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Financial and Market Juxtapositions

I bought a new flat panel TV last weekend to replace my old 50″ Sony Projection High-Definition TV that’s now 14 years old, has always worked fine, and for which I paid a hefty $2,500 in 2002. That’s $3,350 in 2016 dollars.

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I actually would have been fine with it. It’s in the lower level entertainment room here at the cabin and since there’s an LED HDTV in the upstairs bedroom, there’s not a super lot of watching downstairs. What prompted the switch is that Comcast is phasing out support for RGB Component HD connections. All new boxes have HDMI only and the boxes with component HD lose some of the HD channels (like FS1 that was hosting the NL playoffs). It’s complicated.

So I plugged around online, found a 55″ LED 4K UHD Flat Panel by TCL with Roku built in (so I don’t need an Apple TV, as I have for the upstairs unit). Headed over to the WalMart 45 minutes away, in Sonora, and they had two pallets of them in the isle at the special price of $428, beating Amazon by $20 (plus, no risk of damage in shipping and the hassle that ensues).

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So, $428 vs. $3,350, in 2016 dollars. An 87% price drop for five inches wider, way more resolution, brightness, contrast, Wifi, hundreds of Roku services built in, and on and on. And amazingly, the sound rivals that of the Sony with the large speaker cabinet, though I popped for an $80 sound bar as well.

Looking at it another way, $428 would have been $320 in 2002.

Plug around on Google. Everything you can think to check in terms of price plotted against performance outpaces the consumer price index by huge and more huge. Perpetually more for less, way more for way less. And it applies also to lots of commodity food items as well. Normal clothing, too. On and on it goes, benefiting people enormously, upping standards of living on global scales, now.

Where will you find the exact opposite? Every single thing the government has its hands in:

  • Federal, state, and local wages
  • Federal, state, and local pension costs, unfunded liabilities, etc.
  • Medical costs
  • Medical insurance costs
  • Federal, state, and local budget bloat
  • Federal deficit outpacing inflation
  • National debt totally out of control
  • State and local budgetary shambles
  • Crumbling infrastructures
  • The list goes on and on..

Wake the fuck up.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

34 Comments

  1. thhq1 on October 15, 2016 at 18:30

    I found this recent piece interesting but not very comforting

    “The net effect is that it is as if the Treasuries bought by the Fed didn’t exist. But they do exist on the Fed’s balance sheet. Technically, the Treasury must pay the Fed back one day. Until then, the Fed has given the Federal government more money to spend.

    That increases the money supply. That’s called monetizing the debt.”

    Bernanke promised the Fed would redeem its bonds, which at this point amount to $4.5 trillion. But if they do that, the government loses the interest cash flow of about $80 billion a year that the Fed’s treasuries throw off. This would also directly strip cash out of Treasury that it doesn’t have. IMO this would shut down the government.

    What would Janet do? Well, at the beginning of the year the maturing Treasuries were rolled over instead of being cashed, so she’s acting like the game goes on indefinitely. She dithers about raising interest rates, but that is kind of like the skin on the apple. The core is the “wind down” that is supposed to happen but isn’t happening. If they don’t eventually do it, they don’t have the ability to play this trick again.

    I’m still trying to figure out what would happen if the Fed cancelled its Treasury bonds. That would permanently monetize the Treasury debt, as if the Federal Reserve notes originally backed by the underlying bonds were now a permanent zero-value addition to the money supply. I think this would sink the dollar, but I’m not really sure. Rand Paul and Alan Grayson thought that it would be a good idea. But then an experiment has never been tried. When Bernanke allowed Lehman to fail he created a worldwide financial catastrophe….for which Bush got the blame…

    https://www.thebalance.com/how-is-the-fed-monetizing-debt-3306126

  2. Hap on October 15, 2016 at 16:11

    Yes…..trade has really screwed us. But I’m from the government and I’m here to help.

  3. forrest on October 15, 2016 at 16:44

    Trade has made hookers cheaper too. Foreign hookers are arguably better quality too. So same thing as your tv – more for less. Watch the game and get laid for less effort. Life is good man.

  4. Hap on October 15, 2016 at 18:46

    Rand Paul and Alan Grayson……..now ther’s an odd couple.

