For about 20 years, Ray Keating wrote a weekly column - a short time with the New York City Tribune, more than 11 years with Newsday, another seven years with Long Island Business News, plus another year-and-a-half with RealClearMarkets.com. While writing four to five online analyses each week in his economist position, Keating decided to expand additional, regular commentary touching on a broad range of issues. So, here it goes...

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

A Golf Course Case Makes Clear Long Island’s Costly Dysfunction

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – February 26, 2020

When it comes to taxes and government waste, Long Island stands out for its excesses and dysfunction. And Suffolk County is serving up another example with a case involving two golf courses in the Town of Riverhead.


The Links at Cherry Creek and The Woods at Cherry Creek golf courses have been up for sale for a few years now. So, what particularly makes this an ugly Long Island story? The answer is twofold – first, it has to do with why the courses are up for sale, and second, what county government is considering in response.

A February 24 RiverheadLocal.com story hit on what’s happening. The two courses cover 296 acres, and according to one of the ownership partners, Vinny Sasso, “It’s very tough. And golf is very seasonal. This year you’re getting some play, but normally in the winter you’re closed for like five months. If the taxes were reasonable we wouldn’t even think about selling.”

The property tax bill was $354,990. That’s simply stunning.

Here’s a glaring example of taxes suffocating business on Long Island – indeed, forcing a business to sell. Unfortunately, that’s not all that unusual on Long Island, or across much of New York, for that matter.

What’s the response of elected officials? Well, on Long Island, the answer is to make the situation even worse. Specifically, the Suffolk County legislature next week will consider a resolution to authorize an appraisal of the property with the ultimate intention of buying the two golf course, and then reverting them to “open space.”

Excuse me?

That’s right, taxpayer money would be used to fork over millions of dollars – it was reported that listed price for the golf courses is $25 million – so that an oddly shaped piece of land, wedged in among farms, houses and another golf course, would be returned to a “natural state.”

Of course, assorted environmental groups love the idea. One would think that any person with common sense, however, would be left bewildered.

On the other hand, heck, what’s not to love? Taxes push a business to sell. Government considers spending tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to buy it. And then the land would be used, well, for absolutely nothing. That’s government. That’s Long Island.

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Ray Keating is a columnist, an economist, a novelist (his latest novels are The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series, and the second edition of Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel with a new Author Introduction), a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Presidential Elections Mean Wall Street Talking Heads Slip into Denial

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – February 24, 2020

Well, 2020, of course, is a presidential election year, so get ready for some ridiculous political analysis courtesy of various Wall Street, business, and even on occasion, free-market analysts. Many will be in denial regarding what candidates pledge to do on assorted policy issues.


And given that the race for the White House this year will feature a hard-Left Democrat – with socialist Bernie Sanders in front at least for now – against the populist Donald Trump, who exhibits no self-control while on Twitter or near a hot microphone, denial might be ramped up in unprecedented ways. 

Why the denial? As a recent Fox Business article by Randy Swan opened, “Conventional wisdom has long held that investors should dismiss most of what they hear from presidential candidates on the campaign trail.”

Consider a few examples. When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, assorted business – and even a few free-market – analysts argued that if elected, Obama certainly wouldn’t carry through on his agenda of expanding government’s role in health care, raising taxes, and pushing ahead with protectionist measures on trade – as he most clearly pledged to do on the campaign trail. 

Yet, Obama and Congress imposed ObamaCare; taxes were increased under ObamaCare and at the start of 2013; and while Obama thankfully didn’t push ahead with his protectionist promises, he did largely move the U.S. to the policy sidelines when it came to trade, until his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord very late in his administration and to no avail.

So, contrary to widespread assumptions among assorted Wall Street talking heads, Obama pretty much did what he promised to do.

And then there was Donald Trump’s strident anti-free-trade rhetoric on the campaign trail. Many in the chattering class tried to assure investors that Trump wouldn’t go protectionist and/or start a trade war. After all, the argument went, no one would benefit. Well, of course, no one would benefit, yet, Trump shifted U.S. trade policy into a protectionist mode – pulling the U.S. out of the TPP; threatening and imposing higher tariffs on an array of products; attacking our closest trading partners with threats and/or the imposition of costly trade policies; and yes, starting a trade war with China.

So, despite assurances emanating from various “experts,” Trump did exactly what he said he would do on trade.

Go figure.

