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Dr. Doom: A ‘Greater Depression’ Awaits Us

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Dr. Doom: A ‘Greater Depression’ Awaits Us

Nouriel Roubini, known as “Dr. Doom” for his often bearish outlook, is out with his latest prognostication. It shouldn’t surprise you that he sees trouble ahead for our country.

Roubini says that our government essentially learned nothing from the 2007-09 financial crisis. Additionally, through hubris or simple unwillingness to change, it made another crisis all but inevitable.

He goes on to say that even if we are fortunate enough to see a U-shaped recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, a much more devastating L-shaped “Greater Depression” will follow at some point this decade due to 10 “ominous and risky trends.”

1. Deficits And Their Corollary Risks: Debts and Defaults

Roubini points to the trillions of dollars in fiscal stimulus that our government has thrown at the economic collapse brought on by the pandemic. It amounts to a GDP that is 10% or greater when debt levels were already sky-high.

Coupled with growing public-sector debt, private-sector debt will be under pressure as well with roughly 30 million Americans now out of work. Without income to pay their debts, Roubini says mass defaults and bankruptcies will soar, creating an “even more anemic recovery than the one that followed the Great Recession a decade ago.”

2. A Demographic Time Bomb

The coronavirus has shown that we need to spend a significantly greater amount of money on our healthcare system. But, as Roubini points out, we have an aging demographic that will require greater usage of our healthcare system in the future. With fewer taxpayers paying into the system than those drawing from it, increasing funding for our already underfunded health care and social security system will become increasingly burdensome in the future.

3. Growing Risk of Deflation

The pandemic has created what economists call “slack” in the system, that is the under-utilization of resources like machines and labor (due to mass unemployment). The lack of economic activity is also causing the prices of commodities like oil to plummet. Roubini then says this increases the likelihood of deflation, which in turn increases the chance a company goes insolvent. We’ve seen this recently in the oil and gas industry as the price of crude oil fell companies have started to file for bankruptcy.

4. Currency Debasement

Roubini says that as central banks try to fight the deflation we just mentioned, their monetary policies will become even more “unconventional and far-reaching.” Long-term, he says negative supply shocks from “accelerated de-globalization and renewed protectionism will make stagflation all but inevitable.”

5. Digital Disruption of the Economy

Almost 30 million Americans are now unemployed and earning less. Because of this, Roubini says the income and wealth gap will get blown wide open. He also believes this will cause companies to increase their automation to drive down costs. This further depresses wages and causes the “fanning the flames of populism, nationalism, and xenophobia.

6. De-Globalization

Roubini believes the pandemic will cause the United States and China to decouple faster. He also thinks “most countries will adopt protectionist policies to shield domestic firms and workers from global disruptions.”

He adds, “The post-pandemic world will be marked by tighter restrictions on the movement of goods, services, capital, labor, technology, data, and information. This is already happening in the pharmaceutical, medical-equipment, and food sectors, where governments are imposing export restrictions and other protectionist measures in response to the crisis.”

7. The Backlash Against Democracy

Roubini believes that during periods of high unemployment, economic weakness and rising inequality that populism gains a foothold. He says that during this economic insecurity, foreigners are often made the scapegoat as proposals to limit migration and trade pop up in populist rhetoric.

8. A Geostrategic Standoff Between the U.S. and China

Trump has made every effort to blame China for the pandemic, Roubini points out. China will use this to accuse Trump of “conspiring to prevent China’s peaceful rise,” he said. The breakup of American-Chinese arrangements in trade, technology, investments, etc. will increase.

9. A New Cold War Between The U.S. And Its Rivals — China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

With a presidential election approaching, all sides will then step up their cyber warfare. This could potentially lead “even to conventional military clashes.”

10. Environment Disruption

A year ago, nobody could have predicted the COVID-19 pandemic. Roubini says these type of epidemics “are like climate change, essentially man-made disasters, born of poor health and sanitary standards, the abuse of natural systems, and the growing interconnectivity of a globalized world. Pandemics and the many morbid symptoms of climate change will become more frequent, severe, and costly in the years ahead.”

