Tag Archives: Government

Jack Ciattarelli’s $10 Billion Budget Cut

New Jersey has an election tomorrow, pitting Democratic Governor Phil Murphy against Republican candidate Jack Ciattarelli.

While researching who to vote for, I came across a startling piece of information. From NJ.com:

Ciattarelli has vowed to cut $10 billion in spending from the budget. But he has not outlined what programs he’d slash.

That got me wondering: how big is the state budget? Would cutting $10 billion be a little, or a lot?

It turns out the total state budget is $46.4 billion. A $10 billion cut would mean slashing 22% of the state budget.

That sounds drastic. If Ciattarelli had clearly outlined wasteful spending we should eliminate, I’d feel a little better about his argument.

But the total lack of clarity on what state services will get the axe concerns me.

Would this mean no more buses, closing state parks, or the end of free community college? We have no way to know because the candidate hasn’t told us.

The question is, do we want to find out?

More on New Jersey:

Murphy’s Innovation Agenda

The Best Mexican Food Is In…New Jersey?

A Hidden Castle…In New Jersey?

Photo: “File:Jack Ciattarelli.jpg” by NJTVNews is licensed under CC BY 3.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/Facebook/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

China’s Real Goal in Tech Crackdown: A Regimented, Obedient Society

China’s government has just launched the latest salvo against its own technology industry:

China on Monday issued strict new measures aimed at curbing what authorities describe as youth videogame addiction, which they blame for a host of societal ills, including distracting young people from school and family responsibilities.

The new regulation, unveiled by the National Press and Publication Administration, will ban minors, defined as those under 18 years of age, from playing online videogames entirely between Monday and Thursday. On the other three days of the week, and on public holidays, they will be only permitted to play between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

This is likely to have a substantial effect on major Chinese tech companies like Tencent and NetEase, leaders in videogames. The new regulation is the latest development in a crackdown on companies in ride sharing, food delivery, educational tech, and more.

I see two major issues with this crackdown:

Economy

If you can have your business regulated out of existence at any time, you might not start one. And if you do, it will be a lot harder to attract investors.

Tech companies rely on venture capital to grow. That funding is already beginning to dry up. No wonder the number of Chinese companies reaching $1 billion valuation (“unicorns”) is falling off a cliff:

I invest in American startups regularly. There is zero possibility I’d invest in a Chinese one. The odds of the government one day deciding your industry is bad for “social stability” are just too high.

Without capital, Chinese tech companies will wither.

Society

Imagine the U.S. government telling you, “Sorry Timmy, you can only play video games from 8 to 9pm on weekends. Oh, 7 is better for you? Well too bad.”

In the context of a free society, this is unthinkable. In China, the government is taking on the role of a parent. It’s another step to totalitarianism, where the government controls all aspects of life.

And China’s crackdown goes way beyond tech:

Zhao Wei, one of China’s most prominent actresses, saw her presence mostly scrubbed from the country’s internet overnight. Her fan page on Weibo, China’s heavily censored version of Twitter, was shut down. Movies and television shows she starred in — some going as far back as two decades ago — were taken off streaming platforms, with her name also removed from the cast lists.

On Chinese social media, some comments said the crackdown was reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, a decade of political and social turmoil between 1966 and 1976 during which arts and culture were restricted to promoting party propaganda.

It was not immediately clear why Zhao was targeted.

The message from Xi Jinping is clear: he wants the people quiet and obedient. Anyone who stands out for any reason, be it an actress or a tech tycoon like Jack Ma, will be dealt with.

If you’re in China now, I urge you to emigrate. This will not end well.

More on China and tech:

China’s Tech Crackdown Means Economic Decline

China Is Crushing One of Its Most Innovative Companies

How China’s Tech Industry Dies

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Photo: “Chinese Soldiers in The Forbidden City – Beijing, China” by Patrick Rodwell is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! 

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

China’s Tech Crackdown Means Economic Decline

Imagine you’re running a marathon. You’ve led the whole race. But a strong runner is coming up on your right. The finish line approaches.

Suddenly, there is a loud “crack.” The other runner has been shot in the head. You win.

