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Gratitude in the Animal Kingdom and Welfare Utopia

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland set out to observe if the principle of direct reciprocity exists in the animal kingdom.

Using lab rats, it turns out that the notion of gratitude exists and it is rewarded.


One set of rats were able to pull the lever that doled out either a piece of banana (the great reward) or carrots (a less attractive reward). When the recipient rats were allowed to return the favor with cereal, they pulled the lever first and much more often for the rats that had given them the good stuff.

Now, these researchers should see if the notion of reciprocity exists in Americans, where gratitude has been replaced with contempt and those who receive goodies from others, expect even more.

Moreover, even when there is a sense of being grateful, there is no sense of obligation to return the favor in some form or fashion. This is the result of the Great Welfare Utopia. Despite the higher taxes I'm paying to help support others in my town, no one bothered to come to my house to shovel...even for money.

To this, I say...“Rats!”

Small Businesses Shrugged

Americans love their small businesses for so many reasons, including the fact that more Americans work for them than the large behemoths. Although we see positivity in small businesses, we see negativity in banks and on Wall Street.

I don't think that's the reason why banks aren't lending to small businesses; but it is a maddening phenomenon that keeps getting worse.


Bank assets have soared past $2 trillion and loans to big businesses are well above pre-recession highs,while small business loans are down 17%.

However, never fear, because the Easy button is here. Staples announced it is getting into the small business-lending arena. The office retail giant, which is still in the process of trying to get the okay to absorb Office Depot, will provide funding from $2,500 to $1 million through a service that promises approvals in days, not weeks.

We know Staples will not be the answer, but it is a shame that all the printed up cash is not going to the people who are willing to pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their business rather than buying back their own shares.

Message from Construction Spending

After climbing to $961.4 billion in 2014, there was much hope that this year would see construction spending back above $1.0 trillion; January came in at an annual pace of $971 billion up 1.8%.

There are certain trends, such as the boom in apartments and condominiums, but total spending on single-family homes also presents an economic opportunity.

January Construction (Private)ResidentialTotalChange
Single Family$204.9+9.7%

In non-residential construction, there is a narrative that business is bulking for domestic growth and local spending at hotels and amusement parks. Manufacturing came in better than we expected and it hints at potential jobs and wage growth.

January Construction (Private)WinnersTotalChange


  • Commercial
  • Auto Showrooms +30.5%
  • Restaurants +30.1%
  • Shopping Centers +14.1%
  • Building Supplies +90.8%
  • Warehouses +52.8%

Each day, we are greeted with more news about delayed or abandoned energy projects; which means we get less great-paying jobs. On the other hand, private education points to a slowing demand for college and religious spending which continues to suffer since the start of the Great Recession.

January Construction (Private)

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