The Market Always Rules

Don after a complete market "beat down."

Don after a complete market “beat down.”

Since my Chicago neighbor Pete first introduced me to Cubs parking nine years ago, I’ve been hooked! Pete and I worked the intersections in our neighborhood (only two blocks from Wrigley Field) for 5 years until he took his wife and 5 kids to the suburbs. I’ll be forever grateful to him for those wonderful times we spent together determining a daily pricing strategy, deciding the best time to hit the street, conducting daily marketing research (walking around to see how full the competitors’ lots were and what prices they were charging) and otherwise trying to figure out how to maximize our revenue. Pete the financial analyst and me the economist had some pretty sophisticated and lively discussions as the free market dictated to us every day its’ unpredictable and often fickle attributes.

Free markets such as exist in the residential parking business, are purely competitive with many buyers (those who need a parking spot) and many sellers (small time operators who have a spot or two behind their garage). It is a pure supply and demand market that can’t be manipulated by anyone. Some examples will suffice.

Yesterday was a double header. The noon game parked full for us at a price of $20 per car. The night game was brutal; I stood on the street for 90 minutes without a single sale; one of the worst episodes of parking I’ve witnessed in nine years. The photo above was taken by my parking partner Griselle about 5 minutes before I headed in with my tail between my legs.

During the steroid era when Sammy Sosa (corked bat and all) and Mark McGuire were vying for the season home run record Pete got $40 to $50 per car all season long. Today, due to high demand we parked the Gay Pride Parade and got $40 per car. Note the below photo of Griselle and I with our “modified” Cubs signs.

Modified Cubs Signs

Modified Cubs Signs

During the Obama years we have suffered through quite a recession. This depressed Cubs parking prices from $40 to $20 a car. The reason is obvious if you’re on the street for long. Demand hasn’t decreased; people with money still come to the ballpark. Supply, however, has increased markedly. The unemployed lady or man will go out to the street with a shoddy little sign that says $20 and park one car a day; that’s $20 for groceries. Furthermore, there are hundreds of them doing it!  It is the increase in the supply that has pushed prices down. If the job market ever recovers these folks will be working during the day which will reduce supply and drive parking prices up again.

Sometimes I ask myself why I’m still parking cars. It isn’t for the money, although at the end of a home stand I have a wad of cash that makes me feel like a drug dealer. It’s because I’m an economist and I love to see how markets work. Each day is different and the reasons for price changes are as numerous as you can imagine. Win or lose, we as sellers have no real influence on prices; the market always rules.

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Obama Screws it Up Again!

Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House

Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl (R) and Jami Bergdahl (L) as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House

The Chicago Cubs have a five-game winning streak! While the Cubbies are still firmly entrenched in the bottom spot of the National League Central division, they are now winning a whopping 42 % of their games! If the Cubs can get close to .500 by the All-Star break, fans might come to more of their games in the second half of the season. Is this the year? NO, but everyone is having fun!

Then, there is the Obama news, which is always the result of bungling by the “Great One”. This week Obama traded 5 major Al-Qaida murderers for one “marginal” deserter from Idaho, who should have joined the Peace Corps and not the US military. Good trade, Barry! Wonderful! As is his mode of operation Obama broke Federal law (even Nancy Pelosi says he broke the law) by not giving Congress the required 30 day notice for all prisoner releases from Guantanamo.

After officials of Qatar give their consent the five will be released. Let’s see….perhaps next Tuesday?

Logic would conclude that Obama wished to achieve all of the following goals:
1. Legitimize the Taliban by negotiating with them
2. Pleasing his Taliban friends by letting their leaders out of jail
3. Allowing the “Five” to kill more people in the ensuing years
4. Giving the Taliban a firm message that US concessions can be gotten from kidnapping US citizens
5. Evidencing the “solidarity” that the US has with the Muslim world.

So, given the character and history of those in the House, Senate and US Supreme Court, what can the American public do about Obama?

Grab your family and go out and see a ball game. Oh yeah…did I tell you? The Twins and Royals also won yesterday.

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I Miss My Mom

Hazel MyerscropToday as I prepared breakfast for my wonderful B&B guests, I started to really miss my Mother.  Hazel Alta Myers passed away over a decade ago.  She had a college degree in education but she wasn’t a “professional educator”.  She was something much more.  To me and my brother Dave she was a teacher.  My mother loved me a great deal.  She read to me often when I was a child and I know that this had a positive impact on my development.