This is essentially what has happened to the Chinese tech sector in recent months. The Chinese government has cracked down on major companies like Alibaba, Didi Chuxing, and Meituan. It has also regulated its substantial ed tech sector out of existence.

China used to be the US’s leading competition in technology. Now it looks like an also-ran.

Leaders of Alibaba and Didi angering Xi Jinping is one reason for the crackdown. Another appears to be China’s desire to refocus from software to hardware. The Party seems to think microchips, batteries and advanced materials are critical to economic leadership, while consumer software is a distraction.

One problem: semiconductors and most other manufacturing industries are a lot less profitable than software companies like Alibaba or Didi. And all of China’s net job growth since 2012 has been in services, not manufacturing.

Even with that growth, well educated Chinese youth often struggle to find decent jobs. Severely curtailing one of the most vibrant sectors of the economy will only make it worse.

China has lost sight of what those microchips and batteries are supposed to do: run software! They are not ends in themselves.

What’s more, the threat of sudden crackdowns will make it harder for all Chinese companies to raise money and grow. Maybe the hammer is landing on tech now, but investors will wonder, “Who’s next?”

More on China:

HOW CHINA’S TECH INDUSTRY DIES

CHINA’S TECH ELITE IS RUNNING SCARED

CHINA IS CRUSHING ONE OF ITS MOST INNOVATIVE COMPANIES

Photo: “Vice President Xi Jinping” by nznationalparty is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! 

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Amazon Business American Express Card

You already shop on Amazon. Why not save $100?

If you’re approved for this card, you get a $100 Amazon gift card. You also get up to 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants/gas stations/cell phone bills, and 1% everywhere else.

Best of all: No fee!

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! 

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. 

China Is Crushing One of Its Most Innovative Companies

Didi Chuxing, or “Honk Honk Taxi”, was one of the greatest success stories of Chinese tech. Founded in 2012, it broke out just months later by providing rides during a heavy Beijing snowstorm. A regular taxi was impossible to get, but Didi came through.

After that, the company was on the fast track. It raised over $23 billion in funding from major venture firms like Softbank and beat Uber to dominate the Chinese market. So when the time came to go public this summer, markets had every reason to cheer.

Just sixteen days later, things look a lot different. Here’s what Didi’s stock has done:

Investors are down 15% in just two weeks, a disappointing debut. Meanwhile, Didi’s offices are flooded with Chinese state security agents:

China sent regulators including state security and police officials to Didi Global Inc.’s ride-hailing business on Friday as part of a cybersecurity investigation, the latest development in a regulatory saga that has gripped China’s tech industry.

Regulators from government units including the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of State Security, the Cyberspace Administration of China, the Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Natural Resources will be stationed at Didi starting Friday for the investigation, the cyberspace administration said in an online statement.

Potential outcomes include financial penalties, suspensions of business licenses and criminal charges.

Imagine if, shortly after its IPO, FBI and CIA agents raided Uber headquarters. This is exactly what’s happening to Didi.

Didi may not have adequately disclosed the concerns the Chinese government had about its security practices. That, and substantial investor losses, set the stage for a tsunami of shareholder lawsuits. Indeed, a class action suit has already been filed against Didi.

I see Didi being increasingly distracted by heavy pressure from the authoritarian Chinese government along with cascading lawsuits in the US. Even if the company survives, they’re distracted and ripe for disruption.

There is no evidence Didi has actually done anything improper with user data. But the Chinese government doesn’t like any information passing outside its borders, and companies are required to make disclosures to IPO in the US, so Didi is now under fire from a powerful and dictatorial government.

Another company had its IPO on the same day as Didi: SentinelOne, a California-based cybersecurity startup. Here’s how they’ve done since:

Up 4% with no regulatory problems: a situation Didi can only dream of.

If one Chinese company after another comes under the Communist thumb, and investors suffer as a result, why wouldn’t the venture funding go to the SentinelOnes rather than the Didis? Even in today’s hot market, there are always more startups than there is funding. Chinese companies, with their unique regulatory risks, are likely to be the last in line.

China has generated amazing innovation, but those days may be coming to an end.

Have a good weekend everyone!

