TOPIC: tqc
Issue 16
February 24, 2019
Where We Think Trump Is Right

We believe Donald Trump represents many of the worst elements of capitalism (at The Quintessential Centrist, we believe that despite its flaws, capitalism is by far the most effective system, besting socialism, communism, or any other "ism"). TQC will not consider endorsing Trump in the 2020 presidential election unless his opponent is a radical like Elizabeth Warren or socialist like Bernie Sanders.

The President of the United States must hold himself to standards that are materially above of what is expected of an ordinary citizen, regardless of the circumstances. Trump certainly has not adhered to the higher level of personal conduct that is a non-negotiable precondition to serve as Chief Executive of the United States. Frequently, his behavior is indicative of somebody who is thin skinned and downright infantile; this does not even include his terrible habit of tweeting about high level policy issues. To be sure, he has denigrated the office and further polluted the very swamp he promised to clean up; an impressive feat given the long lineage of ethically challenged men and women who have served in both chambers of congress.

As we have reiterated in past issues, at The Quintessential Centrist, our platform promotes civil discourse irrespective of political leanings. This, more often than not, involves highlighting and examining some uncomfortable hypocrisies. And it almost always involves rejecting overly-simplistic black-and-white binaries. In the past, TQC has supported both Democrats and Republicans on specific issues. On those occasions where we focus on specific politicians, our analysis is predicated on three important “P’s”: person, polices and principles, and not the party with which they happen to be affiliated.

Before illustrating where in our view President Trump is correct, we would like to preface those arguments with the following:

Overall, we are not Donald Trump supporters. We did not endorse Trump in ’16. This author did not vote for Trump (or Clinton) in the last presidential election. We explained why we favor centrist Howard Schultz and encouraged him to declare himself a formal candidate in our February 10th issue.

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Issue 17
March 3, 2019
AOC

Two weeks ago, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) succeeded in disenfranchising her constituents, including many of her supporters, and bragged about it:

“Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world.”

Of course, AOC was referring to her "successful" grassroots campaign to protest Amazon corporation's efforts to establish a beachhead, and thereby 25,000 quality jobs and ancillary benefits, in Long Island City. Not only were AOC’s efforts misguided, they were selfish and undemocratic; 70% of New Yorkers actually supported Amazon building a headquarters in their city. Even progressive New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio challenged Cortez:

“As a progressive my entire life — and I ain’t changing — I’ll take on any progressive anywhere that thinks it’s a good idea to lose jobs and revenue because I think that’s out of touch with what working people want….I came up watching the mistakes of progressives of the past, unfortunately what happened in this city when it almost went to bankruptcy in the 1970s. I saw all the times progressives did not show people effective governance and all the times progressives made the kinds of mistakes that alienated working people…”

Fellow Democrat and New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo chimed in:

“…a small group [of] politicians put their own political interests above their community – which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City…”

One thing is for certain, congressional freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is certainly a sophomoric operator with whom to be reckoned. As a sitting congresswoman, she is in a position of power and influence. Regrettably, that authority, as we saw with Amazon, can be abused and used to the detriment of the very people she claims to champion.

Other than President Trump, no other U.S. politician has recently been so successful at generating controversy through a combination of self-serving misinformation, scaremongering and willful ignorance as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Though some on the far-left cannot seem to get enough of Ms. Cortez, she has repeatedly contradicted herself, showed a stunning lack of basic knowledge (or willful deceit) and proved to be highly hypocritical in her personal conduct. In AOC’s reality, it is ok if she is incorrect as long as she is wrong for the right reasons. Her message should supersede facts, which should not matter as much when living in President Trump’s America.

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Issue 18
March 10, 2019
Six Centrist Ideas

The Quintessential Centrist’s core mission involves offering readers an elevated discourse that blends news, careful analysis and viewpoints from the left, right, and center of the political continuum. There is a sizable contingent of centrist-Americans who are interested in compromise, open to reasonable ideas, and whose main objective is facilitating legislation that will benefit the country, bridging ideological differences and helping to unite our bitterly divided nation.

This week TQC presents six centrist ideas, that if implemented prudently and responsibly, have the potential to improve America by making our nation safer and more equitable for the majority of its citizens. These represent topics that The Quintessential Centrist intends to continue researching.

TAXES:
At TQC, we believe in a progressive tax code. People who earn more should pay more. However, a progressive tax code must be applied with levelheadedness and proportionality. We agree with the position taken by many on the right side of the aisle who argue against excessively high marginal tax rates. A disproportionate number of people who would bear the burden of all in marginal tax rates over 50% and / or be subjected to “wealth taxes” proposed by politicians on the left, are responsible for creating a disproportionate number of jobs in America. We must be careful not to impose a marginal tax so burdensome that it takes away job creators' economic incentive to offer employment opportunities for working Americans. That is suboptimal for all Americans. It is important to keep in mind: most higher earning salarymen and women in the United States already do pay significantly more taxes, as they should.

