To The Pointwith Boris Bozic
Commentary, Opinions, Thoughts and Discussion on Current Events, Politics and The Mortgage Industry

1 Comments CAAMP Moves Forward

Article written by on the 07 Mar 2013 in CAAMP

It’s been five years since the last time I took part in the CAAMP strategy session, and over the next two days I’m at it again.  The board is meeting in Niagara to chart the course for CAAMP for the next five years.  It’s an important exercise to go through, and it’s an exercise that all the directors take seriously. The decisions that will be made over the next two days will reflect the wishes of the membership.

There have been many changes in our industry over the last five years, and it only stands to reason that changes would apply to CAAMP as well.  From my perspective the most profound change for CAAMP is their activism.  Over the last five years CAAMP has become THE voice of the broker channel, and represents the interests of multiple constituents on a national level.  CAAMP’s membership has made their wishes clear, government relations is recognized as the number one activity that CAAMP undertakes on their behalf.  Can’t say with any certainty what the board will ultimately decide on over the next two days but I suspect government relations will be at the forefront.  One of the other changes that I’ve noticed over the last five years is that there is less chatter that CAAMP dues are simply a cash grab.  I don’t think it’s a case of not seeing the forest from the trees but I believe the majority of the membership has been able to join the dots.  Paying dues means we have the ability to lobby government, which leads to protecting what’s in our member’s wallets, and to ensure sustainability for the long haul.

The association has grown by leaps and bounds over the past five years, and it truly represents our industry in all regions of the country.  Our preset Chair is from Manitoba, next year’s Chair is from Saskatchewan, and two years ago our Chair was from British Columbia.   In my humble opinion CAAMP cannot be viewed as an Ontario based association only.  CAAMP’s membership is in line with our countries population but geography alone does not dictate who will lead the association; ability does, and that’s the way it should be.

Until next time

Cheers

 

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0 Comments Florida: March Break & Real Estate

Article written by on the 19 Feb 2013 in Mortgage

Any Plans For March Break?

This is the time of year when Canadian families look to escape the winter blues by heading to warmer climates.  Arizona and Florida are popular destinations, especially for snow birds. The state of Florida provides a lot of things for families to do.  There’s Disney, Bush Gardens, the Cape, and going to open houses.  What, you don’t think dragging your kids to open houses when you’re on vacation is normal?  Hmm, must just be our family.  We’re dragged our 11 year old to so many open houses over the years that he actually now provides feedback on the home we’ve just looked at.  Kid you not the last time we were in Florida we took him to an open house, and on the way home I asked him what he thought of the house?  His answer?  “I really liked the footprint”; nearly brought a tear to my eye.

For past six months I’ve suggested that if you’re thinking of buying a second home in the Sunbelt you may want to do so sooner rather than later.  Many Canadian’s are doing just that because there’s deals to be had however there’s no doubt that Florida market is showing signs of recovery, which means the insanely good deals will be a thing of the past.  In the last six months I know of two families who have purchased properties in Florida.  One family purchased a condo, a foreclosure, and another family purchased a single family detached home, a short-sale.  In both cases the price they paid would make you shake your head.  In both cases the two families could have purchased their homes on their credit cards, and still have room on their limit.  Through sheer luck or astute analysis they purchased their home at the bottom of the market.  According to the Florida Real Estate Association, one third of all home being purchased by foreign nationals in Florida are Canadians.  The net result of all this activity? The average home price increased by 17.8% in 2012, and the time on the market has dropped to 63 days from 78.  Credit is still fairly tight for American buyers so foreign nationals purchasing a home in Florida are making a significant contribution to the Florida real estate market.  It’s estimated that 90% of Canadians buying homes in Florida are doing so with cash.  No need for mortgages, dollar parity makes it a little more affordable for Canadians.

So if you’re heading down South for the March break you may want to set aside a day to have look at some real estate.  After two or three days at Disney the little darlings owe you.  But if you have to bribe them you can tell them you’re going to visit some friends, and if they’re not at home it’s okay if they jump on all the beds. 

Until next time,

Cheers.