Why are the carriers of conventional wisdom in denial? Part of it might be a belief that politicians will say anything to get elected, so why believe them? While one is tempted to buy into that, in reality, most people run for the White House for a reason, and even if they seek power, it is power to do something.

More likely, the conventional wisdom-eers actually seem to think that politicians are too smart to do what they’ve promised to do, such as raising taxes, getting government more involved in health care, and engaging in trade wars. Wow, that really is denial!

Politicians have long served up dumb ideas that, for example, fly in the face of sound economics, and they’ll continue doing this, as evidenced by an astounding number of bad ideas being served up by Democrats seeking the White House this year. They, in fact, aren’t smart enough not to believe it. That was the case with Obama and taxes; is the case with Trump and trade; and most certainly is the case with, for example, Bernie Sanders and socialism, and Pete Buttigieg falling in love with seemingly every tax imaginable to man.

Don’t be talked into anything else. In the end, playing the denial game when it comes to politicians willing to do what they promise is highly dangerous. As is often the case with conventional wisdom, it’s dead wrong once again. Investors and everyone else should take what they hear from presidential candidates on the campaign trail very seriously.

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Ray Keating is a columnist, an economist, a novelist (his latest novels are The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series, and the second edition of Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel with a new Author Introduction), a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Pre-Order BEHIND ENEMY LINES: CONSERVATIVE COMMUNIQUES FROM LEFT-WING NEW YORK - Signed by Ray Keating


Here’s a wide-ranging collection of columns and essays from Ray Keating covering faith, economics, politics, history, trade, New York, foreign affairs, immigration, pop culture, business, sports, books, and more.


Keating is a longtime newspaper and online columnist, economist, policy analyst, and novelist. 

In these often confusing and contradictory times, Keating describes his brand of conservatism as traditional, American and Reagan-esque, firmly rooted in Judeo-Christian values, Western Civilization, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and essential ideas and institutions such as the Christian Church, the intrinsic value of each individual, the role of the family, freedom and individual responsibility, limited government, and free enterprise and free markets.

Here are the major sections of Behind Enemy Lines from the Table of Contents...

• Introduction: What is Conservatism?          

• Faith Matters

• Economics Isn’t Dismal ... Unless Left to Politicians, the Media and Professors    

• Politics: Unsavory and Not-So-Unsavory

• Why Does Anyone Live in New York?          

• The Not-So-Ugly American

• Trying to Learn from History

• Business Isn’t Evil

• Trade: Opportunity and Stupidity

• Immigration: Hope and Opportunity

• Pop Culture Ponderings

• Sports: The Great Diversion ... Mostly

• Thoughts on Assorted Books

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Road Ahead for NASCAR

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – February 18, 2020

Officially, I’m not a car guy. I changed my oil once years ago, and also swapped out a headlight on a single occasion. And when needed, I’ve jumped a battery. That’s about it when under the hood.

Photo: Courtesy of Daytona International Speedway

However, in recent years, I’ve gained an appreciation for cars. My interests run along the lines of speed, design, the business and history of automobiles, and how car culture has changed over the decades.

What about you? Are you a car guy or gal? Judging by NASCAR ratings and attendance, it appears that there are far fewer now than a little over a decade ago.

For example, the viewership for the 2019 Daytona 500 came in at 9.17 million (a 5.3 rating), which was the lowest looking at data going back to 1979. The peak was hit in 2006 at 19.4 million viewers (an 11.3 rating). Of course, we can’t really compare this year’s Daytona 500, given that rain pushed most of the race from Sunday to Monday (Feb 17th).

And while the 2020 Daytona 500 reported a sellout in terms of tickets for the fifth year in a row, it must also be noted that those sell outs came after seating at the Daytona International Speedway was cut by 46,000 to 101,000. Reducing seating or available seats for NASCAR races has been anything but unique over the past decade or so.

Of course, NASCAR still matters in the sports business universe, not to mention beyond, as evidenced by President Trump making an appearance at the Daytona 500 this year. But the question is: How much does it matter and what’s about the future?

For a time in the early 2000s, the term “NASCAR dads” emerged to accompany or contrast with “soccer moms.” Both terms, though, have largely disappeared from political discourse. 

Also, the number of NASCAR sponsors has declined, not surprisingly, along with the decline in the NASCAR fan base.

