All posts by henningmark

Data Science: data without the science

There’s a heavy dependence on data statistical analysis in business and our lives. People are biased; they lie, they make assumptions, and they have been proven time and again to make irrational decisions, but data doesn’t lie…or does it? We’re in a digital renaissance and times are changing faster than we can possibly keep up with, it’s important to get it right. I believe in the awesome power of statistics, but it’s easy to see how the human touch, or lack of, can skew results.

An algorithm is basically a big, complicated IF/THEN logic statement (retrieve junior high math class from the memory banks). If A and B then C. If you’re young (A) and broke (B) then here is an advertisement for a Happy Hour (C). Everyone has had to fill out a resume profile that will never be seen by a human being; we log on to Facebook and see ads specifically geared towards our demographic information, and we hear statistics in every aspect of our lives. The irony is, statistics can only aggregate the information you give it, and it gets it wrong all the time, sometimes tragically so. You may have extensive experience in an industry but because your resume didn’t have a buzzword, it will never make it past the online portal. Thanks Oracle. You may be a childless 30-year-old woman, but Facebook keeps showing ads for baby strollers simply because you liked one of your friend’s pictures with an identifying hashtag. Thanks Facebook. You might be a young white man and not have use of your legs but because you watched one video on YouTube about Mixed Martial Arts you are now bombarded with ads for gym groupons. Thanks YouTube. I think you get my point. Why then, if data gets us wrong so easily, do we trust it so much?

Causation through statistics is a huge part of analysis, but it also gets it epically wrong sometimes. A few examples of statistical causation gone bananas:

The age of Miss America is 87% correlated to murders by steam, hot vapors, and hot objects. Statistically, you must be able to predict a change in one item with the other? Not at all.

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Crude Oil imports from Norway and drivers killed in collisions with railway trains shows a 95% correlation…

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The consumption of cheese and people who died by being tangled in their bedsheets also shows a 95% correlation…

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Economists have controlled searches for these results, calling them “spurious correlations”, but it goes to show how complicated and out of control some statistical models can become without some finesse. Any human can tell that these correlations are nonsense, but according to the fundamentals of Data Science, they have overwhelming causation. The only thing keeping these graphs out of a business presentation is common-sense. That’s where the human touch comes in. When building a statistical model or machine-learning algorithm, we must control for certain variables that are either completely unknown, or assumed to be identical throughout the population.  Like in Jurassic Park when they use frog DNA to fill in the gene sequence gaps; in the absence of complete information, we do the best we can.  Referring to my previous examples: Facebook is assuming that a 30-year-old woman is a mother and that a young white man watching MMA would want to join a gym.  The underlying assumptions need to be as unbiased as possible, or not exist at all, for the statistical model to work properly. Additionally, common-sense needs to be applied when interpreting the results and determining market causation before the information is delivered.

This TED Radio Hour Podcast shows an excellent example of building algorithms that are ultimately biased against women and African Americans.  Algorithms only know what we teach it through internal historical information.  So, if only men have historically been successful within a certain company (because of sexism) programming a resume-bot to filter resumes to see only the most likely people to be successful will unintentionally filter out more women than men.  If historically, people are more successful who have had no employment gaps in their resumes that show X, Y, and Z skills (simply by happenstance because the economy was good prior to 2007) then people who experienced prolonged unemployment during the recession and do not have X, Y, and Z would also be unintentionally filtered.  Common-sense tells us that these people should not be immediately disqualified.  Cyclical causality is an inevitable byproduct of human programming and using historical information to build automation, we must be careful not to simply automate the status quo.

Dr Cathy O’Neil, in her book “Weapons of Math Destruction” refers to Data Science as data without the science.  Science is repeatable, it uses the scientific method, it is peer-reviewed, and offers evidence supporting its conclusions. Data science offers no such infrastructure. It is all about who owns it, who is interpreting it, what assumptions are made when the data is incomplete, how the data is collected, what their motivations are with the information, and how it is applied. Making the process repeatable with identical results is virtually impossible, unless the same human biases and assumptions are applied to the same sample of data.

Math and science have set us free from the dark ages of superstition and religious dogma. Getting statistics right and holding data accountable is necessary if we are to grow as a digital civilization. Cloud computing, social media, and business intelligence techniques have made us exposed to so many statistics that it’s hard to tell what’s what. Evolving from using underlying assumptions as well as providing controls within the complexities of data is key to advancing into Artificial Intelligence (AI) and quantum computing.

