Sometimes even a technical analyst enjoys engaging in a little subjective speculation. So with that thought in mind, I'd like to depart from the norm today to offer you some random observations about life, work, and the politicians who influence both.
Mothers may be saints... But apparently, schools can serve better meals to children. At least that is the contention of some people, who think schools should provide, not only breakfast and lunch, but dinner, too -- and not only during the school year, but even during the summer.
The only beneficiaries I see are the unions whose members are responsible for serving the meals in the schools. Adding a third daily meal increases job security for their members, and likely increases the dues those members pay. Since unions contribute large amounts to political campaigns, politicians are only too happy to oblige. But are parents who allow their children to accept these free meals getting something for nothing -- or is it just allowing government to usurp more parental rights?
While we're on the subject of schools... What's the point of even having private schools if government regulators determine the content in the curriculum? If neither the private schools nor the parents who foot the bill for private education have any rights or responsibilities to determine what will or will not be taught, haven't the institutions lost their intrinsic value?
Why is it OK for the average professor at Stanford to earn $182,000 for a nine-month year while a full-time senior research engineer at Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) is demonized for earning $125,000? Tuition at public universities in the last 10 years has increased at the rate of 4.4% annually above the rate of inflation. This adds to the size of student loans young graduates spend the first 10 years of their careers paying off. It also increases the national debt for the government loans and grants they receive. However, we never hear of university waste or the massive endowments they receive... on which they pay no taxes.
Perceptions and facts don't always match... How often have you heard the expression "as American as apple pie?" Now how often has someone criticized the high calorie count of a McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) milkshake? If asked, most people would say apple pie is a better dessert than the 8-ounce fast food chocolate shake. Yet consider this: The shake contains 211 calories, 31 grams of sugar, 5.6 grams of protein, 6.1 grams of fat, and 161 milligrams of sodium -- and a 3-inch piece of apple pie contains twice as many calories, sugar, and salt, and nearly 50% less protein.
So extend that errant thinking to everything green... General Motor's (NYSE: GM) Chevy Volt can run 35 miles on either a 10-hour charge that costs about $1.50 or a gallon of gas costing around $3.50. But is the battery power really more economical? The 10-hour charge requires 33 kilowatt hours of electricity. That electricity, depending on where it is produced, could require the burning of 27 pounds of coal, which produces 21 pounds of carbon dioxide, one ounce of nitrous oxide, and one ounce of sulfur dioxide. The gallon of gasoline produces the same amount of carbon dioxide, but only 60% as much nitrous oxide and less than 20% as much sulfur dioxide.
Is there any connection between the push for hybrid cars and the fact that electricity can be produced from so-called "green" solar panels made in China and sold by heavy campaign contributors like bankrupt Solyndra, the company that managed to make a half-billion dollars disappear. Gas, in contrast, is made from oil produced by those alleged exploiters who want to build the Keystone XL pipeline and employ up to 200 thousand people -- including many who are probably now unemployed.
Maybe politicians don't really want unemployment to fall... Unemployed people are grateful to politicians who extend their benefits and provide food stamps and other benefits. So politicians are more likely to woo them than do anything to alienate them -- like create projects that will get many of the unemployed back to work. They seem to view unemployment as a crisis too good to waste: the higher the unemployment rate, the greater support they will have for their most radical social programs.
Finally, to jail or not to jail... Jeffrey Skilling of Enron is now serving 24 years for felony charges relating to Enron's collapse. Enron founder Kenneth Lay eluded jail because he died shortly before sentencing. Do you think former senator and former governor Jon Corzine will be jailed for the failure of MF Global and the misuse of $1.2 billion of customer funds? The losses to shareholders, employees, and customers were certainly comparable. It leaves you wondering whether we're really all considered equal under the law.
— Fred Goodman, a registered investment advisor and Certified Financial Planner, publishes MarketMonograph, a daily, Web-based subscription service specializing in technical stock market analysis and the application of economic indicators to market timing. You can reach him at email@example.com.