Friday, June 10, 2022

How to stop Stagflation now

 


The latest inflation data was released on June 10
th and the news is getting worse.   Prices increased 8.6% in May – the largest increase since the country started Christmas shopping in 1981. Making matters worse is the fact that the economy contracted by 1.4% in the first quarter of 2022.

For those of you who are new to this type of party – meaning you are under the age of 50 – this is called stagflation, and it is the worst of all economic developments.

Stagflation first reared its ugly head in the United States in 1971 and stayed there for over a decade.

Nixon tried wage and price controls (see Elizabeth Warren’s current call for the same) only to create shortages and black markets.

Jimmy Carter tried to spend his way out of trouble, only to see the ‘Misery Index’ - the sum of inflation and unemployment – reach a record that has never been broken.

Now it is Joe Biden’s turn to either look like a savior or share the dunce cap worn by his predecessors.

If he is serious about fighting stagflation – without seeing a Federal Reserve Bank created recession, do it for him – he needs to do just one thing.   That is, he must immediately take measures to increase the overall supply of goods and services in this country.  To do that, he must ignore his party, overturn Trump’s bad ideas and have the courage to be unpopular until non-inflationary economic growth reappears.

First, President Biden has to inform the climate change zealots that now is not the time to worry about how much ice is in the Artic in the year 2417.    He should announce, immediately, that permits for oil drilling on federal lands that have gathered dust for the past two years will be approved while all federal regulations that are currently rushing us towards a fossil fuel-free society will be tabled.     Notice that as gas prices have crept towards $5 per gallon, the oil companies are not acting like they used to.   In the past, high gas prices would have led to a flurry of production increases everywhere crude can be found. 

Not now.   Biden and his climate change minions have scared the oil and gas industry into sitting on proven reserves and barely budging the production needle.  He needs to tell them – yesterday – to drill, drill, drill.   This will help increase supplies, lower prices and offset what has been lost from Russia’s war against Ukraine.

Second, he needs to open the borders – and they need to be wide open.   There are currently over 2 million fewer immigrants in the U.S. than we would normally have because of Trump’s lousy understanding of the value immigration has in a modern economy. That, plus the slowdown that occurred during the height of the pandemic has created a terrible labor shortage that has fueled skyrocketing prices for homes, food and everything else.     We need more people and since Americans do not seem eager to go back to work, we need to get them from anywhere and everywhere.

Third, Mr. Biden needs to call off Donald Trump’s trade war with the planet and announce that there will be pressure on Congress to eliminate all tariffs on all goods that are produced in any country on the planet that wants to sell to us.   The elimination of tariffs would help offset a great deal of the supply-chain issues that have kept prices high and would create more competition, lower prices and economic growth.

Finally, while there is nothing Joe Biden can do to undo his inflationary $1.9 trillion stimulus package from 2021, there is a message he can send to Wall Street that would be helpful.   That is, that government spending – across the board – will be cut.  That means corporate welfare, social welfare and every other category in between in order to show some measure of inflation-fighting fiscal discipline.

If all this sounds like some ridiculous fairy tale that would never happen, well, that is true.

That is why many economists are now saying that this decade – yes, the decade – is going to look a lot like the 1970’s, minus the polyester and disco music.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Paul Bell - Legendary Oklahoma football coach - and father figure

 Today, Paul Bell, my high school football coach in Hugo, Oklahoma (1981-83) passed away.

Words cannot describe how much Coach Bell meant to me and the thousands of other young people he impacted during his time as an educator and coach.

In the 1970's he was the coach of Eufaula, OK high school where he shaped the careers of legends like J.C. Watts and the Selmon brothers.

The number of All-State and All-American players he coached is staggering.   He had players who ended up in the NFL Hall of Fame and who were considered candidates for President of the United States.

But he also had a far greater impact on the players he coached by being a true father figure.

Eastern and Southeastern Oklahoma is a hard part of the world to grow up in.   When I was a kid, the fathers of that era were not the type to hug a lot or say "I love you" with great, or any, frequency.

Paul Bell was different.

It was not uncommon for him to finish an important football, or life lesson, and look you right in the eye and say, "I love you."  

You knew pretty quickly that he meant it by the way he fought for us, taught us and molded us into men.

The molding could be tough as hell though.

Coach Bell grew up in Depression-era Oklahoma, worked in the oil fields, served in the military and was a champion boxer and undersized guard for his national championship college football team.  He was a hard-nosed, no-nonsense man that I seriously doubt many of today's NFL, college or highschool kids could have tolerated.

He was not shy about loudly correcting stupid things we did and did not tolerate laziness.  

From his two-a-day practices in Oklahoma's summer to his fourth quarter drills that made you wish you were 1,000 miles from his practice field, when he put us through conditioning drills you knew it was meant to last a lifetime.

And a lifetime it has lasted.