It’s also not surprising to see NASCAR’s audience declining given the overall fragmentation proceeding in the overall entertainment marketplace. For example, the same phenomenon has been going on for movies, network television, and so on. And it’s not going to stop anytime soon.

What to do? First and foremost, keep your fan base engaged, interested and excited, and of course, build it where and when you can.

NASCAR has made some positive changes in recent times. For example, new views and angles – including in-car cameras and drone shots – along with improved graphics have enhanced the television experience. This should continue to be enhanced and improved. Indeed, it’s critical given that NASCAR is similar to football in that the television experience is far superior to the stadium or track experience in terms of viewing the action.

At the same time, NASCAR needs to make some changes to improve the general outlook for the future.

First, there’s a necessity to move beyond the oval racetrack to more road courses and even street racing. Left turns week after week are just monotonous, and seeing stock cars racing through closed off streets in a U.S. city would be darn cool.

Second, at the track, other forms of entertainment need to be ramped up during each NASCAR weekend, i.e., more concerts, shows and whatever else can be tried.

Third, with cord cutting, NASCAR must improve its online streaming options, especially in terms of affordability. Along these lines, new video technology needs to keep pushing ahead, including offering viewers a deeper dive into the pits, including close up views and more analysis of pit stops during the race, and more about who the people are in the pits and beyond in terms of each racing team.

Fourth, in the 1990s and 2000s, NASCAR made some bets on expanding their market outside the South. Nothing wrong with that per se. But at the same time, it seems like NASCAR lost a chunk of its base. It fumbled its brand, and at the same time, created fewer new, highly devoted fans than anticipated (see earlier reference to increasingly fragmented entertainment market). NASCAR had a rebel feel to it, being born out of bootlegging. Getting some of that feel back into its brand can be a plus that helps to set NASCAR apart in the sports marketplace.

Fifth, in terms of younger generations, yes, far fewer people grow up working on their own cars these days, and therefore, fewer traditional car guys and gals are being developed, which, of course, were the foundation of the NASCAR fanbase in the past. But there’s still the speed, the atmosphere, enhanced video and more to make sure the sport gets passed along to the next generation.

NASCAR isn’t going anywhere. There’s a tremendous amount of money to be made via television or streaming, for example. The sport just needs to get a better handle on its market and brand, and then promote it relentlessly. And NASCAR has never been shy about promotion, so that’s a positive. Perhaps the current and future car guy or gal is more – dare I say it? – like me, not necessarily under the hood but looking for excitement and strategy in the pits and at 200 freaking miles per hour.

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Ray Keating is a columnist, an economist, a novelist (his latest novels are The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series, and the second edition of Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel with a new Author Introduction), a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Huey Lewis and the News Storms Back with “Weather”

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – February 14, 2020

When it comes to favorite singers or musical groups that return with new music after a lengthy break, fan anticipation usually runs high, but then the results often turn out disappointing. Either the new music just seems not to measure up, or comes across as stale. 

There have been exceptions, however, including from my top two bands.

The biggest surprise for me was the Beach Boys’ That’s Why God Made the Radio album in 2012. The Boys showed that they could still harmonize some fun, beachy tunes in a collection that came a staggering 50 years after their first album.

Number two for me had been Plan B from Huey Lewis and the News in 2001. It came a decade after their previous collection of original works. And yes, after Sports and Fore!, I say Plan B is their next best album. If you haven’t listened, trust me and enjoy it.

But now Huey Lewis and the News has done it again, and this time it’s even more impressive given that 19 years have passed since Plan B. The new album – Weather – was released on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. And it ranks as one of the top efforts from Huey Lewis and the News.

The new 7-song album serves up Huey Lewis and the News still at the top of their game, with their combination of pop rock and blues rock that keeps the foot tapping and the listener singing along, featuring bright brass, strong guitars, and of course, great harmonica moments and Huey’s distinctive voice.


Among the stand outs on Weather is “Her Love Is Killin’ Me,” which is a driving, good-time song. And by the way, the video is great fun. “While We’re Young” offers reflections on enjoying life no matter how much time has passed, without any trace of melancholy. “Remind Me Why I Love You Again” plays with a couple who disagrees on just about everything, but somehow they’re still in love (or are they?). For some longing and blues, give “Hurry Back Baby” a listen. And “Pretty Girls Everywhere” ranks as an upbeat salute to ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll.