Food for thought. Thank you for your time.

“73.6% of all statistics are made up on the spot” – a smart-ass

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.” – Prime Minister of Great Britain, Benjamin Disraeli

Minimum Wage is Lowered in St. Louis

Effective August 28th, St Louis’ minimum wage has been decreased from $10 an hour to $7.70 in an unprecedented political move. Objecting to minimum wage hikes has always been seen as political suicide, but lowering an existing wage is bananas.

What happened? Seattle tried the $15 wage hike, implementing it in stages so as not to shock the system too much and it was, in the big picture, an epic failure.  According to an NBER Working Paper wages for those making under $19 increased by 3 percent, the number of hours worked dropped by 9%; resulting in an overall lower income for the minimum wage earners.  It’s easy to connect the dots and see how raising the minimum wage above the natural rate is unsustainable.  People are calling this move “theft” and “political overreach”, but according to economic reasoning, it was really the only option.

It’s easy to get caught up in the politics and emotions of it all, $7.70 an hour is an insulting and unsustainable wage; companies should be embarrassed paying anybody that much money to do anything.  I agree; but a higher wage than what the market demands, as is seen with government-mandated wage hikes, encourages adjustments elsewhere in the market.  It encourages innovations in automation, lowering hours, increasing work-loads, and overall decrease in income.  In the short run, you’re looking at a decrease in hours and benefits (as seen in Seattle) as the market attempts to correct itself and return to equilibrium.  This causes more political pressure as people feel the squeeze, further pushing aggregate wages downward as companies have more incentives to eliminate low-wage jobs and invest in automation.

So what can we do? We can’t expect people to live on a pittance and we can’t force companies to pay more because they simply will not.  Forced market adjustments aren’t the answer either; the market always adjusts.  We need to take this time to invest in our people and eliminate low-wage jobs entirely.  This sounds bananas as well, but if employees engage in higher education and trade programs, and gradually automate their jobs at the same time, we can minimize the wage gap and economic shock.  Automation is happening whether we like it or not, and the $15 an hour movement is only speeding it up.

Just some food for thought.


Veterans and the Job Interview

I was sitting in a job interview and my interviewer asked me: “What more could we be doing for our veterans?” with a genuine look of concern and respect on her face. Those who know me personally know my stance on my veteran status; it’s a private and personal experience for everyone. My favorite response is “It’s not Saving Private Ryan, it’s Pizza Hut and Wi-fi”. No two experiences are the same and mine is no different, but to ask the direct question like that I was forced to really sit back and think about it. The only answer I could come up with was: “What’s left?”

We live in an age of respect and concern for our veterans unprecedented by any other time or place in history. Gone are the days of “baby-killers” and “grunts”. A lot of us have seen some horrible stuff, and a lot of us bellyache over working long hours in an office; it’s all a very personal experience, but we all enjoy the benefits: access to higher education, home loans, mental health counseling, tax breaks, and preferential hiring. It’s not as simple as throwing money around or saluting at a baseball game. We’re people and just like every adult, regardless whether they are a veteran or not, we will never overcome our experiences, or have a good life until we take responsibility for ourselves.

From my point of view, it’s a self-esteem issue. Soldiers are taught a very unique set of skills through shame and scare-tactics. A lot of veterans are treated like second-class citizens for the sake of a larger goal, then return to society greeted with confusion, entitlements, and blind respect; it’s confusing. I can only speak for my experience but there are a lot of us who want no attention whatsoever, we simply want to move on with our lives and deal with our experiences privately. Self-esteem is a systemic problem in the world nowadays and ignoring it makes it worse, but there’s a fine line between coddling and being supportive. It’s OK to have conflicting experiences about authority, your place in society, what it means to be an adult, etc… it’s not OK to sit on your ass and complain about it. There’s something to be said for the old adage “go out and get a job”.

So when you see a veteran and want to say “Thank you for your service”, that’s cool, and thank you for your support.  A better question thought though, would be: “What have you done today to help yourself?” Because with all of the entitlements afforded to us, the only thing standing in the way of our success is ourselves.