 

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1 Comments Housing Affordability

Article written by on the 07 Feb 2013 in Business,Canada,Economy,Mortgage

Much has been written and said about mortgage debt and affordability recently.  No point in belaboring what has and has not been done to address this issue. I’m sure there will be plenty of that in the future, as well ample hang ringing about the so-called condo bubble, specifically in Vancouver and Toronto.

Manhattan Living...

The so-called “condo crisis” (oh, how the mere thought of it makes the press salivate) in Vancouver and Toronto came to mind after I read an article in the Wall Street Journal. The article focused on the cost of condos in Manhattan. The current median price of a condo in Manhattan is the lowest it’s has been since 2004. Could Manhattan’s experience be a harbinger of what’s to come for Vancouver and Toronto?  If it is then maybe the 36 people in Toronto who don’t own a condo already should go and get one.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average home price for the month of December in Toronto was $501,361, and in Vancouver it was $730, 912.  Remember this includes dirt to go along with the walls.  In Manhattan the average condo price in 2012 was $835,000.  However, adjusted for inflation it was the lowest since 2004.  Can you imagine the headlines if Toronto was similar to Manhattan’s reality?  The median price in Manhattan for a 2 bedroom condo was $1.26 million, 3 bedroom was $2.37 million and a 4 bedroom was $4.75 million. Adjusted for inflation these are the lowest prices since 2004. According to the Wall Street Journal article there’s a disconnect between buyers and investment indicators.  Buyers are saying there’s not enough affordable housing and yet when you take inflation into account prices have actually declined.  So is it a good time to buy a condo in Manhattan?  I’m not familiar with the Manhattan’s housing cycle so I’m not sure, but what I can say is this: at an average price of $2.37 million for a 3 bedroom condo in Manhattan, I think Toronto is a good buy.

Some might be aghast that I would compare Manhattan to Toronto.  Well, Toronto is the 4th largest market between the US and Canada.  Therefore, I think it’s valid to look at values on a comparative basis.  That’s exactly what foreign investors did when buying property in Vancouver and Toronto. As absurd as we think our prices may be, the investor from Hong Kong looks at our market and thinks of great value.  As we all know value is driven in large part by consumer perception.  The perception of Vancouver and Toronto is that consumers buying condos are doing so at their own peril.  Yet in Manhattan, home buyers lament the high cost and scarcity, all the while being told now is a good time to buy.  It’s interesting how some things never change.  Here’s a headline that helped shape New Yorkers perception of their condo market, “Great Scarcity in Apartments…Never before has there been such scarcity of apartments on Manhattan Island.”  That headline came from the New York Times, in 1916!

Until Next Time

Cheers

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5 Comments Canada’s Housing Market: Self-Fulfilling Prophesy

Article written by on the 24 Jan 2013 in Current Events,Mortgage

canada-housing-correction-crashAs I mentioned in my last blog, the purpose of my visit to Mexico last week  was to attend the TMG conference.  I was asked to take part on a lender panel, where I and a number of my esteemed lender colleagues,  would answer questions about our industry.  A question that was put forth to me was, “do I believe that regulators would make further changes to mortgage rules in 2013?”  My crystal ball was a little foggy that morning, it could have been the tequila, so I applied reasoning when answering.  I answered, “no “.  No one can say with absolute certainty what the government may or may not do.  But today’s reality leads me to believe that any further changes to mortgage rules may create unintended consequences, which could result in harming our economy even further.   My view is that of CAAMP’S, the most recent changes to mortgages rules may have over reached.  If the most recent changes to mortgage rules was intended to slow down home sales, then one would have to say mission accomplished.  Due to all the changes to mortgage rules over the last three years all of us are feeling an impact in some form or another.  This is the new norm, and time will tell if regulators went too far this time.  So, I’m less concerned about further changes to mortgage rules in the immediate future than I am about rhetoric.

