Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Class of 2020

Although it’s been a long time, I vividly recall my first day as a freshman at college. My parent’s stopped in front of the freshmen dormitory, we unpacked the car, my mother cried, my father wished me luck and off they went. The freshmen class encircled and held hands on the Quad, we had a dance and thus began four years of study.

In 2016, it is much different: The Class of 2020 today at most colleges and universities have at least two orientations leading up to classes beginning, even an orientation for the parents; orientations are now multiple days of  hikes, camp outs, numerous outdoor meals, community engagements, meetings, financial aid seminars, and plenty of loud music.

Yes times have changed, college is a business, and you have to keep your customers happy. After one week of study this writer recorded a small, unscientific poll among the Class of 2020:

What surprised you most about your first week of university study?

·         “The class sizes are smaller than I thought they would be.”

·         “Parking is a pain.”

·         “Too many events, can I just sit in my room and get to know my roommates.”

·         “I wish my parent(s) would leave me alone; I am in college not them.”

·         “The food is pretty good.”

·         “I worry I can keep up with my studies.”

It is the final comment I would like to discuss. I too was scared stiff of failing in college: the first bad grade, or a professor not calling on me, the fear of not belonging, all were then and today I believe legitimate doubts students have about their first year of college. The cycle of doubt becomes self-reinforcing, and students are more likely to drop out.

The good news is that this dismal script can be rewritten. With the right nudge students can acquire ways of thinking that helps them thrive. Professors are not scary, reach out to them for guidance, make friends with your fellow classmates, share your fears and once you realize you all are in the same situation you can handle it.

When you are starting college, you’re asking yourself whether you belong here. To hear from someone who has made it, can make a big difference; getting to know an older student or participate in campus life are keys.

Every University needs to do its homework, identifying and eliminating the major roadblocks to graduation, including everything from campus security to short-term financial woes. And when students reach out for help or mentoring, it must be readily available. Undergraduates will be more engaged and fewer will drop out if colleges and universities make the students success an institutional priority. With a scandalously low 59 percent of undergraduates earning bachelor’s degrees in six years (whatever happened to four years??), the rest departing with no degree, sizable debt and weak job prospects, taking such action is imperative.

NEW SCHOOL YEAR, THE CHINESE WAY - Since 1949, Chinese schools have sustained a diet heavy in patriotism and Communist Party propaganda. But the annual back-to-school show, which began in 2008, has moved more sharply in that direction with the ideological tightening under President Xi Jinping, as he has cracked down on corruption and freethinkers alike and deployed the language and symbolism of a purist form of Communism to unify the country.

Sparkling red stars and bloody tales of military sacrifice accompanied 200 million Chinese children into the new school year this week, with the Education Ministry requiring them to watch a television show extolling the spirit of the Communist Red Army as it escaped its enemies on the Long March.

TELL ME ABOUT MICHIGAN - Michigan is rising from the ashes, but no thanks to Democrats. The turnaround has been led by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who took office in 2011 and implemented a number of pro-growth reforms. Those policies are the opposite of the tax-and-spend-and-hyper regulate agenda that candidate Clinton wants to impose from Washington.

Last week Mrs. Clinton showed again that she has no clue what was behind Michigan’s near-death experience when she named former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm—who led the state’s economic descent from 2003-10—to her transition team.

A new report from Canada’s Fraser Institute, “Ontario vs. Michigan: Policy Lessons from the Wolverine State,” describes Michigan’s reversal of misfortune since 2011. Whereas the Ontario economy once outpaced Michigan, the tables are now turned and the turnabout coincides with key Michigan tax, spending and labor reforms. Comparisons between Ontario and Michigan are apt because both have traditionally large manufacturing bases and have struggled with challenges to growth under the burden of too much government.

As the Fraser report notes, Michigan’s economy dramatically underperformed the U.S. average throughout the early- and mid-2000s. In the period 2000-07, for example, while real U.S. gross domestic product grew annually, on average, at 2.5%, Michigan’s GDP grew at just 0.2%. From 2008-10, annual Michigan GDP contracted 2.8% versus the U.S. average of 0.4%. But from 2011-14 Michigan annually outperformed the U.S. average (2.1% vs. 1.9%).

