Cities Keep Imposing Self-Defeating Restrictions on Electric Scooters

America’s cities are engaging in another wave of restrictions on the budding electric scooter industry, just as limited pilot programs come to an end. This is particularly true of two cities, Washington, D.C., and Portland, Oregon, which had previously been relatively welcoming of scooters.

Since July, Portland has been running a pilot program for dockless scooters—which can be rented right off the street using a smartphone app—allowing companies Lime, Skip, and Bird to put their vehicles out on city streets. Portland capped the total number of scooters allowed at 2,500 and required each company to deploy scooters in poorer East Portland.

This pilot program comes to an end Tuesday, and despite Portlanders logging some 755,000 miles on the scooters, the city’s current plan is to now shut everything down so it can comb through the data it collected on the vehicles’ usage.

“We need to assess what we’re finding. We need to hear more from Portlanders, all of their experiences, both positive and negative,” Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesperson John Bradley told OregonLive.

This assessment is supposed to guide Portland leaders if they want to bring the scooters back.

Something similar is playing out in Washington, D.C., where after a lengthy pilot program, the city is out with new, more restrictive rules for its scooter permits in 2019.

The number of scooters each company can put out on D.C. streets has been increased from 400 to 600, but that’s about the only bone thrown to the four currently permitted scooter companies operating in D.C.

Companies will only be allowed to add 100 scooters per quarter. Any expansion of a company’s fleet will have to receive approval from city officials who’ll be evaluating their performance along a number of metrics, including trips per day, how quickly the companies to respond to code violations, and how many of their trips are beginning or ending in “Equity Emphasis Areas,” i.e. poorer parts of the city.

In addition, scooter speeds—once 15 miles per hour—will be capped at 10 miles per hours instead, even while allowing dockless, for-rent electric bikes to travel a full 20 miles per hour.

Obviously, Portland’s plans to totally remove scooters from city streets is more severe, but it is striking that both cities seem obsessed with regulatory minutia.

Portland’s evaluation of its pilot program will look at whether the new service helped expand “access for underserved communities” or “reduced private motor vehicle use,” yet companies can serve neither goal at all if they’re not on the streets. (Whether any company should be required to meet these goals in order to do business is another question altogether.)

Likewise, D.C. says it’s being heavy handed in order to address concerns about “safety and equity.”

Yet under the District’s pilot program, folks from all around the city, including its poorer areas have, clearly taken to the vehicles. A study funded by D.C.’s Department of Transportation (DDOT)—which is responsible for regulating scooters—compared dockless services with the city’s own, taxpayer-funded bike share program, which requires users to pick up and return bikes to specific docked locations.

“What we found is that the dockless program overall provides greater micro-mobility accessibility across the entire city, and also specifically in Ward 8, which is traditionally underserved,” wrote Regina Clewlow, one of the study’s authors, in a blog post. Again, leaving aside the question of whether a private company should be required to provide social services in order to operate, is outperforming a taxpayer-funded program in the city’s poorest neighborhood not enough of an accomplishment?

As Bird pointed out in a letter to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, the city’s continued cap on vehicles frustrates the ability of companies to serve the very populations the city is so concerned about. A “cap on the number of e-scooters available to the people of D.C. eliminates any chance of this program being equitable,” wrote David Estrada, the company’s head of government relations last week, noting that “a capped number of scooters incentivizes e-scooter providers to put their vehicles only in popular, high-density areas—not in historically underserved areas.”

D.C.’s regulations aren’t changing for now, and despite a concerted lobbying effort from companies, Portland officials have given no indication that they’re willing to allow scooters on the streets after the pilot program ends Tuesday.

That’s a shame for riders in both cities. But it now seems riders were never the top priority.

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The Pentagon Fails Its First Comprehensive Audit

|||Yuri Gripas/REUTERS/NewscomThe Department of Defense completed its first comprehensive audit this week. Well, it almost completed it.

The year-long audit was reportedly the largest in history, with about 1,200 auditors assessing 21 Pentagon agencies’ spending. The audit itself cost $413 million—about a thirtieth of the Pentagon’s budget.