This is Why Economists Don’t run for President

The other day I was listening to a rerun of a Planet Money Podcast and it made me want to revisit my stance on the housing market manipulation (Planet Money: Episode 387; article) .  They brought six (6) ideologically divided economists into the studio to discuss what policies they could all agree on, and then jokingly mentioned how, “This is why economists don’t run for President”.  I agree that the results of the panel are unpopular and think that they managed to properly address the real reason people don’t want to listen to economists; we use boring language and tell people what they don’t want to hear.  I agree with some of these policies, disagree with others. The policies were: eliminate the mortgage tax deduction; end the tax-deduction companies get for providing health care to employees; eliminate the corporate income tax; eliminate all income and payroll taxes; tax carbon emissions; and legalize marijuana.  Obviously, no voter in their right mind would agree to most of these, especially using words like “eliminate” and “tax”.

Eliminating the mortgage tax deduction:  This is, across the board, agreed to be a positive change by the experts and if you read my other blogs about the housing market you would think I agree.  I do, mostly; but there are flaws in simply “eliminating” a policy that has been on the books for so long, and helps a lot of people hold onto their money.  The argument made is that this would decrease the demand for the wealthy to own property, lowering the overall price of real-estate, and thereby making all housing more affordable for everyone.  Sounds nice, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.  Real-estate prices (like wages) are sticky and, as the market always shows, people would rather hold onto a property than sell it for less than they paid for it.  What does that mean, exactly? It means that the price of homes may plateau, they may build fewer homes, they may build more rental properties, but the only way to ensure the overall price of housing will not go down is by lowering the amount of homes in the market, not lowering the price of existing homes.  This is a key point that we need to understand.  If your home is worth $300,000 today, it will not cost $299,999 tomorrow; the entire economic system would go into chaos, not to mention the deflationary expectations associated with that.  If prices begin to fall, people will expect them to keep falling, taking more people out of the market who are waiting for the price to stabilize.  As more people exit the market, this will send the prices down even further, and then it’s 2007 all over again.  Eliminating this deduction would cause developers to build more rental properties since there would be less demand for purchasing homes.  People need a place to live, so intuitively as the demand to buy homes decreases, the demand for renting would increase, forcing people into higher rents and further creating an imbalance in the market.

My solution: Eliminate the deduction but wait until there is another structural shift in the market.  In economics, if prices of final goods are trending upwards as most do, changing a piece of that market won’t make a big difference; i.e. lowering the price of tires won’t cause the price of cars (a final good) to go down; lowering the price of gas won’t make airfare cheaper; and lowering the demand for home loans won’t cause the price of homes to go down. Unless you catch the trending price when there is a market correction.  We saw one in 2007, that would have been the time to eliminate the deduction since the housing market was already changing structurally.  Doing it now would be white-noise and may possibly slow the growth of the price of housing but not cause the intended multiplier effect the economists in the podcast are discussing.

End the tax-deduction companies get for providing healthcare to employees:  This is wildly unpopular but hear me out.  Everyone needs healthcare and it has become a part of an employee’s compensation, but incentivizing companies to provide more and more comprehensive healthcare coverage instead of paying employees causes stagnation of wages (which we are currently experiencing) and unsustainable healthcare costs (which we are also current experiencing).  Someone with a “Cadillac” health insurance plan is more likely to go to the hospital for small ailments and doctors are more likely to run unnecessary test since they know their insurance will pay.  X-rays do not cost $500, bandages do not cost $250, and it does not cost $600 for an ambulance to drive ½ a mile.  Hospitals charge these insane prices because for every seven (7) people who use these services and can’t pay, there’s one person with a Cadillac plan who can, eliminating their marginal loss.  So Cadillac plans pay out more, making them cost more, but companies keep offering them and people are happy to accept them as part of their compensation.  Eliminating a deduction for employer-provided healthcare would decrease the unchecked pricing of hospital services and the price of insurance overall.

Eliminate the corporate income tax: Sounds like a terrible idea, and it probably is, but it just might work if done correctly.   Corporate income tax keeps companies from redistributing their earnings back into growth and their stakeholders.  Even if they keep it in the bank and do nothing with it, it will increase the amount of loanable funds on the market, lowering the interest rates, and helping everyone else get access to better loans.  We want people to pay their fair share, but blanket-taxing corporations for simply doing business here is an oversimplification of the problem. We need to tax the individuals receiving dividends on corporate profits.  It’s a delicate balance of taxing companies enough to maintain a healthy revenue stream and preventing them from leaving and going overseas.  Regular citizens can’t vote with their feet and relocate, corporations can.  It’s unfair and upsetting but it’s the world we live in.