We align ourselves with many on the left side of the aisle who argue that although marginal tax rates are higher on the wealthy, it is unjust that certain rich individuals can use the tax code to their advantage and lower their tax rate to a level lower than what working class Americans pay, in some cases to 0%. Hedge Fund managers, Family Office principles and Private Equity partners are typically wealthy individuals. By utilizing “carried interest,” they can reinvest profits back into their respective entities vs. paying ordinary income tax on short-term capital gains. Real estate investors often use 1031 exchanges to roll proceeds from property sales into new physical assets thereby shielding their gains from income tax. At TQC, we do not begrudge those individuals for utilizing the existing tax code to lower their tax bill; any rational person would do so. That said, “carried interest,” 1031 exchanges and other unquestionably regressive loopholes in the tax code should be closed. Without debate, these loopholes disproportionality help wealthier Americans. Very few middle-class and working poor Americans benefit from these carve outs. We believe that is unfair to all Americans.

TERM LIMITS:
We support the introduction of term limits for members of the U.S. Congress & U.S Senators. Politics is the second oldest profession in the world. Unfortunately, it shares many properties with the oldest profession in the world. Too many politicians on both sides of the aisle allocate too much of their human capital selling themselves rather than performing the tasks and achieving the results they were elected to do. Instead, they often draft and vote for legislation that serves little purpose but to afford themselves a higher probability of getting re-elected while selling out the majority of the people they were voted into office to represent. Of course, there are exceptions to this generalization. Certain Democratic and Republican lawmakers do put the American public before themselves; sadly, they are in the minority. Term limits are a simple, sensible idea that will better align politicians' intentions with the will of the people who voted them into office.

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Issue 2
November 11, 2018
Airplane Logic

The boarding process today on all commercial airliners is completely irrational. Consider the following: in return for purchasing a first or business class ticket or being a premier rewards card holder, a customer is granted the privilege of boarding.... first? This makes little sense to me.

If an air traveler is about to give up all control of his or her well-being and board an overcrowded flying tuna can, with parts constructed by the lowest bidder, piloted by a complete stranger, with germ-tainted re-circulated air, with 1/4 inch of aluminum separating them from sudden death at over 35,000 feet, they should have no interest whatsoever in wanting to board first. Wouldn’t they want to board last? Why spend any more time on that plane than need be ?

I’ve discussed my argument with some peers. The most common pushback I get has to do with baggage. Most airlines charge for checked bags. As a result, any bag that can fit in the overhead spaces is placed there, to avoid paying a fee and having to wait to claim your luggage at one’s final destination. Boarding first guarantees you will find space for your luggage. I understand and appreciate this argument, but it doesn’t suffice, especially given how airlines price their seats today. Most basic economy tickets are situated in the rear of the aircraft. Most people place their luggage at or near the row they are assigned. Furthermore, in the business class section of a plane, only those passengers who purchased business class seats can use the overhead bins in that section. Bottom line: people who purchase premium tickets or hold a rewards card should be called to board last, not first.

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Issue 22
April 7, 2019
Colleges & Universities Should Consider Abolishing Tenure

"It is indeed ironic that tenured economics professors lecture students about the wondrous efficiencies of a free market, but function in a closed ecosystem of their own. When the time comes to discuss oligopolies and cartels, what better example to use than themselves?" - TQC

When the Quintessential Centrist published a piece on the student loan crisis, it touched on some ancillary topics which deserved greater attention. Tenured positions for college and university professors was amongst the drivers to which we alluded that were unnecessarily driving up the cost of a college education and thus, leaving a generation of young Americans bogged down by student debt. For the purposes of this discussion, we provide a brief history of tenure, assess some of its pros & cons, and ultimately delve into whether it makes sense to maintain what many see as an arcane system.

Tenure, which essentially is lifelong guaranteed employment, first emerged in the US in the post-Civil War era as a means of emphasizing the importance of higher education. At the time, the tenure model adopted by German universities was favored by American educators and that model has remained fundamentally unchanged to this day. In the US, the practice of tenure was institutionalized with the founding of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in 1915. At inception, freedom of thought and speech without the threat of persecution was one of the central tenets of the AAUP. Faculty members were protected from termination should their academic research and resultant conclusions not be met favorably. In other words, this was the academic equivalent of First Amendment rights.

Not to bore our readers with exhaustive history, but this is a salient and fundamental piece of the story. By 1940 the AAUP formalized a Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. The Statement defined tenure as “(1) freedom of teaching and research and of extramural activities, and (2) a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability. Freedom and economic security, hence, tenure, are indispensable to the success of an institution in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to society.” Proponents of tenure point to the wording of this statement as it emphasized both academic freedom as well as economic security.

Furthermore, tenure can add to the cache of institutions of higher education. The process by which to obtain tenure is rigorous. It typically requires in-depth and meticulous independent research and approval through a peer review process, which hopefully leads to a candidate being awarded a PhD. As more published, recognized experts in their respective field add value to a college’s reputation, a positive feedback loop ignites, which leads to the most qualified students vying for admission, driving benefactors to write big checks, and the school to build even more comprehensive research facilities. This attracts the best and the brightest in academia looking for a place to hang their hat and more prospective students to apply.

