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Question of the Day

Are we losing our merit based economy?

a) Yes, with the excuse that those on top "did not build it on their own."

b) No, the successful are getting fully rewarded for their lifelong efforts.

Click here to post your answer and let Charles know what you think.

Design on the passing world to turn thine eyes,
And pause awhile from letters to be wise;
There mark what ills the scholar's life assail,
Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail,
See nations slowly wise, and meanly just,
To buried merit raise the tardy bust

-Samuel Johnson

The nation is struggling with the idea that envy can be the same as toil and that a man's hard-earned riches can be taken and distributed to the masses. The same people that think American millionaires (80 to 95% of all millionaires depending on the source) didn't "build" their own wealth somehow believe a thug that kills someone didn't do that either-it was the "gun's" fault. (Last week the New York Daily News wrote a flattering story on the Son of Sam who they portray as a changed man whose wisdom now extends to the elimination of guns. Sick!!!) Watching this battle of values and responsibility versus unaccountability and irresponsibility is difficult and scary.

I will never accept that the person that sacrifices so much to become successful is somehow in debt to the person that mostly sleepwalks through life.

Now this battle moves to another level. With the selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's running mate, those that champion confiscation of wealth over individual accountability have the perfect straw man. Of all the congressmen, senators and political parties, and of course the president, only Ryan has sat down and thoughtfully put together a plan to make sure America remains great by making tough choices now. His plan is designed to save America's social safety net as well as keeping its military the strongest in the world. But those looking to save massive food stamp distribution, massive welfare rolls and socialistic taxes will throw up grandma losing benefits as a cover not unlike putting up policemen and teachers when it's time to cut waste in local governments.

This is a nation of merit for now. It's hard to become a successful business person by accident and no sweat. It's hard to climb the corporate ladder if you are in at nine and out at five every day ... and never finish the year with unused vacation days. Yet, in this new (un)American movement, people come back from vacation looking for more money or fret in rush hour traffic about the lack of upward mobility. The nation is moving at a fraction of its ability and the only reason it's moving forward is because we already have an economy built to last.

In "Young Guns," Paul Ryan speaks of an America in which hard work was rewarded and slacking off penalized. When he was a kid, for just on B on his report card his allowance was cut to $2.00 from $4.00 and for a C he got nothing at all. In President Obama's world, the A student is greedy and must pay a price while the B student is still too high and the C student is the victim of something and even his laziness is a byproduct of something nefarious by the A student. So that $4.00 allowance is chopped up with the A student holding $1.50 the B student $1.50 and C student $1.00 - and even that would be seen as a compromise that's still unfair to the underachiever.

Merit is being buried ... along with it America, too.

Today's Session

I talked a lot during the first four months of the year about the stealth rally, perhaps stealthiest in history, we'll its back. Like anything this big and stealthy the key lies in the fact that the market isn't making a lot of noise. Volume is anemic and headlines are focused elsewhere. The household names outside of Apple aren't making a lot of news and our domestic economy certainly isn't robust enough to make people think of the stock market. Of course, it's mid-August, too, and while the economy isn't hot the weather is idyllic across the nation today. There is a ton of news out this week that could shake things up, possibly adding justification to the rally or justification for taking another day off to savor the sun.

Retail sales tomorrow coupled with results from several retailers will set the tone. We also get reads on manufacturing and housing.