Florida Governor Signs Financial Literacy Bill

Here is a summary of the recent Florida Financial Literacy announcement as I understand it,

‘On March 22, 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1054, titled the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act, which will require high school students to take a financial literacy course to receive a standard high school diploma.

The legislation will officially become a graduation requirement for students who enter high school in the 2023-24 school year, and will not affect students currently enrolled in high school.

“Financial literacy is an important life skill for a student to have,” said DeSantis. “Ensuring our students have the skills to manage their finances – and perhaps one day own a business – will pay dividends for our state. I am proud to sign this bill to support the future of Florida’s students and ultimately their families and communities.”

Students will be required to earn one-half credit in personal financial literacy and money management, including instruction on types of bank accounts, credit scores, taxes and managing debt.’

During my career in banking and financial services, I spent over 2 decades seeking solutions to our national intellectual deficit in the area of personal economic and financial literacy.

Much of what I learned relates to relevancy. Young people who grew up in a household where Amscot was the financial provider of choice won’t relate to traditional banks.  And, a young person with no job and no viable prospects for a future career which will generate a reliable income stream isn’t a good candidate for learning about bank accounts, credit scores, etc.

What I found in my practical research was that the very best solution to engaging students – probably beginning at middle school, and certainly at the high school level – involves thoughtful inclusion of economic concepts into the social studies curriculum.

Virtually everything in the history of mankind involves an economic component which can be carefully woven into the history itself.

The feudal system, which flourished in Europe until about 1500, continues to exist in the U.S. and other nations, disguised by new labels and promoted by clever marketing schemes.

Then, there was slavery. The underlying reason for the extraordinary prosperity of plantation owners in the southern U.S. states producing cotton, tobacco, rice, and sugar wasn’t due to their intelligence: it was completely due to slave labor.

Today, we have the overarching issue of student debt. Those who have been educated and informed about ‘opportunity costs’ are (at least) inoculated against the commissioned charlatans who offer promises of obscene salaries for completion of certain certificate or degree programs — with no real supporting facts – “just sign on the dotted line and you will never regret it”.

Today, we have a financial sector (“Wall Street”) which extracts tremendous costs out of each and every financial transaction. For virtually no value-added, an investment bank transaction takes at least 25% off the top, providing immediate (and arguably excessive) financial rewards to certain economic pirates — analysts, associates and managing directors — while adding zero benefit to our overall economy.

The recent ‘Great Recession’ (2007 – 2009) was enabled by a broad contingent of economically illiterate consumers who were duped by an equally inept cohort of financially and economically illiterate brokers. The common theme:  A relatively small group of mathematical practitioners – economic pirates — who created theoretical models which proved to be defective in practice.

The current frenzy centered on Cryptocurrency is likely another economic trap conjured up by economic pirates.  The underground economy has been somewhat stifled by a 1969 decision of the U.S. Treasury to discontinue $500 and $1,000 bills. Can you just imagine an illicit $500,000 cash transaction conducted using $100 bills?  Laundered money, converted into cryptocurrency, is the perfect medium through which to consummate the transaction.  Drugs? Weapons? Real Estate? The sky is the limit.

Best I can tell, nothing in the Florida bill addresses the basic issues which American adults need to be aware of.  A good understanding of fundamental economic principles is the foundation of a comprehensive financial and economic education, and I don’t think those concepts are imbedded anywhere in this Florida legislation.

Is Sen. Hawley a danger to our democracy?

Josh Hawley, the junior senator from Missouri, was mostly unknown until he joined a few other newsworthy seditionists to attempt to deny certification of Joe Biden’s election on January 6, 2021.

Hawley became a poster boy for the cause, caught on camera fist-pumping outside the Capitol just prior to the insurrection. 

Sen. Josh Hawley at the Capitol, January 6, 2021

His re-election campaign now uses this photo to embellish a number of trinkets available on his website – for example, a coffee mug is available for just $20.00.

Hawley graduated from a private Jesuit high school where he was valedictorian; is a graduate of Stanford; and of Yale Law School where he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and also served as president of the Yale Federalist Society chapter. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2018, he held a number of positions, including a stint as an associate professor at the University of Missouri Law School, where he taught constitutional law.

