I Don’t Think Sin Taxes Are a Sin

When times get tough, the government needs more money, what gets raised? You got it, taxes.  And if taxes are already raised, what happens?  You got it, higher taxes.  And what gets taxed? Often the sin items, those items which we can do without (supposedly) and if we are so willing to smoke/imbibe/swallow/use/abuse – so called sin items –  then we must be able to throw in a little for the government, right?  Well…not so fast.

The Rights as I See It

Notice the careful wording of that subheading?  It’s my “caveat in disguise”. Any time I have no reason to believe I know what I’m talking about, which includes politics, I listen as well as I speak.  I listen even better than I speak.  The rights as I see it are that:

  • The money has got to come from some place, right?  And leaving aside whether taxes are the way to raise any money, it is not going to fall out of the sky.  So applying taxes anywhere is better than nowhere.
  • If most, as in the majority, of the population would rather be taxed on stuff they don’t need rather than stuff they do need, then we should first tax the stuff they don’t need.  And if that stuff isn’t being taxed at all, then let’s tax it.  So, even though St. Louis’ soda pop tax was vastly unhappy, it’s better than taxing water.  By contrast, Massachusetts proposed tax on highways everywhere and anywhere, even non-highways, is aggravating every hard-working worker.

The It’s Not Rights as I See It

  • So far as I’ve observed, I’m one of the few who thinks for the good of society even if it’s not good for me.  So I notice that the ones who squawk about taxes on something are usually (I polite way of saying always) the ones who use it.  So in St. Louis we probably had the water-drinkers saying taxing soda made sense, while the soda-drinking people said it was wrong, while the diet-soda drinking people said that the diet-colas weren’t really soda, and so on and so forth.
  • Sin taxing is a way for over-controlling government bodies to even further control how people behave.  If they are moral they want pornography

And the Verdict Is

Happily, I’m one of those who sees two sides to everything and rarely think either is the clear choice.  This is no exception.  That said, I’m in favor of sin taxes, for the reasons given above.

Have a Great Day,

Michael Emerald, CFA

Wall Street Analyst, Owner Performance Business Design


Categories: Thoughts on Politics

Great News in the Economy This Month

We’ve got a good thing going on the economy, right now.  Several reports have come in and almost all are positive.  Consumer spending is up, revealing optimism and consumer confidence has been on a roll, spelling further confidence.  The job reports came out at a whopping 261,000 new jobs and unemployment is the lowest in awhile.  There’s been some minor hiccups in inflation, but we can still expect a rise in rates soon.  The Bank of England boosted rates for the first time in 10 years.  The only problem I can name, a chronic one, is those out of the workforce as well as under-employed people, of which there are many.  But that’s another discussion altogether.  For now, let’s be happy for the good economic news.

Using a Password Manager on Your Computer? Here’s What You Can Expect From RoboForm


I’m not a tech write but have programmed for years, maintained networks and still get called upon for ideas on the latest ways to do things, particularly for smaller businesses.  When I visit people’s desktops I’m surprised how few use password managers.  I’ve used RoboForm for years, and I’m here to tell you how I use it and hopefully convince you they are worth having.  I say they because RoboForm isn’t the only password manager out there.  So if I convince you of their value you can research which one is appropriate for you.  RoboForm has worked fine for me for years, so I’m here to talk about it.

What it Does For You

I use it for retail shopping, log-ins, bookmarks and passwords.  In that order!  Let’s say you go to a page to register online.  You are asked to create a username and password.  You type in your username, let’s say “Michael”, and it asks you to put in a password, one with capitals, small, characters and numbers.  We all know what it’s like to first, think of one, and second, to feel the clock ticking when it says “not strong enough” and you have to start again.  With RoboForm, you click the Generate button, and voila! Your password is there and ready to go.  And it’s strong enough! What about logins.  Well, let’s say it’s time to renew your AAA auto membership.  Once a year you do this and we all know what it’s like to dig through your books to find the log in.  RoboForm to the rescue!  At the bottom of your screen (version 7 is at the top, I use version 8) is an icon that says AAA on it.  I click on it and it enters both my username and password.  Of course, before I use any of these features I have to enter my Master password, to prove it’s me sitting at the computer.  Next, let’s say I’m ordering something online.  I get to the page that says “checkout as guest” and it asks me to enter my shipping, billing and charge cards detaiIls.  Ouch!  But with RoboForm I click Michael Emerald, and all of this information is entered automatically.

Not a whole lot to describe here.  It’s like any other windows installation.  Once you install it, though, RoboForm will ask you for a Master Password.  This is the password that unlocks everything you have stored in it.  So make it one you aren’t going to forget!  As we’ll see, password managers allow you to use strong passwords all over the place, but for your Master Password you probably don’t want uPPuam3e.  By the way, in as long as it took you to read that password, that’s how long it took RoboForm to generate it for me.  I’ll discuss this further, below.


But is it safe to have all of your passwords stored in one place, electronically?  Me, I’ve always been more worried about someone stealing my password notebook along with my laptop than taking the time to break into my computer, find, if any, a password file, etc. But RoboForm goes beyond all that.  Because your information is encrypted.  So, the only way they can get the information is to first break into your computer, second, guess you welcome screen password, and third guess my Master Password.  How likely is that?  For me, it’s a lot less likely than stealing a paper notebook that sits next to my computer and says “Passwords”!