The recovery is all the more impressive considering that Michigan was the only U.S. state to lose net population in the 2000s, according to the report. From 2003-10 Michigan’s average unemployment rate was 1.7 percentage points higher than the U.S. average.

“From 2000 to 2011,” the report finds, “Michigan underperformed the U.S. in private-sector job growth in most years.” It notes that the state “was losing private sector jobs in absolute terms—meaning the growth rate was negative—even in 2006 and 2007.” It was not until 2012 that a “strong rebound” in private-sector employment materialized.

In 2006 and 2007 Michigan’s economy contracted while Ontario’s grew. Michigan lost more ground than Ontario in the recession years of 2008 and 2009. Yet since the end of the Great Recession, Michigan’s growth has been faster than Ontario’s despite the province’s significantly faster population growth. In 2013 Michigan GDP grew 2.8% while Ontario grew only 1.3%.

Three major reforms under Gov. Snyder have changed the environment for entrepreneurship. First, in March 2013 Michigan became the 24th “right to work” (RTW) state, which means that unions cannot force nonunion members to pay union dues. The report cites data from 2001-13 on states that adopted RTW legislation before 2001. It shows, on average, higher private nonfarm employment growth, economic output and real personal incomes. The causal link between RTW and these outcomes has not been proven. But Michigan previously lost a lot of investment to RTW states and Michigan RTW coincides with a return of investor interest in the state.

A second Snyder reform, in January 2012, lowered and simplified corporate taxes. A third reform that year cut state spending and employment, holding down public debt. Gov. Snyder grew the state’s “rainy day fund,” which had evaporated during Gov. Granholm’s tenure.

Ontario hasn’t had any remotely comparable labor, tax or spending reform. Its net debt has doubled since 2007 and its economy has sputtered while pro-growth Michigan is rediscovering its mojo.  Go Blue. Go Sparty.

AND THEY ARE AT THE STRETCH - Just over two months and this entire, dismal, campaign will come to a merciful end. The race tightened somewhat over the late summer with Donald Trump consolidating some of the GOP vote and Hillary Clinton largely raising money instead of courting votes while taking fire over her emails and the Clinton Foundation. But the fact remains that Clinton is a very strong favorite to win on Nov. 8th.

Her paths to 270 electoral votes are many while Trump's are few. Clinton can win without either Ohio or Florida as long as she wins Pennsylvania and a couple of the other remaining toss-up/leaner states, a group that includes Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, Iowa and Wisconsin. If Clinton picks up Ohio or Florida, Trump pretty much has no chance.

The Trump campaign claims it can win without Pennsylvania but it's very hard to see how. If the GOP nominee loses the Keystone State (where he trails by nearly 7 points), he could win Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada and Arizona and STILL lose 272-265 in the Electoral College.

Trump, who attempted an impossible dance on immigration over the last week, is likely to drop Colorado and New Mexico in part over his stance on the issue. The white, non-college educated voters who gobble up Trump's talk on immigrants and Muslims just don't make up enough of the electorate to deliver a win.

And Trump could do extraordinarily well with white male voters in a state like Pennsylvania and still lose by a significant margin due to his weakness in urban areas and the well-educated suburbs where many Republicans, especially women, are uncomfortable with his candidacy.

THE KOBE FUND - Meet Kobe Bryant, venture capitalist.

The retired NBA star last week unveiled his venture-capital fund, a $100 million vehicle for investing in technology, media and data companies.

Mr. Bryant, who turned 38 last Tuesday, isn’t going it alone: He is partnering with 43-year-old Jeff Stibel, a longtime entrepreneur and investor who was introduced to Mr. Bryant by a mutual friend. They have named their firm Bryant Stibel and will be based in the Los Angeles area.

The two have been invested in 15 companies since 2013, but only after Mr. Bryant’s retirement from basketball have they decided to formalize their relationship and fund. The two men are contributing the $100 million—which they expect to invest over the next few years—and aren’t seeking outside investors yet.