The significance of Weather, of course, is ramped up given the news about Huey Lewis suffering hearing loss to the point where he cannot sing. He has been diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, but has some hope that one day, thanks to various treatments and healing, he might get back into the studio. But until then, as noted in a Hollywood Reporter interview, Lewis will find other ways to entertain fans, including working on a musical featuring the band’s music and perhaps doing some acting.

The Hollywood Reporter also noted Lewis’s reflections on music crossing genres, demographics and ages:

Lewis said he felt [that] was missing from the modern day industry. “Today, society is much more integrated, but music is segregated — it's weird,” he said. “You can listen to one kind of music all day long; you can listen to one kind of politics all day long — that's just not healthy. And what was nice about Top 40 radio was it was an editing process where we all tried to have a hit. If you heard a Huey Lewis and the News song on KFRC, the next song might be a Garth Brooks song or a Commodores song or an AC/DC song. … It was an editing process that was, I think, kind of good, in retrospect. You can't have a hit like that today. They just don't exist.”

Well, if any group can offer some of that today, arguably it would be Huey Lewis and the News. Indeed, Huey and his bandmates have served up some wonderful new music in Weather that warrants broad appreciation.

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Ray Keating is a columnist, an economist, a novelist (his latest novels are The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series, and the second edition of Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel with a new Author Introduction), a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

New Edition of "Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel" Just Published!

This Thriller/Mystery from Award-Winning Novelist Ray Keating Arrives with a New Author Introduction

Long Island, NY – Ray Keating has just published a second edition of ROOT OF ALL EVIL? A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL. The new edition of this gripping political thriller not only features an outstanding new cover, courtesy of Tyrel Bramwell, but a new Author Introduction.


Stephen Grant, pastor at St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on Long Island, former Navy SEAL and onetime CIA operative, came on the thriller/mystery scene in WARRIOR MONK: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL(a second edition of Warrior Monk arrived early last year with a new Epilogue, new Introduction and an exciting cover). The tale continues to develop in page-turning fashion in ROOT OF ALL EVIL?

In ROOT OF ALL EVIL?, Keating asks: Do God, politics and money mix? As the reader comes to realize, the combination can turn out quite deadly. This breathtaking thriller features drug traffickers, politicians, the CIA and FBI, a shadowy foreign regime, the Church, and money. Charity, envy and greed are on display, with the action running high. 

In this second edition of ROOT OF ALL EVIL?, Ray Keating has written an Author Introduction focused on some of the challenges of penning a political thriller, including maintaining an edge-of-your-seat feel while not annoying the reader with the petty real world of politics. Keating also talks about how some key characters fit into ROOT OF ALL EVIL?, as well as how his own experiences fed the story.

Keating has penned 12 Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries, and received widespread praise. For example, the Lutheran Book Review has declared, “I miss Tom Clancy. Keating fills that void for me.” 

The publication of a new second edition of ROOT OF ALL EVIL? is part of a yearlong celebration throughout 2020 marking 10 years of Ray Keating’s Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers and mysteries. 

Paperbacks and Kindle editions of ROOT OF ALL EVIL? A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL are available at Amazon.com, and signed books at RayKeatingOnline.com.

Indeed, all of Keating’s Pastor Stephen Grant thrillers/mysteries are available at Amazon.com and at RayKeatingOnline.com – THE TRAITOR (2019), DEEP ROUGH (2019),SHIFTING SANDS(2018)HEROES AND VILLAINS(2018)REAGAN COUNTRY(2018)LIONHEARTS(2017)WINE INTO WATER(2016)MURDERER’S ROW(2015)THE RIVER(2014)AN ADVENT FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY(2012),ROOT OF ALL EVIL?(Second Edition 2020 – originally published2012)andWARRIOR MONK (Second Edition 2019 – originally published 2010) 

Review copies, and author interviews and appearances are available upon request. 

“Celebrating Pastor Stephen Grant Thrillers & Mysteries for 10 Years – 2010 to 2020 – and Beyond!”

Contact: Ray Keating
Phone: 631-909-1122
Twitter: @KeatingNovels
Website: PastorStephenGrant.com
Blog: www.pastorstephengrant.blogspot.com

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

An Uncomfortable Shave from Antitrust Zealots

Republicans and Democrats Want Big Government to Stop “Big Razor,” “Big Cereal,” “Big Pharma,” “Big Tech” – Do You See a Pattern Here?