I’ll discuss version 8 of RoboForm, which I installed today, in a later installment of these technology posts.

Take Care,

Michael Emerald, CFA

Wall Street Analyst and owner, Performance Business Design

Categories: Technology

Platinum Group Metals is One of the High Scoring Companies I’ve Evaluated, and a Good Investment at 81%

We meet weekly with the heads of publicly held companies to evaluate their performance and thus identify those we view have higher than average earnings potential.  When we come across a particularly good publicly held company we release the results for the benefit of stock investors looking for portfolio candidates.

Below is our report on this company:


Platinum Group Metals BPR 17Q4

Uber’s Great for the Passenger, But Needs Unionization to Protect its Workers


What About Uber?

Uber’s been bringing a whole lot of controversy over the year.  I assume you’ve been reading what I’ve been reading, so I won’t rehash the issues.  To me, they center on two things:

Uber is unregulated, unlike the taxi cab system

Uber is causing traditional cab drivers and their businesses to suffer

Guess what?  I have no problem with those things, nor Uber.  Why?  Because people love Uber.  And in a day where bad news spreads like wildfire, we’d certainly know by now whether they were a disservice to the public.

But…there’s always a but…

I think what needs to be regulated is their pricing and treatment of workers.  Uber has fallen for the trend that is contagion on much of corporate America: cutting compensation to near-break-even levels, requiring excessive hours, and giving its employees no voice.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am against all three of these.  Why?

Because cutting compensation reduces costs and accrues to the stakeholders of Uber, while harming, possibly literally, the lives of its employees.  All of this was discovered back in the days of the robber barons when minimal wages and excessive hours were the norm and their danger made known.  Second, it is a monopolistic practice, because if a competitor, say cabs, is not willing to starve its employees of wages then it suffers a competitive disadvantage and goes out of business.  At which point the monopolist can raise prices to its customers, but often not compensation to its employees.

How would I regulate Uber?

I don’t want to risk my reputation and pretend to be expert in regulation.  I’m not.  But I do point out that Uber resists unionization for a reason.  Because it knows unions give power to its employees.  Worker salaries suffered dramatically historically once unions were disbanded.  And while we all know the downside of unionization, the pendulum has swung too far in the favor of Uber, so unionizing, negotiating wages, and moderating driver hours is a good thing.

Michael Emerald, CFA

Wall Street Analyst and owner, Performance Business Design

Categories: Current Issues

Terrorism is Best Stopped at its Roots, and not its Branches

Hello All.

We’re seeing a resurgence of terrorism, particularly in Europe.  I’m choosing my words generously, since most reading this will feel that it never dissipated.  Fair enough.  I’ve seen over the years increased efforts to have surveillance, security checks, improved metal detectors, greater airline scrutiny, and greater regulations in crowd control and airline travel.  The problem is that law enforcement has to do its job right every time to prevent terrorist acts, while a terrorist only needs to do his (mostly his) job only once.

Logically this is a problem since as the amount of surveillance and defense increases, life becomes more and more uncomfortable for civilians, while terrorists only need to go to where the surveillance is the weakest.  And in a world with 7 billion people, it’s not hard to find such a spot.


The solution, I feel, lies in identifying the reasons terrorists are incentivized to join terrorist groups, namely ISIS, and then countering those reasons.  I won’t go into the reasons in depth, but from what I’ve read it’s related to the promise of a better economic life, drugs, self-empowerment, and personal support.


Countering those motivating factors might entail a foreign policy that helps further the economies not providing satisfaction to its civilians.  Anything beyond that is beyond my expertise, though a sense a good foreign policy committee could come up with some great ideas.


Terrorism is global.  So any solutions should be made in concert with other countries, primarily those with a mindset similar to the United States.


Categories: Current Issues

What’s to be Done About North Korea? Common Sense if All Else Fails?

Why two question marks in the title?  Because the quick answer is “damned if I know”.  I do have a few semi-formed conclusions, however, see if you agree with them:

  • Their leader isn’t rational.  So the fact that the flea is waging an attack on the big dog, while illogical, makes sense to you-know-who.

  • Thus, when you are dealing with an illogical person, don’t expect logical negotiation to work.  Indeed, we’ve tried to, and to apparently no avail.  We don’t think so, anyway.

  • This is a high-stakes game of poker.  Whether either side is bluffing or not is insignificant when you consider the consequences at stake.

So, here’s my recommendation.  When you are dealing with a 3 year old and they throw the toy you tell them not to.  When the 3 year old then throws it again you tell him that he’s going to be punished if he throws it again.  When he throws it the 3rd time, you pick him up off his feet, put him in bed, and despite all the whining, wailing and complaining, that’s it.  That’s what you do.

In other words, we say that we won’t tolerate nuclear missile tests.  Done.  Did that.  Next we draw the line…or more exactly the president and his staff draw the line on what constitutes over-the-line.  An attack on a US possession, plan or ship would probably be considered over the line.  Then, you let the generals recommend a course of action for taking military action.  What is best I leave to them, not me.  But at that point they’ve been forewarned, the world agrees something must be done (whether they say so publicly or not), and we do it.

Yes?  No?

Michael Emerald, CFA

Owner and Wall Street Analyst

Performance Business Design 

Categories: Current Issues