The Skary Skelly 2017 Halloween Message 

"And you may say to yourself, 'My God! What have I done?'" Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads)

H ey, kids! What more proof could you want that actions have absolutely no consequences anymore? Donald Trump has been President for ten months now, and virtually nothing has changed. The sun comes up every morning, people get out of bed and go to work every day. And more of them than before. Unemployment is down to 4.2%.

The stock market is at an all-time high, and the bull market is now 32 months old. (Strangely, Trump insists on taking credit for all 32 months.) Non-farm employment declined by 36,000 in September, breaking a skein of 36 straight months of job gains, but it’s hard to blame El Donaldo. It was mostly due to disasters of a different sort, namely hurricanes that cost about 100,000 fast food workers a paycheck in the particular September pay-period in which the Bureau of Labor Statistics did their employment survey.

Halloween continues to look more and more like New Year's Eve, just in drag. Evil clown masks are expected to be top sellers this Halloween, but most likely no political message there … clowns are everywhere these days.

Congress seems disinclined to pass any major legislation—how like them—but Citibank, when I toiled there in the 90s, always regarded that as a positive thing. They believed our elected officials, on both sides of the aisle, were incapable of doing anything good and it's best if they just be allowed to cancel each other out.

But Republicans do seem united in their desire to pass "major tax reform" this year. Actually, major tax reform is needed, but what they really seem to want is just a major tax cut for their major friends. Somewhere around a $5.8 trillion cut, principally in corporate taxes and taxes on high income earners (measured over 10 years).

They feel the former is needed, and as to the latter, well, their donors are demanding it. You may be called on to pay for some of this. The rest they'll just add to the deficit. I.e., they'll finance it by adding it to the national debt, America's credit card.

Steven Mnuchin, Trump's Treasury Secretary, along with many Republican legislators, is pretty sure tax cuts will pay for themselves by creating stronger growth and more jobs, thus expanding the tax base enough to offset the tax cuts. People inclined to buy into this thinking are encouraged to familiarize themselves with recent history in the state of Kansas. There's really not much precedent for that kind of outcome.

Generally, academic and economic opinion is that tax cuts could pay for about 15% to 30% of their costs through increased growth. The specifics of the Republican inchoate desire are kind of sketchy, so it's difficult at this point for the CBO, or anyone else, to score the likely effects. But, for example, $1 trillion in financed cuts, with no spending reductions or other offsets would likely add about $700 billion to the deficit. Effectively doubling it. (Again, over 10 years.)

That's about what they found out in Kansas.

The administration does think it can offset some of the cost by putting limits on tax-free 401k contributions and deductions like health care or the mortgage tax credit, by driving middle class taxpayers into higher brackets and via other leger de main. See, that's where you come in; someone's got to pay after all.

Right now, corporate tax remittances are near an all-time low, and there's never been greater disparity between the income of the one-tenth of the top 1% of individual earners and everybody else, but no matter. This shaky crop of majority legislators just wants a win, and they're thinking maybe this could be it. La vie me demande ca. C'est la guerre. Ah, those Frenchies: so philosophical.)

It is no sure bet that Congress can actually get its arms around this tax cut thing and wrestle it to the ground before the clock runs out on this year's legislative session. They could again prove more united in principle than practice. They really haven't been able to pass anything, and this one is really hard.

Uncoincidentally, consumers' confidence has flattened out since the election after climbing to its highest level in nearly a decade in 2016. Strangely, it spiked the most between Oct. 1 and Election Day last year. Most noteworthy, their future expectations for the economy are in sharp decline. (All this courtesy of Gallup.) So it looks a little like, eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. But you already knew this, didn't you.

Just the same, folks seem ready to get their party on bigly this Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation's annual survey. (They reach the same conclusion every year, but it's probably true.)

🎃 More than 179 million Americans say they plan to celebrate Halloween this year, spending an average $86.13, up $3.20 from last year.
🎃 Total spending is expected to reach $9.1 billion, an all-time high. (That math doesn't add up; Irrational exuberance, no doubt.)
🎃 Only 12.9 percent say their spending will be impacted by the economy, down from 14.1 percent last year and a peak of 32.1 percent in 2011.
🎃 Celebrants plan to spend $3.4 billion on costumes, $2.7 billion on candy, $2.7 billion on decorations and $410 million on greeting cards.
🎃 Record numbers of adults (48 percent) plan to dress in costume this year: 5.8 million adults plan to dress like a witch, 3.2 million as their favorite Batman character, 3 million as an animal (cat, dog, cow, etc.), and 2.8 million as a pirate. (Reminds me of the crowd on my old commuter train to NYC.)

So have fun tonight, you guys. And don't be afraid to take some risks. Apparently we're all living in Groundhog Day now. Just try not to fall in love. It might break the spell. (I realize this is coming a little late for you, Sarah, but I just learned it myself.)


(These are just the wrappers. Click for the candy inside)

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Tonight's Top Stories / Halloween Candy Edition
5 Halloween myths and urban legends, debunked
Oct. 18, 2017
By William Cummings USA Today,

Myth No. 1: People are poisoning the candy
Razor blades. Poison. Pins. LSD. They've all been planted in Halloween candy over the years by sadistic adults intent on harming strangers' children, we've been told. In recent years, images of nails and other foreign objects in Halloween candy have swept across social media.

But the tales of tainted treats are urban myths. Joel Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, looked at reported incidents of "Halloween sadism" going back to 1958. Best said he was "unable to find a substantiated report of a child being killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat in the course of trick-or-treating."