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Need Income? Here Are 8 Safe Stocks That Yield More Than 2.5%

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Need Income? Here Are 8 Safe Stocks That Yield More Than 2.5%

With interest rates at all-time lows, it is becoming increasingly difficult for investors to earn a decent yield in today’s environment. Savings accounts pay a little more than 1% and Treasurys pay even worse.

For seniors or retirees looking for income, there are a handful of companies that have been paying a consistent dividend for more than 100 years that also have a yield higher than 2.5%.

Here are eight companies to take a look at:

Coca-Cola

Symbol: KO
Dividend Yield: 3.6%

Coca-Cola is the newest addition to the list, with 2020 marking the 100th year that the company has paid a dividend. The company also announced in February that it was increasing the quarterly dividend, making it 58 straight years where the payout has increased. Even with health trends shifting away from sugary drinks, the company has a robust product lineup. It has also been expanding into new beverage lines like coffee and energy drinks.

Chubb

Symbol: CB
Dividend Yield: 2.9%

Chubb is an insurance company based in Switzerland that primarily writes policies for property and casualty, accident, health, life and reinsurance and is the largest publicly traded property and casualty company in the world. In addition to paying a dividend for more than 100 years, the company has also raised its payout to shareholders for 27 consecutive years.

General Mills

Symbol: GIS
Dividend Yield: 3.2%

You probably recognize General Mills’ brands every time you head to the grocery store. They own brands like Cheerios, Wheaties, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Haagen-Dazs and many more. The company has been paying out a dividend for more than 120 years and have increased that payout for 15 straight years.

Colgate-Palmolive

Symbol: CL
Dividend Yield: 2.5%

Another company with plenty of household brand recognition, Colgate-Palmolive owns brands like Colgate, Palmolive, Speed Stick and Tom’s of Maine. The company has paid out dividends for 125 years and has raised its dividend consistently for the last 57 years.

Procter & Gamble

Symbol: PG
Dividend Yield: 2.8%

The company owns iconic brands like Pampers, Tide, Bounty, Charmin, Gillette, and Head & Shoulders. It has been paying a dividend for more than 100 year and has raised that dividend every year for the last 63 years.

Johnson Controls

Symbol: JCI
Dividend Yield: 3.6%

Based in Cork, Ireland, the company provides fire, HVAC and security systems for buildings. The company has been paying a dividend to shareholders since just after it was founded in 1887, a streak of 133 years.

Consolidated Edison

Symbol: ED
Dividend Yield: 4.3%

Starting way back in 1823 as the New York Gas Light Company, Consolidated Edison provides gas, electric and steam power to New York City and Westchester County, NY. The company has a long history of paying dividends to shareholders dating all the way back to 1885, a streak of 135 years.

Exxon-Mobil

Symbol: XOM
Dividend Yield: 7.7%

The massive energy company started as two spinoffs of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil company, Exxon and Mobil. The two companies merger in 1998, but investors in the companies have been receiving consistent dividend payments since way back in 1882.

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Social Media Stocks Slip As Trump Issues Executive Order

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Social Media Stocks Slip As Trump Issues Executive Order

Social media stocks slipped yesterday after President Trump signed an executive order granting the government broader authority to crack down on social media companies. Twitter fell 4.45%, Facebook dipped 1.61% and Google’s parent company Alphabet dropped 0.08%. Twitter took the biggest hit because Trump said if the company doesn’t operate honorably, he hinted he would consider shutting the company down.

Trump says social media companies have gained “unchecked power” and have taken on the roles of editors and publishers of the content on their websites. His executive order would remove their “liability shield” if they engage in censorship.

What is Section 230?

Section 230 allows tech companies to moderate user-generated content on their site without becoming legally liable for it as a publisher typically would.

The law allows companies to engage in “good Samaritan” moderation of “objectionable” material. This, then, comes without the companies receiving a publisher or speaker treatment. Section 230 allows platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google’s YouTube to take down terrorist content. It also allows them to track and take down harassing messages while still enjoying other legal protections.

What the law doesn’t allow, and what Trump says the platforms are doing, pertains to selectively moderating what messages users see to silence conservative voices.

“They’re doing things incorrectly, they have points of view,” Trump said at the White House. “My executive order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it that social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield. That’s a big deal,” he also stated.