    • thhq on October 15, 2016 at 19:03

      What would Hillary do? I have little doubt she’d do what Obama has done and leave the Fed alone to work their magic. They have popped a couple of bubbles before, every 8 years, so I’d say we’re due and their capacity to respond this time is limited. Trump…who knows? He’s talked about negotiating the debt away and about dumping Yellen asap. I expect if elected he’d default to the same position as Hillary, at least for a year or two. Like the wall, negotiating away 20 trillion in debt sounds easier at a rally than in the application.

  5. Hap on October 15, 2016 at 19:11

    Nice article on the balance. I understand the FED “saved” the banks and flushed them with money they lent to each other to fatten their trading desks through financial assets. Simultaneously the treasury could finance more national debt at low rates and dollar benefitted.

    Savers decimated and real economy squeezed out of needed capital. Stagnation.

    How the hell do you actually cancel trillions in government debt?

    • thhq1 on October 15, 2016 at 21:21

      Lot of questions Hap. No experienced people with good answers. Strict Jeffersonian and Jacksonian Democrats would abolish the Fed and pay off the debt, like Jefferson and Jackson did. The Fed might be able to cancel their T-bonds (per the odd couple I cited). That would reduce the debt, because it eliminates Treasury’s debt to the Fed. But Treasury can’t cancel their debt to everyone else without declaring the country bankrupt.

      The Federal government has developed an incredible number of ways to drive capital spending and jobs out of the country. It’s so much easier to do business wherever TCL makes those flat panels than on the west side of Chicago in Melrose Park, where they used to make Zeniths. I used to drive by what was left of it when I lived there. It was near where they used to make Ovaltine. And closer in to the city they made Brach’s candy, until they moved the jobs to Mexico and blew up the building for one of the Batman movies.

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

      I’m not sure much of anything is made in Chicago anymore. Garrett Caramel Crisp I guess. Oprah’s favorite.

      • thhq1 on October 15, 2016 at 21:31

        I take that back. I’ve been to the Argo starch plant on the south side, near where they used to make Pullman cars and steel. It looks like the opening shots of the Blues Brothers around there.



      • Hap on October 15, 2016 at 22:50

        well…thhq1

        Let me say this…..The Austrian school and Mises himself was right about the way the economic world works…..it creates and destroys and creates…if conditions merit. The fact that certain jobs and things to manufacture left Chicago is and was a given. However, the idea is to foster new ideas and new things as old ones find their fulfillment elsewhere. Unfortunately, the Socialist has no fucking idea how to innovate, to build…only to foment envy , violence, enmity among men. To promise the succor of the STATE at the cost of liberty. Witness Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit…..
        I really believe that with the shackles off, American ingenuity and progress would thrive. Would all our problems be solved……hardly.

        If left alone lots of shit could be made again in Chicago. Instead, our Dear Leaders have turned it into a murderous hell hole. The Batman and Gotham metaphor and the blowing up of buildings is apt.

        Its learning and knowledge that have long term value. Learning comes from the freedom to conduct experiments…..to fail or succeed in ventures yet imagined. If they can make soap bars in Mexico or auto parts in China, transistors in Thailand…..that’s why Richard can buy a TV at reasonable cost.



  6. Michael Roush on October 16, 2016 at 06:31

    Thank you for this post. I frequently cite similar examples when discussing economics with friends. When you look at two segments of the economy in particular, higher education and health care, it’s startling how much prices have increased over the last fifty years since the massive federal “help” which began in earnest with the “great society” programs. Those two sectors of the economy are now MORE unaffordable then they were prior to the massive government interventions. Sad. Thanks again!

    • Hap on October 16, 2016 at 13:56

      Higher education and healthcare are not free market systems. Big stakeholders at the “table”. I can tell you from direct experience the bottom three are the students, patients, and doctors. Center for Medicare services just rolled out a 3000 page rule book…..MACRA… to regulate doctors payment. This on top of the 10000 pages associated to ACA.

  7. Martin Archer on October 16, 2016 at 09:25

    I don’t see why anything should go up in price. How come basic food costs go up over time? Farming and food production becomes ever more efficient just like the electronics industry. Of course, the cost of shipping food around fluctuates, but that hasn’t stopped food prices from inching ever upwards over time.

