Health care funding continues to dominate the political conversation, with the Senate introducing its version of a new health care financing arrangement. Stay tuned for more on this, as the House and Senate attempt to develop a bill that will pass both houses of Congress. And whatever legislation is passed, look for it to be challenged in court. Finally, keep in mind that in the U.S., we have the finest health care on the planet. It’s the paying for it which remains the challenge.
In economic news, new home sales rose 2.9% in May, to an annualized rate of 610,000 units. The Fed rate increase last week took the Fed Funds rate to a range of 1% to 1.25%. Before the economic implosion of 2008-09, this rate was almost five times as much. Those attempting to live on interest income have experienced this first hand. And, this inordinately low interest rate environment has been one of the drivers in the outperformance of dividend paying stocks over the last five years.
On the business front, Coke has announced the layoff of 400 Atlanta based employees. This news follows an announcement from earlier in the year that Coke is reducing staff by 1200 worldwide, in order to create a leaner organization.
And Fulton County Commissioners decided to freeze property tax assessments at 2016 levels. Smart move on their part. Jurisdictions with taxing authority are finding that they can’t simply continue to raise taxes, in order to fund whatever they have agreed to pay for. At some point, taxpayers resist, many voting with their feet that they simply won’t stay and pay, indefinitely. Just ask Illinois.
According to Automotive News Europe, the U.K. government plans to invest more than 800 million pounds, or more than $1 billion, in new driverless and zero-emission vehicle technology, as it seeks to become a leader in such technologies. You can read the entire article at http://europe.autonews.com/article/20170622/ANE/170629935/uk-seeks-to-be-world-leader-in-autonomous-and-electric-vehicles.
In mid-May, a cyberattack hit Microsoft Windows-based computers through a malware known as ransomware. While ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly common, this attack, known as WannaCry, was noted for its speed of transmission.
Ransomware is generally spread via email messages that contain infected attachments. When a user opens the attachment, a program runs that encrypts the user’s computer and demands a ransom be paid, typically in bitcoin, for a key that will unencrypt the files.
Internally, we teach our team some basic security protocol, as a means of protecting technology tools and data. First, we have tight filters on what emails actually get through. We review all emails caught by the spam filter, and whitelist only those we recognize, and want to receive. Second, we don’t open any attachments from anyone, including clients and trusted vendors, unless we were expecting the attachments.
Third, we don’t forward “cute” emails, regardless of the heart touching story, or cute butterfly/kitten/baby picture. These are often forwards themselves, and could have picked up any number of viruses in transmission.
Fourth, we don’t automatically send money to a client, simply because we get an email from them saying “send money”. Those emails are currently the primary means and source of financial fraud, by the schmucks who specialize in this type of behavior. When we do receive a request for funds, we evaluate the email, to confirm the email address, and the type and amount of content, to determine that it is consistent with the communication style of this particular client. We also confirm by phone call. This is simple to do, preserves capital, and avoids grief for all parties involved.
Next week, we celebrate Independence Day, in honor of the signing and adoption of the Declaration of Independence, in July 1776. It was during the summer of 1776 that the thirteen colonies declared themselves a new and free nation, independent of England and King George.
In thinking about our heritage as a country, and the concept of independence and freedom, several things come to mind. First is that it takes very few to make a difference. Those few though, must be resolute in their conviction. The signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. A number of them did give their lives and fortunes to the cause of liberty.
Another thought is that there are differing kinds of freedom. Freedom can encompass the personal freedom of self-determination, and economic freedom, to pursue whatever we choose as a way to engage with work and life. It can also encompass emotional, mental, and spiritual freedom, though these are in the realm of personal choice. If you are bound in some way, will you choose to be free?
Quote of the week:
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.”
Patrick Henry, St. Johns Church, Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775