Trump’s Order

Trump said the order would also prevent taxpayer dollars from going to any company that engages in what Trump referred to as deceptiveness. This is in addition to limiting these protections for companies that acted with bias.

Trump’s executive order comes just days after Twitter added a fact-checking feature. The social media site added the new feature alongside two of the President’s tweets about mail-in ballots and fraud. After Twitter added the fact-checking features, Trump then accused the company of engaging in “political activism.”

He also tweeted, “So ridiculous to see Twitter trying to make the case that Mail-In Ballots are not subject to FRAUD. How stupid, there are examples, & cases, all over the place. Our election process will become badly tainted & a laughingstock all over the World. Tell that to your hater @yoyoel.”

“Big Tech is doing everything in their very considerable power to CENSOR in advance of the 2020 Election,” the president also said Wednesday night — on Twitter. “If that happens, we no longer have our freedom. I will never let it happen! They tried hard in 2016, and lost. Now they are going absolutely CRAZY. Stay Tuned!!!” he then added.

Reactions

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that his company is taking a different approach to moderating content on his social media platform.

“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online. Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

The interest in updating Section 230 to remove the liability shield for publishers isn’t just a goal for Republicans. It actually has bipartisan support.

This past January, Democratic nominee Joe Biden proposed revoking Section 230 completely. “The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms. It should be revoked because it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.” Biden also never responded to follow-up questions about this statement.

Even former Democratic candidate also Bernie Sanders supported the idea, adding, “Tech giants and online platforms should not be shielded from responsibility when they knowingly allow content on their platforms that promotes and facilitates violence.”

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Mark Cuban Proposes ‘Use it Or Lose It’ Debit Cards to Boost Recovery

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Mark Cuban Proposes ‘Use it Or Lose It’ Debit Cards to Boost Recovery

Mark Cuban hasn’t been shy about voicing his ideas to get our country back on the road to recovery. His latest proposal is that the government issue debit cards to US households to help businesses by boosting consumer spending. The caveat to Cuban’s plan is that the debit cards have a “use it or lose it” feature.

“… I think we need to do a debit card program where we give money literally to each household and make it ‘use it or lose it,’ whether it’s $1,000, or $1,200, or whatever that number is, every couple of weeks and say, ‘You have X number of days to use this debit card, or you lose the money that’s been deposited on there.’”

Cuban came up with the plan. As he said, “we’ve got to get to a scenario where consumers have enough confidence to go out there and spend money… the primary reality is no business can survive without sales. And two-thirds of the economy is consumer-generated demand.”

Without an increase in business, many businesses can’t afford to re-hire their employees. Even if they could, some are receiving more money from their unemployment benefits than they are from working.

Cuban’s Plan

Cuban says his plan is a “perfectly timed stimulus program” and “…by doing that, and timing it right, that’s going to create demand for these companies so they can afford to bring their employees back after they’re off of all that unemployment CARES enhancement.”

The CARES Act became law in March. It added an extra $600 weekly payment on top of the amount someone receives under state law. Those additional benefits will end in July unless the government extends it.

Cuban has also proposed that the government start a federally-guaranteed jobs program. He said these should give people “confidence in their jobs” and help start the rehiring process.

“We’re going to have to have a transitional, not permanent transitional federal jobs program,” he said. He also included jobs like the ones created during the pandemic to track and treat COVID-19 patients.

“And so we’re going to need to hire people, millions of people, you know, preferably for testing, tracing, tracking, supporting vulnerable populations, long-term care, you know, giving people jobs that they know, are stable, because that gives them the impetus to spend money,” Cuban added.

Criticisms

While Cuban’s plan would absolutely boost consumer spending, Scott Baker, an associate professor of finance at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University says it won’t help every industry.

“Some industries you won’t be able to stimulate this way,” said Baker. He also said that the plan cant help the tourism industry. He said this because, even with extra money in their pockets, Americans aren’t travelling.

Baker also says that during economic uncertainty, most Americans will delay durable goods purchases, like electronics, appliances and vehicles.

Cuban, who has become more vocal about his ideas to help the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic, also hasn’t officially ruled out a 2020 presidential run.

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