Happy Thanksgiving, Christmas Shoppers!

November 20, 2012

Last week saw stocks bullied like a pledge in hell week. Post-election anxiety, fiscal cliff concerns, and continuing unease in the Middle East allowed no rest for the weary - not even a post-election exhale.
On the eve of the Christmas shopping season, many fear that retail sales could be down. Right as the U.S. economy needs them most. Santa will not be pleased. Nor will economic indicators. While U.S. multinationals have begun to report declining numbers in European markets, domestic consumers will likely stick a finger in the other eye.
Yet, hope springs eternal. Black Friday could be just the magic elixir this economy needs. And it just goes to show you how far we evolved. As consumers, that is.
Thanksgiving used to entail a full day of eating, drinking, family merriment and football. Somehow, we figured out a way to incorporate shopping into the deal.
These day, many women spend Thanksgiving day with family, only to grab their purses and hit the road by 10 pm in order to be first in line at the outlet malls.
Originally dubbed "Black Friday" because it was to put our retailers in the black with all of the early shopping. Yet, the "Black" moniker has given way to a hidden subtext. A blacker, bleaker mood. The unhappy consequence that finds multitudes of hapless husbands and helpless kids waking from their tryptophan comas on Friday, hungry and confused, while their binge-shopping wives/moms sleep off the consumer orgy.
As these heroic husbands struggle to survive Friday morning, desperately seeking the Cartoon Network and a tin of canned spam so that the family might subsist till lunch, their moods become even darker as they stumble across the previous night's receipts. Realizing that these midnight sales were actually SINOs (sales in name only).
And still, she sleeps in... So blackening the mood entirely.
"Uh, honey, you getting up before Christmas? Easter?"
Alas, give credence when due. Given our eroded manufacturing base, declining capacity for science and mathematics, and our slipping grip on the throne of capitalism, perhaps shopping is that last prideful bastion upon which we might hang our hat.
In fact, I might argue that our armies of Black Friday shoppers are patriots. Spending in support of the American dream. Propping up our retailers. Providing jobs, income, hope. That's more than one can say for our politicians.
For those about to shop, we salute you!
Target's doors shall soon open. Enter swiftly. Straight into the belly of the beast. Wait until you can see the whites of the cashier's eyes. And then spend. Early, late and often. This economy needs you. Do not let us down. And bad credit be damned!
For the VISA-toting patriots upon whose cashmere scarf-laden shoulders we place the burden of this entire holiday shopping season. Go now. Credit cards at the ready... Charge!
. . .
Thank You Dr. Paul
Last week saw the conclusion of Dr. Ron Paul's congressional career. Dr. Paul, a physician by trade, came to Congress from Texas's 14th congressional district in 1976. He was a three-time presidential candidate. Once as a Libertarian. Twice as a Republican.
Dr. Paul has been an advocate of Austrian Economics. He has authored multiple books espousing Libertarian political principals like fiscal responsibility, national and personal accountability, and individual liberties. I highly recommend his book The Revolution: A Manifesto.
Unlike many of today's hollow political messages geared to win votes but convey nothing, Dr. Paul was a staunch believer in the mutual benefits of rights and responsibilities. That is the idea that while Americans are born with certain inalienable rights (free speech, religion, education, etc.), these rights are not offered in a vacuum. To enjoy them, individuals must embrace certain responsibilities.
One has the right to pursue happiness, but this entails the responsibility of waking up, working hard, and satisfying the requirements of one's role - each and every day. Those who refuse do not aspire to any individual rights. But seek a hand out.
Above all, Dr. Paul has been a man of principle, equality and action. His ideas and policies have transcended socioeconomic status, race, religion and sex. He has supported the meritocratic principles of state's rights, property rights, gay rights, free trade and free markets. He has opposed the war on drugs, fiat currencies, bloated government spending and endless wars.
Dr. Ron Paul has been an ardent, independent, original thinker in a sea partisan rhetoric, inaction and hypocrisy. His intelligence, contrarian viewpoints and willingness to transcend party lines will be missed.
. . .
Update from the Fiscal Cliff
The fiscal cliff continues to the primary market-rattling headline. Markets rallied Monday largely on optimism that the White House and Congress might actually compromise and achieve something in the near term.
With President Obama in Asia, White House staffers have been furiously negotiating with Congressional staffers. Seriously, 'have your people call my people.' But, that's how most diplomacy is done.
And the pressure to get anything done is building. We've learned that the IRS is loudly voicing its concerns to the White House. Essentially complaining that it will take months to reprogram their computers for any new tax requirements. If a solution is not found quickly, then the months preceding April 15th could be chaos.
Better-than-expected housing data and the finalization of Greece's next bailout tranche has been salve on the wounds of a steep market pullback. Yet, one must have perspective.
From a technical standpoint, the S&P 500 tap danced along this trend line in November last year, and June of this year. In other words, past pullbacks these last twelve months have touched the current upward trend line connecting the market dips, and served as a spring board, sending markets higher on every occasion.
If the S&P 500 can recover above its 50-day moving average, then you may see markets leap from there. Remember, markets have ended the year on a positive uptrend 12 of the previous 14 years. And history often repeats itself. Err, rhymes. Whatever.
In addition, if the gang in DC can compromise in some way, you may see this market retrace its previous uptrend quickly, delivering an early and profitable stocking stuffer for good boys and girls across the nation.
. . .
Giving Thanks
This year has been a political fist fight. Neighbors, colleagues, friends and family jumped into the fray, contributing to the partisan rancor and curdling relationships across the land.
Still, we live in the greatest nation this world has ever seen. There has never been a country that offered so much opportunity to so many citizens as the United States does today.
Our rich? They are wealthy. Often beyond necessity. Our poor? Often too much so. But, many of our less fortunate have access to amenities that those in other nations can only dream of. Air conditioning. Heat. Food and shelter. Cable television. Cell phones. Life can be difficult. But it is less difficult in the United States.
We live in the most prosperous nation the world has ever known. Our physical environment is safer and more secure than any in history. Millions of women and minorities have been given entrance to the arena of opportunity, where one has the right to pursue one's dreams. One need only take responsibility for doing so.
In providing these opportunities, we have become the most socially advanced nation in the world.
Technologically, the U.S. has no equal. And so innovation has, and will continue to flourish at rates unseen by our economic competitors.
While the nation's hurdles are well publicized, they remain surmountable.
I was reminded on election day of the success of our grand experiment.
After a year of rhetoric, intense political posturing and power plays, well over 100 million citizens peacefully entered their neighborhood precincts and voted for the candidates they felt embodied their best interests. No bloodshed, gun shots or intimidation. Just free people acting freely.
Rights and responsibilities coalescing perfectly.
For those reasons and for so many more. For your family and mine. For liberty. Opportunity. And for everything that this nation stands for, that we strive for, let us raise a glass, hug a loved one, and offer thanks.
You have the right to celebrate. The responsibility for doing so is yours.

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