    • Hap on October 18, 2016 at 08:12

      You can start with Obamacare

  8. Jennifer Wilson on October 16, 2016 at 09:42

    Your TV was cheap because it’ll be as obsolete as VCR’s in just a few years. The digital revolution is all but over. Soon we’ll be entering a new era of robots and virtual reality- already have, really. And every household, rich or poor, will boast this technology, because, just like your local welfare mom with the flat screen TV and smartphone, they’ll be encouraged and aided by our government, who finds its people easier to manipulate when dazzled and distracted.

    Really, when is enough enough? Why do we need to keep advancing technologically, and is there really any proof that the benefits of recent “advancements” outweigh the cons? Sure, things are more convenient, but are they better? And, no, this rant wouldn’t be seen right now if it weren’t for the internet, but that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, now would it? It’s not like what I’m saying is changing anyone’s mind- really, I’m just yammering out into space when I could be doing something better with my time.

    Anyway, promise me you’ll dance around with underwear on your head when you come across a documentary about a tortured genius who created amazing things but treated all those around him like sh*t, or a movie that perpetuates the myth that happy is boring and evil is interesting, or a news show, oh G_d those news shows that my family uses as study guides for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which used to be reasons for us to celebrate togetherness but are now just occasions to prattle off trivia about which politician was caught toe-tapping at an airport, or who told what lie, only to end up in one giant squabble because someone’s “team” was insulted…

    Behind me is a beautiful bookcase with a sliding ladder, a la Beauty and the Beast, my dream book case. But the ladder can’t slide because there’s a flat screen in the middle, which looks oh-so-beautiful to most, but is a damn buzz kill to me, and it goes, along with the rest of my soon-to-be-ex’s high-tech gadgets that I now own half the debt for and never enjoyed, always hated, because I like to be the one doing the becoming, if you know what I mean, not sitting around building up my computer’s selfhood.

    I sound cynical, I’m not cynical.

    Anyway, enjoy that thing.

    • Hap on October 16, 2016 at 13:59

      You have a point. But like babies we are dazzled by “baubles”. In Richards defense he did have the fucking Sony for 14 years. My Nissan is 14 years old.

      • Richard Nikoley on October 16, 2016 at 15:45

        My BMW X5 is 10 years old and my wife’s Infinity FX-35 is 13 years old.



      • Hap on October 16, 2016 at 18:07

        I just traded in my 2006 BMW X5….because I could not any more bear the expensive repairs. Watch out for that X5!! A massive money pit, like most BMW’s.

        Just decided to lease this year’s model Mini with all maintenance and full warranty for the term. I can’t take it anymore.



      • Richard Nikoley on October 16, 2016 at 18:16

        Mine is the 4.4. However, mileage is pretty low at 135k for a 10 year old.

        Most repairs I do on the cheap, now. I get the parts myself, hire a competent mechanic (used to do lots of my own work, but lack tools now).

        Been fighting a transfer case issue. BMW wanted $7k. Got the transfer case rebuilt by getting $300 in parts and paying a transmission shop $600 to do the work. Still have a problem, though, so I just ordered the whole servo until for the transfer case X-drive. Used to be a $1,200 part. Now $400, and it’s only an hour of labor to switch it out.



      • Hap on October 16, 2016 at 21:06

        Mine also the 4.4. Plenty of power. Oil leaks galore



      • Richard Nikoley on October 16, 2016 at 21:53

        I had the driver-side valve check cover leaking oil. It trashed the alternator, and it crapped when living at the tip of Baja, 1k miles south of Tijuana.

        Had a Mexican guy try to fix it, but he couldn’t, even though he rebuilds alternators all the time. Turns out it sends a low voltage signal to turn on the regulator, etc. all he could do was clean it up for me. Got me back up for the thousand miles on two lane roads.

        Had both valve cover gaskets replaced at the same time for about $600 by my Mexican mechanics in San Jose (CA). They had done it before. Told me it’s normal from about 90K miles, and I was at 120k at the time.

        The biggest problem is finding non-dealer mechanics willing to work on BMW.



      • hap on October 17, 2016 at 08:25

        The more cars become computer controlled, the more difficult to find independents to fix. This is no coincidence but it’s not a clear conspiracy either. It’s a happy coincidence.

        Paerts are also restricted by car companies.

        Cars, like housing is being forced into a “rental” item.



