Last week I presented basic facts and issues around family income inequality in America, a hot political issue in the last decade. Today, let’s turn to the related matter of wealth inequality.
First, the distinction between them. Income refers to the net money or benefits we receive each period of time – typically, a week or month. It includes pay for work; earnings from savings and investments; “transfer payments” such as social security, welfare, food stamps, health care subsidies, etc. The sum of all those items, less the taxes folks pay directly or indirectly, constitutes income.
Wealth is the net value of all we own. The value of our homes, bank and investment accounts, vehicles, personal property, businesses and real estate, etc., less the amounts we owe in mortgages, auto, consumer and student credit, etc. Economists call income a “flow” variable and wealth a “stock” variable.
Two outstanding analysts at Washington’s Cato Institute, Chris Edwards and Ryan Bourne, assisted by David Kemp, produced a 74-page in-depth analysis this month titled, “Exploring Wealth Inequality.” To best fit their findings into this column, below I quote from their summary, which has stated them far beyond my poor power to add or subtract (as Lincoln said at Gettysburg).
“Many political leaders and pundits consider wealth inequality to be a major economic and social problem. They complain about a shift of wealth to the top at everyone else’s expense and about plutocrats dominating policymaking in Washington.
“Is wealth inequality the crisis that some people believe? This study examines six aspects of wealth inequality and discusses the evidence for the claims being made.
“Section 1 describes how wealth inequality has risen in recent years but by less than is often asserted in the media. Indeed, wealth inequality has changed surprisingly little given the large economic changes in recent decades from technology and globalization. Furthermore, most estimates overstate wealth inequality because they do not include the effects of social programs.
“Section 2 argues that wealth inequality data tell us nothing about levels of poverty or prosperity and thus are not useful for guiding public policy. Wealth inequality may reflect innovation in a growing economy that is raising overall living standards, or it may reflect cronyism that causes economic damage.
“Section 3 examines the sources of wealth for the richest Americans. Most of today’s wealthy are business people who built their fortunes by adding to economic growth, and some have created major innovations that benefit all of us. The share of the wealthy who inherited their fortunes has sharply declined in recent decades.
“Section 4 looks at cronyism, which refers to insiders and businesses securing narrow tax, spending, and regulatory advantages. Cronyism is one cause of wealth inequality, and it has likely increased over time as the government has grown.
“Section 5 explains how the growing welfare state has increased wealth inequality. Government programs for retirement, healthcare, and other benefits have reduced the incentives and the ability of non wealthy households to accumulate savings and thus have increased wealth inequality.
“Section 6 examines whether wealth inequality undermines democracy, which is a frequent claim of the political left. Research shows that wealthy people do not have homogeneous views on policy and do not have an outsized ability to get their goals enacted in Washington.
“In sum, wealth inequality has increased modestly but mainly because of general economic growth and entrepreneurs creating innovations that are broadly beneficial. Nonetheless, policymakers should aim to reduce inequality by ending cronyist programs and reducing barriers to wealth-building by moderate-income households.”
The authors title their second section, “Poverty Matters, Not Inequality,” and they show that poverty has greatly decreased domestically and around the world in recent decades – greatly due to the creation of wealth by those at the top.
As I noted last week, recent research shows that when transfer payments and taxes are included, the average yearly income of American families in the lowest income quintile (20 percent) is $50,901 and that of top-quintile families is $194,906. That’s a ratio of 3.8:1, not the erroneous much higher figures often quoted by liberals, progressives, class warriors and mainstream media.
As my friend Joe Morabito notes: “The poor are not poor because the rich are rich.”
Income inequality among Americans has been a major subject of debate for a decade, and ever more so with leftwing extremists now dominating the ranks of Democratic presidential aspirants. So, let’s get the basic facts and issues straight.
A salient claim in this area comes from the French economist Thomas Piketty in his 2014 book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, a 700-page tome. His starting point is that the rate of return on capital investment is generally significantly greater than the growth rate of a market economy (or, r>>g). This is generally uncontested.
So, Piketty concludes that the rich, whose incomes derive greatly from their ownership of capital, will get ever greatly richer. On the other hand, the middle and lower classes, whose incomes derive mainly from their labor, will see those incomes increase only at the growth rate of the economy. Hence, they will fall ever farther behind the upper-income people.
If that were the full story, why didn’t income inequality spiral up long ago? In part, it’s because taxes burden upper classes very disproportionately and government transfer payments (mainly welfare, food stamps and health-care subsidies) are concentrated on the lower classes. Piketty’s comparisons are based on pre-tax income, not including transfer payments, as are almost all the data advanced by those obsessing about income inequality.
These folks also fail to adjust for declining household size in recent decades when they allege falsely that middle and lower family income levels have not increased. And Piketty’s analysis overlooks that the wealthy usually divide their estates among charities and various heirs and other folks when they pass it on, thus counteracting the fast growth of family incomes based on capital.
But the important point is that taxes and transfer payments have continued to grow relative to our economy. So, they now overwhelm every other factor, as shown by recent research by Phil Gramm, former economics professor and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee; and John F. Early, twice assistant commissioner at the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When we consider family incomes after taxes and public and private transfer payments, the story is very different from that based on the pre-tax and -transfers data. That’s because 80 percent of all taxes are paid by the top two income quintiles (that is, the top 40 percent) and 70 percent of all transfer payments are received by the bottom two quintiles. Aggregate taxes paid and transfers received by the middle quintile are almost exactly equal.
The average bottom-quintile household earns $4,908 annually while the average top-quintile household earns $295,904, or 60 times as much. But when we consider the $45,993 additional income the lowest-quintile homes get from public and private transfer payments, less taxes they pay, their average incomes rise to $50,901. For the top quintile, the net of taxes and transfers is a reduction of $100,998, leaving them with $194,906.
So, the real ratio between the top and bottom quintiles is only 3.8 times, not 60 times.
And government and the private sector shift enough net income to the lowest quintile to raise their net income to middle-class levels at $50,901.
So, is a 3.8:1 ratio fair and reasonable?
One important fact is that income mobility is higher in America than in most other countries.
Also, 50 years of increasing transfer payments and rising and progressive taxes have had another effect. When the War on Poverty transfers began in 1967, nearly 70 percent of bottom quintile prime-working-age adults were employed. Today, that figure is only 36 percent. For all the top three quintiles, however, labor-force participation has increased.
Ultimately, though, the question depends on what fairness is, as much as it does on data. Progressives, populists and class warriors erroneously claim it means equal outcomes for everyone. They forget that in market systems income flows to people roughly in proportion to the value they deliver to others – that is, proportionately to their contribution to human wellbeing and the public interest. Not so for systems that politically allocate resources.
Finally, recent research shows that three-quarters of the high incomes made by entrepreneurs flows from their own “human capital” contributions, not from the financial capital they employ. So, yes, 3.8:1 seems quite fair.
In college 50 years ago, I took Introduction to Political Science from Stephan A. Douglas. Not the short, fat Little Giant who debated Abe Lincoln. But a very good tall and angular professor at Illinois.
The main thing I remember from his class is his explanation about a compelling revolution in political science and economics that began a decade earlier. Traditionally, he said, political scientists sought to explain how institutions, practices and people in political and economic processes worked to promote the public interest and the common good. It was Pollyanna-ish: All for the better.
Then some iconoclasts said that’s not how things work at all. Most folks in the political and economic spheres aren’t trying to promote the public interest. To the extent they can, they use institutions and practices to promote their own special interests. This insight, which today seems obvious, changed political science and helped foster a branch of economics known as public choice theory – which has produced a number of Nobel Prizes in economics.
Against the background of the Viet Nam war and the turmoil in American politics in the 1960s, it was a bracing idea, and it quickly became a formative part of my intellectual make-up. It has served me well in politics and public service.
Now come our corporate leaders with a perfect example of how political and economic behavior masquerades as public-spirited when it’s really completely self-serving. The Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of America’s largest companies, issued a new “Statement of the Purpose of a Corporation,” signed by 181 CEOs.