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Issue 30
June 9, 2019
Fun Facts & Figures

Shoplifting & Theft

American retailers lose ~$50 billion dollars per year courtesy of theft. Shoplifting accounts for most (36.5%) of those losses. Employee theft, administrative errors and vendor fraud are responsible for most of the balance. According to Shopify, the most-shoplifted items include:

• Electronics
• Cigarettes
• Pregnancy Tests
• Handbags
• Weight loss pills
• Pain relievers
• Infant formula
• Alcohol
• Razors

"Thou shalt not steal" is one of the Ten Commandments of the Jewish Torah (known to Christians as the first five books of the Old Testament), which are widely understood as moral imperatives by legal scholars, Jewish scholars, Catholic scholars, and Post-Reformation scholars. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The seventh commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one's neighbor and wronging him in any way with respect to his goods. It commands justice and charity in the care of earthly goods and the fruits of men's labor. For the sake of the common good, it requires respect for the universal destination of goods and respect for the right to private property.”

• The Bible is world's most shoplifted book. Most are swiped from hotel rooms.

Dangerous Animals

The Cone Snail, sometimes referred to as the “cigarette snail,” is a mollusk that typically measures ~5 inches in length. It is considered the 9th most dangerous animal in the world by Conde Nast Traveler (CNT). If you are ever on holiday in the Caribbean, you might be unlucky enough to meet one, especially near the vicinity of a coral reef. Cone Snails are gorgeous animals defined by their peculiar shape and beautiful shell. Look, but do not touch; they are one of the most toxic creatures on earth. Fortunately, only a few people have ever had the misfortune of being stung by one (there is no antivenom). If you happen to get stung by a Cone Snail, do not bother going to the ER, you will be dead on arrival. Instead, smoke a cigarette. The Cone Snail’s highly toxic and concentrated venom causes paralysis then death in the time it takes the average smoker to finish a cigarette, hence the snails nickname.

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Issue 36
July 28, 2019
4x3x2x1 Eat Right Live Well and Have Fun

Ever since high school, I have taken a keen interest in physical fitness, worked out consistently, read different books and periodicals and consulted with many fitness pros to broaden my knowledge base on the subject. I have logged thousands of hours in the gym testing out numerous weight lifting (anaerobic), aerobic, stretching and dieting routines, using myself as a human guinea pig. Since then, I have tailored many strength training and conditioning programs, stretching routines, and given copious amounts of nutritional advice to family, friends and fellow gym rats. When I was in my twenties and early thirties, a disproportionate amount of inquiries that came my way were about lifting weights and stretching. Once I turned 40, the majority of questions I received had more to do with diet and weight loss.

Mythos

Does a “diet” exist that people with an average amount of willpower can actually stick to over the long term, does not deprive them of their favorite foods and is well-balanced? The short answer is “no.” Indeed, the number of get slim quick gimmicks, get lean fast fads, and other enticing offers that conveniently find their way into our inboxes (talk about “junk” mail), mailboxes, across our computer screens or in books and magazines is mind boggling, can be overwhelming and most importantly, are of little long term practical value. The notion of the term “diet” is temporary, which is why they often fail; it inherently implies a short-term solution to eating and lifestyle choices that will revert to the mean. Below is a sampling of three of the most famous diets:

The South Beach Diet: In this diet, the subject must eliminate “bad carbs” derived in part from sodas, candy and cookies and eat protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and “good carbs” derived in part from brown rice, corn and legumes.

The Paleo Diet: Commonly referred to as the “caveman diet.” Only foods that existed hundreds and thousands of years ago before the advent of modern food processing technology, are allowed to be consumed. Meat, fish, nuts and vegetables are permissible. All grains and processed foods are not.

The Atkins Diet: The most famous of all fads. The original Atkins Diet simply instructed its participants to avoid all carbohydrates; fried eggs and bacon where fine. The new Atkins Diet is “healthier.” It includes leaner protein and “good carbs.” However, whole grains are not allowed until later, once the dieter enters the “maintenance phase.”

All three of these diets are rigid, not particularly well balanced, and close to impossible to stick to over the long term. The primary reason is because they all deprive of us of some of our favorite foods. That is no fun and tends to put people in rotten moods.

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Issue 38
August 11, 2019
$Investing$

One of the costliest and, unfortunately, consistent mistakes many investors make is to purchase a stock and employ a “stop” price, where they will sell their stock if it declines by a predetermined amount, typically 5% or 10%. Arbitrary stop prices potentially preserve some capital in the short term, but often prevent investors from making multiples of the money they saved from using the “stop” price, in the long term. In fact, utilizing a “stop loss” will almost guarantee that an investor will grossly underperform an appropriate benchmark consisting of a basket of stocks. The reason for this is simple: almost every single publicly listed stock that doubles, triples, quadruples, quintuples or even sextuples over a one, two, five etc., year time horizon declines at least 20% in between doubling, tripling, quadrupling or quintupling, etc., at least once, and often, many times.