But, please don’t be fooled by his pedigree, boyish good looks or his melodious baritone delivery.

Hawley clearly has a penchant for disloyalty and rebellious activities focused on undermining the workings of the United States government.

And, his recent performance interrogating Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has given new meaning to the phrase “badgering the witness.”

How did The Trump Organization refinance a Trump Tower mortgage with a $100 million loan?

The new loan is a refinancing of a commercial mortgage the Trump Organization took out on Trump Tower in 2012. That was a 10-year loan with an interest rate of 4.2% that came due this year, according to a financial disclosure filed by Trump.

The lender of the original mortgage loan was Ladder Capital, a New York firm where the son of Trump’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, is a senior executive.

The new loan was apparently consummated on February 15, 2022 with Axos Bank of California.

Axos Bank? ‘Never heard of them’, you say.

Axos is a small [$14 Billion] boutique west-coast Federal Savings & Loan, formerly known as Bank of Internet, USA.

Axos has been in the press recently because of apparent ties to World Business Lenders and allegedly predatory loans to small business owners at rates of up to 268% APR, evading state usury laws by evoking the Axos federal charter.

CEO Gregory Garrabrants is head of Axos Financial Inc., the holding company which owns Axos Bank.

In 2018, Garrabrants compensation was $34.5 Million, more than Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co. ($31 Million) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s David Solomon ($23 Million) raked in that year.

Federal Savings & Loan? Please don’t tell George Bailey about this!

Alvin Bragg:  You now are the District Attorney of Manhattan.

Did someone get to you?  Were there threats against your family?  Was there the promise of a payout that was just too rich to deny? Maybe some of each?

Donald J. Trump has gotten away with crimes in New York for decades. Witnesses, opposing counsel, judges get bought off, threatened or promised business will be sent their way later if they back off, disappear, and/or change their tune.

Donald J. Trump combined his exceptional skills in rhetoric and oratory with his propensity for self-dealing.  His narcissism is well documented.  His penchant for litigation is legendary.

It seems clear that Donald J. Trump deserves nothing less than a complete and thorough investigation of the veracity of his annual financial statements, and a thorough presentation to a grand jury which would provide the public with a complete and transparent look into allegations which have simmered for the past 3 decades, at least.

It’s no secret that — despite Trump’s historic focus on New York City real estate — none of the Money Center Banks have made a loan to Trump or a Trump affiliate for ages.  His creditors are Deutsche Bank and several non-bank syndicates.

Money Center Banks tend to be highly focused on the accuracy of financial statements and the creditworthiness of principals involved in any transaction.  Silence and lack of interest from Money Center Banks toward the Trump Organization should not be interpreted as modesty, indifference or ignorance.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence which most informed observers would interpret as aggressive intent by the Trump family and the Trump Organization to bamboozle taxing authorities and potential creditors through creative asset valuation techniques.

We – the public – are forced to sit on the sidelines confident that you – an elected District Attorney – will seek justice within the bounds of the law, serving the public interest while acting with integrity and balanced judgment to respect and protect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons, including suspects and defendants.

We believe your recent choice not to pursue charges is unfair to Mr. Trump, the Trump family, and the general public.  A definitive outcome of this case is both needed and required.

Sadism in Tallahassee

March 5, 2022

Elected Officials Running Amok

Today, Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S.:   21.5 Million and growing.

Florida has an elected, part-time legislature that seems to evoke the historic governance needs back when Florida had a post-WWII population of 2.5 Million.

How can it be that a particularly malignant cabal of ignorant, callous and wicked creatures was elected to state office in Florida in 2021?

Satan apparently had a mission for them:  Enact atrocious legislation to further torment Florida residents who are poor and/or downtrodden.

The Florida Legislature meets in session every year for sixty consecutive days. That’s it.

In contrast, Tennessee has a population of about 7 Million, with an elected legislature that meets for 90 session days over a two-year period.

Arkansas, with a population of 3 Million, closely mirrors the Florida model, except it has a much broader scope of representation per capita.

The Florida Legislature managed to propose and pass a number of specious bills during their 2022 Reign of Error.