      • Richard Nikoley on October 17, 2016 at 13:09

        Here’s my “Baja Beemer” Hap. Taken at the very tip, 1,000 miles south of Tijuana.

        2″ custom lift, 1.5″ wheel adaptors, and conversion to steel rims so I could do truck tires. The from fenders had to get a bit of a haircut to avoid rub-rub at lock-out wheel turn.



      • Hap on October 17, 2016 at 13:29

        Good luck with the car….really.



      • forrest on October 19, 2016 at 01:28

        Er, Richard. You might want to confirm the wheel and tyre sizes you have on the beemer – might explain transmission issues.

        I thought you were getting a vinyl wrap? Go for army camouflage wrap if you are. Mountain greens.



      • Richard Nikoley on October 19, 2016 at 07:46

        I’m pretty sure I have the problem nailed. Part should arrive today.

        The transfer case has been rebuilt. It has no electronics. Basically just a drive chain and a clutch assembly. There’s a servo-motor actuator that manipulates the clutch such that drive power to the front two and rear two wheels can be varied from 1-1 to 0-1, 1-0, and everything in-between.

        This issue began last year when in Baja, driving miles of severe washboard every day. Nothing like washboard to create asymmetric power needs between from and rear, so that servo was in overtime mode all the time and likely simply wore out.

        When the X-Drive works, it’s crazy good. You glide over washboard. But, it’s still primarily a street car. Not engineered for that kind of punishment all the time.



  9. Dan on October 16, 2016 at 10:15

    Haven’t we been getting more (foreign made consumer doodads) for less because we have the biggest military, and can make everyone agree that our currency is worth something? The government seems to be doing a good job on that front, at least for now.

    • Hap on October 16, 2016 at 17:26

      If it makes you any happier, we will soon have a military inferior to China….as is the total economy.

      We can’t even “scare” a tin pot dictator like Bashar Assad, although we murdered Ghadafi’s grandchildren. That Libya thing was a good move….just like throwing out Mubarak and installing the Muslim Brotherhood.

      We really put the hammer on those Iranians that captured our Navy and harasses us in the Straits….while proxies fire missiles a warships.

      This…is whaat props up the dollar?

      Our currency is worth more, primarily because all the other currencies are worse. But not for long if debt cancelled.

  10. Corey on October 16, 2016 at 18:51

    Just getting rid of a cabinet RPTV myself – a 56″ Toshiba that I bought 15+ years ago at the same time I bought my house. The thing has been fantastic – great quality, no problems. But I’ve encountered the same issues as the rest of the tech in my house has marched on – no HDMI ports, can only connect limited peripherals, etc. Moving out of California now and it’s time to part ways. It would likely be more expensive to move it out of state than to just buy a new one. Oh well, it served me well.

    • Richard Nikoley on October 16, 2016 at 21:44

      Absolutely.

      I have been a lifelong fan of Sony. I have never had a single thing crap out on me, since my first cassette tape recorder in the early 70s.

      They have moved well with the tech, always high, dependable quality.

      My last one was a flat screen LCD HDTV. This was for our loft, bought 2006,, then another place for a few years. Sold it for good money on Craig’s even as it was 8 years old or so.

    • Evan Eberhardt on October 20, 2016 at 14:45

      Electronics display the power of the free market (with the caveat that cheap labor creates another powerful push towards price reduction). I often use them as examples to educate others on the power of supply and demand AND government getting the hell out of the way. Computers were crazy expensive when they first launched (the youth are unaware of this). The first Macintosh was $2500 in 1984 (which is about $5700 in 2016 dollars). It’s specs were were a blazing 8 MHz processor and 128 KB RAM, 9 inch B&W CRT monitor and 3.5 inch floppy disc drive. To compare that to what can be had for a couple hundred bucks today boggles the mind. Superior (by multiple factors) speed, data, screens and pretty much everything else (besides tech support) for FAR less money. It’s hard to fathom how fast it happened.

      And smartphones are like the computer market but on steroids because worldwide demand is epic. I had the Moto G 1st gen, paid 150. Great inexpensive phone. Bought the Moto G4 during launch through Amazon athis pat July (150 again, with ads, which are annoying, probably should have paid the extra 50 bucks to avoid that) and I am blown away how much better the phone is. All the specs basically doubled and the screen size grew, it has turbocharge which is legit (full charge in under 2 hours); it kicks ass for the price.