Only five of the 21 individual audits received a fully passing grade, while two received an OK grade. Two agencies aren’t actually done yet—they’re set to have their audits completed at the end of the month. The rest were given disclaimers, meaning there were inventory discrepancies and other errors. Such low passing numbers were considered a “fail.” (For how the specific agencies fared, go here.) Officials believe that it could take years to solve the accounting discrepancies found. An additional $406 million have been spent so far on addressing issues found in the audit, and $153 million were spent on “financial system fixes.”

“We failed the audit, but we never expected to pass it,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said of the results.

Indeed, stories of exceptionally wasteful Pentagon spending are a news staple. It recently came out, for example, that the Air Force had spent more than $300,000 on 391 specialty mugs, which kept coffee and tea hot and were easily broken. Officials later found that they could 3D-print replacement pieces for 50 cents each.

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Foreigners Dump US Treasuries As They Liquidate A Record Amount Of US Stocks

Earlier this week, DoubleLine’s Jeff Gundlach held his latest webcast with investors in which he warned that as a result of rising hedging costs, US Treasury bonds have become increasingly unattractive to foreign buyers. This can be seen in the chart below which shows the yield on the 10Y US TSY unhedged, and also hedged into Yen and Euros. In the latter two cases, the yield went from over 3%, to negative as a result of the gaping rate differential between the Fed and ECB or BOJ.

This is also why, as the next chart from Gundlach showed, foreign holdings of US Treasurys have been declining in recent years, and dropped to just over 36% as a percentage of total holdings, the lowest in over a decade, as domestic holdings of US paper have risen to just shy of 50%, and near all time highs.

Which brings us to today’s latest monthly TIC data which showed that, as Gundlach would expect, the holdings of the two largest foreign US creditors, China and Japan, declined to multi year low.

As shown in the chart below, China’s holdings of U.S. Treasuries fell to the lowest level since mid-2017 as the world’s second-largest economy sold US reserves to stabilize the yuan which has been depreciating in recent months due to the ongoing trade war.

Chinese holdings of U.S. Treasuries declined for a fourth month to $1.151 trillion in September, from $1.165 trillion in August, a $14 billion decline. Despite the drop, China remained the biggest foreign creditor to the U.S., followed by Japan whose Treasury holdings also dropped by $2 billion to $1.028 trillion, the lowest since 2011.

Investors have been searching for clues whether China is dumping its vast holding of U.S. Treasuries to retaliate against U.S. tariffs, though Beijing has given no indication it’s doing so; meanwhile while the TIC data is relatively accurate, it tends to be revised rather materially which is why it is certainly possible that China’s real holdings, when adjusted for valuation and currency changes, are far lower.

Of course, instead of selling Treasurys, China may have decided to hold on to its reserves and allow the yuan to depreciate against the USD, but not too much: so far 7.00 has emerged as a “red line” for the PBOC. The Chinese currency has already depreciated more than 4 percent against the dollar in the past year amid signs of an economic slowdown and capital outflows. In September, China’s foreign-exchange reserves stockpile fell by $22 billion to touch the lowest level since July 2017, however much of that number was due to valuation adjustments.

Going down the list, while Russia’s Treasury liquidation was well documented in June and July, two new aggressive sellers of US paper emerged in the latest data: France, whose Treasury holdings declined from $118.4BN to $97.7BN…

… and Ireland, which sold over $25BN Treasuries in September, bringing the total to $290BN.

Not everyone was a seller: the infamous Belgium, host of Euroclear, added $10 billion to $164.7BN, likely working on behalf of some unknown foreign entity, while Saudi Arabia added another $6.6BN, bringing its total to a record $176.1BN, perhaps in hopes of showing Trump just what a good friend of the US it is.

Finally, away from US Treasuries, and looking at total flows, foreigners added a total of $7.5BN in long-term US securities, led by nearly $30BN in Agencies.

What was perhaps more notable is that in September, foreigners sold another $16.9BN in US stocks, the 5th consecutive month of selling, matching a record long stretch of foreign sales of US equities, and one during which official and private foreign investors sold a total of $102 billion over the past 5 months, a record high.

The bottom line: Trump told the world he doesn’t need its generosity to either fund the US deficit or prop up stocks, and according to recent data, the world has taken up Trump on his dare, and has been actively liquidating US securities.