“While each of our individual companies serves its own corporate purpose, we share a fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders,” reads the key sentence. It names those stakeholders: customers, employees, diversity and inclusion, suppliers, the communities where they work, the environment and sustainability. Oh, yes, also “effective engagement with” company stockholders.
Since 1997, their periodic “Principles of Corporate Governance” statements have endorsed the notion of shareholder primacy: that corporations exist primarily to serve stockholders. In the New York Times Magazine on September 13, 1970, economist Milton Friedman, one of the intellectual giants of the 20th Century, said business executives who pursue a goal other than making money for their equity investors are wrong.
They are, he said, “unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society these past decades.” They become “unelected government officials” who essentially tax employees and customers. They violate their legal and ethical fiduciary duties.
But the new diktat declares all “stakeholders” equal – leaving corporate moguls, our enlightened visionary betters, to decide how to balance their interests via corporate actions.
The concept of corporate stakeholders arose soon after the public choice revolution. Originally, it was descriptive: It described the groups that were affected by actions of corporations. But once the term was invented, it morphed into a normative concept suggesting the stakeholders have some kinds of claims on the actions of companies and their decision-makers that legitimately compete with the fiduciary duties owed to those who put their capital at risk by investing in the firm.
Now the CEOs have thrown in the towel and joined these predatory special-interest claimants. Why?
It’s something I’ve observed the last 40 years in regulation, politics and business. Essentially, executives are – surprise! – pursuing their own self-serving interests. They want to be lionized everywhere as great leaders, compassionate souls, visionary intellectuals. They want to use the resources their stockholders have entrusted to them to buy off everyone – unions, politicians, predatory special interests such as environmentalists, and the lamestream press.
Maximizing long-term discounted stockholder value within ethical norms crimps those aspirations.
This rot is clearest with regulated utilities, where executives can cut implicit (sometimes explicit) deals with regulators: We’ll do almost any foolish thing you want us to, as long as we can pass on the costs to ratepayers.
The problem started a century ago when large corporations were no longer managed by their primary owners, but instead by hired professional managers with their own self-serving agendas. Ironically, consumers, employees and the real public interest in economic growth and fairness suffer with stockholders in this scheme. Friedman was more right than he knew.
James Harden’s beard is starring in an ad campaign for Trolli candy—without James Harden. So it stands to reason that if not for his beard, The Beard wouldn’t be making $18 million from endorsement deals in 2018, according to Forbes. That’s fourth amongst his NBA peers, but only The Brow (Anthony Davis) has a trait like The Beard distinguishing him from his peers or other celebrities in general. So what is the net worth of James Harden’s beard, and for what amount could it be insured?
In the past, exotic facial hairstyles were indicative of social status and a man’s ability to provide. Maintaining some of the mustaches of the past required investments of time and money. But these days men are spending less on grooming products, not because of increased competition in the marketplace from companies providing automatic delivery services like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club, but because men are grooming their facial hair less often.
Facial hairstyles are in style, especially amongst hipsters. Unshaven Millennials are even causing a crisis in the razor industry. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology found that “men are less attractive when clean-shaven than when they are stubbled or bearded,” but how much less attractive?
The study gives us a means to quantify the value of James Harden’s beard relative to other facial hairstyles, at least when considering a market of females of European descent who find men sexually attractive. Men were also considered as possible respondents for the study, but the 8,520 female participants were chosen based on Kinsey scale scores. Basically, the participants had to be at least as interested in men as they were in women.
The study investigates beardedness and its effect on women’s ratings of men’s facial attractiveness relative to three other facial hair lengths: clean-shaven, light stubble (five days of beard growth), and heavy stubble (10 days of beard growth). Beards consisted of at least 28 days of facial hair growth, and results showed “a significant interaction between beardedness and...attractiveness ratings.”
A full beard like Harden’s was preferred to a clean-shaven face by almost 12 percent, and when it came to finding that soulmate for a long-term relationship, women preferred bearded men over clean-shaven men by almost 10 percent.
Sports fandom, as you know, is a long-term relationship, so James Harden’s beard bodes well for the Houston Rockets as well as the companies he endorses. Women, at least, are more likely to consider and potentially establish a long-term relationship with a James Harden brand because of his beard, and that increases Harden’s earning potential. According to research conducted prior to the 2016 study, “Men with beards report higher feelings of masculinity, have higher testosterone and endorse more masculine gender roles than clean-shaven men,” so Harden’s beard might even have an effect on his play given the increased confidence, testosterone, and aggressiveness. But even if the beard was The Beard’s key to becoming MVP, quantifying that potential effect is impossible.
Regardless, The Beard makes more money in endorsements because of the beard. There’s just no way he’s the clean-shaven face of Trolli candy. How much more Harden makes because of his beard is difficult to determine because we can’t apply a similar percentage at which men prefer men with beards. If social media is any indication, men also prefer bearded men over clean-shaven men. We know how much men loved Chris Evans’ bearded Captain America in Avengers: Infinity War, and we know facial hair to be one way men advertise their admiration for other men.
You probably grew up imitating the swing of your favorite baseball player or the signature move of your favorite basketball player. You might even employ “The Harden Scoop” or initiate contact on dribble drives like The Beard. I adopted a combination of Kirby Puckett’s leg kick and Chuck Knoblauch’s batting stance. But I also bought a Puckett jersey to advertise my admiration of him off the field.
We can’t control who we are, but we can control, to some extent, our appearance and attire, which is how most of us advertise our admiration for our idols. Clothes are the most common and easy means of advertising our admiration of people. Sometimes you actually feel like your favorite player when you wear his or her jersey or branded sportswear on the field or court. But when the game is over and you shed your sweaty James Harden jersey, the increased attractiveness that might have resulted from wearing that jersey dissipates. Unless your game relative to your peers is as good as Harden’s relative to his, which would mean your Mr. Basketball in your state and lead the league in free throws, only a beard like The Beard’s can augment your attractiveness when the clothes come off.
You likely tried to reproduce the hairstyles of your favorite celebrities growing up, learning that your skull is too oddly shaped for the Michael Jordan look, or discovering cowlicks that make your hair stand up in all the wrong places. Even hair is something we can’t completely control, but hair extensions and installations, hair dyes, gels and sprays help.
We men can’t control how or where our facial hair grows either. I have one sideburn that comes in beautifully and another that looks more ridiculous the longer it gets. I also have a small, bald spot on my neck. Despite all that, I’ve mostly sported the same facial hair since I was first inspired to do so.
Just before my senior year of high school, my father, sister, and I drove from Eastern Montana to Branson, Missouri. My dad played the same CD for an entire day of driving, and we had another nine hours to go the next day. Knowing we’d spend around 36 hours in a car, I thought there was no way I’d enjoy this trip. But I was pleasantly surprised by Branson. It’s like a Vegas for senior citizens without gambling. There were plenty of shows to see, though, ranging from comedy to magic to music—lots of music.
One night I saw Blues Brothers impersonators give one of the most inspired performances I’d seen from anyone besides MC Hammer (even my dad, who disliked his music, was impressed with his performance because of his intense, nonstop dancing). I was a huge fan of the Blues Brothers movie and music, so I appreciated their effort to emulate two of my idols, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. At 17, I had both the movie soundtrack and their double-platinum, live record “Briefcase Full of Blues,” one of the best live performances ever recorded. Yes, two comedic actors backed by some of the best blues musicians in the country cut one of the best selling blues records of all time that climbed to the top of the Billboard 200 in February of 1979.
This was 2008, and after that performance I started growing my soul patch and sideburns. Since then I’ve retained the look except for a few job interviews and first dates and No-shave November. Women I’ve dated have asked me to shave the soul patch, and I’ve refused. Like James Harden’s beard, my soul patch is part of my identity. It’s representative of my soul. But I never considered my stubborn refusal to shave it this past decade as an indication of my social confidence until now.
The soul patch might be one of the least common facial hairstyles rocked these days, so you’ve got to have confidence to rock it. Not the confidence Michael Jordan had to sport a Hitler-stache in a Hanes commercial, but confidence nonetheless. Handlebar mustaches, which seem to be making a comeback, require both confidence and care-taking few facial hairstyles demand. When properly maintained and presented, the handlebar mustache screams social dominance...or at least advertises an ability to pay for mustache wax.