There have been many times when I have been in the proverbial 4th quarter of work, parenting, coaching or being a husband.   I cannot count the number of times that I have felt Coach Bell's influence when I needed to finish strong or outwork someone else.   His tough love shaped my character and helped me understand the difference between excellence and mediocrity.

Late in his life I would take my sons to his home and he treated them like they were his own.  He laughed with them, showed them football drills and asked them questions about their interests and their lives without ever bragging about himself.

He also never discussed something with me or any other player that is also a testament to his character. Coach Bell was let go by Hugo after three seasons.   Years later we found out that one of the the biggest reasons for his dismissal was his decision to have the first African-American quarterback in school history take the reins for our team.  This was a hugely unpopular decision with the people in Hugo who had power and influence over the school board even though it was the right one for our team.  That quarterback ended up taking Hugo to back-to-back state playoff appearances his junior and senior year.

This, and countless other stories about him are sure to circulate in the days ahead.

Paul Bell's legacy is one of character, discipline and dedication to young people while showing them it is fine for a tough guy to show love and kindess at the same time.

Thank you, Coach Bell.

I love you too....


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

How President Biden can Fight Inflation

What follows is my Op-Ed in today's Orlando Sentinel

___

Readers of this paper who are under the age of 50 do not recall the last time the United States experienced a rapid increase in the price of, well, everything. 

Recently the latest inflation data was released, and the report was staggering.  Last month, prices rose by 7% - the largest increase since 1982.  This figure represents an acceleration of upward pressure on prices that has been taking place since the end of the short-lived, but severe 2020 recession. 


Left unchecked, every American who receives an increase in their wage or salary in 2022 better hope that it approaches double digits, otherwise they will only be able to say, “Thanks for cutting my pay” to their employer. 


Yet, it does not have to be this way.   There are steps the Biden Administration, Congress and the Federal Reserve Bank can take today to prevent a disastrous repeat of the 1971-82 period when a new term, “stagflation” reared its ugly head. 


Inflation takes place when the demand for goods and services increases at a faster pace than suppliers can produce.  Stagflation occurs when the overall supply of goods and services declines.   Stagflation is the worst of all economic evils because when supply falls throughout a nation it not only pushes up prices, but it also leads to a recession and higher unemployment. 


What we are seeing today is, for now, demand increasing extremely fast while supply is slightly falling, or depending on the sector, barely increasing. 


This problem has been created by several sources.   


First, the Trump and Biden Administration, to fight the economic dislocation caused by the pandemic, sent out trillions of dollars in stimulus checks, whether you needed it or not, to boost demand and shore up consumer and business confidence.  That coincided with drastically expanded unemployment benefits and monthly tax credits paid out to families, even if their finances were on solid footing. 


Simultaneously, the Federal Reserve Bank, adjusting for inflation, has provided the nation with negative interest rates throughout 2021 and today.  If you have a 3% mortgage payment, with inflation of 7% you are paying negative 4% interest to your bank.   This has help fuel an explosion in home buying like the pre ‘Great Recession’ binge of the early 2000’s. 


On the supply side of the equation, both Presidents Trump and Biden have fueled rising input costs of production with their economically absurd foreign trade policies.  Neither of these gentlemen have subscribed to the centuries-old belief that free trade leads to economic growth, prosperity, and lower inflation because of a steady flow of products and competition. 


Instead, we have seen an increase in tariffs on most of our trading partners which forces them to raise prices while allowing American companies, who now have less competition, to follow suit with their own increase in prices. 


Moreover, economists keep pointing out the  dramatic expansion in government spending has led to historic reductions in the labor force.  In many cases, throughout 2021, government benefits paid far more than work so people simply pulled out of the labor market.  This further decreased the supply of goods and services and has contributed to our current state. 


It cannot be overstated that the pandemic has led to supply chain issues that neither Trump nor Biden could have foreseen or fixed quickly.  Yet, there are some things that President Biden could do now to help 2022 look more like the previous 40 years. 


First, he must avoid pushing for an even greater expansion of government spending that creates disincentives for people to work.   Second, he needs to reverse Trumps’s anti-immigration stance and make it far easier for people to enter the country join the labor force. 


Third, his current regulatory agenda that has drastically increased the rules, paperwork, and expense of owning a business must be reined in.   Every new regulation is a cost.  Every cost gets paid for when we go shopping. 


Fourth, unlike his predecessor, Mr. Biden needs to openly work with the Federal Reserve (see Ronald Reagan and Paul Volcker) to raise interest rates now – and by a large enough amount to slow the irrational growth of demand we are seeing. 


Whether Mr. Biden has the political courage to do this is uncertain. 

What is certain is that if he does not, this decade is going to look a lot like the 1970’s - and no one should want that. 2 Orlando Sentinel


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth

On May 2, 2018 I was standing in the third base coaching box in the bottom of the 7th inning of the Legacy Charter High vs. Masters Academy playoff game.

We were losing 8-0 and were a couple of outs away from a likely season-ending loss.