Source: TIC

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British School Bans Expensive Coats So Poor Students Won’t ‘Feel Stigmatized’

A U.K. secondary school is banning a variety of designer jackets in an effort to stop “poverty-shaming.”

Parents of students at Woodchurch High School, an institution in northwestern England, received a letter earlier this month from the school regarding the new policy. “Pupils will not be permitted to bring in Canadian [sic] Goose and Monclair [sic] coats after the Christmas break, the letter reads. “Some have also asked whether Pyrenex coats, which are also in a similar price range (with some also having real fur) will also be prohibited,” it adds, before confirming “that these brands will also be prohibited after Christmas.”

Headteacher Rebekah Phillips tells The Independent that some students had been coming to school in 700 pound (nearly $900) coats. This wasn’t good for students whose parents couldn’t afford such clothes. “They feel stigmatized, they feel left out, they feel inadequate,” she says.

It’s all part of a larger effort to prevent “poverty-shaming,” Phillips tells the BBC. “We met with groups of pupils and made the decision in consultation with them,” she says. “The pupils spoke to us about the pressure on families and the pressure on themselves to wear particular branded coats.” According to Phillips, some parents requested the ban as well.

Many of Woodchurch High School’s students—46 percent, according to CNN—are indeed poor. That’s why the school provides free sanitary products and requires students use a certain type of backpack, so they don’t pressure their parents to buy more expensive ones.

A YouGov survey suggests the British public largely agrees with the school’s decision, with 68 percent saying they support it.

The backstory to the ban isn’t clear. If this is just a case of some children feeling bad—or some adults worrying that kids will feel bad—because they can’t afford the things some of their peers have, then the policy seems more likely to encourage a victim mentality than to help students feel better. Not being rich is nothing to be ashamed of; it hardly helps to tell kids that other people’s clothes could “stigmatize” them.

It’s possible, on the other hand, that some rich students were actively bullying other kids because of their clothes, and that the ban is an attempt to put an end to such cruelty. But in that case the school should target the behavior, not the clothes—and focus on the bullies rather than adopt a prohibition that affects everyone.

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Weekend Reading: Why This Isn’t “THE” Bear Market…Yet

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

After two significant corrections during 2018, this has to be the beginning of a “bear market,” right?

It certainly is possible given the headwinds that are starting to weigh on corporate outlooks such as ongoing trade wars, weaker revenue growth, a strong dollar, and higher interest rates. However, despite these concerns, there are three things which suggest the necessary psychological change for a more meaningful “mean reverting” event has yet to occur.

Interest Rates

During previous market declines, where “fear” was a prevalent factor among investors, money rotated from “risk” to “safety” which pushed Treasury bond prices higher and rates lower. Despite two fairly strong corrections in 2018, bonds have not attracted the “flight to safety” as investors remain complacent about the future prospects of the market.

VIX

A look at the Volatility Index (VIX) confirms the same as the bond market. Despite the two corrections, the VIX never spiked to levels consistent with “fear” that a correction was in process. Currently, the VIX remains below the average level of the index going back to 1995 and during the “October massacre” failed to even rise above the level seen in February of this year.

Gold

Another “fear trade” which has failed to show any fear is that precious yellow metal. Again, despite two major corrections, gold has failed to find buyers in a “safe haven” trade. In fact, despite consistent calls that gold was needed to offset inflation, it has failed to find any support from investors who continue to chase market returns.

Here is the point – the pickup in volatility this year should have dislodged investors out of their “passive investment slumber.” Yet, there is no anecdotal evidence that such has been the case. There are two possible outcomes from this current situation:

  1. The majority of investors are correct in assuming the two recent corrections are just that and the bull market will resume its bullish trajectory, or;

  2. Investors have misread the corrections this year and have simply not yet lost enough capital to spark the flight to safety rotations.

Historically speaking, the “herd” tends to be right in the middle of the advance at very wrong at the major turning points.

There is mounting evidence that we may indeed be at the beginning of one of those turning points in the market. If that is the case, investors are likely going to find themselves once again on the wrong side of history.

The “real” bear market hasn’t started yet. When it does we will likely see traditional “safe haven” investments telling us so. It will be worth watching gold and rates for clues as to when the masses begin to realize that “this time is indeed different.” 

Just something to think about as you catch up on your weekend reading list.