Current investments include sports media website The Players Tribune, videogame designer Scopely, legal-services company LegalZoom, a telemarketing-software firm called RingDNA and a home-juicing company called Juicero.

OUT & ABOUT - Fireball infused donuts, cherry pop rocks and chocolate-covered bacon are just a few of the many items that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

The Los Angeles County Fair is now open at the Fairplex in Pomona and goes through Sept. 25. The fair is closed Mondays and Tuesday, opens at Noon on Wednesday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

New attractions include an ice skating rink called The Igloo, a dinosaur exhibition called Jurassic Planet and “Our Body,” an educational exhibit using actual human bodies and organs.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Michael Keaton (65) Del Mar, CA.; Bob Newhart (86) Beverly Hills, CA.


            AFC:    East – New England Patriots (11-5)

                        North – Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5)

                        South – Houston Texans (9-7)

                        West – Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

                        Wild Card – Cincinnati Bengals (10-6), San Diego Chargers (10-6)

            NFC:    East – New York Giants (9-7)

                        North – Green Bay Packers (10-6)

                        South – Carolina Panthers (11-5)

                        West – Seattle Seahawks (12-4)

                        Wild Card – Arizona Cardinals (11-5), Minnesota Vikings (9-7)

            Super Bowl LI:           New England Patriots 35, Arizona Cardinals 31

NFL GAME OF THE WEEK – Sunday 9/11. 5:30 PM ET, NBC; New England Patriots (0-0) vs. Arizona Cardinals (0-0), Bradyless Pats loose this one, 32 – 20. Season to date (0-0)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 9/10, 5:00 PM ET, ABC: Virginia Tech Hokies (1-0) vs. #9 Tennessee Volunteers (1-0), 150,000 expected at Bristol Motor Speedway to watch this one, yes that is correct. The money grabbing NCAA is converting an auto race track into a football field.  Vols win big 40 – 20.  Season to date (1-0)

SMALL COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICK OF THE WEEK – Saturday 9/10, 1:00 PM ET, HGTV: Alfred University Saxons (1-0) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Engineers (1-0). A big central New York regional matchup, we like the Saxon Warriors to win in beautiful Troy, New York 28 – 20.  Season to date (1-0)


(NFL, Sept. 8) Carolina Panthers (0-0) vs. Denver Broncos (0-0), the now-traditional opening game between last years’ Super Bowl teams, a boring one, Carolina wins 17 – 10.

(NCAA-SCIAC, Sept. 10) Chapman University Panthers (0-0) visit #2 Linfield College Wildcats (0-0), SCIAC continues their poor out of conference performance against one of the best in D-III, Linfield wins big 40 – 20.

(NCAA BCS, Sept. 10) Arkansas Razorbacks (1-0) at #13 Texan Christian University Horned Frogs (1-0), Frogs are too much, 45 – 30.

(MLB, Sept. 10) Baltimore Orioles (75-62) at Detroit Tigers (75-62), both teams battling for the Wild Card spot, go Tigers, they win 4 – 2.

Season to date (56 -42)

DRIVING THE WEEK - Clips of David Muir's interviews with Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine and Donald Trump and Mike Pence will air on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Tuesday morning ... Congress is back! House Financial Services holds a hearing on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. on Federal Reserve regional banks, one on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. on the Iran deal and another Friday at 9:15 a.m. on corporate governance ... Labor Market Conditions index Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. expected to drop 3.0 ... ISM non-manufacturing at 10:00 a.m. expected to dip to 55.0 from 55.5 ... Clinton and Trump both take part in the Commander-in-Chief Forum on Wednesday in New York with NBC's Matt Lauer. The event will air live at 8:00 p.m. on MSNBC and on NBC in most markets ... Clinton is in Tampa on Tuesday; Trump is in Virginia Beach, Va. and Greenville, N.C. ... Apple on Wednesday releases new products probably including the iPhone 7 that may not include a headphone jack!

Next week: Vin Scully farewell and words of the month.

Until Next Time, Adios.

Claremont, CA

September 6, 2016


CARTOON OF THE WEEK – P.C. Vey, The New Yorker

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