Mom had two dogmas.  The first was that in life there are no excuses and no feeling sorry for one’s self.  The second dogma was that risk-taking is a good thing.  Both of these doctrines have served me well in my life.  When I would come home from grade school feeling badly because someone had called me a “bad name”, she would always say, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  Several times when I told her that something was impossible for me to achieve, she told me to try.  I found out that trying often resulted in the achievement of my goal; that “showing up” is often the most important thing.  One thing was for sure; not trying meant certain failure.  Encouraged by Mom, I became a risk taker.

This week Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the National Basketball Association.  During his acceptance speech for the MVP award he gave a tribute to his mother, Wanda Pratt, who was sitting in the audience.  Raised by a single mom who sacrificed everything for her children, Kevin choked out his love-filled tribute.  If you don’t look at this clip, you’re missing out on the highlight of your day.  You can find it at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmRJgKbibB8

Perhaps even greater than Wanda’s sacrifice is the man that Kevin Durant has become.  He’s a lover of God, his family, and his friends.  He doesn’t make excuses and doesn’t let people down.  I’m not a fan of professional basketball and have never seen an NBA game but if I ever get a chance to see Durant play, I’ll show up just to say I was in the same room as he.

Happy Mother’s Day Hazel Myers, to Betty Axelsen, Lisa Salyards, to Marylou Salyards, to Shayana Sequeira, to Patricia Paz, to Heidi Ryan, to Wanda Pratt and all mothers.  God bless you all.

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Donald Sterling: America’s Most Tarnished Bigot?

Donald Sterling Watching His Los Angeles Clippers

Donald Sterling Watching His Los Angeles Clippers

Right now the National Basketball Association playoffs are well underway, as are the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the National Hockey League. It’s a good time to be a sports fan, but all we’re going to hear about in the next week are the tape-recorded remarks of Donald Sterling, the 80 year-old owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.  Sterling’s girlfriend, who looks young enough to be his granddaughter, tape recorded remarks that were released by TMZ. It appears that Sterling is upset about his girlfriend’s association with black people. Excerpts from Sterling’s remarks include:

“It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”

“You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want.  The little I ask you is not to promote it on that … and not to bring them to my games.”

“I’m just saying, in your lousy f******* Instagrams, you don’t have to have yourself with, walking with black people.”

“…Don’t put him [Magic Johnson] on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me.  And don’t bring him to my games.”

In 2009 Sterling received the Los Angeles Chapter of the NAACP’s lifetime achievement award. Sterling was scheduled to receive another lifetime achievement award next month. Asked about the reason for Sterling’s awards, Leon Jenkins, NAACP chapter president said the NAACP “decided to honor Sterling because of “a body of work”. Mr. Sterling’s organization has on a consistent basis brought in the minority community. He has also over the years contributed to a number of minority charities. Compared to other L.A. franchises, his organization gave more money than the others.”

Of course, since this story broke investigators have unearthed all kinds of racist remarks attributable to Donald Sterling. You can’t turn on ESPN for 10 minutes without hearing about Sterling’s racism. Everyone, from Charles Barkley to Michael Jordan (and of course Obama) has weighed in. Sterling is branded a bigot and a racist. God only knows what they would have called him if he had used the “N” word! There is talk that Sterling may be forced by the Commissioner of the NBA to sell his team. Sterling has been likened by some to a plantation owner, who made his fortune off of the toil of his black athletes. It has been intimated that Sterling’s remarks are proof positive that racial relations in the United States are no better than they were 50 years ago. Yes, the worst scourge on the face of the earth now has a name; Donald Sterling. Hogwash!

It is my opinion that Sterling’s remarks have gotten too much press. The story is pretty simple; an 80-year old letch who happens to own a professional basketball team, apparently has a problem with black people. If his comments define him as a bigot or a racist, then I guess that’s what he is. I’m certainly not in agreement with Sterling’s sentiments toward black people, but does anybody think for a second that we have uncovered in Donald Sterling the last known bigot in the United States? Is bigotry illegal? Is the man entitled to his opinion, no matter how unsavory? Should his property rights of NBA franchise ownership be abridged based on his opinions? Is Donald Sterling so important on this planet that his bigotry deserves such worldwide recognition? I think not.