There’s a good article in the Globe and Mail about what could possibly happen to the Canadian housing market when you cry wolf enough times.  Consumer psyche is a fragile thing.  If people in authority, and those supposedly in the know, say it often enough consumers will deem it to be so.  Good evidence of this came from the most recent Maritz survey on behalf of CAAMP.   Over sixty per cent of the general population believe Canadians have taken on too much debt.  Yet close to seventy per cent of the respondents do not believe it applies to them.  So how did they come to formulate this opinion?  Did they conduct a survey in their neighborhood?  Are they all qualified economists?  They form their opinion based on headlines,  and those that are responsible for fanning the flames.  It’s the rhetoric that I’m most concerned about now.  The mind is a powerful thing, and those in sales know how import their psyche is when it comes to success and failure.  Never would I suggest to ignore the facts as it relates to business.  That’s suicide.  Those of us in the industry can separate facts from hyperbole.  But does the consumer do the same?  Of course not.  They’ll form their opinion on sound bites and snippets of information.  Thus my concern about rhetoric, especially coming from those who have fallen in love with the sound of their own voice.

Here’s the link to the Globe and Mail article, it’s a good read. 

Until next time,

Cheers.

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4 Comments Farewell to ING

Article written by on the 17 Jan 2013 in Lenders,Mortgage

I feel like that old man slowly watching his friends die off; checking every day to see if his name has made into the obituary section, realizing it hasn’t he goes about his day.

In the short time that I’ve been blogging I’ve written a few farewell blogs to lenders who are no longer with us.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, we bid so long to ING in the broker channel.

Firstly, if the news that the ING brand will no longer be available in the broker channel, well, I’m surprised – anyone would be surprised.  Scotia Bank, who purchased ING Canada, is focused on franchising customers and their strategy is to enhance and grow their own brand.  So it was only a matter of time before orange would become totally red.  I guess the time is now.  The loss of any lender in our space is troublesome, on many levels. Competition has many benefits, pricing, product innovation, and credibility.  To think this announcement won’t create a dominos effect is a little naive.  Recently some lenders have announced a reduction in finder’s fee.  Why? Because they can.  That’s what happens when choices become limited.  Don’t believe me? Ask any broker in Australia.  I’m not suggesting there will be a mad rush by lenders to reduce compensation but with every announcement telling us another lender has exited the market the possibility increases.  It’s Darwin’s theory of business evolution.

For those who have supported ING you should take a moment to thank them for their support of your business.  They paid well, they had aggressive pricing, and from what I heard they made tremendous strides from a service standpoint.  If you were a supporter of ING you can’t complain, it was a good run.

Until next time

Cheers

 

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1 Comments Housing Prices: What is being said?

Article written by on the 16 Jan 2013 in Mortgage

It’s not necessarily what you say but when you say it.  This came to mind to when reading an article in the Globe and Mail this morning.  The headline read,Jim Flaherty on home sales dive: I don’t mind prices coming down a bit, too”.  Was this remark simply off the cuff?  Or was it a comment made by someone who has decided it is time to pursue other career paths, therefore, being candid will have no political ramifications?  I got to thinking about that because the other half of the economic dynamic duo has already decided to bolt.  Mark Carney (not sure who’s Batman or Robin in this working relationship) has been making bold and provocative statements for the past 24 months.  Was that a result of Carney becoming enamored with his own press clippings or has he known for some time now that he would be perusing greener and more lucrative pastures?  Clearly there’s only one person who can answer that but it does leave one wondering if the level of candidness was a result of an impending departure.

So what to make of Flaherty’s statement that he wouldn’t mind if home prices come down a bit?  Now there’s a future campaign slogan.  Out on the campaign trail, pumping flesh, kissing babies and reminding voters that’s okay if the equity in your home has been eroded.  Logic and experience tells us that politicians have an outside and inside voice.  Outside voice: “NO NEW TAXES”.  Inside voice: “VOTE FOR ME MY LITTLE LEMMINGS”.  Flaherty is not a nephrite when it comes to making public comments.  He’s been doing this for too long to know what will and will not stick to him.  Politically, making a comment like “I don’t mind prices coming down” doesn’t make a lot a sense; so, is this frankness a sign that he may be moving on?  If it is, who could blame him?  He’s done an admirable job during uncertain times.  He’s been in this role for some time now, and navigating the Canadian economy since the economic crisis couldn’t have been a lot of fun.  The daily pressure and issues he faces would leave most curdled up in the fetal position, sucking their thumbs and calling for their mommies.  Okay, maybe that’s just me.  Jim Flaherty has done a great service for this country, and if he’s decided that now is the time for him to cash it in, we should all volunteer to give him a ride to the bank.