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Treat their incessant optimism, in the future, with skepticism. Watch what they do not what they say.” – Doug Kass

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Showtime Re-enacts Crazy New York Prison Escape: New at Reason

'Escape at Dannemora'Two prison guards—correctional officers, or COs, as it goes in the lingo—are sitting around, waiting for their shift to end. One is asking that what the hell the world has come to when the inmates are allowed to have TV sets in their cells. The other clucks sympathetically to a complaint he’s heard many times from many colleagues, but then offers some realpolitik counsel: “What’s the alternative? You’ve got a guy in the cell all days, wondering, ‘How do I kill this guy with a toothbrush?'”

Nobody plots to kill any correctional officers (husbands are not so lucky) in Escape at Dannemora, Showtime’s excellent miniseries recreation of the 2015 escape from an upstate New York prison that captured the country’s attention for a month.

But the principle is central to both the show and the prison experience: Inmates with little to lose sit around all day long, brooding about how to manipulate a situation that’s at best lethally monotonous and, at worst, just plain lethal, to their own advantage. Television critic Glenn Garvin has more.

View this article.

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Michael Bloomberg’s Chances of Becoming President: Slim, None, and Fat

Pol...Pot! ||| ReasonMichael Bloomberg wakes at 5 a.m. (while Bill de Blasio is busy sawing logs at Gracie Mansion), showers, shaves, slaps some Aqua Velva on his face, points tiny finger pistols at the mirror, and says, “What America needs right now to get out of this Trump mess is another unpleasant septuagenarian businessman from New York!”

No, really. The former New York mayor and longtime business-news tycoon is once again, at the spry age of 76, aggressively floating his name in connection with a presidential run that likely won’t come close to the starting line. This time not as an unrealistic independent (as in 2007 and 2016), but as a member of the party he joined all of one month ago: the Democrats.

“Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then maybe a few weeks into January—that’s when you really gotta sit down, talk to your advisers, and say, ‘Look, do I have a chance?'” Bloomberg mused this week to the Associated Press. “I think I know why I would want to run. I think I know what I think this country should do and what I would do. But I just don’t know whether it’s possible.”

Let me save the man a few months: It’s not possible.

I say this not because Bloomberg is terrible on things libertarians care about—like eminent domain, surveillance, nanny-state soda bans, sin taxes, vaping, the Constitution, and a general do-something ideology that perennially fails to admit that it’s an ideology. No, I’m saying this because the things the left disagrees with him about are deal-breakers, and the things they like would make him unsaleable to the rest of the country.

Take stop-and-frisk. Bloomberg served out his third term as mayor at the end of 2013. The street protests in Ferguson, Missouri, happened in the summer of 2014. Since then, mostly for the good, Democrats have become a party with little patience for constitutionally dubious tough-on-crime policies that explicitly target poor and minority communities. To this day, Bloomberg erroneously credits this poverty-checkpoint policy with reducing crime.

The former mayor is also an outspoken advocate for something far more libertarian-friendly: school reform. But on the national level especially, the Democrats have rejected Barack Obama’s reform-curiosity for a more retrograde universal-pre-K, pay-all-the-teachers-more, charter-schools-are-bad rigidity.

The main issue on which Bloomberg and progressives passionately agree is precisely the one no national candidate in modern times has ever been able to run on successfully: gun control. Firearms, and the right to own them, remain stubbornly popular in America, and strenuous, city-slicker opposition to them constitute political no-fly zones throughout large swaths of the country. And Democrat criminal justice reformers are beginning to draw the direct line between gun control policies like stop-and-frisk and the kind of racial profiling/condescension they abhor.

I suspect the biggest reason Bloomberg 2020 will soon be declared dead on arrival is related to this succinct Jesse Walker observation from 2016: “More than anyone else in public life today, Bloomberg embodies the idea of managerial control.” There may be plenty of managerial tendencies among Democrats and the politicians they support. But in an era when consumers are voting on the way candidates make them feel, the white-hot center of left-bent passion seems to be more about the vigorous, post-Boomer Benetton uplift of Beto O’Rourke and Barack Obama rather than the crabby competence of yet another New York asshole.

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Crude & Credit Crash, Stocks Slide As Bonds See Best Week In 19 Months

Well that another week… “are you not entertained?”

