Shopping for a New Car? Here’s What to Know Now

If you’re going to be in the market for a new car this year, it pays to know what sort of shape the auto industry is in and what sort of deals you can expect to find. If you haven’t shopped for new wheels in a while, you might be surprised at just how much the market has changed.

U.S. auto sales are still going strong, but they’re showing signs of weakening, according to industry analysts. Every expert I spoke with recently expects total sales to come in a bit below 17 million this year, which would be good, but behind the recent pace. Combined sales of cars and light trucks hit a record 17.5 million in 2016 and stayed above the 17-million market in 2017 and 2018; 16.8 million or a bit lower seems like a reasonable bet for this year. Continue reading “Shopping for a New Car? Here’s What to Know Now”

Big Tech Won’t Be Broken Up, but Big Changes Are Coming

Calls are growing louder to split apart Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon and other tech giants. A group of activists and scholars seek to use decades-old antitrust reasoning to regulate or break up today’s largest tech companies. “It’s definitely a new and much greater drumbeat today than it has been,” says Charlotte Slaiman, competition policy counsel at Public Knowledge, a public interest nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

The rising movement, known as hipster antitrust, “attacks ‘bigness’ per se, says Joe Kennedy, senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Kennedy points out in a report that a policy shift in that direction could produce more uncertainty, slow innovation and even reduce economic growth. That threat, however unlikely, strikes fear into some of the country’s biggest companies. Continue reading “Big Tech Won’t Be Broken Up, but Big Changes Are Coming”

Fight Back Against Time-Wasting Robocalls

The scourge of unwanted and often illegal robocalls isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, in the near term, it might even grow worse. Billions of robocalls are made each month, including fraudsters trying to steal your identity or raid your bank account by impersonating IRS or Social Security officials.

Some relief is on the horizon, though. Federal regulators and industry are beefing up efforts to penalize bad actors and roll out new preventative technologies. Software that blocks unwanted calls or better identifies who’s calling is improving quickly. And businesses are trying new text-based messaging services to reach customers who ignore voice calls. Continue reading “Fight Back Against Time-Wasting Robocalls”

Investing in Energy Efficiency

I recently gave some basic energy saving tips that may help consumers lower their utility bills. One of those tips was considering replacing conventional lightbulbs with light emitting diodes, or LEDs.

I figured advice isn’t very good if I wouldn’t take it myself, so I bought two LEDs to replace two old-fashioned incandescent bulbs in the light fixture above my dining room table. It may sound like a boring chore, but it promises to deliver a far better return on my investment than any stock or bond I’m likely to buy. Continue reading “Investing in Energy Efficiency”

States Blaze Trail for Marijuana Reform

Few industries operate in a stranger legal and political environment than marijuana. While 33 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized pot for recreational and/or medical use, the federal government still considers it an illicit, controlled substance. In short, pot is simultaneously legal and illegal in these states, depending on the governmental perspective.

The situation has partially handcuffed a nascent industry that otherwise is thriving and shows even greater potential. Legal cannabis sales in the U.S. are expected to top $13 billion this year – $3 billion more than 2018. Look for sales to spike to almost $26 billion in 2025. Continue reading “States Blaze Trail for Marijuana Reform”

Cannabis Industry Has Big but Uncertain Potential

The future is bright for legal marijuana, one of the fastest growing industries in North America. Look for the trade to build on a groundbreaking 2018 with rampant growth in the coming years.

Thirty-three states and Washington, D.C. have legalized pot for medical purposes. And in December, Michigan became the 10th state to also allow recreational use by adults. More states will follow suit this year and beyond. Continue reading “Cannabis Industry Has Big but Uncertain Potential”

How Hollywood is Coping with the Rise of Netflix

With the flood of at-home streaming entertainment options, is the movie theater business toast? After all, films made solely for streaming services are grabbing larger audiences, threatening to curb box office sales down the road. Netflix’s film Birdbox was viewed by 80 million households in one month in 2018. Netflix has a bigger slate of movies this year, including The Irishman, a Martin Scorsese film with a $150-million budget. Continue reading “How Hollywood is Coping with the Rise of Netflix”

Who Comes Out on Top in the Streaming Video Wars?

The streaming video wars are heating up. Tens of billions of dollars are being spent on online video content. Companies are battling for the same customers. Technology is rapidly changing. Who wins and who loses from this new tumult in the media industry?

The biggest splash in a long time will be the launch of Disney’s much-anticipated streaming service, leveraging its deep well of films and television shows while spending billions of dollars on new programming, marketing and technology. The move, set to happen this year, marks a new era for the company as it takes a step away from its traditional movie and television business. Continue reading “Who Comes Out on Top in the Streaming Video Wars?”

You Don’t Need the Green New Deal to Save on Energy Costs

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the implications of the Green New Deal, a proposal backed by several congressional Democrats that would essentially ban all fossil fuel use by the year 2030. Since then, a resolution outlining the GND’s principles has been introduced, and has generated plenty of debate, even though it’s a non-binding resolution—meaning it’s just a commitment to ideas, not actual legislation.

One of the idea’s more overlooked provisions is a commitment to “upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximum energy efficiency.” Like most of the rest of the plan, this idea would be extraordinarily expensive. The resolution has no chance of passing the GOP-controlled Senate, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has no plans to bring it for a floor vote.

But if you’re interested in the idea of saving some money on your utility bills, you don’t need to wait for a sweeping law overhauling the country’s energy sector. There are practical steps you can take now. Continue reading “You Don’t Need the Green New Deal to Save on Energy Costs”