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – February 12, 2020

Wow, that was a close shave. But thank goodness that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has saved us all from the power and abuse of the razor monopoly. What would we do without government stepping in to stop “Big Razor” in its tracks? We can all rest easier while shaving each morning.


That’s right, the FTC sued to stop Edgewell Personal Care Co., maker of Schick razors, from buying razor rival Harry’s Inc. The deal was announced in May 2019. The FTC got around to opposing it early this month, and subsequently, the proposed purchase was cancelled by Edgewell.

What’s the deal? In general, this is another glaring example of stepped-up antitrust regulation based on bad economics, blind ideology and/or shortsighted politics.

On the shaving issue, the FTC decided to define the relevant market as the “wet shave market,” and asserted that it has been dominated by “two main suppliers.” The FTC’s decision was to simply ignore other kinds of razors that consumers use. Well, that’s convenient if one is looking for an excuse for government antitrust action. 

Daniel Francis is the deputy director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. Yes, there’s a governmental entity called the “Bureau of Competition.” Anyway, Mr. Francis said, “Harry’s is a uniquely disruptive competitor in the wet shave market, and it has forced its rivals to offer lower prices, and more options, to consumers across the country. The Harry’s and Flamingo brands represent a significant and growing competitive threat to the two firms that have dominated the wet shaving market for decades. Edgewell’s effort to short-circuit competition by buying up its newer rival promises serious harm to consumers.”

Besides the ridiculously narrow market definition, there are all kinds of absurdities at work here. The most glaring is that these bureaucrats assert that consumers would be harmed. How? Well, that’s not clear. After all, the opportunities in the free market that were open to Harry’s being created in 2013 still exist for other potential competitors. Plus, the FTC bureaucrats fail to recognize efficiencies that might be gained through this kind of merger, thereby creating further savings for consumers. 

No one should be surprised that the government’s Bureau of Competition doesn’t grasp how competition works.

This action by the FTC follows on others that are equally farcical. For example, in December 2019, the FTC announced that it was challenging Post Holdings, Inc.’s proposed acquisition of TreeHouse Foods, Inc.’s “private label ready-to-eat cereal business.” Private label products are made by one company and offered for sale by a different firm under its brand. The FTC argues for government action to stop a merger in a small portion of the breakfast foods market because, as stated by another FTC bureaucrat, it “would likely lead to higher prices and reduced quality of the store-brand cereals that consumers enjoy today.” Such notions again spring from failing to understand how markets work, including the realities of competitive dynamism and efficiency gains.

The Post-Treehouse merger was called off in January due to the FTC’s opposition.

Apparently, FTC bureaucrats are very concerned about morning activities – in terms of both shaving and eating cereal.

And then there’s the recent all-out political attacks against a variety of large tech firms. The FTC is looking for antitrust abuses by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), and Microsoft, including issuing an order this week for the companies to fork over information on small tech deals occurring over the past decade. Can you say “fishing expedition”?

The Justice Department, Congress and state attorneys general also are looking into the undertakings of large technology firms. 

The problem with all of this is that it has everything to do with politics and vague laws, and little to do with actual economics. This has been the case since antitrust legislation was passed in the late 19thand early 20thcenturies. The Sherman Act (1890), the Clayton Act (1914), and the Federal Trade Commission Act (1914), in effect, granted the federal government the power to break up monopolies, prevent monopolies and cartels, and stop mergers that could substantially reduce competition. And this is all supposedly focused on protecting consumers. 

Unfortunately, these laws are pretty vague, and assume that politicians and their appointees can figure out how industries operate, will develop and change; and what new ideas, products and services entrepreneurs will offer. Those are heady assumptions regarding petty politicians.

In reality, monopolies in private, competitive markets rarely, if ever, occur, and firms that do gain significant market share can only do so by better serving consumers. For good measure, even those businesses earning large market share must be aware of emerging and future competitors. That’s the economic reality of markets. 

Given that antitrust regulation is directed at monopolies it’s critical to actually understand what a monopoly is. Properly understood, a monopoly means that a market is served by only one seller. Also, there must be no close substitutes for the product and high barriers to enter the market. Again, economics tells us that a true monopoly emerging from the competitive market is truly rare. Instead, monopolies occur when government acts to create, grant or protect a monopoly.