 

China had an exuberant week (as the rest of the world limped lower) led by Shenzhen and CHINEXT (the small cap/tech indices)…

 

European Stocks were lower on the week, led by Italy…

 

Early dovish comments from The Fed’s Clarida sent the USD  and TSY yields lower and stocks higher, then Trump comments on China were thoroughly embraced by equity algos but not FX or bond markets…

 

US Futures show the Clarida jump and the Trump jump and the late-Friday jump…

 

Late-day weakness spoiled the fun for the day…Nasdaq dropped into red along with Trannies…

 

On the week, only Trannies managed to close green…

 

Materials and Real Estate managed gains and Utes scrambled to unchanged on the week…

 

Nvidia made the headlines as the crypto-collapse hit demand and sent the stock from being up 50% YTD to down 15% YTD in a few weeks…

 

Credit markets crashed notably this week (impacted by GE’s collapse)… with IG spreads blowing out 10bps – the biggest weekly spread widening since Feb 2016…

 

Signaling more pain to come for stocks…

 

Treasuries were well bid all week – especially in the belly…

 

Notably the longer-end of the curve steepened notably this week…

 

10Y Yields broke through the 50DMA…

 

5Y yields plunge 15bps on the week – the biggest drop since April 2017 (after worst week since September 2017) – blowing back below 3.00% to close at 2-month low yields…

NOTE – 7Y yield also closed below 3.00% for the first time since September 17th.

And before we leave the rates markets, it is notable that the market is rapidly losing faith in The Fed – 2019 rate-hike expectations (red) have collapsed, and 2020 and 2021 are now expected flat or a modest rate cut…

 

The Dollar Index broke below a key level this week – 97…

 

While Yuan strengthened against the USD… (note today’s spike after Trump’s trade comments)

 

Yuan weakened notably in the last few days against gold…(seemingly drawn back to its latest peg around 8500 Yuan per ounce)

 

Cryptos had an ugly week as, among other things, Bitcoin Cash fork uncertainty sparked derisking…

 

Copper bounced today after Trump trade comments, PMs managed to hold the week’s gains but WTI plunged…

 

Of course, all the big headlines were taken by crude, which is down for the 6th week in a row, crashing to a $54 handle and its lowest level since Nov 2017…

 

And as WTI plunged, NatGas super-spiked…

 

While all eyes were on WTI, Canadian Western Select Crude crashed to a record low…

 

It seems that 5 ounces of silver is just too rich in this new regime for a barrel of oil…

 

Gold spiked above its 50- and 100-DMA this week…

 

Just as credit is flashing red, so are commodity markets – most notably, Lumber…

 

Finally, we note that monetary policy divergence is at a major turning point that has not worked out well in the past…

And, just in case you were banking on buybacks bringing your bullish portfolio back to life, consider this…

$800BN spent on buybacks year-to-date, and the index is… unchanged!

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Bridgewater’s Dalio: ‘Fed Rate Hikes Are Hurting Asset Prices’

While the Federal Reserve is soliciting advice about how it should rejigger its approach to monetary policy, Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio has a suggestion: Maybe the central bank should pay more attention to its “unofficial” third mandate.

At least since the appointment of Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan (the progenitor of the infamous “Greenspan put”) in the late 1980s, the central bank has openly tailored policy to address its dual Congressional mandate: maintaining stable prices and maximizing employment.

But since the stock market started to wobble in late September, a new “executive mandate” has emerged, as President Trump has attacked Fed Chairman Jerome Powell  for ruining his party by insisting on raising interest rates. As far as Trump understands, there’s no good reason why the central bank couldn’t wait another 2-6 years before taking away the punch bowl, so to speak. And as fate would have it, Dalio, who has expressed reservations about the president’s behavior and policies, agrees, according to CNBC.

Ray Dalio: Fed raised rates to the point where they’re hurting asset prices from CNBC.

Before moving ahead with its plans to raise interest rates back to “neutral” (or beyond), the central bank should examine monetary policy’s impact on asset prices, and maybe err on the side of caution. Because right now, the central bank is hurting asset prices. And also possibly Bridgewater’s returns.