One of the most egregious bills passed by the Florida Legislature in its 2022 session – known as CS/HB 5: “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality” – is a clever ruse orchestrated by hard-core religious zealots which will primarily have adverse impact on socially and economically disadvantaged women, generally members of a protected class.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, so it seems clear he is aware of the focus Harvard Law has placed on Reproductive Rights.  Through his legal education, he has been exposed to a deep and intimate knowledge of Disparate Impact, the legal theory which helps to examine the effects of laws or practices which appear on the surface to be nondiscriminatory, but which have in practice a disproportionately negative effect on members of legally protected groups.

Certainly Gov. DeSantis is entitled to embrace his own personal values, beliefs and opinions.  But, he is not entitled to use his position as an elected official to impose his personal values on the people of Florida.

We would expect that if CS/HB 5 <or a similar bill> should come to him for approval, he would veto it.

Yet, as of this writing, media sources predict that Gov. DeSantis will sign the bill into law.

Some Thoughts on CPAC 2022

February 28, 2022

Has our education system failed us?

Over the past 3 decades, the U.S. has slowly lost its edge as the world leader in public education.  U.S. student proficiency in science and math – generally thought to be the foundation for independent and critical thinking – is mediocre, at best.

In a recent international comparison of achievement among 15 year old students from 71 countries, U.S. students ranked 36th in math, and 24th in science.

Some of these students — who have already been denied a rigorous education – are most vulnerable to inculcation and indoctrination.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that young adults who lack independent and/or critical thinking skills are likely to become the next generation of CPAC attendees.

Donald Trump is an expert communicator, highly skilled in techniques which are frequently cited by experts in mind control.

Trump focuses on a small number of issues which are emotionally important to a narrow group of people who feel lost or disenfranchised.

His communications are intended to provide understanding, comfort and answers to his audience, thus to gain their trust, despite often vague solutions to the identified problems.  Here are a few actual and verified Trump communiques (in no particular chronological order) which may have helped rally and solidify his audience:

  • “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
  • “I am the only one who can make America truly great again.”
  • “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”
  • “I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.”
  • “Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”
  • “We need a president with tremendous intelligence, smarts, cunning, strength and stamina.”
  • “Obama and his attack dogs have nothing but hate and anger in their hearts and spew it whenever possible.”
  • “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
  • “I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”
  • “I have a great relationship with African Americans, as you possibly have heard. I just have great respect for them. And they like me. I like them.”
  • “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
  • “[John McCain is]… not a war hero. He’s a war hero – he’s a war hero ’cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.”
  • “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
  • “Crooked Hillary Clinton is the worst (and biggest) loser of all time. She just can’t stop, which is so good for the Republican Party. Hillary, get on with your life and give it another try in 3 years!”
  • “Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I am leading it than when other people have led it… If Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia.”
  • “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”
  • “We can’t let people down when they can’t get any medical care, when they’re sick and don’t have money to go to a doctor. You help them.”
  • “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.” [post-Charlottesville, VA; 2017].
  • “Corporations are literally going wild over this, I think even beyond my expectations.” [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act; 2017]
  • “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.” [Re: Covid-19:  Jan. 2020]
  • “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”
  • “So, look, all I want to do, is I want to find 11,780 votes.”
  • “We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
  • “This election was rigged. And the Supreme Court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.”
  • “Nobody has done more for Christianity or for evangelicals — or for religion itself — than I have.”
  • “They say, ‘Trump said Putin’s smart.’ I mean, he’s taking over a country for two dollars’ worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart. He’s taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in.”
  • “As grave as the dangers are abroad, it’s the destruction within that spells our doom. Our most dangerous people are people from within. These are people that must hate our country because they make us weak. They indoctrinate your children to hate their parents while calling you a hateful racist. They use big tech to censor you. They use the deep state to spy on you. They use the intelligence agencies to frame you. They use the media to slander you. They use the legal system to persecute you. It is a persecution. They use rigged elections to disenfranchise you and destroy you and ruin your lives.”

Yes, Mr. Trump.  If we follow your lead, we must fear the left-wing fascists and dumb political leaders from within.  Some have said that these dumb political leaders are ‘truly evil people’ who are ‘afraid to do the right thing.’