Consider this; the journalists, politicians, and celebrities that aren’t letting this story go (it sells papers and TV ratings) may be the quiet racists in the corner. They won’t let racism die and instead prefer to fan the flames of racism, at least until their ratings fade away. Let’s not give this old clown any more recognition. What we really have here is a silly old man who couldn’t keep his mouth shut. That’s it…there ain’t no more.

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Rest in Peace, My Mother Betty!

Deb and Betty, Circa 1953

Deb and Betty, Circa 1953

Last Thursday evening, April 24, 2014 Betty Axelsen passed away peacefully in Fort Collins, Colorado. She was 92 years old. With Betty was her only remaining child, Ken and her loving daughter-in-law, Sandie. Betty was a dutiful, loving wife and the Mother of another child, Deb…my wife of 40 years. Betty’s husband, Laverne passed away 27 years ago.

It is wonderful that Deb and her Mother are now reunited. I called Deb and her Mom “The Clones,” as they were similar in many ways. Both women looked alike; it was obvious to even the casual observer that they were Mother and Daughter. Both were fanatical about their hair; never allowing it to get even the slightest disheveled. Betty got her hair done once a week…every week for the 44 years I knew her. Deb didn’t like anyone messing with her hair. Our daughter, Tara once called Deb’s bangs the “sacred whispees” and that name stuck!

Deb and her Father, Laverne, Circa 1953

Deb and her Father, Laverne, Circa 1953

Betty and Laverne met at a skating rink in Savannah, Illinois. She wore a tight sweater and he took the bait! They were married at the outset of World War II. Laverne was captured by the Germans during the battle of the bulge. For several months Betty knew only that he was missing; to her elation she was finally notified that he had not been killed. When Laverne came back from the War, he and Betty purchased a modest home in Rockford, IL. He took a job with Commonwealth Edison, worked as a skilled technician and made a nice living. Betty worked in the school cafeteria.

Deb and I had only gone out on a couple of dates when her Mom and Dad came to visit her at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. Having no idea that they would be coming to visit, I bumped into them just briefly at the Student Union. Their first impression of me was that I was an incorrigible, over-confident smart-ass with an “afro” haircut and wire-rimmed glasses. They were right on all counts!

Because they were kind and optimistic and because their daughter loved me, they did what good people do, they prayed that I would somehow have potential!

Deb and her brother Ken on a family vacation

Deb and her brother Ken on a family vacation

Betty and Laverne had two kids; a boy and a girl. They went to PTA meetings, took their children to church every Sunday, paid their taxes, drove a Buick, went camping during family vacations, had family dinner every evening at the kitchen table, cried when John Kennedy died, sent their kids to college, and puffed up their chests just a little bit when Neil Armstrong put his foot on the surface of the moon. They were working class, God-fearing people who raised their children with high expectations. Neither Ken nor Deb ever let them down. Betty and Laverne lived; they were; the American dream!
Betty Welch Axelsen, my Mother, I love you and always will!

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Where We Start

Photo Courtesy of Lakeview Drive-In  Winona, MN

Photo Courtesy of Lakeview Drive-In Winona, MN

As a 16 year-old Omaha kid I went down the block to “Dog-n-Suds”, the local drive-in restaurant, and asked for a job. The owner explained to me that the minimum wage was $1.25 per hour, but because he did not purchase any supplies outside of the borders of Nebraska, he was not subject to federal minimum wage legislation. He offered me a “fry cook” job for 65 cents per hour. Once he explained that he would include a free “Texas tenderloin” and a glass of root beer if I worked a shift lasting more than 6 hours, I was in! Yes, 1965 was the year that Don Salyards entered the ranks of the employed.

I remember that job fondly. When the owner left there was usually some horseplay among us, but never when a customer was present. We got the job done and had a favorable impression of our boss. He spent his last dime opening up the place and one of his children had a disability which severely strained his finances. Honestly, I don’t think he could have stayed in business if he had paid us $1.25 per hour. With so many baby-boomers competing for jobs it was good that work was available at less than minimum wage or many of us would have been unemployed, missing out on valuable labor force experience.

At sixteen I learned what all inexperienced workers learn; the basics of being a valued employee. First, show up. Second, show up on time. Third, Show up ready to work. Finally, always treat the customer with respect and a smile because the customer is always right. While this sounds trite to adults, for a kid this is a BIG DEAL. Even in the most menial job lessons are learned that assist you for your entire life.