The only proven case of a child dying from poisoned Halloween candy occurred in Pasadena, Texas, in 1974. But Timothy O'Bryan's father, not a stranger, put cyanide in the 8-year-old's Pixy Stix. Ronald Clark O'Bryan was executed for the crime in 1984.

Reported incidents are normally hoaxes. "Typically this is done by the kids," Best said. Today it's easy to stick something in your candy, whip out your phone, snap a picture and get it out on social media, he said. Of course, there's no harm in checking the candy. At the very least, it's a great excuse to sample the goods.

Myth No. 2: It's open season on black cats
If you believe what you see on social media, Halloween is like The Purge for black cats. The fear that people are adopting black cats to torture or sacrifice around the holiday is so great that some animal shelters don't allow the animals to be adopted close to Halloween.

Concerns about the ritualistic torture of animals around Halloween were more widespread in the 1980s and 1990s, when fears of secret Satanic cults were at their zenith. Many shelters have since abandoned the policy of hiding black cats, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says, "There is no reason to believe that these cats are at risk."

Myth No. 3: Satan is the reason for the season
Many Americans believe Halloween is rooted in Satanic worship. For decades, Christian Broadcast Network founder Pat Robertson denounced the holiday as a "demonic ritual" and "a night when the devil rejoices."

Robertson and some other pastors may see Satan's hand in Halloween, tracing the holiday to pagan and druidic customs, but the devil is in the details.

Some scholars trace Halloween's roots to an ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain, which some say was associated with communing with the dead. Others, like Nicholas Rogers, author of Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night, argue very little is actually known about the feast beyond celebrating the harvest season.

Rogers also says that people stopped celebrating Samhain long before "Satanism" was even a thing. "Satanism is essentially a Christian creation," he said, and "incompatible with the polytheism of the ancient Celts."

Myth No. 4: It's all about the pumpkins
It's hard to imagine Halloween without carving pumpkins to make jack-o'-lanterns. But the original jack-o'-lanterns were carved from turnips and carried a candle to represent a soul trapped in purgatory.

One popular story behind the origin of the jack-o'-lantern stems from an Irish myth about "Stingy Jack" who conned the devil in a bar bet. Having angered both God and Satan with his antics, Jack was not welcomed in heaven or hell and was forced to walk the earth with only a burning lump of coal in a carved-out turnip to guide him.

Myth No. 5: 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' is a Halloween story
Washington Irving's story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, has been called "one of the best known Halloween tales," "New York's ultimate Halloween story," and "America's Halloween carol."

Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., changed its name from North Tarrytown in 1996 to rebrand itself as a spooky tourist destination. Halloween is the town's peak season.

The only problem: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow had nothing to do with Halloween. The story never mentions Halloween, which was not widely known or celebrated in America when Irving wrote his tale.

Brian Jay Jones, author of Washington Irving: An American Original, says it's a quintessentially Halloween story, all the same. "If Irving didn't invent Halloween then he should have," said Jones. Irving blended German and Dutch folklore to craft "the first real American horror story," he said.

Why We Wear Costumes On Halloween
October 26, 2017
CBS Miami

MINNEAPOLIS – Americans are expected to spend $3.5 billion on Halloween costumes this year.

Superheroes, princesses, Batman and animals are expected to be the kid top-sellers.

Dressing up has been a tradition for generations, but how did it all get started?

“Let me dispel one of the most common misconceptions, it wasn’t to scare off evil spirits,” said Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween.”

Halloween dates back 2,000 years ago, when the Celts celebrated Samhain, or the “summer’s end” in Old Irish.

During this day of the dead celebration, some people visited homes dressed up like fairies, ghosts, witches, skeletons and evil creatures, performing various antics in exchange for food and drink.

Over the next several hundred years, costumes were common for many holidays. Children would “guise” throughout the year by asking for food in exchange for songs, dances or prayers.

Fast forward to the 1800s, when Halloween become known for pranks. The pranking started getting dangerous during that time, and towns and cities starting thinking about cancelling Halloween.

There was a gradual push from families, communities and civic organizations to change the nature of the holidays from trick to treat.

“Basically, they bought the kids off with treats and costumes,” Morton said.

Halloween 2017: The 5 best and worst states to go trick-or-treating
Oct. 11, 2017
By Jill Vejnoska, AJC Homepage (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Boo . . . hoo.

Georgia’s the second worst place in America to go trick-or-treating.

That ghoulish tidbit comes courtesy of Ibotta. The mobile shopping app analyzed average candy purchases per person nationwide over the past two years to figure out where Halloween door knockers were likely to do best in the treats department.

It turns out Oregon is the home of the real candy payday: Residents there spent a whopping $40.29 per person on Payday bars, Snickers and the like, leading Ibotta to declare Oregon the best place to trick or treat.

Rounding out the top five, as determined by the analysis of 150,000 receipts for candy bought the week before Halloween in 2015 and 2016, were Washington ($28.65), New Jersey ($24.36), Utah ($23.73) and California ($19.72).

Now for the more haunting results: Georgia wound up second from the skinflinty bottom of the entire 50-state heap. The $11.76 per person spent here bested only Ohio’s $11.22 per person.

“Children in those states might need to double up on houses or squeeze in one more neighborhood block to score a candy haul this Halloween,” Ibotta advised about the bottom five, which also included (in order from worst to “best”) Michigan, Alabama and Colorado.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that folks in those states are just better at stretching a candy-buying dollar.

You keep telling yourself that. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be over here booking our Halloween flights to Oregon.