As for the most recent housing data in the Globe article, “Alex, I’ll take No #%&@ for $200, please”.  The net result is exactly what the government wanted.  The good news – the number of listings are down.  There’s balance between supply and demand, and we have low interest rates and solid employment numbers.  There’s a new norm we will all have to adapt too, and nothing suggests Armageddon is on the way.  Now if we could only get public officials to lower the decibel levels, a bit, we’ll be just fine, thank you.

Until next time,

Cheers.

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0 Comments Reasons to Celebrate: Smart Consumers and Low Unemployment

Article written by on the 11 Dec 2012 in CAAMP,Canada,Economy

For some time now, finding positive news about the mortgage industry and the real estate market in general required a Sherpa Guide and a donkey.  “I think I just heard something positive about mortgages…  OOPS, my bad, it’s just Big Foot.”

It hasn’t been easy but over the past couple of weeks there’s been news which leads me to believe the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse may not be on the way.

CAAMP’s Annual State of the Residential Mortgage Market in Canada (love those short titles) was released just prior to Mortgage Forum 2012 in Vancouver.  It’s a must read for everyone in the industry.  All the major media outlets have picked up the report and there’s been a significant amount of coverage based on the report.  One aspect of the report that bodes well for the industry, and should give regulators some degree of comfort, is how responsible Canadian borrowers are.  I found it striking that 32% of borrowers either increased their monthly payments or made principal reductions over the past 12 months.  It is estimated that $3.5 billion in additional monthly payments were made, and a further $20 billion in lump sum payments.  Yes, consumers are taking on more debt but they’re looking at paying off their debt sooner.  When stories are written about consumer debt levels, a word or two should be dedicated to how responsible Canadians are in attempting to eliminate their debt.

Here’s another indication that consumers maybe be smarter than the press give them credit for.  Over the past 12 months there’s been a high level of ARM conversions to 5 year fixed terms, and the product of choice today is 5 year fixed. Maybe, just maybe consumers are smart enough to know that now is not the time to gamble.  They’re looking at five year terms and saying the rate is competitive and it’s worth the peace of mind for the next five years.

As far as I’m concerned, the only stat that matters to our industry is the unemployment rate.  Everything else, where prime is going etc., is secondary.  Our industry, our entire economy will rise and fall with employment numbers.  It’s simple, if borrowers are working and they have access to cheap money, like they do now and will have for the next few years, there’s less reason to dump a property.  A home owner may not get the price they’re looking for but because the home is affordable there is less reason to discount the price.

If a home owner loses their job a completely different set of circumstances arise.  That’s why there’s reason for optimism over the most recent employment numbers.  According to Stat’s Canada, 59 thousand new jobs were created in November. On a year over year basis 294 thousand new jobs have been created, and hours worked have also increased.  These numbers are critical, not only to our industry but to our economy. Anytime we see a reduction in the employment rate it’s a reason for a high five or fist bump.  So turn around and give your work mate a fist bump because our unemployment rate has been reduced to 7.2%.

There’s more good news that will be readily available when the full Maritz survey becomes public in January, another must read.  But even if we only take into account the data available today there’s reason for optimism, and lessons to be learned.  For instance, consumers do not require regulators to legislate responsibility. Consumers are miles ahead on that one.

Until next time,

Cheers.

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3 Comments Mortgage Forum: Customer Complaints

Article written by on the 29 Nov 2012 in CAAMP

Customer Complaints play a critical role in any organization because they are the rawest form of interaction between a customer and a business.  Complaints, by their very nature, are an emotional reaction to an experience.  It’s visceral so it’s more about emotion than fact.  Customers who are angry, frustrated or “feel” like they have been disrespected in some fashion are more inclined to let their feelings be known.  A company should never, ever, dismiss a customer’s complaint, even if it’s proven that the complaint has no factual foundation.  An angry customer today has a multitude of communication platforms at their disposal to share their outrage.  A company who ignores customer complaints does so at their own peril.  Companies can learn a great deal from complaints and in some cases customer complaints can help an organization identify flaws in their DNA.