More on tech:

HOW CHINA’S TECH INDUSTRY DIES

CHINA IS KILLING ITS TECH INDUSTRY

INSIDE A STARTUP ACCELERATOR DEMO DAY

Photo: “crushed can” by subsetsum is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. using the buttons at the bottom of the page. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave your comments at the bottom.

Save Money on Stuff I Use:

Fundrise

This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been good so far. More on Fundrise in this post.

If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days. With their 1% management fee, this could save you $250 on a $100,000 account. I will also get a fee waiver for 90-365 days, depending on what type of account you open.

iHerb

The only place I buy vitamins and supplements. I recently placed an order and received it in less than 48 hours with free shipping! I compared the prices and they were lower than Amazon. I also love how they test a lot of the vitamins so that you know you’re getting what the label says. This isn’t always the case with supplements.

Use this link to save 5%! I’ll also get 5% of however much you spend, at no cost to you.

Misfits Market

My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me. Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor. I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy! I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.

Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $10 on your first order. I’ll also get $10.

This Congressman Is Buying Dogecoin

Dogecoin has become so popular, even Congressmen are getting into the game:

U.S. Rep. Mark Green purchased Dogecoin on April 1 and April 14 according to Congresstrading.com. The purchases were in the amount of $1,001 to $15,000 on each occasion.

A $1,000 purchase each time would now be worth $17,078 based on today’s price of $0.4009. A $15,000 purchase each time would now be worth $127,985.

More here.

As cryptocurrencies including dogecoin become increasingly mainstream, with more investors holding them and more companies accepting them as payment, it will become harder and harder for the government to ban or even regulate them. Congressmen won’t want to hurt their own portfolios, nor those of their wealthy contributors.

For more on dogecoin, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/Facebook/etc. using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too!

Why Aren’t Flu Vaccines Free for Everyone?

If you have health insurance in the United States, you can usually get a flu vaccine for nothing. But for the 28.9 million Americans who are uninsured, a flu vaccine can cost up to $50. For a population that is often hard pressed, this can be unaffordable. And if you have a family of 4 to vaccinate, the numbers are even worse.

Meanwhile, COVID vaccines cost absolutely nothing, whether you have insurance or not. Why aren’t we doing the same for flu vaccines?

Medicare pays $10-60 for flu vaccines, with an average price of $36 across all the vaccines they cover. If the federal government bought one for every uninsured American, the price would be $1.04 billion.

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, it’s easy to forget just how deadly the common flu can be. But the flu has killed between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans per year since 2010.

How do we decide if a policy is worth it compared to the number of lives it could save? The government uses a figure called the “statistical value of a human life” to measure whether many policies, such as environmental regulations, are worth it or not. That figure is about $10 million.

At that rate, giving a free flu shot to every uninsured American would only have to save 100 lives a year in order to pay for itself entirely. That’s just 0.2% to 0.8% of all flu deaths. Offering free flu vaccines to 8.8% of the entire population would probably prevent a lot more than a fraction of a percent of flu deaths.

Let’s give this policy a try!

For more on health, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/Facebook/etc. using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too!

Photo: “01a.UStreet.NW.WDC.13September2015” by Elvert Barnes is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

GameStop Hearing 2.0: What You Need to Know

At 10am Eastern time today, Congress will be having its second hearing about the frenzy in GameStop Corp. shares that sent the stock up 1700% in January. This hearing is unlikely to affect the price of the stock much. Rather, it will dig into whether or not the trading system around it is fair.

A major focus will be a process called “payment for order flow”. This is the revenue model used by brokers including Robinhood, which handled many of the trades in GameStop. Under this model, the app user pays nothing to trade stocks. Instead, Robinhood gets money from the companies that execute the trades for the privilege of fulfilling those orders.

Experts on payment for order flow will testify:

Sal Arnuk, co-founder of trading firm Themis Trading, plans to spotlight the growing role of payment-for-order-flow, where retail brokerage houses such as Robinhood channel customer orders to specific trading firms in exchange for payments.

“These practices create a massive incentive for such brokers to sell their clients orders to sophisticated trading firms uniquely tooled to profit off of them,” Mr. Arnuk will say, according to preliminary testimony released by the House committee. “This is a needless conflict that can harm retail investors, and it degrades the integrity of the market ecosystem as a whole.”