And rather than seeing current and future markets with near-perfect clarity, politicians and their appointees often ignore economics, the definition of a monopoly, and assorted market realities. After all, the antitrust legislation passed in the late 1800s and early 1900s emerged from complaints by competitors, not consumers (and that remains the case today), and from anti-big-business ideologies within both the Progressive and populist movements. Interestingly, in 2020, the same coalescence of Progressivism and populism has spurred the current re-energizing of government antitrust regulation.

Progressives via the Democratic Party never gave up on an anti-business agenda, including antitrust activism. Meanwhile, though he veers for and against large businesses on seemingly a day-to-day basis, President Trump’s populism often rails against large businesses when it fits his political agenda, or when he feels slighted. 

Much of the rest of the Republican Party has followed Trump’s lead, including his own Justice Department and FTC. While Republicans generally had been far less enthralled with antitrust regulatory intrusions in the recent past – especially from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush – that seems to have changed, with assorted GOP voices in Congress joining Trump in attacking large businesses. 

This has been particularly the case with Republicans feeling frustrated by real and perceived anti-Republican biases lurking among various large technology firms. While anger among conservatives (including myself) is justified at assorted actions taken by some tech companies, in particular, Google, against conservative voices, the proper response is to encourage and create alternatives in the marketplace. However, various Republicans prefer tossing aside free market principles, and instead, embracing big government to do their bidding against certain businesses – doing the same thing that they used to criticize the Left for doing. Senator Josh Hawley, a populist Republican from Missouri, leads the way against “Big Tech,” ranting against social media, supporting price controls on prescription drugs, and looking to use big government to fight big business.

Golly, what could go wrong?

What’s most striking about Hawley is how this Republican falls in line with Democrats who fail to grasp the dynamism and staggering benefits of the market. He cannot see beyond a very narrow, biased view of a current moment in time, and apparently lacks the ability to understand that even the biggest of companies remains at the mercy of consumers, and therefore of competitors now and to come. 

To drive home this point about the dynamism of the market, a few years ago, AEI scholar Mark Perry pointed out: “Comparing the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 to the Fortune 500 in 2014, there are only 61 companies that appear in both lists. In other words, only 12.2% of the Fortune 500 companies in 1955 were still on the list 59 years later in 2014, and almost 88% of the companies from 1955 have either gone bankrupt, merged, or still exist but have fallen from the top Fortune 500 companies (ranked by total revenues). Most of the companies on the list in 1955 are unrecognizable, forgotten companies today (e.g. Armstrong Rubber, Cone Mills, Hines Lumber, Pacific Vegetable Oil, and Riegel Textile).” 

Now we have both Democrats and Republicans basically saying, “Oh, don’t bother us with such inconvenient facts about how business and the market actually work.”

Yes, a quick study of economics and history would reveal such realities. But it’s hard for populist politicians, even one often labeled as an “intellectual,” as is the case with Hawley, to get by ideology and plain old politics to clearly view the lessons of economics and history.

For those craving bipartisanship today, well, here it is. Just look to assorted Republicans joining Democrats in an ideologically-driven anti-big-business crusade pushing for more big government antitrust regulation.

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Ray Keating is a columnist, an economist, a novelist (his latest novels are The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series, and the second edition of Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel with a new Author Introduction), a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Happy Birthday, President Reagan! Thanks for Being a Leader on Free Trade

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – February 6, 2020

President Ronald Reagan’s birthday is February 6. On this date, let’s take note that President Reagan was a free trader, given that so many in the political arena today, both Republicans and Democrats, need reminding of why free trade helps everyone.


For example, in a November 17, 1988, address, Reagan said: “As we pursue global trade negotiations, the United States believes that the future belongs to those who lower trade barriers. These are the countries that will be in the forefront of technology. These are the countries that will see their living standards rise most quickly. And these are the countries that will lead the world in the years ahead. We can go forward into the future or slip back into the protectionist past.”

And as quoted from another speech in FREE TRADE ROCKS!, Reagan said: “Part of the difficulty in accepting the good news about trade is in our words. We too often talk about trade while using the vocabulary of war. In war, for one side to win, the other must lose. But commerce is not warfare. Trade is an economic alliance that benefits both countries. There are no losers, only winners. And trade helps strengthen the free world.” 

Learn more about the free trade that Reagan supported in my book FREE TRADE ROCKS! 10 POINTS ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW.