Eliminate all income and payroll taxes, tax carbon emissions, and legalize marijuana: Eliminating payroll taxes would be an easy sell.  Nobody likes paying taxes and it would increase the real wage.  Companies would be pressured to raise wages since taxes are lower and people would have more income to spend on goods. This would have to be done in stages to eliminate too much inflation at once, but switching to a consumption tax rather than an income tax would redistribute the tax burden to the wealthy, who buy more stuff, and less on the poor, who don’t.

Taxing carbon emissions is a natural conclusion to the times we live in.  Taxes serve two purposes – raise revenues and create disincentives for that activity by raising the price.  Seems like a no-brainer.

Legalizing Marijuana is inevitable, people are doing it anyways and it’s less dangerous than drinking.  Legalize it, tax it, get rid of the underground market, tell people not to drive while on it, penalize them if they do, and move on to other issues.

These proposals are universally recognized and systemic problems in the current economy.  The panelists have excellent ideas with sound economic reasoning.  I got hung up on the housing deduction proposal because of the follow-through, but if these policies are worded correctly to the public and implemented responsibly there’s no reason why they couldn’t be successful.

Thank you for you time.

Giving the Market a Push

The Great Recession has shown us that markets have equilibrium, but that we sometimes need to give it a little push in the right direction or else we could spiral out of control; again.  The Hoover Dam got money circulating and caused a multiplier effect that helped rejuvenate the economy, World War II (unfortunately) got men and women back to work and provided a much needed sense of purpose, the fiscal stimulus of 2009 (arguably) saved the United States from calamity, and automatic stabilizers such as unemployment insurance help to minimize the effects of a loss of wages on the overall economy. We have come a long way since 1929 and still have a long way to go. As an economist and a fiscal-conservative I disagree with an over-regulated market, price-floors, and an overreaching government; but as recent economic events have shown, markets are more complicated and synthetic to adjust appropriately on their own.

One example of this is from a recent article by The Brookings Institute that shows a serious, yet ubiquitous, problem in predatory lending: pay-day loans. I have already blogged about some other industries that thrive on predatory lending and pay-day loans are subject to the same nefarious business practices.  The article summarizes that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) passed legislation changing the nature of the vetting process for pay-day loan-sharking from debt-to-income ratios to a more reasonable ability-to-pay matrix for non-prime lenders as well as limiting the amount of loans they are able to take out.  Will this industry change? Absolutely. Will market innovation create new opportunities to lend to non-prime borrowers? Absolutely.  This market is littered with moral hazards so the only option is to keep a close eye on predatory financing.  George Akerlof and Robert Shiller did a great job bringing phishing scams to light (Phishing for Phools), showing that with every market comes an opportunity to take advantage.

Another such push is the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hours Division’s expansion of the Fair Labor Act that increased the overtime salary exemptions from a minimum of $23,660/year ($455/week) to $47,476/year ($913/week).  This should affect over 4 million people in the country and give a “meaningful boost to many workers’ wallets”.  I am of two minds about this legislation and my fellow blogger Adam posted about this recently in THIS BLOG POST.  The economic forces behind the need for price floors are tricky and sometimes self-defeating.  A higher nominal wage could overheat the market and cause a lower real wage; meaning that if employers are forced to pay people more they will simply hire less people in an attempt to return to a balanced aggregate wage.  This is not a one-for-one exchange, and often leads to lower aggregate wages and higher unemployment in the big picture.  Over-time exemption criteria increases are a synthetic aspect of the labor wage market but necessary nonetheless.  The unemployment rate has been lowering and overall consumption is up (, this should (if Keynes was right) cause an increase in wages and inflation in the market, but it hasn’t.  A higher wage will give existing employees a much-needed break, and it’s time, but this could also create a disincentive to hire future employees.  I guess we’ll wait and see.

Fiscal policy is a relatively new addition to economics and we’re all trying to make sense of a post-recession world.  Obviously, letting markets adjust naturally doesn’t work, but how far do we push regulation to make course corrections? It’s easy to see effects of fiscal policy with the luxury of hindsight and, as an armchair quarterback, I could write a dissertation on changing policies after the Great Recession, but we live in a world of uncharted waters and need to simply do the best we can with the information we have.  Hopefully we can get it right once in awhile.

