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News

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers

Campaign finance reports show lots of loans, few outliers


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Campaign yard signs are just one expenditure for candidates during election season.

Election finance filings are in, and Los Altos appears to be hosting a few financially lopsided races.

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Schools

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation

Three Los Altos schools earn National Blue Ribbon designation


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Bullis Charter School students wear their school spirit clothing to greet their mascot Oct. 3 in celebration of being named a National Blue Ribbon School.

Blach Intermediate, Egan Junior High and Bullis Charter schools ea...

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Community

Sports

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles

Spartans run wild(cat) on Eagles


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High running back Austin Johnson goes for a big gain after evading Los Altos High defensive tackle Phil Alameda in Friday’s game. Johnson scored two touchdowns for the Spartans.

After unveiling its wildc...

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Comment

Logan, McClatchie, Peruri for LASD board: Editorial

This is a crucial time for the Los Altos School District. Its leadership faces the challenge of balancing enrollment growth versus maintaining the small, neighborhood schools that make it a very popular district to attend. The district must also adap...

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Special Sections

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern

City's minimum-wage hike earns mixed reviews: Raise to $10.30 an hour meets with approval – and concern


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Tandava Waldon, left, manager of East West Bookstore on Castro Street in Mountain View, works with a customer. Waldon said the recently approved minimum-wage hike will have little impact on his business. “It’s not such a...

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Business

Delay Social Security? An easy way to decide

One of the most heatedly debated questions regarding Social Security is when to start.

You have the option of initiating benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the larger the monthly payment you will receive over your...

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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

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

SUZANNE MONICA DIMM SPECHT

Suzanne Monica Dimm Specht passed Tuesday, Sept. 9th at the age of 84. Sue was born on April 21, 1930 in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from the University of Oregon in with a degree in Music, Sue taught in a little town called Clatskanie, Oreg...

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Travel

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening

Los Altos resident's visit to North Korea proves enlightening


Courtesy of Sally Brew
North Korea is home to many monuments honoring its “Dear Leaders,” left.

In August, I traveled for 11 days with MIR Corp. to North Korea, a fascinating country that is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. ...

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Stepping Out

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto

'Trovatore' takes the stage in Palo Alto


Courtesy of José Luis Moscovich
West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” is slated to open Friday night in Palo Alto and run through Oct. 26.

West Bay Opera’s production of “Il Trovatore” (“The Troubadour”) is scheduled to open this weekend...

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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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