Meanwhile, others have singled out a contingent of Republican elected officials – including: Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida; Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee; Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana; Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma; Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida; former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas; Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, and several more.

Concurrent with the CPAC conference, Rep. Greene distinguished herself as a speaker at a white supremacist event — the America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) – also held in Florida.

Guests at the AFPAC conference openly cheered Russian President Vladimir Putin, and approved comparisons between Putin and Adolf Hitler, while calling the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “awesome.”

Despite a subsequent statement from the RNC Chairwoman saying “white supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry are disgusting and do not have a home in the Republican Party,” there was no rebuke of Marjorie Taylor Greene by name.

Yes, Mr. Trump.  There may be some left-wing fascists and dumb political leaders who were elected as Democrats.  If you could take just a moment to identify them and accurately describe their aberrant behavior(s), that would really be great.

Yet, we have irrefutable media evidence of public officials who were elected as Republicans and who have gone out of their way to favor Mr. Putin over our elected president.

Best I know:  This is clear essence of sedition, perhaps emanating a whiff of treason.

Perhaps, Mr. Trump, you will take a few moments to respond to these conclusions drawn from real facts?

It’s no secret that open access to comprehensive reproductive rights – including birth control and abortion – has evolved into an extremely acrimonious and hostile issue across American society.

The 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”  When people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have the right to pursue their own – but different — beliefs or practices.

I have no interest in debating religious or cultural positions on contraception or abortion.  My interest is to encourage a deep look into how and when restricting open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services becomes an economic and human rights issue. When a small group of people — highly committed to their own religious beliefs – engages in persecution of others who do not share their religious beliefs and practices, that results in a violation of the 1st amendment, each and every time.

A recent Pew Research survey found that the majority of Americans (61%) say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. When religion is included in the demographics of survey participants, 77% of white evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Recent Gallup polling found similar results.

In fact, the loudest voices opposing abortion and open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services in the U.S. seem to come from a +/- 20% minority comprised of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians.

Yet, the vast majority of people who are adversely impacted by rules, laws or practices which restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care services are socially and economically disadvantaged women, almost always members of a protected class.

The longitudinal negative social and economic impacts on women who are denied access to a voluntary abortion — and the children who are born as a result — are devastating. The spillover of these social and economic impacts into the larger society is chilling.

I’m truly surprised that the current debate on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services remains centered on religious grounds, when in fact, citizens of the United States have an ironclad guaranty in the U.S. Constitution to freedom from religious persecution.

Ron DeSantis: ‘We are right, and they are wrong.’

Ron DeSantis is a bully, and he has proved to be an awful Governor.

DeSantis thrives on political theatre, and he specializes in public events which use inflammatory tactics to rally a base of confused, uninformed and/or angry voters.

Since taking office in January 2019, DeSantis has:

  • Signed a sweeping voter suppression bill into law, citing baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election.
  • Proposed a special police force to oversee state elections — the first of its kind in our nation — intended to protect Florida from nonexistent threats.
  • Opened pop-up COVID-19 vaccine sites in wealthy Florida neighborhoods where his donors live.
  • Let nearly a million COVID-19 tests expire.
  • Appointed a science and medical contrarian (Lodapo) as Florida’s Surgeon General.
  • Occluded Florida COVID-19 data by firing DOH scientist (Jones), then sending armed tactical police to raid her personal residence.
  • Actively promoted the use of monoclonal antibody treatments as an alternative to vaccine.
  • Consistently refutes FDA guidance creating confusion and putting Florida residents at increased risk from COVID.
  • Orchestrated a fundraising tour across America while the Delta variant sickened and killed Floridians.
  • Signed laws restricting abortion access (2020).
  • Supports an oppressive abortion bill (SB 146 and HB 5) like the one in Mississippi.
  • Urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
  • Refused to accept that climate change is an existential threat to our state.
  • Failed to prepare Florida’s coastal communities for rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes.
  • Ignored the “red tide” algae bloom that scares off tourists, risking the engine which supports 1.6 million jobs and contributes over $96.5 Billion to the Florida economy.
  • Actively and aggressively created tension in our public education system resulting in a mass exodus of teachers and staff from Florida schools beginning in spring 2020.
  • In 2021, he targeted eight large school districts for defying his order prohibiting schools from enforcing mask mandates, helping to create toxic conditions for school district superintendents. This led to highly politicized and public confrontations and an unusual exodus of qualified and experienced leadership.