Speaking of handlebar mustaches, this one belonging to Aussie cricket fast bowler Merv Hughes was insured for $370,000, according to Time Magazine. That got me wondering if James Harden’s beard is insured and for how much.
Insuring facial hair seemed frivolous to me at first, but then I thought about Michael Jackson’s hair catching fire on the set of a Pepsi commercial. What if he lost a gig because of his burnt hair? Worse yet, what if he was unable to ever grow that hair back? James Harden might not be doing many commercials featuring pyrotechnics, but what if he required facial reconstructive surgery for a broken jaw and couldn’t grow his beard back? Could he end up losing endorsement deals like the one with Trolli candy?
We do know Harden would be 12 percent less attractive to women if he couldn’t grow any facial hair. Whether that affects his marketability and resulting endorsement earnings is debatable given his MVP-caliber play on the court. But a man nicknamed The Beard sporting a beard that stars in its own candy commercial stands to lose something if Harden loses the ability to grow that famous facial hair.
He’d at least lose the chance to make $10 million, which is apparently what it’d cost to convince Harden to shave. But given his endorsement earnings, what would an insurance policy for James Harden's beard cover and for how much could Harden’s beard be insured?
State Farm doesn’t cover facial hair, and multiple requests for comment from Harden’s agent didn’t receive responses. But we do know Harden sought out Trolli because he likes the candy and the brand being unique like him and his beard. While there's no report of what Harden is making with Trolli, his endorsement earnings were estimated at $17 million prior to the deal and $18 million after the deal. And unlike Harden's $200-million, 13-year deal with Adidas, the Trolli deal might not have materialized without the beard.
So if we ignore Harden's endorsement deals with Adidas, Beats, Electronic Arts, Foot Locker, State Farm and even BodyArmor, James Harden's beard is likely worth more than a million dollars. That estimate is comparable to Head and Shoulders insuring Troy Polamalu's hair for $1 million back in 2010 and all of these also insured by Lloyd’s of London, including Betty Grable’s million-dollar legs, Dolly Parton’s breasts, and Merv Hughes’s mustache. If he hasn’t already, Harden should be insuring his beard upon reading this.
As a Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Twins season ticket holder, I have plenty of personal experience when it comes to overpaying for season ticket packages because of lofty playoff hopes. This year, though, it was the Twins and not the Timberwolves that put a paltry product on the field, even with Jimmy Butler inevitably being traded before the NBA Trade Deadline on February 7 at 3 p.m. EST.
The $539 I paid for a 10-game, flex season ticket package for the Timberwolves’ 2018-19 season was a relative steal compared to the $760 I paid for a 20-game, flex season ticket package with the Twins’ for the 2018 season. Neither is the cheapest season ticket package available that assures you playoff ticket priority, but sometimes the seats are the only thing that make a Twins game worth watching, whereas the Timberwolves have an ample amount of visiting teams with players and even coaches worth watching.
Picking the games I’ll attend each season is like a holiday. I determined which dozen games I wanted to see moments after the NBA schedule was released, and I chose most of my Twins games on the same day. But instead of cutting Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and the Oklahoma City Thunder along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks from my 10-game package, I was choosing baseball games based on promotions like Dollar Dog Day (Wednesdays) and $5 Kids’ Meal Day (Sundays). Here are the games I chose (number of tickets in parentheses) to see during the Timberwolves’ 2018-19 impending dumpster fire sale of a season.
Oct. 29, Lakers (1)
Nov. 14, New Orleans (1)
Dec. 1, Boston (1)
Jan. 6, Lakers (1)
Jan. 18, San Antonio (1)
Feb. 13, Houston (2)
March 29, Golden State (1)
March 30, Philadelphia (1)
April 1, Portland (1)
April 9, Toronto (1)
The NBA has so much to offer in opposing teams that choosing to attend 10 of 41 home games (24.4 percent) is easier than finding a similar percentage (24.7 percent) of baseball home games worth watching. Seeing LeBron James twice is a no-brainer, as is Anthony Davis once. The Brad Stephens-coached Boston Celtics are absolutely worth the price of admission regardless of whom they’re playing, as are Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs. James Harden and Chris Paul visiting in a rematch of last season’s playoff matchup I had to see at least once. Golden State as a whole is another no-brainer. That roster could feature five All-Stars if DeMarcus Cousins returns to form. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are worth watching, as is Kawhi Leonard, regardless of whom they’re playing. Portland is very well-coached, Damian Lillard is fun to watch, and an April 1 matchup could have playoff implications. Even if the Jimmy Butler-less Wolves aren’t in the playoff picture, they could play spoilers down the stretch. I even got a free ticket to the home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which thanks to Jimmy Butler drama, was a must-see game.
There aren’t as many premium games in baseball. In 2018, I saw just about every premium game the Twins played, including every game they played at home against the eventual champions, the Boston Red Sox (3). I saw every game they played at home against the American League runners-up, the New York Yankees (3). I also saw six (6) of the seven games the AL Central Champion Cleveland Indians played at Target Field (two Twins home games were played in Puerto Rico). Add a three-game set against the Los Angeles Angels and baseball’s best player, Mike Trout, and I still have eight games left to choose. (I had tickets to all three games against Houston at Target Field, but that was through a separate ticket deal for April games.)
My hypothesis is that the NBA offers fans of its worst teams the best value when it comes to their cheapest season ticket package because of the vast array of entertaining and exceptional teams, players, and coaches visiting. But let’s do the research and find out the best value for the cheapest season ticket packages for sports’ worst teams.
The Senators were the second-worst NHL team in the 2017-18 season, and at $60 per seat per game, their cheapest season ticket package leaves a lot to be desired. This might simply be due to the Ottawa market, which is no doubt more interested in the sport of hockey than that of the worst team in the NHL last season, the Buffalo Sabres. While Ottawa doesn’t have an NFL team to compete with the Senators, neither does Buffalo, really.
This is a smoking hot deal to see five premium games you can customize. I chose late season matchups against Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Toronto, and Washington. Those are fantastic matchups featuring the best offensive players in hockey: Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews (who should be healthy by March 20), and the Stanley Cup Champion Alexander Ovechkin.
The Sabres also offer the smallest percentage of games (12.2 percent) you can purchase to qualify for playoff ticket priority. Buffalo’s other awful pro sports team isn’t nearly as friendly to your pocketbook and won’t even sell you a season ticket package if you live outside Western New York.
In a live chat with Buffalo Bills season ticket representative Sarah Beth, I was told the cheapest season ticket package was $400 for this season, but they are no longer selling them. I could purchase single game tickets, but not a season ticket package for next season.
As of Wednesday, October 31 at 5:30 p.m. EST, you could see MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes and the equally electrifying Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt along with the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs running Andy Reid’s schemes for $50. Then you could catch Julio Jones making Matt Ryan look better than he is for $50. Then Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey visit Cleveland, and the final game of your four-game, season ticket package ensuring playoff ticket priority is capped by another wide receiver making his quarterback look better than he is. A.J. Green and Andy Dalton come to town.
Even though most of the games won’t be close, you could argue that four of the most entertaining players playing professional football right now (Mahomes, Newton, Jones, and Green) could all be seen for $200. The Cavaliers couldn’t do better than that simply because they’re a worse team than their crosstown, gridiron counterparts.
The Cavs aren’t selling season ticket packages anymore, and the sales rep couldn’t look back at prices from games already played. But if you want to know how much it would cost to see LeBron visit with his Lakers from the cheapest seats in Quicken Loans Arena, it’s $460 to $500. And that wouldn't even qualify you for playoff ticket priority.
For the 10 best games on the Hawks’ schedule, including the Golden State Warriors and LeBron’s Lakers, plus one more for free at a total under $450, Atlanta offers its fans immense value. For $91 less than I paid to see the same opposing teams visit the newly renovated Target Center, Hawks’ fans can secure their playoff ticket priority, but more importantly, member access to the soon-to-be-renovated State Farm Arena, featuring suites with golf simulators and a barbershop where you can get a shave and a haircut while watching the game.