Absent a corporate takeover, the results of a late stage clinical trial for a small biotech company, or another atypical event, stock price gains (and losses) are almost never linear. Let’s use a few real-life examples to help frame our argument:

Over the last five years, the shares of Netflix (NFLX) have gained over 500%. However, in between quintupling during half a decade, NFLX suffered a 30% drawdown in March/April of 2014, a 38% sell-off in August of 2015, and plummeted 45% in 2018. Had an investor sold NFLX during anyone of those three corrections they would have missed out on a large percentage of NFLX’s price appreciation. Over the last five years, the shares of Amazon (AMZN) have risen over 550%! However, in between almost sextupling in those five years, AMZN lost 28% in January/February of 2016, 13% in August of 2017, 16% in March of 2018 and 33% in the 4th quarter of 2018. Had an investor dumped AMZN at any point during those four acute sell-offs, they would have forfeited a substantial sum of money.

Worth noting is that this phenomenon is not just limited to technology or biotech stocks. It applies to blue chip companies as well. For example, the shares of Bank of America (BAC) have doubled since 2014. But in between generating a 100% return over a five year period, BAC corrected 17% in April/May of 2014, 17% in August of 2015, 40% in January/February of 2016, 25% in June/July of 2016 and 33% in 2018. Had an investor panicked and sold BAC on a negative headline during any one of the examples listed above, they could very well be sitting on a realized loss, despite BAC doubling over the last five years. Even stodgy, safe and steady Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), one of the lowest volatility stocks in the S&P500, has grinded out a gain of 33% over the last 5 years (investors were also treated to dividends). However, in between rising 33%, JNJ traded down 10% in September/October of 2014, 10% in January of 2016, 10% in the last 6 months of 2016, 14% in January of in 2018 and 14% in December of 2018. If an investor sold JNJ during any one of these drawdowns, their investment portfolio might very well be in need of a JNJ band-aid.

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Issue 40
August 25, 2019
XXX Pornography XXX

The Internet has connected people on many fronts. It has also rendered access to adult content so ubiquitous that it is almost a truism that everyone with web access has seen pornography online.

According to Similairweb, Pornhub is the 6th most popular website in the United States, trailing only Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon and Yahoo, and ranking ahead of Twitter and eBay. In fact, three of the top ten most popular websites in America feature adult content.

When comparing websites, giving heavier weight to duration on a page vs number of page visits might yield somewhat different results; but even factoring in the potential for variance, it is indisputable that pornography is indeed one of the most commonly sought after “goods and services” available online.

Astonishingly, Pornhub compiles and aggregates an exhaustive amount of user data via its Pornhub Insights tool. The wealth of available information is staggering. Here is a snippet of what we found for the year 2018, the last full year for which data has been compiled:

• Visits to Pornhub totaled 33.5 billion over the course of 2018, an increase of 5 billion visits over 2017.
• Pornhub’s servers served up 30.3 billion searches, or 962 searches per second.
• Pornhub’s amateurs, models and content partners uploaded an incredible 4.79 million new videos, creating over 1 million hours of new content to enjoy on the site.
• The average visit duration in the United States was 10 minutes and 37 seconds. On a more granular level, users in Mississippi, South Carolina & Arkansas spent ~10% > average on the site, while users in Kansas, Nebraska & Utah logged ~10% < the mean.
• The most popular times to view porn was between 4pm – 5pm & 10PM – 1AM.
• ~28% of Pornhub’s users were women, a 3% increase from 2017.
• 25-34 year olds made up the highest percentage of users, at 35%. The average age of Pornhub viewers is 36.
• During the NFL Super Bowl, Pornhub traffic plunged 26%. During Thanksgiving people apparently ate their feelings instead; traffic dropped 13%. Nobody wanted to be “that guy” on New Year's Eve, when visits to the site dropped by 38%.
• Kim Kardashian’s sex tape is still Pornhub’s most watched video of all time with 195 million views.

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Issue 42
September 15, 2019
License...To Shampoo

Every election cycle lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle often campaign on vague platitudes, pretending to be change agents who will finally catalyze transformative action on a range of issues like:

“Making the American dream accessible again.”
“Providing opportunities to all Americans.”
"Ensuring our children don’t bear the burden of our profligacy.”
"Supporting middle class wage growth.”
"Making education affordable.”
"Lowering the cost of healthcare.”
"Preserving the planet and protecting our resources.”

And so on...

Aside from a shrinking minority of centrists in Washington who actually work to build consensus across party lines, Republicans and Democrats have their own distinctive ideas about how to facilitate these grand plans. Unfortunately, the only consistent aspect of all these respective ideas is that they are overly grandiose, lack important details, economically unviable and politically dead on arrival. So in the run up to election day, we are promised the same things we hear in every election cycle but rarely, if ever, witness any substantive action once lawmakers are voted in to (or out of) office.