Predatory Financing is Here to Stay

With the release of the movie The Big Short along with Akerlof and Shiller’s new book, Phishing for Phools on behavior economics, I am reminded of the optimistic teachings of Milton and Rose Friedman. They were Adam Smithian economists from the 80’s and 90’s that wrote definitive works on the positive aspects of capitalism. If the Friedmans could see what became of their coveted Invisible Hand they would probably throw their hands up in disgust and frustration. 

The movie shows the ugly side of capitalism; how overzealous and arguably well-meaning (at the time) brokers tried to enable the common man to fulfill the American Dream, while still making a quick buck for themselves. This is the very definition of Adam Smith’s interpretation of capitalism, just the flip side of the coin- call it the Invisible Back-Hand. As we all saw, and most experienced, when you combine an emotional desire such as owning a home and growing your family, with predatory financing and securitization of America’s debt, you end up with a house of cards that even a toddler would be able to tell you is unsustainable. The Big Short is an excellent narrative of the events leading to the recession of 2008; the how, who, what, when, and where are a matter of history, but the why is what Akerlof and Shiller successfully communicated in Phishing for Phools, saying that all free market activity inevitably will have participants whose role is to prey on those less familiar and looking for a better life. Adam Smith and the Friedmans were correct when they said that economic freedom is important to a sound economy; what they didn’t see was its effects on mass media and access to credit that didn’t exist in their respective eras (at least not like today). 

The crash of 2007 was built on a foundation of deceit by the people who knew better but didn’t care, to the mortgage holders just looking to raise a family and be left alone. Phishing for Phools shows how the Invisible Back-Hand will smack you if you aren’t paying attention. Anyone who has bought a car from a dealership, gambled, gotten a credit card without providing income information, or gotten an email offering sweepstakes winnings, knows that sinking feeling of being taken advantage of without being able to communicate exactly how. 

The Friedmans were right in saying that the government needs a limited role in capitalism for it to thrive. “Economic freedom is an essential requisite for political freedom. By enabling people to cooperate with one another without coercion (Friedman et. al, Free to Choose. Pg 2. 1980).” This statement is incomplete as it applies to the markets of today. True, the perfect economy exists free of political interference, but somebody has to keep the inevitable Ponzi schemes and out-of-control lending in check. The government has to provide for the social good, for its citizens but you can’t help those who won’t help themselves. We scream for laissez-faire economic policy but the depression of 1929 proved that is as unhealthy for the economy as heavy government regulation. We need to stop looking at the government to solve our problems. The recession of 2008 should be an alarming example of how citizens need to educate themselves when dealing with sleazy salesmen giving them a deal that’s too good to be true. We all want a smaller government then demand that they do something about our problems; we can’t have it both ways. As long as we keep looking to mom and dad to pay off our credit card bills, we’ll never be able to stand on our own two feet. We demand the government does something then we’re shocked when they end up being just as corrupt and self-serving as the people who got us into this mess in the first place. 

In today’s world of predatory financing, we need to believe nothing of what we hear and only half of what we see. We’re sold cigarettes then die of lung cancer, we’re sold automobiles we can’t afford, given mortgages we can’t sustain, and are told that we can be fulfilled in life by living like the Kardashians. Then all of that debt is packaged nicely into a security and tied to your pensions and 401ks. The only way out of a bad situation is to ensure we don’t get ourselves into one in the first place. The sleazy salesmen of the world exist because there’s a market for them to succeed, governments are in bed with the banks because it serves their interests. We need to wake up and smell the bullshit.

Thank you for your time.

Tax Incentives and Housing Market Inflation

A tax incentive is a manipulation in the price of a good in an attempt to increase or decrease demand.  For example, if you’re willing to pay $900 for a new television but it costs $1,000, you’re less likely to purchase that television.  But if the government were to allow that item to be tax-free or make it cheaper through tax incentives, in the overall population the television company would ultimately sell more televisions.