DALIO: Right now, the Fed expects to raise it one more time this year. And probably three – two or three times next year. I think there’s a problem in terms of asset prices. I think that rate of increase would not be able to be made because we’ve raised interest rates to a level where it’s hurting asset prices. We have now, a flat yield curve. We have — in other words, the — you can now get in a two to five-year note, you can get about 3%. And you have no price, no material price risk. So, we’re in a situation right now that the Fed, I think, will have to look at asset prices before they look at economic activity. It’s a difficult position because that stimulation that they have, in the form of those tax cuts, is a big stimulation into the capacity limitations as we have low slack. So that the economy itself will pressure them to raise rates. I think probably too much. I think we have a supply/demand problem for bonds that will particularly come next year and the year after. In other words, because of that tax cut and the deficits, we’ll have to sell a lot more bonds and United States itself can’t absorb that quantity of bonds. So we’re going to have to sell those bonds to investors in other countries. You look at the portfolio of those, and they have a lot of those that are sort of overweight in that bond. So I think there’s a supply/demand imbalance and a difficult position for the Federal Reserve. It’s a risky situation.

Given Powell’s suggestion that interest rates are nowhere near neutral, and that the central bank intends to hike at least until we get there, Dalio isn’t the only hedge fund titan urging the central bank to slow down (he’s not even the only one speaking Thursday in Greenwich, where Paul Tudor Jones also highlighted the risks surrounding the one-two punch of the deficit expansion combined with rapid rate hikes).

But seeing as Thursday was a day that ended with “y”, Dalio took care to remind his interviewers that, regardless of what the Fed does, we’re already in the “seventh or eighth inning of the business” cycle, and that the US is facing risks that we haven’t seen since the 1930s, like an “emerging power” (China) solidifying its position as our largest economic competitors.

DALIO: Well, you know, there’s the short-term debt cycle, long-term debt cycle and productivity. We’re in the late stages, maybe the seventh, the eighth inning of the business cycle, right? We’re in the part of the cycle where there’s been a lot of monetary easing. Central banks bought $15 trillion worth of assets, pushed them up a lot. We had the benefit of a corporate tax cut, all of that stimulation, and as a result, we’re in the late part of cycle where there’s a tightening of monetary policy. And you know, so it’s kind of the late part of the cycle with assets fully priced. And in terms of the longer-term debt cycle, we’re at a point where interest rates are comparatively low, the capacity of central banks to ease monetary policy is limited, United States is limited, and other counties it’s limited. So that’s where we ar. We’re in a position also where we have the emerging power China competing with the United States, an established power, as an effective power competitor. That’s very much like the late 1930s. So that’s where I think we are.

Probably since the interview was taking place just miles from the conglomerates former headquarters, Dalio’s interlocutors couldn’t resist asking for his thoughts on the credit-market story du jour: Whether or not GE’s rapidly deteriorating investment-grade credits could become the first fallen angel to signal a broader collapse. But his hosts were disappointed: Try as they might, they couldn’t goad Dalio into sounding the alarm on the junk bond market. Instead, Dalio said the real risks are bound up in CLOs and leveraged loans.

SORKIN: And, Ray, talking about bubbles, do you worry about high-yield bonds? We were having a conversation earlier today actually about General Electric, a Connecticut-based company whose debt has come under a lot of pressure of late.

KERNEN: Boston based.

SORKIN: Now Boston based, yeah.

DALIO: the — a lot of the high-yield debt market has gone into leveraged loans and CLO. And so, as a result, it’s off balance sheet — I mean, it’s private. And there are parts of that market more than the particular high yield debt market; although if I was to take double “b,” some triple “b” types of debt, I think that it’s more than fully priced.

The interview concluded with Dalio offering a few choice pieces of advice for the state of Connecticut: As its capital city teeters on the verge of bankruptcy, the state would probably manage to attract investment if it created a “special economic zone” in downtown Hartford where companies would be free of any tax burden.

It could be a very effective economic development policy, he said.

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A Million Americans Are Living In RVs As The American Dream Is “Redefined”

Authored by Michael Snyder via The American Dream blog,

Could you imagine living in an RV on a permanent basis?

On the one hand, such a lifestyle can offer a sense of freedom that is absolutely exhilarating.  Instead of being tied down to just one place, you can freely travel the country and live anywhere that you want.  Such a lifestyle makes it easy to escape the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer, and if you don’t like your neighbors you can literally leave the next day. 