My oldest son, and Legacy's captain, Gehrig Chambless was in the batters box getting ready to come to the plate for the last time in his high school career and the last time he and I would be on the field together as father and son.

I had been his coach for virtually every season since 2006 from the TFA Royals, through Winter Garden Little League and Legacy High School.

I remember how excited Gehrig was to get his first uniform - #14  - when he was 7 years old.  He loved being on a team and having official games.  his first game ever he stood out in right field and practiced his swing.

Before he took his last swing in 2018 I noticed that he was wiping his eyes and had his head down.

Slowly, he turned and began walking all the way out to where I was standing.

When he got to me it was clear he was shedding tears.   He looked at me and said, "Thanks for coaching me all these years...." and then he gave his dad and coach an unforgettable hug.

On April 19, 2020 I retired from coaching baseball.  That night Gehrig and I, along with his mom and brother, watched 'Field of Dreams' for probably the 15th time.   

It was the last movie Gehrig and ever watched together and one that is especially meaningful to me now.

Every time the ending of this movie plays out, I weep like I am seeing it for the first time.   When Kevin Costner says, "Dad....you wanna have a  catch?"   I always - like any other American son - pictured that being me and my dad.

The last time Gehrig and I played catch as father and son was in 2019.  Strangely, we got to be all by ourselves on his high school field and we played catch for a longer period of time than we ever had.  I did not want that evening to end.  I knew that would most likely be our last time together on a baseball field.  As we walked off together I hope he felt how special that time was to me.  I hope it was to him.  

Gehrig died on April 26, 2020.   Bizarrely, I new see myself in the Kevin Costner role but instead of seeing my dad slowly turn and realizing it is him it is actually, in my mind, my son.  I can picture in my mind the image of him in his catcher's gear, youthful, strong and free of the troubles that come as we get older.

Lou Gehrig once said - even as he was facing his own early death - that he felt like "the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."

I feel like I was the luckiest dad and coach on the face of the earth to have Gehrig Chambless as my son and player.

And wish I could see him on Earth one more time, in his catcher's gear and say to him, "Gehrig, would you like to play catch?"  

I think he would love to.....










 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Little Bighorn - a poem by Gehrig William Chambless

 




LITTLE BIGHORN

                                                                                                         

 

The gentle breeze blowing soft

Upon the silent plains

The amber glow of summer sun

Last light of the day

The howling wolf from mountains far

The graceful eagle soars

The night before the fiery hell

The peace at Little Bighorn

 

The rifle rounds are stored and stashed

Within an easy reach

They check the lines, shouting names

Searching for a breach

Three hundred strong, they march and pray

Asking that their Lord

Guide the General’s heart and mind

The road to Little Bighorn

 

The visions of darkness, moons before

Warned of those to die

“Soldiers falling into camp

Like grasshoppers from the sky”

The words of Sitting Bull, from spirit worlds

The rally of the sworn

To stand and die for their land

The hope of Little Bighorn

 

The forming of the treaty

Lakota and Cheyenne

Drawn by winds and dancing stars

To make another stand

The trails from far to Greasy Grass

The making of a lore

The braves that moved in for the kill

Surrounding Little Bighorn

 

Painted as the dawning sky

Proudly standing tall

They sat astride their mighty steeds

The hammer set to fall

The thousands strong, they dreamed of this

The day that it was born

Upon the myths and legends told

The tale of Little Bighorn

 

The soldiers marched, steadily on

Toward the place that fates

Had chosen for the blood to run

Toward the painted face

The fields of green, their boots would tread

Where ground would soon be torn

And then a man boldly cried

“March to Little Bighorn”

 

The soldiers heart, with all its care

For those he’d left behind

Was pierced for sins of greater men

Who ordered him to ride

The proud old man, with yellow hair

Too proud to sheath his sword

Spurred his mount, and dared to ride

To the jaws of Little Bighorn

 

One by one, they fell around

The braves still seemed to come

But the proud old man, with yellow hair

Wouldn’t drop his gun

And the fury of men betrayed by those

Whose honor wasn’t more

Than that which drifts with the wind

The scourge of Little Bighorn

 

The arrows flew and crimson streams

Flowed from those who passed

As they dropped to the ground

Upon the broken Greasy Grass

The widows of men who fell that day

And all their woeful mourns

Could be heard across the plains

The fall of Little Bighorn

 

The proud old man, with yellow hair

Too proud to raise the white

Rallied again, and called to arms

Those to stand and fight

The soldiers crawled to the proud old man

The weary, tired, and worn

They could feel the hand of death

Choking Little Bighorn

 

Battle cries joined the wind

Melting strongest minds

Of the men that fought to live

Trying to survive

The smell of powder filled the air

And the sun upon the corpse

Of the first to fight and die

Losing Little Bighorn

 

And the proud old man, with yellow hair

Stood up one last time

He raised his sword in prideful dare

Beneath the stars and stripes

And a thousand arrows pierced his heart

Just as was forewarned

And the proud old man, with yellow hair

Died at Little Bighorn