying cash, the ultimate form of encrypted currency. Bottom line, there are ways to protect your individual privacy without implementing more onerous rules on society.

Courts and regulatory agencies as markets

For most of us every day folk, courts are places where we want a judgment that says, “We are right.” But courts are also “rules markets.” Rules markets are where frameworks for how we engage each other going forward are produced and depending on how broad the issue is defined, those rules may be forcibly consumed by others who were not a party to the conflict that brought the original rule producers together in the first place.

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission provides an example. While the issue in that case focused on whether Colorado’s equal rights agency applied its civil rights rules in a neutral manner where civil rights violations were alleged, some Americans questioned why the consequences of that case should spill outside of Colorado and impact citizens and businesses in other states. The short answer is that externalities, whether positive or negative, from a court ruling enter society because of the structure of our legal system. The legal structure is centralized and the ripple effect of legal decisions spreads out to more citizens the higher up the legal rule production hierarchy you go. The interpretation as to what the rule should be for governing a relationship or conflict becomes the “law of the land” where the highest court becomes the market for producing legal rules.

I heard some of this concern from every day folk during a CSPAN session the day after the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling. “Why did this conflict have to escalate?” some asked. It escalated because a centralized legal system provides opportunities for individuals occupying a minority class to extend its views on how society should work to the rest of America by accessing and participating in the rule making process.

Conflict is a high cost for entering this “centralized rules” market, but a higher price is paid by the rest of society where we are subjected to rules produced by a small number of participants seeking to produce rules that favor their behavior and the detriment of limiting or modifying everyone else’s.

In my opinion, the limitation of the behavior of others as a result of rules produced in a centralized market is a negative externality or negative benefit. No matter the noble intent of the rule producers, where the rule produced impacts my behavior, it impacts my liberty.

One way to limit the negative externalities of centralized rulemaking is for parties to enter into voluntary agreements, agreements limited to the parties resolving the immediate conflict. It would be a lot cheaper for parties in actual conflict or anticipating conflict if the rules were produced as a result of voluntary engagement designed to head off conflict versus the other way around. It would also be less expensive for members of society who are not direct parties to the conflict since they would not be subject to rules that they did not produce.

Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd v Colorado Civil Rights Commission: Colorado must be neutral in application of civil rights laws

The U.S. Supreme Court told the state of Colorado that it must be neutral in its application of equal rights laws in an opinion released today by the high court.  In Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd., et al. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, at issue was whether the State’s requirement that the appellant create a cake for a same-sex wedding would violate the appellant’s right to free speech by compelling him to exercise his artistic talents to express a message with which he disagreed and would violate his right to the free exercise of religion? The Court answered in the affirmative, holding that Colorado did not apply its civil rights laws in a neutral manner.

In its analysis, the Court reiterated that religious and philosophical objections to gay marriage are protected views and, in some instances, protected forms of expression. Masterpiece Cakeshop’s claim that the State compelled him to use his artistic skill to make a statement endorsing a gay couple’s wedding had significant First Amendment implications regarding the sincere religious beliefs expressed by the appellant.  Statements made during the Colorado Civil Rights Commission’s hearing of the gay couple’s complaint against Masterpiece Cakeshop were, according to the Court, clearly hostile to the appellant. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission had a duty under the First Amendment to not base laws or regulations on hostility to a religion or religious viewpoint.

The individualist can’t help but be concerned about how the State apparatus, a civil rights agency, could be used to help extend one couple’s view of how the world should be over those who don’t agree with the view. Yes, as individualist we promote the individual’s choice to live their life as they see fit, according to their own personal rules. This includes exercising their personal sexual preference. So- called cultural conservatives are guilty of these attempts as well, most notably in the area of abortion where they show a heavy penchant for regulating a woman’s womb.

The Court made a call in the individualist favor although promoting individualism was the furthest thing from the Court’s mind. This holding is a reminder that sometimes the entire State apparatus has to call its own bluff when it comes to its claims that government is protector of liberty.

America needs a new civil rights paradigm; one that puts the individual first

There is racism in America. America’s institutions were designed to route capital away from various groups based on race. America’s founding was race-based evidenced by a European policy of removal of Native American tribes from ancestral homes in North America where removal was based on a theory of discovery that, on one hand acknowledged the occupancy of America by Native Americans, but on the other hand, chose to abide with what it identified as a global rule where the country discovering the occupied land can declare acquisition by discovery of the occupied land and remove the occupants by force.

Europeans used a similar argument when it entered the African slave trade and removed people from their homes in Africa and transported them to North America. Like the Native American, Africans were given sub-human status justifying their removal as nothing but chattel property for use as unpaid labor.

America’s history is steeped in racism and as part of its redress federal, state, and local governments have embarked on an almost 60-year initiative to guarantee the rights of individuals to receive “equal treatment” by prohibiting discrimination against classes of individuals (race, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) who are pursuing certain endeavors, activities, or opportunities including education, employment, housing, borrowing on credit, housing, or voting.

I see two problems with these attempts at redress of wrongs allegedly perpetrated on certain groups. First, there is the total disregard of the individual where civil rights laws attempt to extend the “tyranny of the masses” that is becoming increasingly virulent in democracy. Groups of unknown individuals identified only by the class that they may fall in may now, backed by the force of the State, restrict the ability of the individual or an association of individuals from engaging with who they want or engaging in certain aspects of the market on terms that best serve their individual or group interests.

The second problem, particularly as it involves blacks in America, is that civil rights laws create a reliance on another group’s “safety pin”, a false and dangerous narrative that says that blacks should seek protection from a group whose wealth has been built on a history of systemic and systematic initiatives designed to keep power. There is a fallacy that the group that has kept its boot on the neck of black people is expected to remove the boot solely on the power of morals.  Rather than seek true economic and political empowerment via total independence, the current civil rights framework has the group with the boot creating the framework for redress on its terms while blacks hope and pray that the pressure of the boot is relieved just enough so that they can swallow a couple mouthfuls of fresh air.

Both problems, the attack on the individual’s freedom to disassociate and the lack of empowerment for and among blacks promoted by the civil rights framework, are best addressed by the dismantling of the current framework. Dismantling the framework eradicates the erroneous interpretation of the role of the State as protector of the individual and introduces many blacks to the reality that true empowerment comes from the ability to set your own course toward liberty.

Civil rights is anti-individual and anti-empowerment. The framework must be abandoned. It fosters weakness.