What if we told you there was a simple way to translate these grand intentions into reality with a politically sensible approach that would be agreeable across party lines? There is. And it cost nothing.

Democrats and Republicans can and should work together to repeal unnecessary and prohibitively expensive occupational licensing laws. When being licensed is in the public's interest, reciprocity agreements between states should be enacted. Lawmakers should also eliminate arbitrary education requirements for most trades. In doing so, they would actually endorse the economic and fiscal pillars that underpin conservative arguments while also appealing to progressive and egalitarian causes underpin liberal viewpoints.

License to…Shampoo

In the 1950’s, very few (~5%) professional occupations required a license at the state level. Today ~30% of all professional occupations require some sort of license across the 50 states in the union. The result: a complex, grossly inefficient web of inconsistent state and local laws pertaining to professional licensing. A report prepared by the Obama Administration’s Council of Economic Advisers & Department of Labor highlighted the fact that “over 1,100 occupations are regulated in at least one state, but fewer than 60 are regulated in all 50 states – suggesting that many of these requirements may not be necessary."

In the majority of states, a person must have a high school diploma or a GED to become a barber. This arbitrary requirement is absurd, unnecessary and discriminatory. Why would earning a high school diploma (or GED) make anybody more (or less) qualified to cut somebody’s hair? Solving basic algebra won’t render someone more qualified to eradicate a split end or sculpt a mohawk. There is no causal relationship to suggest this. This onerous requirement merely prevents somebody from practicing a trade and earning a decent wage.

Barbers aren’t likely to be replaced by robots anytime soon. Pursuing a career as a barber ostensibly allows those who are seeking to make an honest living to do so. Prohibiting someone from becoming a barber because they lack a degree is senseless and discriminates against people who lack the aforementioned academic credentials.

On October 8th, 2017 the former senior senator from Tennessee Bob Corker tweeted, “It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.” True as that might be, at The Quintessential Centrist, we cannot help but point out the irony in this tweet. For in the state of Tennessee, “permission to shampoo hair requires taking two exams, at a cost of $140, plus a $50 annual fee. On top of that, someone must take 300 hours of training ‘on the theory and practice of shampooing,’ at a cost of upwards of $3,000 for the tuition." But here is the kicker: no facility in the state currently even offers a course in 'shampoo tech.' Effectively, their only options would be "a) to go through the more rigorous and expensive process (1,500 hours and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition) of obtaining a cosmetology license, or b) to wash hair illegally…(and) face up to six months in prison and a $500 criminal fine, or a $1,000 civil penalty…” Apparently, the adult day care business is flourishing quite nicely in the Volunteer state.

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Issue 43
September 22, 2019
Are Wedding Parties A Waste of Money?

Last year, approximately 2.5 million weddings took place in the United States. According to the Knot, the average cost of a wedding in America in 2018 (excluding the Honeymoon) was $33,931. That would equate to ~85 billion dollars per year spent on that special (or not so special) day. Irrespective that ~50% of all weddings end in divorce (and 50% of those that don’t probably should) the question remains: Are wedding parties a waste of resources that should be allocated to more appropriate causes?

In March, The Quintessential Centrist discussed the student loan crisis and potential remedies. To forgo lavish spending on nuptials was not a solution we offered. It should have been. While a select few fortunate young couples in America are lucky enough not to be in an “either/or” situation, the overwhelming majority of newlyweds (and their families) should make a conscious choice between spending on a sumptuous wedding, putting the money into a college fund, or making a down payment on a home.

Wedding Ca$hers

While the average wedding costs just south of $34,000, there are considerable variations when broken down by region. At the state level, the least expensive places to get hitched are in Mississippi ($15,581), Alabama ($17,766) & Arkansas ($17,935). The most expensive states to ruin your life in (just kidding) are Hawaii ($39,078), New Jersey ($38,049) & Connecticut ($36,971). The most expensive place to get married is in Manhattan, in New York State, where the average wedding runs close to $100,000 ($96,910).

Real Life

Wisconsin ranks #25, smack in the middle of the pack, with the average cost of a wedding running $24,681. Wisconsin also ranks 23rd in median household income at $54,610. The median home price is $187,100. In the Badger state, the average cost of instate college tuition, room and board workout to ~$18,000 per year.

Let us assume that an imminently married couple in Wisconsin is considering whether or not to divert $24,681 intended to pay for their “average” wedding into a tax-sheltered education IRA for their impending offspring. From 1957 to 2018, the average annual return for a broad basket of stocks has been ~8% (Prior to the mid 1950’s, stocks returned ~10% per year). To be conservative, let’s assume this couple picked a subpar stock fund that returned just 6.5% per annum until their child was ready to attend college. When their child turns 18, that initial $24,681 investment, even returning just 6.5% per year, would be worth $76,675! To be fair, we must factor in annual education costs increases. “The average rate of education inflation at public universities is 2.9%.” Using this methodology, by the time this child is ready to depart for university, the average cost of tuition, room and board at a state school in Wisconsin will be $30,112. $76,675 dollars would cover over 2 years of tuition, room and board. Keep in mind that ~70% of college students are forced to take out loans to pay for their education and leave school with ~$30,000 in debt. Put simply, it would behoove this couple to forgo spending $24,681 on one night (perhaps not) to remember, and put the money towards their unborn child’s education.