Get paperbacks or Kindle editions of FREE TRADE ROCKS! at https://www.amazon.com/dp/168841245X

Signed books are available at https://raykeatingonline.com/products/freetrade

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Ray Keating is a columnist, an economist, a novelist (his latest novels are The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series, and the second edition of Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel with a new Author Introduction), a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Leaving New York: No Mystery as to Why People Flee the Once-Empire State

by Ray Keating
The Keating Files – February 5, 2020

Depending on how the rest of the day is going, politicians can make you laugh or cry. That’s especially the case in New York. But even when laughing, it’s dark, cynical humor.


Consider the example of two members of the New York state legislature – State Senator Jim Tedisco (R) and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (D) – who recently announced that they were going to get to the bottom of why people are leaving New York. Seriously?

The two politicians plan to do an online questionnaire, host roundtables, and put a report together. In a statement, Santabarbara said, “Let’s reach out to New Yorkers to find out what’s happening.” And Tedisco added, “The elephant in the room that our state government’s not talking about is why New York State is number one for highest population loss in the nation?”

New York shipping people off to other states isn’t exactly a new development.

How bad has it been? Net domestic migration measures the change in a state’s population less births, deaths and international migration. That is, it captures population movement between the states. New York had the worst record from 2010 to 2019 by losing a net 1,379,210 people to other states. And from 2000 to 2009, New York again was tops in shipping people off to other states, with net domestic migration of -1,686,583. From 1990 to 1999, when New York lost a net of 1,888,936 in population to other states, that wasn’t the worst. It was second worst, with only California losing more people to other states.

In terms of total population, from the early nineteenth century to 1970, New York had the largest state population. Then it was passed by California. Texas moved by New York into the number two spot in 1994, and Florida bumped New York from number three in 2014. 

If it weren’t for international immigration, New York would be a ghost state. And in fact, New York’s total population has declined for the last four years in a row, that is, in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

So, isn’t it nice that a couple of New York politicians have gotten around to starting to ask questions about this decades-long trend? But they don’t need polls or roundtables. It’s obvious why people have been fleeing New York. 

For example, New York inflicts very high personal, corporate and capital gains taxes. 

Indeed, consider what passes for corporate tax reform in New York. Before the reform passed in 2014, the total corporate income tax rate for businesses in the lower part of the state – the stated tax rate plus a business tax surcharge – came in at 8.307 percent. In 2020, the rate stands at 8.864 percent. Yes, that’s right, the corporate income tax rate for the bulk of businesses in the state is higher after “tax reform.” Only in New York.

Property taxes as a share of personal income in New York also are sixth highest in the nation, according to the latest Census Bureau data. That’s a state average, by the way. The property tax burden is much higher in places like Westchester and on Long Island.

Gas and diesel taxes are among the nation’s highest. Sales taxes are high. The list goes on and on.

The entire state tax, regulatory and spending regime is overtly hostile to entrepreneurship, business and investment. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council’s “Small Business Policy Index 2019: Ranking the States on Policy Measures and Costs Impacting Entrepreneurship and Small Business Growth,” which I author, ranks the 50 states according to 62 different policy measures, including assorted tax, regulatory and government spending measures. New York ranked an abysmal 47th, or fourth worst, among the states. 

Crush business with burdens, and the result is reduced opportunity for all.

So, it’s no secret why people have been leaving New York: It’s overwhelmingly about intrusive, costly big government inflicting all kinds of burdens on individuals, families, entrepreneurs, businesses and investors. Why live, work, invest, and/or start up and build a business in New York when New York is so overtly hostile to working, investing, entrepreneurship and business? One can move to almost any other state in the nation, and by doing so, expand opportunity and improve quality of life.

Tedisco said that “our state government’s not talking” about why people are leaving New York. Golly, I’m just shocked. After all, the reasons for this long, vast exodus have been the decisions made by those in state (and local) government. 

Will this legislative report serve as a catalyst for substantive change in New York? That’s funny (again, dark humor). More typically, like so many other reports generated by government, it will get brief attention and then be forgotten. And politics as usual will continue in the once-Empire State. 

Hmmm, it seems like the only real answer is to, well, leave New York.

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Ray Keating is a columnist, an economist, a novelist (his latest novels are The Traitor: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel, which is the 12thbook in the series, and the second edition of Root of All Evil? A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel with a new Author Introduction), a nonfiction author (among his recent works is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know), a podcaster, and an entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own.