As the Chair of the CAAMP Mortgage Forum, I think about customer complaints and feedback, and how best to interpret the complaints/feedback.  Unlike organizations that produce a product, the Mortgage Forum is an experience.  An experience is emotional and therefore when I review the CAAMP survey I do so through a filter.  All the feedback we receive about the conference is carefully analyzed but I also remind myself that it is nearly impossible to satisfy everyone. Some people are predisposed to having a less than positive experience.

For example, some complaints are made by those who fall into the “bitter bucket”.  These are individuals who really dislike a different approach. Let me rephrase that, they hate everything.  They long for the old ways.  The simple things in life provide them comfort, and they miss that.  If the messiah himself was to appear on stage these people would say, “great…just what we need…another motivational speaker”.  The other group is the “phantom bucket”.  These are the people who go to the conference and don’t attend any sessions. However, they still share their opinions about the quality of the sessions and speakers.  I’m impressed that their telepathic prowess is not impacted by sleep deprivation and libation intake.

Irrespective of the categories of complaints they all serve a purpose.  The Mortgage Forum is a two and half day experience and the likelihood of being completely satisfied over the course of the entire conference is pretty low. The attention to detail, by those responsible for putting this event together, is the reason why the majority of delegates are satisfied with their experience at the Mortgage Forum. For the people who arrange the Mortgage Forum, it’s the little things.  Like addressing the complaint we received one year that “the bagel’s we served at breakfast were too small”.  So now when you have breakfast at the Mortgage Forum you’ll notice there are bagel instructions on the back of all the napkins: “If you believe the bagels are too small, please feel free to eat two of them“.  Just kidding, we went with bigger bagels.

Until next time,

Cheers.

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0 Comments Day 2 – Mortgage Forum 2012

Article written by on the 27 Nov 2012 in CAAMP

It’s day two at the CAAMP Mortgage Forum and the day stated with music and a presentation on the creative process with recording artist David Usher. Hell of a way to start the day. I challenged the creative part of my brain by asking him to come up with lyrics that incorporate the words bps, OSFI, B20 and trailer fees. We might have to wait a while to hear that hit.

I have to get back to the conference.

Until next time,

Cheers.

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0 Comments Time To Go CAAMP’ing

Article written by on the 22 Nov 2012 in CAAMP

CAAMP Conference 2012Minus the tents, sleeping on the ground, rummaging for food and not bathing for a few days.  There will be no roughing it at the CAAMP Mortgage Forum 2012.  Every aspect of the conference is high end.  From its location, speaker line-up and entertainment.  The mortgage industry is entitled to an event which is celebratory in nature.  Our industry has been in the cross-hairs for some time now, and this conference gives us an opportunity to say to all those who viewed our industry in a negative light, We’re still here…We’re still standing…We’re still relevant.

As the Conference Chair, my wish is that all attendees enjoy the experience.  There’s nothing wrong with having fun while you learn and network.  Personally, what I’m looking forward to is talking to people.  Old school, one-on-one conversations. Less texts, and more handshakes and smiles.  Here’s to a great Mortgage Forum 2012, and I look forward to seeing you in Vancouver.

 Until next time,

 Cheers.

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0 Comments Mortgage Forum 2012: The Count Down Begins

Article written by on the 15 Nov 2012 in CAAMP

CAAMP Conference 2012In a little over a week I get to play the part of an expected father, the birth of a massive baby;  Mortgage Forum 2012 officially opens on Sunday, November 25th, in the beautiful city of Vancouver. This is year two of the conference transformation or rebirth if you will.  The teeth gnashing and nail biting was far more intense last year.  I guess that’s because you’re never 100 per cent sure if and how the change will be embraced.  I received many compliments during the Forum last year but I had this nagging doubt that people were just being polite.  Therefore, attendees true feelings and thoughts would be captured by way of survey results.  I waited with baited breath to get the results, and what a satisfying exhale it was when the results came in.  The results were off the charts, and it was there in black and white, the changes were embraced.  Many the of the survey respondents commented, “How are you going to top it next year?”  All modesty aside, we’re going to do it. (more…)

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0 Comments Mortgages are Not Black or White

Article written by on the 06 Nov 2012 in Mortgage

“The question on the mortgage application asked “Are you Caucasian, African American, Latino, Asian, Native American or Other?”  My initial reaction was shock, but then it dawned on me why I was being asked this question… Now there’s a recipe for responsible lending.”