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Issue 47
October 20, 2019
25 Facts About America

Food

• Americans discarded $165 billion worth of food last year. That equates to roughly 150,000 tons of food per day, or ~40% of the total. "Fruits and vegetables are the most likely to be thrown out, followed by dairy and then meat."

• ~12% of Americans do not have enough to eat on a daily basis.

• "The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines 'food insecurity' as the lack of access, at times, to enough food for all household members. In 2017, an estimated 15 million households were food insecure. The following 8 states have the highest rates of food insecurity in America: Mississippi (18.7%), Louisiana (18.3%), Alabama (18.1%), New Mexico (17.6%), Arkansas (17.5%), Kentucky (17.3%), Maine (16.4%), Oklahoma (15.2%)."

• In the early 1970's, Americans consumed ~2,200 calories per day. Today, the average American eats ~2,700 calories per day.

• "Three of the most caloric fast casual meals in America are: Chili's Crispy Honey Chipotle and Waffles containing 2,480 calories, 125 g fat (40 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans-fat), 5,240 mg sodium, 276 g carbs (11 g fiber, 105 g sugar), and 63 g of protein. Applebee's New England Fish and Chips consists of 1,990 calories, 137 g fat (24 g saturated fat, 1.5 g trans fat), 4,540 mg sodium, 134 g carbs (10 g fiber, 14 g sugar) and 55 g of protein. Finally, Olive Garden's Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara weighs in at 1,590 calories, 114 g fat (61 g saturated fat, 2 g trans fat), 2,410 mg sodium, 78 g carbs (4 g fiber, 12 g sugar) and 66 g of protein."

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Issue 5
December 2, 2018
Gentleman’s Clubs and Nail Salons

At The Quintessential Centrist, we believe its important to be balanced and prudent. Sometimes, that involves highlighting and examining some uncomfortable hypocrisies.

In New York City, the competition amongst nail salons is fierce. There are often two competing salons on the same square block. The welcoming signs and smiling faces mask a painful reality; this a business model partially underpinned by human trafficking and other blatant civil rights violations. While human rights abuses in the sex-trade and related industries are well documented, similar violations in the nail salon industry are rarely mentioned in the press. Here is one exception.

A disproportionate number of nail salon employees are undocumented immigrants. Hence, this is a particularly vulnerable demographic for a myriad of reasons. Their remuneration is often below minimum wage, including tips. And those are the more fortunate ones. Others are not compensated at all while many are subjected to mistreatment at the hands of their employers. The working conditions can be abysmal. Young women are often exposed to toxic chemicals without proper protective gear. As their wages are so low, these vulnerable employees have little choice but to "live" in overcrowded one-room dwellings, many of which lack basic safety features. These homes are often as unhygienic as the salon's where they work 12-14 hours a day in, tending to the hands and feet of "exhausted" patrons.

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Issue 50
November 10, 2019
Giants vs Jets

This Sunday November 10th, at 1PM EST, The New York Giants will host The New York Jets at MetLife Stadium, the venue in East Rutherford, NJ, where both teams typically play their home games. To say that both organizations are struggling would be an understatement. Sadly, struggling is nothing new for the “same old Jets,” the widely-used catchphrase fans use to describe the anticipation (finally) of success, only to be let down, time and again.

New York Jets

Many die-hard Jet fans – including this one - point to a divisional playoff game vs the Cleveland Browns in 1986 when the football gods decided to put the Jets in the penalty box. The men in green were leading by 10 points late in the 4th quarter. The Browns had the ball and were facing a second down and 24 yards to go. Star defensive end Mark Gastineau sacked Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar; it appeared the Browns would be in a desperate 3rd and 24. But a flag was thrown; Gastineau was penalized for roughing the passer, a foul that is (too) common today but relatively rare back then. The Jets protested to no avail. The Browns subsequently drove down the field and scored a touchdown. After stopping the Jets and getting the ball back, the Browns tied the game with seconds remaining on the game clock. In the first overtime neither team scored. The game was settled with ~2 minutes remaining in the second overtime when Browns kicker Mark Mosely booted a 27-yard field goal to seal the victory. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Jets have not won their division (the AFC East) since 2002, and only once before then in 1998. They have not made the playoffs in almost 10 years when a then over-hyped quarterback named Marc Sanchez “lead” the team to back-to-back AFC Championship games in ’09 & ’10. In reality, it was a stout defense and power running game that enabled the Jets to advance that far. A microcosm of the Jets folly was Sanchez’s famous “butt fumble” that occurred on Thanksgiving Day in 2012, on national television, the seminal moment in a 49-19 lashing courtesy of the New England Patriots. Another embarrassing spectacle in Jets history was the “fake spike” engineered by Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in 1994. That play propelled the Dolphins to victory and took the air out of the Jets season.