Why do the companies, like Citadel, that execute the trades want to pay to do it? Because they can find a price better than the public market, buy or sell to you for a slightly worse price (but still better than the public market), and keep the difference for their trouble.

Robinhood and Citadel maintain this is a better deal for investors. And indeed, there is independent research to support that claim. However, Citadel has been fined for giving customers worse prices than public markets, as has Robinhood.

A month ago, I called for Robinhood and Citadel to release a data set of executed trades to prove their service is a better deal than public markets. Congress may demand something similar. If their service really is better, they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by showing us what a great deal they provide!

For more information on payment for order flow and GameStop, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Maxine Waters” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

10 Years of Legal Weed: Fewer Opioid Deaths, More Jobs and Tax Revenue

I got an interesting message in my e-mail this morning. The NPR Planet Money newsletter reviewed the prior nearly ten years in legal marijuana in some states, and came to some interesting conclusions:

What’s changed:

  • More marijuana use
  • Way more jobs
  • Way more tax revenue. California makes over $600 million a month.

What hasn’t:

  • No effect on crime or traffic accidents
  • No change in price of marijuana. Evidently the product and service at the legal stores is so good people prefer it to anything else.

What might have:

Use of opioids. In the working paper linked from the newsletter, I found this incredible stat:

…Chan, Burkhardt, and Flyr (2020) show that RMLs [recreational marijuana laws] reduce opioid mortality by 20% to 35%, implying that both opioid use and misuse decline as legal marijuana access expands.

Given the mass death caused by opioids, this alone seems like reason enough to legalize marijuana in my book.

I read this newsletter with particular interest since I live in New Jersey, which recently legalized marijuana but doesn’t yet have weed stores the way California, Colorado and other states do. It looks like we mostly have positive changes to look forward to.

For more posts on politics and news, check these out:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Vancouver Global Marijuana March 2015 – by Danny Kresnyak” by Cannabis Culture is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The US Government Is Selling Its Bitcoin

The US government is selling its bitcoin…all $38,000 worth:

Tucked away among the Ford, Dodge and Chevy sedans, the 12,000-gallon storage container and the inoperable Caterpillar tractor being auctioned off by the U.S. government is an unusual item: 0.7501 of a Bitcoin.

The federal government did not reveal the source of its cryptocurrency holdings, but I imagine they were probably seized in a bust of some sort. Indeed, a far larger collection was sold off when the Silk Road was shut down:

The government doesn’t say where its surplus digital currency came from. And while it’s a far cry from the 30,000 Bitcoins auctioned off by the U.S. Marshals Service in 2014 after they were seized from the Silk Road marketplace, the GSA auction is one more indication of how Bitcoin is becoming more and more mainstream.

This does make me wonder if eventually states and sovereign wealth funds will buy crypto and hold it. Can the day be far in the future?

For more on the latest in cryptocurrencies, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Vice President Joe Biden visit to Israel March 2016” by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Bitcoin Anonymity Could Become A Thing of the Past If This Regulation Passes

In the waning days of the Trump administration, the government proposed regulations that would ban anonymity for holders of cryptocurrencies:

Users whose wallets now are only identified with codes would have their true identities recorded with the financial institutions they zealously avoided.

This proposed regulation has now been passed on to the Biden administration. There’s no timeline for a decision, but removing anonymity from crypto transactions could hammer the price:

If adopted, the regulations could cause a sharp fall in the prices of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, said Matthew Maley, chief market strategist for Miller Tabak & Co., adding that he thinks Bitcoin’s price will continue to rise in the long term.

There are some major companies like Fidelity and Coinbase pushing to retain anonymity, and I think their political influence may stop such regulations. But on the other hand, the possibility for anonymity to facilitate drug deals and terrorism could push the government in the opposite direction.

For more on the latest in cryptocurrencies, check out these posts:

If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/LinkedIn/email using the buttons below. This helps more people find the blog! And please leave a comment at the bottom of the page letting me know what you think and what other information you’re interested in!

Check out the Stuff I Use page for some great deals on products and services I use to improve my health and productivity. They just might help you too! 

Photo: “Bitcoin, bitcoin coin, physical bitcoin, bitcoin photo” by antanacoins is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0