 

My blog last Tuesday,Honouring a Canadian Hero, referenced the failed Presidency of Jimmy Carter.  As stated, I do not believe history will be kind to Jimmy Carter and his legacy and defining moment will forever be the American Embassy hostage crisis in Iran.  The final act of humiliation for Carter was when the Iranians only agreed to release the hostages after Ronald Regan’s inauguration.  Regan negotiated a deal for oil with the Iranians, and he was responsible for the hostages being released.  I think it would be a challenge, even for President Carter’s most ardent supporters, to make a case that he was an effective Commander and Chief.  What about as a legislator?  Once piece of legislation the President Carter signed into law was what I believe was the genesis of the mortgage meltdown.

In 1977, President Carter signed into law the Community Reinvestment Act.  The law was designed to force banks to meet the needs of borrowers in all communities, with a focus on moderate and low-income neighbourhoods.  The belief at that time was that the banks were discriminating against moderate and low-income neighbourhoods.  To remedy this, Crater and Congress passed a law requiring banks to ensure that moderate and low-income borrowers (in those days was code for “non-qualified”) would be able to get a mortgage.  The new law armed regulators with the authority to block bank mergers and expansion if they were deemed to be non-compliant.  The Community Reinvestment Act stated banks were not required to make high risk loans, however, the penalty for not doing so could impede a bank’s ability to grow and create value for its shareholders; dilemma, dilemma.

 The truth is that after many years of the law being enacted, regulators exercised caution when disciplining banks for non-compliance of the Community Reinvestment Act.  But that all changed when William Jefferson Clinton became President.  An amendment to the Act was made requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government agencies, to securitize mortgages for those borrowers who were moderate or low-income borrowers.  Also, the regulators were instructed to enforce the law.  No more ambivalence, no more looking the other the other way.  Upon audit if a bank was found to be non-compliant with the Community Reinvestment Act, the banks’ ability to grow would be impeded by the government, period.  Oh, but it got even better.  Social and community groups were encouraged to file complaints if they believed a bank was not in compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act.  It got to the point where some banks were paying off – pardon me – making significant dollar contributions to community groups to not file a complaint.  These community groups gladly accepted the “donations” from the banks with the understanding that banks still had to fund “X” dollars in mortgages in moderate and low-income communities.  Under Clinton, the banks had to find ways to do non-qualified loans but now they could securitize these loans and get if off their balance sheet.  Now there’s a recipe for responsible lending.

 I got a firsthand look at the folly of this Act.  For a short period of time I had a mortgage in the U.S.  I will never forget one of the questions on the mortgage application.  The question was, “Are you Caucasian, African American, Latino, Asian, Native American or Other?”  My initial reaction was shock, but then it dawned on me why I was being asked this question.  The criteria to qualify would depend on how I answered that question. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires lenders to collect this data to ensure equal lending practices, and the Community Reinvestment Act ensures that those who would not normally qualify for a mortgage, do.  Can you imagine having to ask that question here in Canada?  Now, is it any wonder that we weathered the meltdown so much better than our neighbours to the South?  Lending in Canada is not based on racial quota, it’s based on qualifying.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the mortgage meltdown was the result of irresponsible behaviour that boarded on criminal by some.  However, if fingers are going to be pointed at those responsible for the mortgage meltdown then historical perspective is required.  The Community Reinvestment Act provided the kindling, newspaper, butane and matches; Wall Street set it ablaze.

Tonight Americans decide who their next President will be.  I’m struck by the parallels between the Carter and Obama era.  Both had no answer for a failing economy.  During both administrations the American psyche was and currently is extremely fragile.  Under both administrations the future brought little hope. Both administrations had to deal with an embassy crisis.  Both blamed their predecessors for the state the economy at re-election.  It didn’t work for Carter and tonight we will learn if it worked for Obama. 

Until next time,

Cheers.

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