We are stupid about money, and we do stupid things that cost us money.
Here are some of the latest examples.
DUMB — JANET YELLEN AND YOUR $600 BANK ACCOUNT
America is broke and the president needs trillions of dollars to fund his projects, but the fastest way to turn yourself into “One-Term Joe” is to suggest the IRS monitor American bank accounts with only $600.
The theory behind this insanely stupid proposal is that the government could reap another $460 billion in tax dollars over a decade by checking to see if the money in your bank account aligns with your reported income.
No doubt some of that newly discovered tax money could be used to hire more IRS agents.
The proposal is supposed to target the wealthy, but most of us down here who actually pay our taxes see it as a gross overreach (Gross Overreach would be a great name for a band).
Yet Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is doubling down on the idea, with a popped collar and a tin ear.
Yellen told CBS’s Norah O’Donnell that the proposal has been “seriously mischaracterized,” and that “If somebody reports an income of $10,000, and they had $3 million go out of their checking account, that tells the IRS that that’s an individual you might audit.”
First of all, that individual is a drug dealer.
So why not look at bank accounts starting at $10,000? $1 million? Why not spend resources figuring out how Elon Musk legally paid zero income taxes in 2018? The $7 trillion tax gap you’re looking to fill isn’t gonna come from shenanigans in the bank account of a school custodian or a $15-an-hour caregiver.
Madam Secretary, back off.
DUMBER — FACEBOOK
Disclosure: Facebook pays me for writing Wells Street, and I am glad of it.
That said, Facebook is Faceplanting this month.
First, there’s the whistleblower who says management puts profits over safety (Facebook denies the accusations).
Third, the New York Times reports the company is making private certain internal discussion groups focusing on integrity issues to help cut down on leaks, something the company says it was already planning.
“Leaks make it harder for our teams to work together, can put employees working on sensitive subjects at risk externally and lead to complex topics being misrepresented and misunderstood,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone told the Times in a statement.
That should solve the problem!
DUMBERER — BILL GROSS SERVES UP THE WHOLE ENCHILADA
Bill Gross is a billionaire who used to have a lot of influence running bond giant PIMCO.
He left PIMCO (it was not a nice breakup), lost influence, went through an ugly divorce, bought a new mansion, and launched a war with his neighbor.
Gross and neighbor Mark Towfiq, have been feuding since last year when Gross and his new wife, Amy, installed an expensive art installation covered by a large protective net along their shared Laguna Beach property line. Towfiq complained it ruined his oceanfront view, and then he complained that the Grosses retaliated by playing loud music at all hours, including the theme from “Gilligan’s Island.”
Money doesn’t protect you from having lousy neighbors.
In December, a judge banned Gross from playing loud music outside, but Towfiq claims it happened again.
So back to court they went! The same judge found both Grosses were grossly in contempt of the court, sending them off to community service.
Hell hath no fury like a billionaire scorned.
This week, Gross wrote about the experience in a press release about the outlook for bond markets, in which he took a shot at the judge.
“Enter the hanging judge of the Laguna Beach shore,” the billionaire writes, “a 57-year-old lady with pierced nose stud and visible tattoos, to retry and rehang the highly visible target of Bill Gross – ex-Bond King and obviously still ‘full of himself’ senior citizen.”
Gross goes on to say that their community service was at a Santa Ana soup kitchen where he and Amy have volunteered before. To his surprise, the meal they handed out was not the usual mediocre lasagna or split pea soup, but “a gorgeous enchilada lunch replete with cheesecake and chips.”
Because of Covid, no one could dine inside the food pantry, so the Grosses served food at a drive-through lane, where they were shocked to discover people in “nice SUVs and pickup trucks” allegedly taking advantage of the free food.
“There were vegan meals, gluten-free meals, five kinds of bread, and orders from the cars to skip the meal but to give them mini-sacks of avocados and artichokes for special diets later in the day,” Gross writes. “There was one request for a feminine hygiene package and several for prophylactics. But not to be outdone, requests for ‘doggie bites’ and cat food kept Amy and I scrambling from noon to 3 pm.”
Bill Gross needs to alert Janet Yellen to this crowd!
“Perhaps we have all been screwed if the Santa Ana soup kitchen is any example,” he muses.
Dude, please. Screwed? You, who are worth $1.5 billion? At least no one driving up for a free enchilada was blasting “Gilligan’s Island” from their Porsche Cayenne.
DUMBERERER — SOUTHWEST AIRLINES
Southwest canceled about 2,400 flights over the last week. At first the airline blamed the weather and an air traffic control issue.
No other airline had similar problems.
The latest snafu follows nearly 2,700 canceled Southwest flights last June. CNBC’s Jim Cramer confronted Kelly, “Something’s wrong at Southwest Air.”
Kelly agreed the company needs to do better.
I mean, when American and United are outperforming you…
DUMBERERERER — CHUCKY’S HORROR MOVIE
Jon “Chucky” Gruden stuck a knife in his career when emails emerged from the last decade, emails which check all the necessary boxes to be canceled.
And he put all of these thoughts in writing. How many times have I told you people never to put in writing what you wouldn’t say on TV?
Gruden’s remarks may cost him more than $60 million, assuming the Raiders don’t end up paying severance.
But his stupidity has cost him something more valuable: his reputation.
Some people say cancel culture is out of control, and maybe it is, but I always wonder: If you feel comfortable putting something clearly over-the-line in an email, in writing, what do you feel comfortable saying when no one else is around?
Meantime, I’m awaiting more news about Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder and former president Bruce Allen. This story ain’t over.
DUMBERERERERER — BUYERS OF THE TRUMP DC HOTEL
Donald Trump said his hotel in the nation’s capital generated about $150 million over four years, but a congressional report suggests it lost $70 million during that period.
Now the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg report an investment group out of Miami that includes A-Rod are close to buying the rights to the Trump International Hotel Washington DC for $370 million. (The federal government owns the building, which is the Old Post Office; the Trump Organization just leases it.)
Forbes’ Dan Alexander questions who in his right mind would pay that price, estimating the hotel isn’t worth even half that.
But hey, good for Trump! It might be the best financial news he’s had in a long time. Dan Alexander also reports the Trump Organization is currently $1.3 billion in debt.
HONORABLE MENTION — EAST LANSING SCHOOLS
Elementary schools in East Lansing, Michigan, will skip Halloween costumes (and also Valentine’s Day exchanges) because some kids feel hurt and left out. Newsflash: Kids at one point or another feel hurt or left out. It’s an unfortunate but important part of growing up. You can’t protect them from it, so why not help them through it?
DUMBEST — THE SUPPLY CHAIN AND “24/7” MYTH
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief this week with news that the overcrowded ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were finally going to operate 24/7, like the rest of the world.
“Today's announcement has the potential to be a game changer,” President Biden said.
Media reports trumpeted the news. “L.A. Port to Operate Around the Clock to Ease Cargo Logjams,” was a headline in the Wall Street Journal.
Uh, not quite.
Port managers in L.A. and Long Beach are merely landlords for about a dozen tenants. Those tenants are privately owned terminal operators who actually bring in the ships and decide things like when cargo is unloaded and when trucks will be accepted. Many of them are foreign owned, and they run things as they see fit. Though the President is putting pressure on them, most have not announced 24/7 operations.
Think of it this way. The big announcement was like a shopping mall saying, “Come on in! We’re open all night!” But only one store is actually open.
There are many factors making our supply chain the dumbest in the world right now, but so far the “24/7” announcement is, as one port-watcher told me, “lipstick on a pig.”
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments, and I will respond. Thank you!
Cover image of Bill Gross credit: Media News Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images.