When is the USA in a recession? Given the economy has slowly been recovering since the nadir of the Great Recession (2007-2009) this post might seem out of place. Nevertheless, a government announcement last week makes the question timely.
Why did huge numbers of people in the USA move to the suburbs after WWII? During the 1920s and early 1930s people either lived in rural areas or in the center city. Most of today’s suburbs were farmland during the 1940s. Suddenly after WWII, suburbs began a dramatic growth. The surge was so explosive that when the USA did the 1950 census it began classifying urban people a new way. Each person was classified as living either inside the central city or outside the central city. In 1950 the breakdown was 60% living in the central city and 40% living in the suburbs. By 1980 the percentages reversed with 40% living in the central city and 60% living in the suburbs.
How much hard currency is held in the Iraq Central Bank? This is a very important question because the news is currently filled with stories about the dramatic takeover of large amounts of Iraqi territory by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, called ISIS. There are pictures of mass executions and of the Iraqi army abandoning cities. ISIS only came into existence three or four years ago. Standard US policy is to fight extremist groups by a two-pronged approach. One is to physically fight the groups (either directly with troops or indirectly by arming opponents). The second approach is to starve the groups financially. Knowing the amount of hard currency is important because if the Iraq Central bank has a lot of hard currency and ISIS can take it, then the approach of starving the group financially will not work and the only option is a military one.
I was listening to a financial radio show where listeners call in their questions. A man called in with a frequently asked question; “my wife and I have a 30 year mortgage at 3.5%, we have a little bit of extra money now and were wondering if we should pay down the mortgage faster or put the money into our retirement accounts?” The financial expert gave the standard advice and said “fund the retirement accounts.” He then gave a detailed explanation why funding a retirement account was much better. Unlike most callers this one had some guts and told the expert he was not convinced and then hung up. The caller’s negative reaction got me thinking; is the standard advice wrong?
United Airlines is rolling out TVs on the back of every Boeing 737 airplane seat. Soon 200 of its airplanes will be equipped. I got on one of the upgraded airlines on Friday and another on Sunday and was reminded of my recent post about the ubiquity of televisions. However, a funny thing happened on both flights. Almost no one watched TV!