Tax incentives are a tool used to increase aggregate spending in the economy by putting more money in your pocket as well as creating an incentive to invest in certain markets.  Examples are the deductions for having children and the tax credit for first time homeowners.  Getting a deduction per child is mainly to help aggregate spending; nobody in their right mind will have a child simply because they get a tax deduction. That money saved by the individual goes directly into the economy in the form of groceries, childcare, clothing, and other necessities; which are then taxed accordingly. Since parents and homeowners have the largest propensity to consume, it makes sense to put money in their pockets to stimulate to economy.  In 2012, the tax credit of $1,000 per eligible child was extended through 2017 under the 2010 Tax Relief Act. (TurboTax). Helping out households with children is one thing; it’s the incentive in the housing market that alarms me. Considering we just got ourselves out of a very deep hole dug by the access to credit and unreasonable demand on housing, maybe we need to let the housing market adjust naturally for a while.

If the housing market bubble is partly to blame for the recession, why are we back to our old tricks of encouraging people to invest in housing?  The first time homebuyer incentives in 2009 was an $8,000 stimulus authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and a tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time homebuyers and $6,500 for existing homeowners was issued in 2010 for review in 2017 (TurboTax). I agree that these incentives were needed initially to keep the market afloat so the effects wouldn’t be worse than what we all experienced; but is it still necessary or even wise to encourage people to buy homes?  Seven years after the recession began we are back to increasing demand on housing through the same tax incentives and access to credit as before, with an interest rate of 0.05% for a 3 year T-bill (, banks have even more incentive to lend. was nice enough to spell out incentives for buying a home in this click-bait worthy article.  In the article, low interest rates, tax credits, and energy efficiency credits are all terrific reasons to purchase a home.  Luckily, we have done away with adjustable-rate mortgages as well as having a heavily regulated financing industry. We have made progress, but there is still a long ways to go before the housing market will recover.

My argument mainly focuses on areas where tax incentives have further manipulated the price of the market and increased demand from an already high level, causing inflationary pressures.  Case in point: Washington DC and New York City.  A $120,000 home in Buffalo, NY would sell for over $500,000 in Washington, DC.  In New York City; Manhattan dwellers pay, on average, $4,081 per month in rent on an island with an occupancy rate of 98.93% (New York Post). With an average 2014 annual income of $58,878 for the State of New York. That’s 83% of the average New Yorker’s (state) income and 34% of the average New York City resident’s income at $2,749 per week, which only recently spiked 12% from 2013 figures and is more than 2 ½ times the national average (Bureau of Labor Statistics).  This can also be attributed to rent-control that has caused developers to create more condos for purchase than rental properties, but the message is clear; if there is already a large demand for something, increasing an incentive will cause inflation and severe inequality.

There should not be an equal tax incentive to purchase a home in Detroit, Michigan than downtown Washington, DC; but according to the current tax code that is exactly what we have.  The logical policy approach would be to attempt to deter people from buying property in DC to adjust the equilibrium of the market and help mitigate the inflation we already see. My macroeconomics teacher once referred to flipping houses in an inflated market as the “biggest idiot dilemma”.  Meaning that flipping a house is risky and irresponsible, but the industry exists because there’s always a bigger idiot who will buy the house from you.  One day, just like every ponzi scheme, the amount of participants will no longer grow and the biggest idiot will be left with the worthless property.

The recession was caused, in part, by access to credit and an overall incentive and social attitude towards purchasing houses. People need a place to live and a home is an excellent investment, but it isn’t that simple, not everywhere.  Through the creativity of the Federal Reserve Bank, automatic entitlements like unemployment insurance, fiscal stimulus in 2009 by the Obama administration, and the solidarity of industry leaders we were able to avoid a catastrophe in 2007.  Had we let it, the recession of 2007 could have been another global depression. Today, the Federal Reserve Bank’s ledger is full of everyone else’s bad investments that they purchased through quantitative easing, the interest rates are at an unprecedented constant low at below 1%, and people as a whole want to get back to the way things were. The economy cannot survive another asset bubble popping; we called in every favor, the national deficit keeps growing, and we are running on fumes as it is.  The Federal Reserve and market leaders are playing this one close to the chest because they know that a bad attitude about the economy can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We, as consumers, need to realize how bad things could have been in 2007 and be more fiscally conservative, not go back to a system that was doomed to fail in the first place. The government has created blanketed tax incentives to purchase homes and the effects are being felt regionally.  Now that we are out of the weeds, we should focus tax incentives regionally based on market projections to get a more sustainable and effective adjustment to the market.  The first time homeowner credit is good until 2017, we need to review this legislation and either let it expire or adjust our approach to create a better future for our citizens in a more sustainable economy.

Thank you for your time.