The Orioles’ Sunday season ticket package featured a game against Boston, the Yankees, Astros, Indians, and Angels, but also featured games against Texas, Tampa Bay (2), Miami, and Minnesota. There’s value in allowing fans to pick the games they want to see, but paying less than $18 per game is relatively affordable. The Twins’ “Pick 10” package runs $220 and features just three premium games. Baltimore’s Sunday package features four premium games for $8 more.
The Marlins’ “Variety,” “Saturday,” and “Sunday” plans run at least $130, but I could only find a single seat in the cheapest section for the weekend plans. The variety plan, which most likely provides admission to the best games, was not available in any of the cheaper sections of Marlins Park. If we assume, however, that Miami’s Sunday package offers a similar percentage of premium games as Baltimore’s 13-game package and Minnesota’s 10-game, flex plan, then we can expect to see three premium matchups out of the 10. At $13 per seat per game, it doesn’t get any cheaper to secure playoff ticket priority in any league, but you have to watch the Marlins. At least they got rid of that hideous home run sculpture, though.
The price per game might not be as low as baseball or basketball can offer, but the freedom to choose your own games ensuring every one of them is a premium matchup makes Buffalo a go-to town for hockey. My editor in Toronto, Dan Szczepanek, said trips to Buffalo are a Toronto tradition. “It was always cheaper to drive two hours to Buffalo to watch the Leafs and Sabres, get a hotel, and spend a few days than it was to see the Leafs in Toronto.” The fact that you can establish playoff ticket priority for a measly $183 makes me want to buy a Buffalo Sabres season ticket package, and both of my teams are in the Western Conference.
Again, the percentage of premium games offered in the Hawks’ cheapest season ticket package make up for the higher price point per seat. Even if the Hawks operate the same way the Timberwolves do and make your free game the home opener, that was against Dallas and third overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Luka Doncic, whom Atlanta traded for Trae Young at fifth overall and a future first-rounder. If you haven’t seen Doncic play, I assure you, he and Deandre Jordan make for premium entertainment.
It’s not all bad in Cleveland. Even with LeBron leaving and both the Browns and Cavs firing their head coaches in a 24-hour time period, you can still get premium entertainment from the teams and players visiting FirstEnergy Stadium at an affordable price. Even while Buffalo was in town, it would have cost twice as much for the same seats at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Ottawa is the last of our worst teams to provide incredible value when it comes to choosing the quality of opposing teams in their season ticket package. At $60 per game, it’s a bit pricey per seat, but the assurance of seeing the best opposing players in the NHL makes $60 worth every penny.
While just 30 percent of your games are against playoff-caliber competition, you’re paying $13 to see a baseball game. You can’t get a beer and a hot dog at a ballgame for $13.
While the Orioles’ cheapest season ticket package has a marginally higher percentage of premium games than Miami’s, the $17.54 price point per seat is more than it ought to be given their .290 winning percentage last season. The beauty of Camden Yards can’t compensate for the collosal incompetence of baseball played by Orioles at Oriole Park.
Since preseason games can’t be considered premium games, and the Bills are so bad the best game on their schedule annually is a visit by Tom Brady and the Patriots, there’s really nothing to like about being a Bills season ticket holder. The Jaguars were the other “premium” game on the Bills’ schedule this season, and we’ve seen how far they’ve fallen.
Seems my hypothesis was wrong. The NHL, not the NBA, provides the best value to fans of its worst teams when it comes to their season ticket offerings. The NBA is a close second, however, and the Cleveland Browns coming in third was a pleasant surprise. Baseball and the Buffalo Bills, however, have a long way to go to make their cheapest season ticket packages more appealing to fans of the sports’ worst teams.
Back in 2013, ESPN senior writer Steve Wulf published a rundown of all the costs incurred over the course of his daughter’s decade’s-worth of days playing youth hockey. With travel, club/registration dues, and instruction, the grand total came in just under $50,000, and the sport has only gotten more expensive, especially when it comes to reserving ice time, which is generally covered by league registration fees.
Registration fees for the 2018-19 youth hockey season with the Edina Hockey Association (EHA) in Edina, Minnesota, arguably the epicenter of youth hockey in the United States, range from $149 to $1,430. And that doesn’t even include the mandatory EHA registration fee of $200 for all players besides Termites (seven- to 10-year-olds) and a rostering fee of $150 for players on teams in certain leagues. While scholarships can lower those costs for underprivileged families of exceptional youth hockey players, the cost for parents of children playing their first year is at least $150, and not one piece of equipment (except maybe a pelvic protector) is provided. Online equipment outlets and resellers of used gear aren’t making the price to play the sport of hockey less prohibitive either.
You don’t need demographic research to prove that the prohibitive costs of youth hockey are dictating the faces playing the sport. National Hockey League (NHL) teams generally have just one non-white face on the ice if that, and that’s not because non-white kids prefer to play basketball, baseball, or football. It’s because basketball, baseball, and football are made more accessible to underprivileged youth.
High school football’s popularity is what provides the safety pads necessary to play. And while hockey is more popular than football in the Twin Cities area, the similarly expensive safety equipment necessary to play the sport is seldom provided. That's why Gordon Bombay's Mighty Ducks first practiced in football helmets, and it's why the face of hockey is as white as the ice upon which the game is played.
Lacrosse, the only sport with equipment costs comparable to hockey (and only slightly more expensive according to Time Magazine), sees 56 percent of its youth participants come from families making more than $100,000 annually. Just four percent of the sport’s participants come from families making less than $25,000, and it’s not simply because underprivileged kids don’t want to play lacrosse. I’m sure plenty would like to but their parents can’t afford it, and I’m sure youth hockey consists of players from similar economic advantages. I didn't find that research, but what I did find was an estimate of youth hockey equipment costs by Moms Team of $595—$30 more than the cost of lacrosse equipment. Whether hockey or lacrosse equipment is more expensive is irrelevant because the costs associated with off-ice training expected of youth hockey players, like dry-land training and spring hockey, make it the most expensive youth sport to play, and certainly the least accessible given the required playing surface.
I would have loved to play youth hockey, but there wasn’t even an outdoor ice rink maintained in my hometown let alone a youth hockey league. I wanted to play rec soccer, too, but my parents couldn't afford to pay registration fees for both baseball in the summer and soccer in the fall (youth football didn’t start until sixth grade in my hometown). I also played youth football until I broke my ankle in my second season, and despite the high equipment costs associated with that sport, my parents paid next to nothing for me to play it. Even my cleats were hand-me-downs. Basketball was easily the cheapest sport I played in my youth. I got my first basketball for Christmas one year, and there were basketball goals within walking distance of my house had my father not scored a used one he installed on the roof of our garage. Even my days running track in middle school cost my family nothing. All our gear was provided by the school—even my running spikes. Nothing is provided to youth hockey players except pucks.
Minnesota Nice Skates will work to lower the economic barrier to entry into youth hockey by leasing youth hockey equipment in the Twin Cities area. To do so at an affordable yet sustainable rate, however, a thorough understanding of upfront equipment costs and lifetime equipment costs is necessary. Since Wulf’s report on the costs of youth hockey is five years old, and Cindy Pom’s Canadian version is lacking in detail, I set out to discover the absolute minimum costs of equipping your youth hockey player in his or her first year and over a lifetime (10 years), for both used or new gear, and considering the resale value of each piece of equipment.
The best deal for used, youth hockey skates is going to be on Craigslist, especially in the Minneapolis area. If you don’t live in the Twin Cities, or don’t know someone in the area who can complete the transaction for you and ship it, Mercari had a pair of used, youth hockey skates for less than $30 including shipping. Frankly, in your son or daughter’s first year of skating, you’re better off buying a new pair of hockey skates for beginners. You child is less likely to enjoy hockey if her skates aren’t comfortable, and new skates will form to your child’s feet rather than come preformed to someone else’s.