      Now ask me about our healthcare costs and premiums, but you are all aware of the government/special interest monopoly created CF we have with that. That reminds me: here in Colorado we have an amendment to vote on that would create a state-run health care system. Are you ready for this? It would DOUBLE the state budget from 25 to 50 billion (and I think 65+ stay on Medicare). Healthcare is THAT expensive. And, IMO, and endless stats prove, the medical system is 90% garbage except for emergency care. It’s the opposite of electronics. It has gotten worse while getting unbelievably expensive.

      • Richard Nikoley on October 20, 2016 at 15:05

        Good stuff.

        To emergency care, I would add lots of various surgery, especially orthopedic. Amazing how life changing knee and hip replacements can be. I’ve known people who lost 50-100 pounds just by being able to be active, once again.

        Neurosurgery, too, and lots of other. I had a discectomy about 18 months ago. What a relief. In and out in four hours.

        And, setting aside what contributed diet wise, cardio-thoracic saves a lot of lives too, from angioplasty to bypass, valve replacement, etc.

        Google Surgery Center of Oklahoma. A-la-cart pricing on a whole host of procedures, at a fraction of normal cost. And then you have medical tourism. I think there’s places in India now where you can get a heart bypass for near $1,000 and they’re good at it because they do them all day long. A heart bypass could cost upwards of a quarter to half mil in the stupid states.



  11. Karl on October 18, 2016 at 04:16

    I admit that I like gadgets and always end up with too much stuff in my home. Since my last move I try to control the urge to buy these unnecessary but oh so attractive toys.
    But … oops, I did it again. Here in France we cannot get the Amazon echo, you know, the listening speaker gadget. It fascinated me, my own little HAL for not so much money! So that I bought a second hand one on Ebay, despite the warnings. And , merde, when I wanted to register the thing on my Amazon account (which is compulsory to make it work) it did not work. After contacting Amazon, they replied that the thing is flagged “lost or stolen”. At first, and in any other case, I would blame myself to be so stupid and leave it there, BUT Amazon’s reaction makes one think;
    – They say the thing is flagged “lost or stolen”, but refuse to tell me whom the rightful owner is, which they must know. They also take no action to contact the rightful owner.
    – Further they refuse any action to make the thing “registerable”.

    (Of course I can get the guy on ebay to take it back, which I’m doing, but this leaves a few BIG questions about Amazon,s practices);
    – So I don’t have any means to make the thing work, nor to return it to it’s rightful owner. Amazon makes sure the thing just becomes an expensive paperweight.
    – I have no way to find out of what they say is true. It MAY be lost/stolen , but it also may just be an effective way by Amazon to prohibit second hand sales!
    – Warranty of title. I bought it and I can claim the seller if the original owner shows up. But because of Amazon’s attitude, I don’t even have a strong case against the seller and no knowledge of the original owner.
    – most of all, this should be a warning that companies like Amazon are capable of denying you access and more. Imagine the internet of things, where everything is connected and registered and any higher power, be it company or government having the power, at will, to shut everything down…

    I’m pondering how to react to Amazon. My first idea is to ask them for proof of the thing being “lost or stolen”, one cannot just accept their word?? But for sure they will wave that one away, so I am looking for some stronger actions.

    We are baited.

  12. Hap on October 18, 2016 at 08:21

    Amazon, google, Microsoft,and Apple make for some formidable power. When hooked into the government,as they are in a tangled web…….you can just about give up.

  13. GTR on October 18, 2016 at 14:37

    The technology is going to be replacing humans in many so called “good jobs” very soon. Eg. like a fighter pilot or a doctor doing diagnosis. It is going to be both BETTER and CHEAPER (including more financially available) than people with such good jobs today.

    Fighter pilot replacement:
    http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/06/ai-bests-air-force-combat-tactics-experts-in-simulated-dogfights/

    Diagnosis doctor replacements:
    http://www.cheatsheet.com/technology/how-ibms-computers-detect-cancer-sooner-than-a-doctor.html/?a=viewall
    http://www.popsci.com/artificial-intelligence-helps-diagnose-cancer
    https://www.cbinsights.com/blog/ai-startups-fighting-cancer/

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