This is Ron DeSantis. He currently is Public Enemy Number One in the State of Florida.

George Orwell was right.

January 30, 2022

If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.

The School Board in McMinn County, Tennessee recently announced a decision to ban author and creator Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus from their eighth-grade curriculum.

McMinn County, TN may be a poster child for the current divisiveness in America.

This rural county is home to just 54,000 residents and until very recently, was over 90% white.

As a whole, the State of Tennessee has been, and remains, predominantly Christian. About 81% of the population identifies as Christian, and 52% of Tennessee residents identify as Evangelical Protestants.

Plagued by the legacy of a mediocre public education system, poverty is rampant in McMinn County: Over 17% of residents live below the poverty line, including 24% of children (under 18) and 12% of seniors (65 and over).

The McMinn County School Board recent action helps to reinforce the notion that adults who themselves are products of a mediocre public education system are often incapable of making sound and fully informed decisions based on solid facts.  Or, we might say that these folks have been deprived of critical thinking skills due to the inadequacy of their public school system.

Over the past decade, we have witnessed an alarming increase in public displays of frustration, rebellion and even violence among adults who are constrained by the toxic combination of extreme religious ideologies and vulnerability to unreliable or false sources for (mis)information.

George Orwell was correct, and only WE can prevent the vociferous minority from subsuming the will of the majority.

The Dangerous Intersection of Evangelical Christianity with White Supremacy

White supremacy sometimes manifests as colorism, a persistent issue within India, Latin America, Africa and nearly every community of color. When a mother tells her children not to play out in the sun because their skin will get too dark, she is reinforcing the myth of white supremacy by encouraging proximity to whiteness via lighter skin.

The most dangerous combination seems to occur at the intersection of Fundamental (Evangelical) Christianity and White Supremacism – the belief that Caucasians are superior to all other races.

Fundamental/Evangelical Christianity states that ‘only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation’.

White Supremacists adhere to the aberrant beliefs that (a) Whites must have dominance over people of other backgrounds, especially where they may co-exist; and (b) White people are genetically superior to other people.

In a 2019 nationwide survey, 86% of white evangelical Protestants and 70% of both white mainline Protestants and white Catholics said that the “Confederate flag is more a symbol of Southern pride than of racism”; nearly two-thirds of white Christians overall said that killings of African-American men by the police are isolated incidents rather than part of a broader pattern of mistreatment; and more than 60% of white Christians disagreed with the statement that “generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.”

The Southern Baptist Convention itself was organized prior to the Civil War in Georgia by Southern Baptists who were strongly opposed to the abolition of slavery. It delivered the invocation when Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederacy.

Today, the Southern Baptist Convention has a membership of over 16 Million, and is thought to be the second-largest Christian denomination in the U.S.

When I came of age in the late 1960’s in Buffalo, NY – a true northeast rustbelt city – we really didn’t have time for any of this nonsense, and I naively believed that our nation had progressed beyond the foolish notions of the Confederacy.

Four decades later, Donald Trump and his loyal following of ultra-conservative Evangelical Christian voters truly surprised and shocked me, and many others.

Robert Jones, a graduate of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, may have said it best when he stated that Trump inspired White Christians, “not despite, but through appeals to white supremacy,” attracting them not because of economics or morality, “but rather that he evoked powerful fears about the loss of White Christian dominance.”

You can deny if you like, but denial doesn’t change reality.

This is the year 2022, and there is no turning back.

We are competing in a 21st Century World Economy, and it is high time for those of us who don’t have time for all of this foolish nonsense to call the bluff of the revisionist Confederate Civil War re-enactors.

Here in the U.S., we need to move on; come together; find common ground; join hands; and work side by side to strengthen our technology and innovation capabilities and return to a leadership role by influencing international economic, scientific, trade, and security institutions.

Alternatively, we could continue to allow petty and insignificant micro-inequities to distract and divide us domestically, which will encourage other nations to move aggressively to assert leadership and shape the direction of global rules and institutions.