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5 Inflation Fighters Set to Fly

Well, we survived that week – what next?  

Although we ended with a rally, on the whole it was a terrible options expiration week with the S&P dropping 33 points (2%), back to 1,555, 42 points off the April 10th high of 1,597.  On April 11th, I had warned that the popping of the BitCoin bubble could mirror the popping of the broad market bubble over the next 60 days if earnings weren't up to snuff, with only Fed and BOJ easing giving us true support

So far, we've got 70 of the S&P 500 reporting and 2/3 of them – 67.3% to be exact – have beaten EPS estimates and that would be great except that only 1/2 (36%) beat revenue estimates, with just 2.1% year over year growth (earnings are up 1.6% from last year).  What does it mean if companies are beating on earnings and missing revenues (the case for 1/2 of the companies with earnings beats)?  It means they are CUTTING BACK SPENDING and that is NOT a booster for the broader economy, is it?  


We had a lovely discussion about the velocity of money and inflation and the economy on Thursday afternoon in Member Chat so I won't get into it again but, suffice to say that more Corporate Profits and less Corporate Spending is simply adding to that great, heaping supply of money that is building up behind the walls and I talked about the repercussions of inflation and the economy in yesterday's morning post so again, no reason to rehash.  

Clearly we are all doomed as a nation if we allow the above chart to continue it's ugly tend.  Well, not all, I can take my money and run along with the rest of you who are in the top 1% and, if you are smart, you are already diversifying yourself in such a way that you can just get on a plane and re-locate to a more stable nation – should the need arise.  Meanwhile, America is party central for the top 1% – as the chart clearly illustrates and, as long as the workers keep putting up with it – there's no reason for us to leave the party early, is there?

What you see in the 10% drop in wages (even worse if you factor in benefits) over the past 10 years is DEflationary pressure and, since those pesky wages are still almost 3 times higher than Corporate Profits, the drop in wages offsets the 25% rise in profits over the same period and – PRESTO! – "no inflation."  That is, of course, no TOTAL inflation but, to the bottom 80%, it's HORRIFIC inflation but, for the investor class – it looks like deflation to us, as we make more money while prices stay the same or get lower – God Bless Capitalism!  We get to screw over 80% of the population AND feel good about it at the same time…

We (the top 10%) will feel less good about it when our workers finally wake up and demand higher wages.  More money for THEM means more money in circulation and more money in circulation means more demand for goods and services and our persistent lack of investing in infrastructure and Capital Spending along with our refusal to put people back to work as we seek to maximize our profits (for those of us in the "job creator" class, that is) leaves us vulnerable to wage and material inflation eating into our massive profits.  THAT's when it will finally seem like inflation to us and then, of course, we will scream for the Fed to do something about it. 

In between now and then, though, is that magical period when the inflation genie gets out of the bottle before the Fed is able to stuff it back in.  That period can last for many years (see the late 90s, for example) and wages rise while Corporate Profits fall.  Note how rising wages are one of the BEST signals that Corporate Profits will begin to fall – that was why we shorted China back in early 2011 – when Foxconn and others were forced to raise wages (and now, 2 years later, China is fighting inflation and a massive property bubble).  We're not there yet in America, but we're getting near the tipping point – unless you feel workers can afford to give up another 10% so their Corporate Masters can continue to grow their already-record profits? 

Now I know, reflexively, you feel that lower Corporate Profits are bad for the markets, but that's not true if they are caused by rising wages.  As I noted, rising wages lead to inflation and inflation is the tide that lifts all ships and it simply is a bad time to OWN a business but a great time to INVEST in one through stocks.  Look at the above chart and note the last two periods of rising wages: 1997 through 2,000 the S&P went from 750 to 1,500 (100%) while 2006 through 2008 the S&P popped from 1,150 to 1,550 (35%).  

Clearly inflation trumps profits by a country mile and, in fact, declining Corporate Profits – especially when the reason is wages – are usually the signal of the BEGINNING of a major rally – it's rising material costs that mark the end (an article for another day or – see anything I wrote in 2007 or 2008).  So it's very easy for us to come up with a few long-term inflation hedges as we should get a very nice 2-3 year run at some point and all we have to do is think of what kinds of things people buy when they get a raise:

Cars are often on the family wish list and easy, extended financing have made cars more "affordable", even as the profit margins on cars are increasing.  F is in an excellent place to take advantage of this and it was Henry Ford himself who first (and last, unfortunately) realized that – if he were to pay his workers more – they could afford to buy more cars!  

People don't think of Ford as a dividend-payer, now, but, back in the day they used to pay about $1 on a $25 share (4%) and now they pay .40 on a $12.93 share (3%) but did you know that, in April of 1998, they had so much money sitting around that they paid a special $12 dividend?  