In year one of your child’s youth hockey career, you can expect to pay as little as $30 and $50 on average for a new pair of youth hockey skates. Junior hockey skates, if your child is starting early, tend to be more than $50. The nice thing about buying your child new skates the first time around is that they’ll grow out of them rather quickly, so the skates should retain their resale value when you sell them used. Still, getting less than half your investment back leaves you with an year-one expense of $15 at minimum and $25 on average. But that doesn't include sharpening the blades.
If you’re youth hockey player is practicing daily, their skates will likely need sharpening weekly. At $5 a pop, that amounts to another $60 in sunk skate costs over the course of a three-month season. If your youth hockey player is playing on traveling teams, that amount can balloon to over $100 quickly. You shouldn’t have to worry about replacing your rookie's new blades, though.
If your child plays youth hockey from age eight to 18, you can expect to pay at least $600 and up to $1,250 just to maintain the blades of her skates. This doesn’t include replacing broken shoelaces or lost blade covers, or repairing the shoe of the skate if it explodes upon puck impact. Both are likely to occur, costing another $100 or so.
You can expect your youth hockey player to grow out of five pairs of skates or more, and they only get more expensive as your child’s feet get bigger and their skating better. While you can get your child onto the ice in $40 skates in year one, their next new pair of skates is going to be double that. The third pair will cost between $100 and $150. A fourth pair will cost between $160 and $200, and your child’s fifth pair of youth hockey skates will range from $200 to $240.
Assuming you can recoup half the purchase price on your child’s used skates, you’re looking at costs of $15 to $25 on pair one, $40 to $60 on pair two, $50 to $75 on pair three, $80 to $100 on pair four, and $100 to $120 on pair five. Pair six, hopefully, your son or daughter will be purchasing and replacing with their own revenue stream.
The sooner your child grows into a senior-sized pair of skates the better. While senior skates for advanced skaters sell for more than $400, they should be the last pair you have to buy. The estimate above is based on a pair of skates listed at $420.
Buying used doesn’t save you considerably more money than buying new and reselling. Sure, you can find a used pair of skates in any size and have them delivered to your door for half the price of a new pair, but your child is going to be less comfortable on the ice. You can buy insoles to remedy the situation, but then you’re spending another $50 every time you buy a used pair of skates. Even so, considering you find a deal on a used pair of youth or junior hockey skates for $25 in year one, the next pair of used skates is going to be at least $40. A third pair of used skates could be found for $50 or $60. A fourth pair could cost $80, and a fifth $100, with your sixth costing between $140 and $200. In the end, you’re spending less but won’t likely be able to ever resell the skates.
Buying all used skates throughout a decade of youth hockey is going to cost you more than $1,000 and up to $2,000 including maintenance.
Buying all new skates for your child over 10 years of youth hockey is going to cost more than $1,500 at minimum and up to $2,500 or more. If you’re able to resell your child’s youth hockey skates, you’re still spending close to $1,400 and up to $2,100 over a decade. And we haven’t even put a helmet on your child yet.
Craigslist again provided the best deal, and a used youth hockey helmet in year one is perfectly acceptable as long as there isn’t any obvious damage to the helmet that will worsen with hits to the head. They must have a full cage as well.
The cheapest youth helmet with a full cage can be purchased new for $50. Helmets aren’t equipment easily resold, however, as sweat smells them up something fierce. If your child does outgrow their first helmet quickly, though, you can maybe make back $20 on the purchasing price.
Wulf said his daughter went through four helmets in 10 years. If your child does the same, you can expect to pay more for each helmet you purchase bigger than the last. If your child’s first helmet was purchased used for $20, the next will be $30 to $40, then $40 to $50, then $50 to $60. When your child’s head stops growing (test this with fitted hats), the last helmet you buy them should probably be new, but that’s not included in this estimate.
You can spend as much as you like here, and it’s not a bad place to focus your funds. Wulf said he spent $1,250 on the five helmets he bought his daughter, which is insane to think about, but he spent $250 per helmet. Protecting your child’s brain is worth every penny, but helmets can be had for much less than Wulf paid. If your child’s first helmet is $50, the next will be closer to $60, then $80, and then $100 or more, so the cheapest cost of protecting your child’s cranium with new helmets is $300. It is recommended that the last helmet you purchase your youth hockey player when fully grown spares no expense.
One of the most prohibitive expenses associated with playing hockey is hockey sticks. You can’t play without them, and they eventually break. This estimate assumes your youth hockey player makes it through the season on one stick, but it’s recommended you buy them at least two so they have a replacement if they break one mid-game. We had two tennis rackets in case we broke strings, or in my case, broke the frame bashing it into the ground in anger. It's the only record I hold at my high school, and it became an expensive habit at over $100 per racket. Sticks are similarly expensive once your youth hockey player gets good at hockey.
Your child’s first hockey sticks should be made of wood. There’s absolutely no reason to put a carbon composite hockey stick in the hands of your eight-year-old unless you get one for free. She’s going to outgrow that first stick in what seems like a heartbeat, or break it just as quickly. You shouldn’t be in a hurry to spend a bunch of money on hockey sticks. You’ll have plenty of time to do so.
After your child’s first hockey stick breaks or is outgrown, you should resist purchasing used hockey sticks; they’re just going to break sooner than a new one would. As your youth hockey player gets better, they’ll want their equipment to be better so they can do more on the ice. Not unlike a youth tennis player graduating from a Kmart racket to her first Prince or Head racket, a youth hockey player should likewise graduate to nicer and nicer hockey sticks as their body and skills grow. I learned how to serve with a wooden tennis racket from the '70s. That said, over the course of a decade, you’ll likely go from paying $20 for your child’s first hockey stick to more than $200 for their last.
So, if you buy two hockey sticks in year one at $20 ($40), two more in year two at $30 ($60), two more at $40 ($80), and so on until the $150 sticks you buy in year 10, you will have spent $1,380 on hockey sticks alone. Wulf estimates he spent $1,750 just to keep a stick in his daughter’s hands. Hockey sticks are also an equipment item you’ll be unable to resell, but not the most likely piece of equipment you'll be unable to resell. That would be hockey gloves.
Used, youth hockey gloves are $120 a dozen on Craigslist in Minneapolis-St. Paul, but outside of hockey hubs $20 was the lowest rate on Ebay. Beware: gloves tend to be the stinkiest of all hockey equipment. Wulf said he spent $55 on Febreeze spray and special hockey detergent mostly due to smelly gloves.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has a pair of new, youth hockey gloves for $25 online. Bundled with a five-piece set they’re marginally cheaper.
If you buy gloves new, which is recommended, don’t expect to resell them or to resell them for much. In fact, while you might end up paying $100 or more for a pair of gloves your kid will outgrow, that pair of gloves isn’t going to retain a resale value comparable to skates. If you sell skates at 50 percent of the retail cost, you’ll probably end up selling gloves at a quarter or a third of their retail cost. If your youth hockey player outgrows four pairs of gloves in 10 years, and you spend $25 on the first pair, $40 on the next pair, $60 on the next, and $80 on the last, you might get $75 back on your $205 investment. Wulf spent $400 and probably didn’t resell a single pair.
Here’s another item you won’t often find available for resale and probably shouldn’t buy used.
Whether you need a traditional jockstrap and cup for your son or a “Jill” for your daughter, you can expect to buy about five different sizes over the course of a decade at around $20 each.
You aren’t likely to find used neck guards except for in lost-and-founds at hockey arenas or in the bottom of some equipment bag in the back of some equipment closet at a coach’s house. It’s something your child needs but isn’t prohibitively expensive.
Ten bucks is a bargain when it comes to protecting your child’s windpipe from being crushed by a flying puck.
Wulf said his daughter went through seven neck guards over the course of a decade.
Craigslist, again, served up the best deal on used, youth hockey shin guards in the Twin Cities area, but used shin guards can be found on Ebay or Mercari at similar prices. Used shin guards are perfectly adequate for protecting your child, but the protective padding in them eventually flattens as they take repeated impacts from the ice or from pucks. The last pair of shin guards you buy once your child stops growing should be new.