Over the past three decades, Jet supporters have been teased on numerous occasions as it appeared that “greener” pastures lay ahead. There have even been brief windows of success within the multi-decade malaise of New York Jets football. In addition to the back-to-back AFC Championship appearances, the Monday Night Miracle will forever be a bright spot in Jets history. Unfortunately, one of the few things the Jets have done consistently during this span, even during times of reprieve, is come up short. In 1998 after winning the AFC East, the Jets were one game away from reaching the Super Bowl. The Denver Broncos ended that possibility by scoring 23 unanswered points in the second half of the AFC Championship game, which resulted in a 23-10 Broncos victory. In 2004, (historically) reliable kicker Doug Brien missed two 4th quarter field goals that would have sent the Jets to the AFC title game.

In a 2013 pre-season game, Marc Sanchez was inexplicably playing behind the 2nd team offensive line. They proved porous. Near the end of the game, Sanchez absorbed a hard hit and injured his shoulder. Rookie Geno Smith was summoned and started all 16 games of the season. The team finished 8-8. Smith improved in 2014 but had a weak supporting-cast. The Jets struggled and finished with just 4 wins against 12 losses. Nevertheless, the future appeared bright with the young talented Smith under center. Expectations were lofty leading up to the 2015 season. However, in a stunning example of intra-squad dysfunction, during training camp of that year, Smith was involved in an altercation with teammate. Reserve linebacker IK Enemkpali was enraged that Smith failed to repay him $600 for a plane ticket to a football camp. Unable to settle their differences through dialogue, a fight ensued. Enemkpali punched Smith in the face. Smith suffered a broken jaw. His season was over before it started, his fate as a Jet all but sealed. He is currently a backup for the Seattle Seahawks.

Selecting 1st round draft busts is one area where the Jets have excelled. This has been a specialty of Jets management since quarterback Richard Todd was selected in the first round of the 1976 draft. Other notable 1st round busts include WR Lam Jones (’80), RB Roger Vick (’87), RB Blair Thomas (’90), QB Browning Nagle (’91), DT Dewayne Robertson (’03), LB Vernon Gholson (’08), DB Kyle Wilson (’10), DE Quinton Coples (’12) and DB Dee Milliner (’13). While QB Christian Hackenberg was not selected in the first round - he was a second-round pick - he deserves special mention. The Jets selected Hackenberg with the 51st pick of the 2016 draft. He was signed to a four-year contract worth $4.66 million, with $1.6 million guaranteed. The Jets cut him after two seasons. He never stepped on the field in a regular season game. He is currently out of football. Jets management accomplished an even more stunning feat of ineptitude by selected Jachai Polite in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. Polite was given a $1.12 million dollar signing bonus. After paying $100,000 in fines for being late to team meetings, the Jets released Polite before this season even began! He is currently on the Los Angeles Raiders’ practice squad.

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Issue 51
November 17, 2019
TQC Book Review

At the Quintessential Centrist, our goal is to furnish you with fresh perspectives from across the political, economic and social spectrum. We strive to promote ideals and tenets of the center - where compromise is often found - through our in-depth columns, articles and analysis.

The internet, print, broadcast, and social media can all be sources of interesting and timely information. However, TQC believes that books often times contain some of the most pertinent and thought-provoking facts, figures and opinions. Some books are packed with quantitative information and hard data. These books we find help us buoy (or challenge) our arguments and in some cases, tightly held beliefs. Other books are more qualitative in nature; typically adding value from a top down perspective, incorporating ideas and values across the ideological spectrum. The very best titles challenge us to think objectively, critically, self-reflect, and potentially change our minds. Below we highlight a few of our favorite books we have read over the past year.

Energy and Civilization: A History by Vaclav Smil

The 35th of an incredible 36 books penned thus far in his illustrious career; Vaclav Smil, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba in Canada, offers his readers a fascinating history lesson on mankind, their relationship with, and consumption of, energy and natural resources. Be forewarned, this book is data heavy and granular in presentation. It requires the readers undivided attention. That said, it is well worth investing the time to read it as it is jam packed with important facts and figures. Energy and Civilization helped us examine more critically man’s relationship with the planet he lives on, and off.

Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes by Jenny Anderson & Paula Szuchman

Authored by New York Times reporter and Gerald Loeb Award winner Jenny Anderson and Paula Szuchman, former managing editor of The Daily Beast and Page 1 editor at The Wall Street Journal, Spousonomics is a very fun and informative book that uses classic economic principles to target, tackle and remedy issues that arise in almost every marriage. Do not be deterred if you have never studied finance or economics. The examples given in this book are in layman’s terms (not theoretical numeric formulas), easy to understand, and applicable to “real life” situations.

