Is There Any Good News?

It is really difficult these days to find good news, what with four hurricanes, a mass shooting in Las Vegas, the North Korean problem and now the devastating wild fires in Northern California.

In politics, it seems that more Republicans than Democrats are opposing the President’s agenda.  Karl Rove writes, “As if all this weren’t bad enough, a week ago Tuesday, the Vice President’s Chief of Staff Nick Ayers floated a Republican purge at a closed-door meeting with donors.  Mr. Ayers was right to warn the GOP is on track to get shellacked in 2018 unless Republicans pass tax reform and other major legislation.”  But then he suggested donors could help purge Republicans who insufficiently support Mr. Trump:  “If we are going to be in the minority again, we might as well have a minority who are with us,” Mr. Ayers stated.

This is exactly the sentiment of former White House Advisor Steve Bannon who asked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to step down.  To Mr. Rove’s point, he can understand the frustration, but if Mr. Trump thinks life in the Oval Office is unpleasant now, he should ponder the investigations and obstructions the Democrats will launch if they take the majority in either chamber.  This is wise advice, but at least let the president govern.  Congress may not pass his agenda, but they can confirm the president’s nominations.  In August, I wrote that out of the 1,200 appointments that need senate approval only 10 percent had been confirmed.  The number may be higher today, but not by much.

Steve Bannon explained this problem to a 60 Minutes audience when he said, “In the 48 hours after we won, there’s a fundamental decision that was made.  You might call it the original sin of the administration.  We embraced the establishment.  I mean, we totally embraced the establishment.  I think in President Trump’s mind, or President-elect Trump’s mind, in Jared’s mind, in the family’s mind I actually agreed with the decision. ‘Cause you had to staff a government.  And to be brutally frank.  You know the campaign look, I’d never been on a campaign in my entire life, right?  You know I’m a former investment banker who’s a media guy, running a little website.  We were – our whole campaign was a little bit the island of misfit toys.  So, he looks around and I’m wearing my combat jacket, I haven’t shaved, I got you know, my hair’s down to here, and he says he’s thinking. ‘Hey, I’ve gotta put together a government.  I’ve gotta really staff up something.  I need to embrace the establishment.’”

It really does seem that the establishment that counts as its members Republicans and Democrats is bound and determined to resist Mr. Trump and those who elected him.  This is unfortunate since America could be so much more successful and prosperous.

Speaking of prosperity, University of Chicago Economist Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize by upending the longstanding theory that individuals make rational decisions about finances.  Professor Thaler spent four decades pointing out that people don’t act or invest the way that economists say they do.  The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said his “contributions have built a bridge between the economic and psychological analysis of individual decision making.”

Mr. Thaler said, “The most important lesson is that economic agents are humans and that economic models have to incorporate that.”  He said he would spend his prize of $1.1 million “as irrationally as possible.”

Professor Thaler showed that financial behavior is largely a problem of faulty self-control.  For employers, this means that people will save far more for retirement if you take the effort out of it.  As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “Sign them up automatically for a 401(k) Retirement Plan instead of asking them whether they would like to join.”

See, there was some good news that you can use.