Shin guards are an item you can resell, but you’d still be better off buying used even if you can’t resell the used shin guards.
Wulf’s daughter grew out of three pairs of shin guards over 10 years of youth hockey.
If you bought the cheapest, new pair of youth hockey shin guards every year your child needed a new size, you’d likely be out $100. After reselling the shin guards your youth hockey player outgrew, the lifetime expense of youth hockey shin guards would likely be around $60. Wulf climbed the price ladder a bit when it came to shin guards because his daughter blocked a puck with one of them and limped off the ice despite the shin guard’s protection.
Like shin guards, junior and youth elbow pads can generally be found used at affordable prices. While the Twin Cities Craigslist page provided plenty of options, Ebay and Mercari offered options that were just a bit more expensive. You might want to search arena lost-and-found bins to score a pair for free.
I was as surprised as you probably will be to learn something as simple as elbow pads could cost more than $100. Your mite doesn’t need $100 elbow pads, though, and this is a minimalist look into equipping youth hockey players with the necessary safety equipment.
Wulf said his daughter went through three pairs of elbow pads in 10 years of youth hockey.
Wulf spent an average of $50 per pair of elbow pads over the course of his daughter’s 10 years playing youth hockey. But he probably could have gotten $20 to $25 on each pair of elbow pads back by reselling them.
Junior and youth shoulder pads tend to be as plentiful as elbow pads and shin guards, so they can be found on Craigslist for the same price as both. You aren’t likely to find a set in the lost and found, however.
If you choose to buy junior or youth hockey hockey shoulder pads new and resell them, you’re looking at a similar albeit slightly more expensive option.
Your child will grow into three sizes of shoulder pads in 10 years, and depending on what you’re willing or feel you need to spend (maybe your child delivers or receives hard checks), protecting your youth hockey player’s shoulders will run you at least $60 and up to $270, according to Wulf’s budget.
Used junior and youth hockey pants in good condition are harder to find than used shoulder pads and elbow pads. The cheapest option in the Twin Cities as of this writing was $15, and most listings on Craigslist were around $30, which is what you can expect to pay at minimum online.
Buying new hockey pants for your child will be slightly more expensive than buying used, but you’ll have the comfort of knowing no other child has sweated into those pants. They can get pretty stinky from absorbing the water from the ice as well.
You’re child will likely go through four pairs of pants over 10 years of youth hockey. Wulf spent $240 in total. You can certainly outfit your youth hockey player in used pants throughout the decade. You’ll likely spend at least $30 per pair, or $120 in total.
Unless you do laundry everyday, your child will need multiple pairs of hockey socks as well as undersocks, which can simply be non-cotton, dress socks. They should be thin as to maximize your child’s control over her skates (unless her skates run big, which means you have to fill them up). Hockey socks, however, aren’t as easily substituted. Luckily, they’re pretty easy to find. In the Twin Cities there was a listing on Craigslist advertising free socks with the purchase of any of their items. You can even mix and match lost socks you find. If you aren’t in a hockey hotbed, Ebay’s cheapest listing for a new pair was around $8 with shipping.
At a retailer like Dick’s Sporting Goods, you can expect to pay $15 to $20 per pair of youth hockey socks. That’s outrageous given your child will outgrow them every few years and that a cap full of bleach can pretty much clean anything, including used, youth hockey socks.
Wulf estimated that he spent $150 just on socks for his daughter to play 10 years of youth hockey. You can get away with paying nothing in places like Minnesota, Maine, or Canada, but that’s not likely the case in Las Vegas. Since socks are being given away, don’t expect any recouping of costs via resale.
You can’t practice without practice jerseys, and you’re child will probably want more than one. You might find these in the lost and found at your local arena or for cheap on Craigslist or Ebay. Otherwise, an oversized shirt will work, preferably something breathable like Under Armour or Nike Dri-FIT material. A football jersey is fine if you can find a long-sleeved, non-cotton shirt to go under it.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has a youth hockey jersey for less than $15, which is on par with the prices you’ll find on Ebay for new practice jerseys.
Wulf spent around $100 just on practice jerseys throughout his daughter’s 10 years of youth hockey. You can expect your youth hockey player to grow out of at least three if not four sizes, so unless you can get your hands on hand-me-downs, expect to spend at least $45 on practice jerseys over 10 years...and that’s if you only provide your player with one.
It might not seem essential, but before you know it your youth hockey player will demand to have tape so she doesn’t have to borrow from teammates. It’s recommended you buy black, white, and clear tape in bulk, which saves you a dollar on each roll. Over 10 years, Wulf estimates he spent $550 on tape alone.
Your youth hockey player can’t carry all that expensive gear in a garbage bag, and while you can find cheap or even free gym bags to work as substitutes, when your son or daughter stops growing, you might consider buying a nice hockey bag for the final set of gear you’ll be buying for them.
Again, you can find hand-me-down workout gear but eventually you’re youth hockey player will want their own undershirts or even tights to wear under their gear.
Those non-cotton, dress socks will work for as long as you can find them for free or cheaply, but you will eventually need to invest in a couple pairs of undersocks for your full-grown, youth hockey player. They run about $10 per pair.
This estimate is based on the availability of used, youth hockey equipment in the Twin Cities area and will be more for those living in places that aren’t youth hockey hubs.
This estimate is based on the availability of used, youth hockey equipment for sale online.
This range is based on the availability and costs of used, youth hockey equipment available online.
This estimate is based on the availability and costs of new, youth hockey equipment available online.
So, if your child plays one season of youth hockey, on equipment alone, you’re out at least $285 in year one, unless you can find practice jerseys, hockey socks and undersocks, neck guards and elbow pads for free. That would save you $50, but when is anything free? You still have to go somewhere to get it.
Minnesota Nice Skates comes to you and properly sizes your child for gear. If your child outgrows any piece of equipment or something breaks at no fault of their own (including sticks), Minnesota Nice Skates replaces it. And there’s no need to bring back the equipment if it still fits at the end of the lease. Just keep the gear that fits and replace the gear that doesn’t. It’s that simple. The annual lease for equipment automatically vests if gear isn’t returned within a year.
A $250 annual lease with Minnesota Nice Skates will save parents between $465 and $3,930 over 10 years of youth hockey. More importantly, it lowers the cost of entry into the sport by allowing underprivileged families to pick and choose which gear they want to lease and which gear they want to try to find for free. If you only want to try and find elbow pads, neck guards, practice jerseys, socks and undersocks for free, do it. It’ll only cost you $200 to get your child the necessary equipment to play youth hockey. The most important thing is that more kids play youth hockey so better athletes end up hockey players instead of football players, growing the popularity of the sport.
If you think the American economy is booming now, just think what it would be like if American collegians had an extra $1.5 billion to spend—especially with President Donald Trump’s tariffs set to raise the prices of imported consumer goods despite he and his administration saying the tariffs won’t result in price hikes.
Well, if prices aren’t increasing, tariffs aren’t working. The point of a tariff is to make locally produced products more attractive to local consumers by raising the price of imported alternatives. This, in theory, would result in more local production and fewer imports. But a tariff is paid by the importer of a product, not the exporter. So the 25-percent tariff Trump recently leveled on Chinese imports is transferred to the American consumers of those goods, not the Chinese producers.
The trade war isn’t taking money out of the pockets of Chinese manufacturers; it’s taking money out of the pockets of American consumers of Chinese products and Chinese consumers of American products. And since the United States runs a $375 billion trade deficit with China, the only way Trump can “win” his trade war is if Chinese economists can’t do the math to match Trump’s tariffs dollar-for-dollar. It’s even becoming more likely trade with China ends altogether. China has already cancelled planned trade talks with Trump.
It is impossible for America to run a trade surplus with China because China produces more products Americans consider essential than America produces for the Chinese, including car, computer and mobile phone components. It’s lower labor costs and Americans’ addiction to consumption allow China to perpetually have the upper hand in a trade war. If an iPhone were made entirely in America, it would cost as much as a brand new car, so while Trump might be making some American-made products more attractive to American consumers, he’s doing so at the expense of American consumers who can’t do without many of the Chinese imports found in their technology and automobiles. Even the Tesla Model 3 can only be 95-percent American-made at most.
