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News

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage

Council hosts study session on downtown parking garage


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council continues to explore options to address parking constraints in the downtown triangle.

The Los Altos City Council last week held the first of two study sessions to discuss the potential construct...

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Schools

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner

LAHS Science and Technology Week features medical examiner


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A Los Altos High School student learns how to use robotic surgical equipment at the school’s Science and Technology Week event last year. Students can also attend hands-on presentations at this year’s event, w...

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Community

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display

Ahoy, matey: Pirate Manor ramps up Halloween display


Town Crier File Photo
Pirate Manor is once again scheduled to arrive in the front yard of Dane and Jill Glasgow’s home on Manor Way in Los Altos, just in time for Halloween.

Although not the Walking Dead, pirate skeletons have been brought to li...

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Sports

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans

Lancers rule the pool against Spartans


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Eric Reitmeir launches the ball over Mountain View High driver David Niehaus (2) and goalie Kenny Tang. The host Lancers won Friday’s non-league game 9-3.

There wasn’t a lot on the line Friday when ...

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Comment

Reeder, Fung for El Camino HCD: Editorial

The good news for the El Camino Healthcare District (formerly the El Camino Hospital District, for those still getting used to the new name) is that there is a contested election Nov. 4 for the district’s board of directors. Three candidates are runn...

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Special Sections

Plant-based diet offers benefits

Plant-based diet offers benefits


Photo by Ramya Krishna
Los Altos resident Nandini Krishna prepares a meat-free dish According to author Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D., a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer.

Shirley Okita of Los Altos has found that adhering to a mostly plant...

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Business

New shop offers haute couture for girls

New shop offers haute couture for girls


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Girls @ Los Altos at 239 State St. offers clothing lines such as Nellystella as well as toys and other items for girls.

Cecilia Chen opened The Girls @ Los Altos as a tribute to the party dress. Whether it’s for...

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Books

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book

Helping kids catch a few Zs: Local dental hygienist pens meditative bedtime book


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mimi Sommers, who works at a Los Altos dentist’s office, recently wrote a children’s book.

A local dental hygienist recently published a book that aims to ease parents and children during a sometimes anxious e...

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People

BARBARA DARLING MERIDETH

1946-2014

Born in Palo Alto, raised in Los Altos, retired in southern Oregon. Survived by Peter James Merideth, sons Matthew, Jacob and John Merideth, the loves of her life.

She was a housewife who took great pride in her home, her surroundings and...

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Travel

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors

Falling leaves: Four places in California to see autumn colors


Courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, above, boasts a beautiful setting for viewing fall’s colors – and sampling the vineyard’s wines.

Yes, Virginia, there is fall in California.

The colors pop out in...

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Stepping Out

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn

'Sleepy Hollow' awakens at Bus Barn



Los Altos Youth Theatre’s production of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” a musical based on Washington Irving’s classic story, is set to run through Nov. 2 at Bus Barn Theater. The cast comprises 27 young actors, directed by Cindy Powell. Courtesy o...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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How to prevent future economic crises

Author and economist Horace “Woody” Brock, Ph.D., is founder and president of Strategic Economic Decisions Inc., an economic think tank. He believes that the growth of “bubbles”– such as the real estate bubble that had such a devastating effect on world economies in 2008 – can easily be controlled.

In a recent interview with Bob Veres, a financial services writer and commentator, Brock explained how the economic crises we’ve encountered over the past 20 years – the housing downturn, the tech bubble, etc. – have been caused not by normal manufacturing cycles such as companies overproducing products and laying off workers, but by leverage and speculation in asset prices. Brock asserts that financial bubbles have replaced inventory bubbles as the primary cause of economic recessions.

Unfortunately, if that is true, then the primary monetary policy lever the federal government uses to regulate booms and busts in the manufacturing sector is too blunt to work effectively on asset bubbles. Take the housing sector prior to 2007, for example. If the Federal Reserve had decided that it wanted to discourage thousands of Americans from flipping homes or buying them with zero money down, it could have dramatically raised interest rates.

There is, according to Brock, a better way to control excesses in asset pricing without clobbering the corporate/manufacturing sector: Simply raise margin requirements on any financial asset – stocks, real estate, etc. – as its price increases beyond its average historical valuation. In other words, reduce the amount of permissible leverage in proportion to the degree of deviation from the mean.

Deflating the housing bubble

Take last decade’s housing bubble. Using this methodology, as housing prices continued to climb, the government would have increased the minimum down payment required for a mortgage. Imagine in 2007 having to put down 25 or 30 percent of the price of a home in cash. That certainly would have discouraged most of the speculators who were buying fully leveraged properties at the time, and would very likely have deflated the bubble.

The same requirement would have prevented Lehman Brothers and other investment banks from buying and selling stocks and other assets with margins leveraged as high as 50 to 1. They might even have avoided bankruptcy, not to mention contributing to the economic wreckage that resulted.

Although the details of such a methodology need to be worked out, there is no shortage of historical data on most asset classes for someone to come up with an appropriate mean value and trigger point for decreasing leverage requirements. In the case of the S&P 500, the average price-earnings ratio (P/E) has totaled approximately 15 for the past century. So when stock prices rise to the point where the market P/E ratio becomes 20, then you have to put more down if you want to buy stocks.

Interestingly, there is even historical precedent for this proposal. A review of margin requirements shows that investors who could put virtually nothing down to buy shares of stocks before the 1929 crash were later required to limit their margin accounts as high as 55 percent, with the number moving around as the markets did. According to Brock, in January 1958, when the Dow was at 440, an investor could buy stock with 50 percent down. By December, when the Dow was trading around 580, the requirement had grown to 90 percent.

Unfortunately, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act includes none of this. If you believe that it’s the government’s role to prevent manufacturers from polluting rivers and poisoning citizens, why not additionally prevent financial institutions from making huge gains and avoiding huge losses during asset bubbles that cause millions of people to lose their jobs?

Los Altos resident Artie Green is a Certified Financial Planner with Cognizant Wealth Advisors. For more information, call 209-4062.

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