But there was more. That first job gave me a sense of accomplishment. It was the first time that I had received money from someone other than my parents or relatives. Even flipping burgers I knew that my job was important to the business. I also knew that I was a valued employee because the boss kept paying me every week! Other kids, with less of a work ethic, got fired quickly.

Those that want to raise the minimum wage underestimate the damage they are doing by keeping young people out of work. While some workers benefit, many young kids miss out on their initial opportunity to learn about the world of work. As a result, many of them never appreciate work and opt out of a productive life. For these kids their entire lives are less fulfilling and satisfying than they could have been if they had been employed at sixteen. I don’t think it is an understatement to say that higher minimum wages (along with a few well-intentioned laws to “protect” young workers) have actually ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people.

Opportunity is the key to the growth of the economy, but it is also mandatory for personal growth. When the government stands in the way of opportunity it is doing children (and our society) a horrible disservice.

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Down with Victimhood

victim-poster-cropPerhaps the most destructive force that has undermined our American culture and the American dream is the concept of “Victimhood”. It pervades all aspects of our society and unfortunately it is permeating even our youngest citizens, deteriorating their outlook on life and diminishing their ability to thrive and strive for excellence. I’m against victimhood for two reasons; (1) it discourages people who have talent and ability to move forward in their lives and (2) it fosters unproductive governmental interference in the personal lives of our citizens.

As a College Professor I try to inspire my students to be optimistic and examine the wonderful possibilities that await them. It breaks my heart to see 18-22 year olds, in the prime of their lives, continually exposed to Victimhood. Above is a photo of a poster advertising a two day event on March 5th and 6th at Winona State University. This poster was widely disseminated on campus, both in printed form and on many large screen monitors.  To get a larger image of the poster, just click on it.

Frankly, this poster makes me sick. In a dark tunnel is a hapless image of some sort of humanoid with the following words plastered on the ceiling: racism, violence, hazing, anti-Semitism, ableism, sexual assault, poverty, hate, access to education, homophobia, mental health stigma, hate crimes, inequality, intolerance, oppression, sexism, and lookism. My goodness, after reading the ceiling of this tunnel one wants to just walk off a cliff!

Let’s examine one of the “discriminatory” words on the ceiling of the tunnel. I had to look this one up. “Lookism” is when handsome or beautiful people are treated with preference over average-looking or ugly people. I can see the future now, where the Federal Government will have a data bank of the photos of every person in the United States. Computers will scan the photos and assign a “federal beauty index” (FBI) number to every person. To insure “lookism equality” job descriptions will have to contain language that people will not be discriminated against on the basis of beauty or personal attractiveness. Perhaps those with low “FBI” numbers will receive extra points on civil service exams or on collegiate entry exams. Of course those who feel “lookism” exploited may file a lawsuit or lodge a formal complaint with the Federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, where 1,000 government lawyers will be employed to investigate such horrible injustices.

Looking at the above poster, one would think that we were living in North Korea! In reality, while nothing can completely stop some people from discriminating against other people, the United States of America is as free from discriminatory influences as any nation on earth. The amount of discrimination (racial, gender, ethnic…you name it) that exists today is a fraction of the degree if discrimination that existed even 50 years ago in this country.

victim_nametagAs a teacher of young people (I despise the word “educator”) it is my job to inspire them to reach their highest and most noble goals; not to give them excuses for failure. The students at Winona State University who look at this poster live in a country that provides them with virtually unlimited opportunities if they want to work to achieve them.

Condaleeza Rice once said, “If you are taught bitterness and anger, then you will believe you are a victim. You will feel aggrieved and the twin brother of aggrievement is entitlement. So now you think you are owed something and you don’t have to work for it and now you’re on a really bad road to nowhere because there are people who will play to that sense of victimhood, aggrievement, and entitlement….”

If you want to be a victim there are many who will enable you and encourage you to feel sorry for yourself.  They will also provide you with limitless excuses why you cannot succeed. The cure for “Victimhood” disease is to personally dismiss all “victim-encouraging” messages as hogwash.

As I tell my students, “Don’t let the prophets of “victimhood” get you down. They will tell you that you can’t succeed and that you will inevitably lose in the game of life. That’s because they are losers and they want you to be a loser as well. You were born to a higher purpose; to thrive, to achieve and to inspire others with your goodness”. No government program or entitlement will ever make you happy. Get on with your life and chase your dreams.”

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