Since Americans will be paying more for computers, mobile devices and cars, it’s not entirely unreasonable to forgive the $1.5 billion in student loan debt and allow those accepted into college two years of college education free of charge. Students and parents are going to pay more for the devices required to attend college, and colleges are going to pay more for them as well, which will be reflected in tuition costs, which will further increase student loan debt while decreasing consumers’ available income for spending in the American economy, potentially sinking the stock market.
There are other reasons besides boosting the economy for the government to payoff student loan debt. First, today’s Associate’s degree, usually obtained in two years at a community college, is the equivalent of a 1980s high school diploma. Advances in technology have made working in what is now a global economy much more complicated and necessitates further education be obtained. Students are not leaving high school with the education necessary to provide for themselves let alone a family, and it’s not their fault.
Secondly, with 17 states offering tuition-free college programs, the trend seems to be students at least delaying the accumulation of student loan debt for two years, potentially lowering accrued interest as well as principal loan balances. In short, future college students in the United States will be saddled with considerably less student loan debt than current and past college students. Meanwhile, entire generations (and student loan debt does span generations), are suffering student loan debt and unable to stimulate the American economy by spending money on anything but debt and living expenses.
Finally, the collective credit rating of American college students, past, present and future, would receive a boost that could spur entrepreneurial growth and investment in businesses as a whole. America was the land of opportunity, where you could go from “rags to riches” with enough hard work. America used to be the best place to start a small business and be your own boss. That isn’t the case these days because despite incomes increasing for middle-class Americans, their purchasing power has barely budged since 1965. You can’t grow an economy in which most consumers have hardly more purchasing power than their grandparents did over 50 years ago, and consumer confidence in the stock market can’t increase if consumers have no means to express their confidence by purchasing stocks.
Lifting the $1.5 billion in student loan debt owed by 44.2 million American borrowers would allow 44.2 million Americans to spend their student loan payment, averaging $351 per month, stimulating the American economy instead of simply paying off interest. Lenders can’t be the only ones making money if the American economy is going to grow.
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In the poker game of American life, the white man is on tilt, bleeding chips like he’s giving them away—because that’s exactly what the white, American man has been doing for 150 years. White, American men started comfortable and stayed comfortable. Some got lazy, and now the chip leader in the poker game of American life senses his chip stack dwindling at the poker table that is American capitalism.
Income inequality grew in 2017 to the largest income gap ever recorded, but for roughly 200 years the white man was the only person at the poker table that is American capitalism. His chips were safe and regularly augmented along with a glass of lemonade by a slave who did the work responsible for the chip stack while his master played solitaire alone.
But when the white man’s first challenger arrived in the 1820s, he felt immediately threatened despite his massive chip stack and perceived mental and physical advantage over his opponent. White men were threatened by women entering the workplace because they’d work for less and advanced machinery made factory jobs easier for them to do. So when a white, American woman approached the poker table with her modest chip stack in hand, the white man went to work, teaching the white woman about American capitalism by using his superior stack of money to take hers. The white man didn’t take the white woman lightly, but he enjoyed her company and gave her enough time and just enough money to learn the game—opportunities not afforded his male opponents. When civil war broke out in the states the white woman’s chip stack grew considerably, and when slavery was abolished, more new players sat at the poker table that is American capitalism.
When a black, American man brought his meager chip stack to the poker table in 1865, the white man might have lost his means of subsidizing his stack, but he knew he could still steal chips from the black man as he did the white woman. And he did and continues to do so, but less often and at an ever-decreasing rate of success.
In 1910, the Mexican Revolution sparked a wave of immigration in the United States, but the first successful labor movement of immigrants in America took place in 1903, when Mexican and Japanese farm workers unionized. It was the first union to win a strike against the giant, California agriculture industry. Then the first wave of Asian immigration to the United States during the California Gold Rush in the 1950s brought more players to the table, each with a larger chip stack than the last. The white man gained another opponent to bully each player who dared sit at the poker table of American capitalism, but that window of opportunity grew shorter with each new player.
When your chip stack is bigger than everyone else’s, you don’t actually have to play poker, or any game for that matter, including the game that is the American economy. You just have to use your money to repeatedly force the poor to decide whether they’re ready to lose everything they have, and they seldom are regardless of the amount. That’s not poker; it’s old-fashioned bullying. The haves lean on the have-nots until they break, at which point the white man borrows them money to buy back into the game, with interest, of course.
The rules of both a poker game and a capitalistic economy cease to govern the gameplay when the majority of wealth is controlled by an extreme minority of players. The game has never been fair and still isn’t, but white, American men are scared anyway. While their chip stack hasn’t decreased significantly, there are more players at the table, and the white man fears there will be more coming for his ill-gotten gains. They can sense the table turning, which is why they’re expressing their anger more boisterously than in the past. They didn’t have much reason to complain while they were buying pots with busted, gutshot straight draws and suited connectors that found no similar suits nor connections amongst the community cards. The white, American man was probably only called and forced to show his cards once every few years in the poker game of American life.
The wealth gap between white and black households in America persists, as does the gap between white and black men. And the wealth gap between white and Hispanic-American men is expected to widen until 2020. But that’s not the case for white and black women. While women have and continue to make less than their male counterparts, white women do not make considerably more than black women raised in similar households. So while white and black women aren’t winning pots as big as the white or black men, they are winning similarly-sized pots relative to each other.
The white man has managed to avoid losing chips to the black man, but the white and black women at the table have charmed the chips right out of the hands of the white man. And he’s enjoyed losing to the women so much the white man has only just realized the growing chip stacks of his other opponents at the table, like the Hispanic- and Asian-Americans. Worse yet, the white and black women at the table are starting to call the white (and brown) on their attempts at getting more than just a handful of chips from the ladies.
Instead of observing the tendencies of his opponents and acting on them, the white man has resorted to bullying the rest of the table with his chip stack, over-betting the pot and forcing his opponents to either risk all their chips or fold. But it’s harder to buy pots with a dwindling chip stack, and the rest of the table has him figured now. The white man doesn’t have the chips to bluff with garbage cards anymore, and while he thinks he’s on a frozen wave of cards you read about, he’s really just scared of all the new action at the table. More players means more cards are out, too, so with every new player at the table, every hand becomes less and less valuable. But that doesn't make immigrants a threat; they can actually pad the chip stack of white, American men, too.
Immigrants work the jobs American men and women won't do, and they pay income taxes for doing them, and spend their income in the American economy, creating more jobs and more wealth for everyone. More players means more action, which means bigger pots and bigger swings of fortune. That worries the white man, as it should, because he's the only one who hasn't been playing poker these last 150 years or so.
White, American men have always been unreasonably angry, but how can you be mad after enjoying an economic advantage built on the backs of slave labor for over 150 years? White, American men tilted the economic playing field so much with slavery and ensuing racial discrimination that their advantage persists to this day. But they sense that advantage dissipating with every immigrant that arrives at the poker table of American capitalism, and that pisses them off, but not rightfully so. Simply being entitled to earning more money isn’t reason enough to be angry about that entitlement decreasing ever so slightly. Being the reason for providing that entitlement against your will, as black Americans were and continue to be (as well as women), is reason enough to be angry, and to be angry for however long the table is tilted in the white man’s favor.
This was originally published at Grandstand Central, where we cover sports from unique angles.
A great American tradition born of the struggle to fill great American ballparks with great American baseball fans is dying. The ballpark giveaway is giving way to greed.
The Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments last Wednesday in a dispute over taxes on promotional items purchased by the Cincinnati Reds and offered to fans through promotional ticket packages. Ohio state law exempts companies from paying taxes on items they buy and resell, but the issue is whether promotional items like bobbleheads are being sold as part of a ticket package or given away in an effort to increase ticket sales. Simply put, if the team gives away bobbleheads, they pay tax. If they sell them with the ticket, they do not.