Solitary by Albert Woodfox

Albert Woodfox, is a human rights activist and part of the “Angola 3.” Woodfox spent 40 years in solitary confinement at Louisiana’s infamous Angola Prison for a crime he did not commit. During his time at Angola, Woodfox endured unimaginable physical and psychological torture. This book captures the endurance of the human spirit, America’s (often) unfair and biased legal system, it’s (sometimes) ugly history, as well as progress. We do not agree with all of Woodfox’s arguments, especially concerning capitalism, but we recommend reading his memoir.

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Issue 53
December 8, 2019
It's Your Birthday, Thank Mom

My birthday was on December 2nd. Before sunrise, my phone blew up with “Happy Birthday” texts, many of which were likely prompted by Facebook reminders. These continued at a steady pace throughout the day. Some people chose to wish me a “Happy Birthday” via Facebook itself. A few “Birthday emails” made their way into my inbox. Traditionalists picked up the phone and rang, one (ready for this) from a land line. I even received a letter in my (gasp) physical mailbox.

Texts were the easiest to respond to. The majority of my well-wishers did not say “Happy Birthday Chris.” They simply texted what seemed to be a canned “Happy Birthday.” Thus, “Thank you, I appreciate it” was generic enough a response that cutting, pasting and using it to acknowledge those acknowledgments more than sufficed. Most of the balance of the texts read “Happy Birthday Chris.” Alas, these required individualized responses. I had to say, “Thank You (insert name here), I appreciate it.” Facebook posts were easy to “like” - err - respond to. Emails required a more in-depth retort. “Happy Birthday Chris, I hope you are well” obliged me to ensure my well-wishers via this medium that, indeed, all was ok in my world.

Mom’s Should Receive Our Happy Birthday Wishes

Most of us, myself included, feel obliged to wish friends and family members a “Happy Birthday.” Rarely, if ever, does anybody say “thank you” on our birthdays to the women that were primarily responsible for bringing us into this world: our respective mothers. We should make a point to do so. Moms endure stress, physical trauma, often get sick during pregnancy, put careers on hold and generally sacrifice so much to usher us into this ecosphere. They should be the recipients of our “Happy Birthday” wishes.

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Issue 56
December 29, 2019
Thank You (2019)

2019 was the first full year for The Quintessential Centrist (TQC). We would like to thank all of our readers for playing an integral role in our growing platform, an online forum that incorporates ideas and values across the ideological spectrum.

TQC is a work in progress. We have certainly made mistakes and have done our best to remedy and learn from them. Your constructive criticism helps us better accomplish our objective: to offer readers ideas that blend news, analysis and viewpoints from the left, right, and center of the political and social gamut.

Over the course of 2019, we analyzed and opined on a broad array of topics related to politics, current events, culture, finance, technology, national security, health and wellness, international and domestic affairs, the arts, and more. In total, we penned 47 articles. What did we get right? Where did we come up short? Which articles elicited the most positive, negative, and impassioned responses etc.?

Whenever we received an approximately equal amount of critique from the left and right, our take was that we had fulfilled our objective of promoting the ideals and tenets of the center. We were extremely pleased with results of TQC’s Position On Gun Control. Many staunch conservatives accused us of being closeted liberals. An overwhelming number of liberals accused us of being a mouthpiece for the right. Hence, our piece on gun control was “on target.” Perhaps not so surprisingly, TQC’s Position On Abortion, proved catalytic for similar responses from both sides. This reassured us that we split the goalposts down the middle on that always controversial issue. We also received equally representative takeaways from Super Bowl LIII, Cash Bail Should Be Abolished, Fast Fashion Fails To Look In The Mirror, Planes, Trains & Emotional Support Animals, Touchy Subjects, and Religious Freedom vs Discrimination.

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Issue 8
December 23, 2018
Santa's Identity Crisis

While many families are hunkering down for a festive Christmas, the mood in the Claus household is more somber. And perhaps with good reason. Santa’s identity faces challenges with some clamoring that he should be neither a man nor a woman while others say he should be a man. But fear not Mrs. Claus, for based on a survey conducted by Graphic Springs, 19% believe Santa shouldn’t lay claim to any gender, while 10% say he should be woman and an overwhelming 70% say he should retain his male gender status. While we can be reassured that Santa in his current rendition is not about to be usurped any time soon, that this dialogue is even taking place defies comprehension.

Christmas is one of the few holidays that have transcended religion. It is a unifying time of the year for many. Indeed, the lore of Santa, the North Pole, toy making elves, and reindeer is cheery and warming but also rooted in compassion. The original Saint Nicholas, upon whom Santa is predicated, was actually a Greek Bishop born in the 4th century. He was known for his charitable acts of providing gifts to the poor. The ongoing tradition of gift giving to children post St. Nicholas was, in fact, in honor of his name day on December 6th. At the behest of Martin Luther during the Reformation, the date of gift giving was redirected to Christmas Eve as homage to Christ. While the Reformation gave rise to other traditions such as Christmas Trees, carols and Christmas markets, St. Nicholas endured and became Santa Claus. This evolution over 1600 years has put the Claus family firmly on the map.

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