But of course there are a lot of negatives too.  Life in an RV can be extremely cramped, there is very little privacy, and most people have to cut their possessions way, way down in order to fit all their things into an RV.  Living on the road constantly can get really old, because you have to sacrifice many of the comforts of a traditional home in order to live such a lifestyle on a full-time basis.  But without a doubt, more Americans are choosing to go this route than ever before.  In fact, the RV Industry Association says that a million Americans now live in their RVs full-time…

A million Americans live full-time in RVs, according to the RV Industry Association. Some have to do it because they can’t afford other options, but many do it by choice. Last year was a record for RV sales, according to the data firm Statistical Surveys. More than 10.5 million households own at least one RV, a jump from 2005 when 7.5 million households had RVs, according to RVIA.

Living in an RV is certainly a lot less expensive than living in a traditional home, and that is one of the big things that is drawing people to this lifestyle.

A 30 year mortgage is essentially a suffocating lifetime financial commitment for many people, and so a lot of Americans are choosing to embrace the RV lifestyle in order to escape those financial chains.  One family that the Washington Post recently interviewed says that they are “redefining what the American Dream means”…

“We’re a family of four redefining what the American Dream means. It’s happiness, not a four-bedroom house with a two-car garage,” said Robert Meinhofer, who is 45.

The Meinhofers and a dozen others who spoke with The Washington Post about this modern nomadic lifestyle said living in 200 to 400 square feet has improved their marriages and made them happier, even if they’re earning less. There’s no official term for this lifestyle, but most refer to themselves as “full-time RVers,” “digital nomads” or “workampers.”

Some are willingly choosing the RV lifestyle because they want more freedom, but others are doing it out of economic necessity.

But in almost every case, those living the RV lifestyle still need to work, and the jobs that they are able to get often don’t pay very well

Most modern nomads need jobs to fund their travels. Jessica Meinhofer works remotely as a government contractor, simply logging in from the RV. Others pick up “gig work” cleaning campsites, harvesting on farms or in vineyards, or filling in as security guards. People learn about gigs by word of mouth, on Workamper News or Facebook groups like one for Workampers with more than 30,000 members. Big companies such as Amazon and J.C. Penney even have programs specifically recruiting RVers to help at warehouses during the peak holiday season.

So it can be tempting to dream of hitting “the open road”, but the reality of the matter is that many of these people spend long hours cleaning public toilets or stuffing boxes for big retailers.

For other Americans, even the RV lifestyle is out of reach financially, and so they are living in their vehicles.

Even though the U.S. economy has supposedly been “booming” for the last couple of years, the number of Americans that live in their vehicles has been rising very rapidly.  In fact, CBS News has reported that the number of people living in their vehicles in King County, Washington increased 46 percent in the past year alone…

The number of people who live in their vehicles because they can’t find affordable housing is on the rise, even though the practice is illegal in many U.S. cities.

The number of people residing in campers and other vehicles surged 46 percent over the past year, a recent homeless census in Seattle’s King County, Washington found. The problem is “exploding” in cities with expensive housing markets, including Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco, according to Governing magazine.

Meanwhile, the ranks of the homeless continue to surge all across the country as well.  More than half a million Americans are currently homeless, and that number just keeps getting larger and larger.

All of the things that I have just shared with you are signs that the middle class in America is rapidly evaporating.  Once upon a time, America had the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the world and homebuilders struggled to build new homes fast enough to keep up with the demand.  But over the past decade the rate of homeownership in the U.S. has fallen steadily as the middle class has shrunk.  More people than ever are living in RVs, in their vehicles or on the streets, and this trend is going to accelerate greatly once the next economic downturn kicks into high gear.

But I definitely do not want it to seem like I am dissing the RV lifestyle.  Members of my own extended family are living in their RVs by choice, and they seem to absolutely love it.

If living in an RV will enable you to escape the rat race and live a much happier life, then go for it.  The RV lifestyle is not for everyone, but many that have made the jump say that they will never go back.

And considering the times that are ahead, being able to relocate very rapidly is a good option to have.  There isn’t a whole lot of room in an RV, but at least you can pick up and leave whenever you like.

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