Regardless of whether the Reds’ techniques are legal or not, the attempt to avoid paying $88,000 in state taxes is pretty insensitive given the Reds’ recent history, both on and off the field. The construction of Great American Ball Park cost Hamilton County taxpayers $349 million and deprived federal taxpayers of $142 million in revenue — the third-most costly of any Major League Baseball stadium according to a Brookings Institute study. The Reds share responsibility with the Cincinnati Bengals for burying Ohio’s Hamilton County in debt, resulting in cuts to social services, including the sale of a hospital, and forcing Hamilton County Commissioners to refinance $376 million of stadium bond debt in 2016. Property owners in Hamilton County were promised 30 percent of the revenue raised by the half-cent increase to the sales tax in the form of reduced tax bills, but the county has rarely had the money to pay the stadium debt and offer the full tax rollback.
Meanwhile, the Reds could go from increasing attendance by giving away items for which they once paid tax to profiting from tax-free items while also increasing attendance. And they’re not the only ones.
The Minnesota Twins are also offering more of these promotional ticket packages and fewer giveaways after winning a similar case back in 1998. Like Ohio, “goods and services purchased solely to resell, lease or rent in the regular course of business” are tax exempt in Minnesota. In fact, most states allow businesses to purchase items tax-free as long as those items are to be resold. So this is only the beginning, and already, great American ballparks are turning giveaways into takeaways, likely turning a profit on what was a cheap means of advertising and now is a cheaper means of advertising.
According to a sales representative at Associated Premium Corporation, a preferred vendor of MLB promotional items, a seven-inch bobblehead purchased in bulk exceeding 10,000 units could cost a ballclub between $3 and $5. Markups on promotional ticket packages are considerably higher than that, and in some ballparks, they vary by seat location.
Senior manager of group sales for the Twins, Phil McMullen, informed me that the prices for their promotional ticket packages are based on the price of their group tickets, which explains why the markup for the promotional item appears to vary by seat location when compared to buying a single game ticket alone. The same cannot be said for the Reds.
The June 19 promotional bobblehead in Cincinnati is available at three different price points in three different sections of the ballpark. The promotional ticket package is $25 per “View Level” ticket, $55 for a seat in the “Field Box” section and $80 for an “Infield Box” seat. The price of a ticket to the same game in the “View Level” section is $17. A field box seat is $41, and infield box seats range from $65 to $68. So the same bobblehead costs $8 when purchased with a “View Level” ticket, $14 when purchased with a “Field Box” ticket and between $12 and $15 when purchased with an “Infield Box” ticket. Assuming the “Field Box” price is based on one ticket price, Cincinnati fans purchasing the promotional ticket package will pay three different prices for the exact same product in the same store.
“It’s consistently very close…the difference is negligible,” Reds’ group sales representative Kristen Meyers said of the varying costs for the promotional items. She attempted to explain the difference in price to accommodate fans buying tickets with exact change, but the Twins’ ticket prices are also full-dollar amounts and their cost of the promotional items don’t vary by seat location.
Minimal research revealed that the Twins and Reds aren’t the only Major League Baseball teams selling promotional items at varying prices depending on seat location. On June 23, the Colorado Rockies are selling a promotional ticket package available in five different sections of the ballpark that includes a University of Nebraska hat. Based on the Rockies’ group ticket prices, fans will pay either $8, $11 or $12 for the hat, depending on their seat location. In Milwaukee on July 7, fans will pay four different prices for a bobblehead depending on their seat location.
If MLB teams are going to sell promotional items on a sliding scale to make those items more accessible to lower-income fans, that should be advertised and owned. But forcing fans who pay more for their tickets to also pay more for a promotional item without their knowledge is theft. While buying a promotional ticket package might be preferable to standing in line for hours with no guarantee of scoring a giveaway item, don’t think for a moment you’re taking advantage of a business desperate to sell tickets. Quite the opposite is true, and the degree to which they fleece you varies as much as the prices of the promotional items they claim to sell in order to avoid paying state tax. But if you must have a promotional item offered with one of these promotional ticket packages, you’re likely best off buying the cheapest seats.
We’ve all witnessed the old lady at the grocery store holding up the line at the cash register while digging in her purse saying, “I have a coupon for that.” I used to think those ladies were crazy for clipping coupons to pinch pennies. But clipping coupons isn’t crazy; it’s cool, and it pays more than pennies.
I was skeptical the first time I committed my time to flipping through the weekly coupon book I receive in mail with the weekly ads from grocers and retailers. I used to just throw it in recycling without a second look. But when I was saving to buy a house, I committed to a lot of different ways to save money. Long had I saved money shopping online with Ebates, but never had I moved my money around so it could make more money for me. I started monitoring my income and spending and set savings and budget goals with free, online budgeting software. I transferred credit card balances from cards with high rates to cards with lower rates. And I started keeping a grocery list and sticking to that list when shopping. But when I first started clipping coupons, I went about it all wrong.
After clipping coupons I used to stuff them in an envelope, which I then stuffed deep into my desk drawer to be forgotten. I kept stuffing the envelope without going through its contents, so when I was moving into my new house, I finally went through the envelope to discover more than just a bunch of expired coupons. I had missed multiple opportunities to save money in my last trip to the grocery store alone. But now I have a system, and it seems to pay. On my last grocery trip I saved on an almost $40 total. I do that twice a month, which saves me every year. Here’s how I’ve been clipping coupons to save real money.
I follow my father’s first rule of grocery shopping: “I buy what’s on sale.” In our middle-class, American household, if it wasn’t in the ad, we weren’t eating it. And the special occasions that violated the rule were few and far between because my father often worked holidays. We had grilled cheese and tomato soup on Thanksgiving multiple times, which didn’t bother me because grilled cheese and tomato soup was and remains a favorite of mine. That probably wouldn’t have been the case if that tomato soup was made with water instead of milk, though, and that grilled cheese made with oil instead of butter. As a kid I didn’t consider that people might not be able to afford milk or butter. I just thought they were required for grilled cheese and tomato soup until I couldn’t afford them myself.
Now when I’m clipping coupons, I do so after flipping through each of the grocery store ads. I circle the items I need or want in pen and use pencil to indicate the items on sale that I’ll eventually need. Then I go through the coupon book clipping coupons for the items I’ve circled. That way, I’m get a discount on an already discounted item. I never use a coupon on an item at full price, but that doesn’t stop me from clipping coupons for items I know I’ll need.
Laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, toiletries—these are things we all need and, typically, a manufacturer’s coupon can be found for all them regularly. You should never have to pay full price for necessities. I always clip coupons for laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bath soap, milk, eggs, protein-packed snacks and Newman’s Own Family Recipe Italian salad dressing. I’m a fourth-generation Italian-American who has tried many Italian salad dressings, homemade and otherwise, and Newman’s Own Family Recipe Italian is the best. And all profits go to charity. I keep those coupons so when the items do go on sale I have a coupon to use to compound my savings.
Old ladies have purses into which they stuff their coupons, but men aren’t going to stuff their wallets in a similar fashion. Most of us use a vehicle when we shop, though, so store your coupons there. That way you’re always prepared to take advantage of the extra $2 off laundry detergent when you happen to see it on sale at the store. I keep my coupons in the grocery bag I keep in my car, so when I feel the urge to get a few discounted donuts after 6 p.m. I can take advantage of some coupons for items that are on sale.
Don’t be the old lady digging for coupons at the cash register. You should have an idea of what coupons you’ll be using before you even get to the store, so keep out so you can see them and match them with the items you’re purchasing. You can choose self-checkout if you like, but I prefer going to a cashier. Never put a coupon on the belt at the cash register. Simply hand them over to the cashier, who will take them all off your bill at the end of the transaction anyways.
So you don’t get all the way home to find a coupon missing from your receipt, review your receipt before you leave the store. I look mine over as I walk to the exit because I have been guilty of losing money at the grocery store in the past because it’s seldom worth your time to go all the way back to the store to find the same cashier who has likely forgotten all about you and wants anything more than to try and solve an unfamiliar problem so you can save a buck. If there’s an issue, catch it early, and save yourself and others some aggravation.
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