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Strebler's Perspective

May, 2016 Archives

Not Even $1000?

By Jon S. Strebler 

 

As a retired high school teacher, I know that the U.S. K-12 educational system is deeply flawed.  Numerous studies show that the US lags most other developed countries in this area, often by a wide margin.  The US school system turns out a huge number of high school graduates with just mediocre skills, much more than half of whom are unprepared to do legitimate university-level work, despite taking “college-prep” classes. 

 

Setting aside these academic deficiencies, even the best high school graduates – and there are many, just to be fair – are typically very poorly prepared to deal with issues of personal finance that are needed by all citizens.  How to budget, how to save/invest, plan for retirement, acquire and wisely utilize credit, rent or buy a house and a car, addressing insurance needs – these crucial topics are taught quite superficially, if at all, in most high schools.  Even at the university level where the U.S. is still tops, most young people are successfully taught what they need in order to earn a decent income, but almost nothing at all about what to do with that income. 


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Retail Sales Warning?

By Jon S. Strebler

 

Spending on finished goods and services by consumers, a.k.a. retail spending or simply “consumption” for economists, is a big deal. That’s because such spending makes up nearly 70% of the US’s total spending on finished goods/services, or GDP. That’s higher than other developed countries; in Japan consumer spending is 60% of GDP, and it’s only 55% in Canada and Germany, for example. That largely reflects higher tax rates in those countries, leaving less money for consumer spending while bumping up government spending, but is also a commentary on this country’s shameless materialism.

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Free Trade As Pariah

by Jon S. Strebler

 

I’m back now from our Europe travels, where the importance of trade is hard to miss.  The European Union (EU) joins 28 countries in political ways, but as the child of the previous European Economic Community (EEC), a crucial focus has always been economic matters.  In a way, it’s Europe trying to create a “United States of Europe” or USE, allowing it to compete as a near equal to the United States of America in terms of size and clout.  Imagine how difficult and restrictive it would be to have different forms of money, with different rules, regulations, and restrictions to travel or trade for citizens, say California, if they wanted to do business with or even visit Oregon or Florida or wherever.  So the EU has been a great boon to Europe in terms of trade.

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Disconnect, Reconnect

by Jon S. Strebler

 

Each time we visit Europe, my wife and I make it a point to spend a week or so in Spain, along with whatever other countries we include in our itinerary.  Spain is like our second home, the place we love and feel the most comfortable in, apart from the US.  Our goal each time is to re-visit a couple of our favorite places in Spain, but also to spend time in one or two new parts of the country.  This year, Aragon and its ancient capitol – Jaca – were on the top of the list.  As the Moors spread out all over Spain in the 8th century, Aragon – along with Asturias and other northern parts of the country – were the last bastions of Visigothic power, and where the Reconquista began, ending with the collapse of the last Moorish center of Granada in that fateful year of 1492.

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