I like companies that have the propensity to pay dividends – even if they don't pay much now and F has been taking a breather, consolidating along its 50 dma at $13 since February.  Ford only makes 16.5% of their revenues from overseas sales and it may interest you to know that 41.4% of their income comes from Vehicle Leases and Loans – not from the sale of actual cars and, also based mainly in North America.  This is a good story then and, while Ford may dip lower in a broad market sell-off – all you have to do is walk around a mall parking lot to see how many people are still driving cars from before the crash – after 5 years, you KNOW they will eventually need a new car.

So we like F for $12.93 but we'd LOVE Ford at $10.05, right?  That's what we get if we sell the 2015 $12 puts for $1.95.  We get $195 cash in our pockets per contract and the obligation to buy 100 shares of F for $12 (net $10.05) in January of 2015 – if and only if Ford is under $12.  Otherwise, F is higher and we don't get to buy it for $12 but we do keep the money, no matter what.  Think or Swim tells me that selling 10 put contacts nets me $1,950 in cash (obviously) and cost me $1,536 of net buying power.  That is what we call very margin-efficient as we actually put more cash in our pocket than it costs us in margin – you've gotta love that!  

We could leave it at that and our worst-case would be owning 1,000 shares of Ford stock at $10.05 ($10,500) and our break-even would be 22% below the current stock price.

Or, we could be more aggressive and also buy 1,000 shares of the stock for $12.93 ($12,930) and sell 10 of the 2015 $12 calls for $2.25 ($2,500) and then, with that combination, we have a buy-write where our net cash price is $12.93 less the $1.95 we collected for the sold puts and less the $2.25 we collected for the sold calls for a net of $8.73 per share – a full 32% below the current price.  

If the stock falls below $12 and is put to us, we are forced to buy another 1,000 shares at $12 and our average entry on 2,000 shares would be $10.36.  This is how we express an $8.73/10.36 buy-write (see "How to Buy a Stock for a 15-20% Discount with Our Buy/Write Strategies").  As we are netting in at $8.73 and, as we're in a very margin-efficient short put, we now have the added benefit of expecting .70 in dividends (we missed one) over the 2 years and that then lowers our basis to $8.03/10.02 and, if we are called away with the stock over $12 in 2015 (lower than it is now), we will make 50% for our troubles.  

Hopefully, that will keep us ahead of inflation! 

I'll follow-up tomorrow with the next 4 trade ideas but feel free to suggest your own in comments today.  

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  1. AAPL-a good read on Apple and further support of why $350 is a good target support level.  I have been hearing alot about the evolution of Apple going from growth to a value/dividend stock and this supports that view.

  2. Excerpt from article I read written last week…
    '…We believe the silver price is unsustainable on the long term at these levels as the costs of mining silver are in the mid-$23 dollar range (as we showed in a prior article) and the spot price is currently at or below these levels. This screams buy for patient investors since commodities that are priced at the same level as their costs of production offer a rare opportunity for investors to buy up the physical commodity for less than it costs producers to produce it…'
    Further support of why the $23-22 level is so important to hold.  I looked at some 2015 options on SLV this morning and $21 strike gets you about $2.75 premium (break even $18.25) which is close to the next support level of $18 I mentioned earlier this week.  (SLV trades about $1 lower than silver futures). It is an interesting trade for me. 
    Phil, I know you do not like silver as much as gold but what do you think of fundamentals at these levels?

  3. Phil
    would csco or ge. Work ?

  4. Even though it was a down week the weekly NYSE Ad-Dec line was at 1361, a peak not reached since mid February. Any thoughts? 

  5. Option Assignment accounting
    I has a 20xINTC Apr 21/22 Bull Call spread that I left open after the close on Friday since I wanted to see how IB handles a spread that's ITM.  INTC was trading at 22.45… so 0.45 ITM.  I paid 0.40 for it so I should get paid 0.60 per spread, or a total of $1200.
    Bought 20 INTC Apr 21C at 0.76 for -1520
    Sold 20 INTC Apr 22C at at 0.365 for +730
    Got assigned both:
    Bought 2000 INTC at 21 for -42000
    Sold 2000 INTC at 22 for +44000
    Total : $1210
    I just went through the exercise of looking up all the prices, etc.  So I figured I'd post it.  It's good to know I don't have to close out a ITM spread on Friday.  The account statement isn't ready yet, so I'm not sure of fees yet.

  6. Hi! 

    I just followed up on a lot of stuff in the last post, in case anyone's interested, but let's move comments to here now so I don't have to keep going back and forth.  

    AAPL/Dawn – I was just in the AAPL store at Garden State Mall – packed as usual.  Very little traffic at Verizon stand in the floor and MSFT moved their Surface stand right to the middle of the food court (must have cost them a fortune for that space) but there were two customers and 4 MSFT people there and it was humorous to see how people were manoeuvering around it without even looking interested.  I had a long conversation with a girl at the AAPL store and she said they are hitting their numbers, a lot of people are anxiously waiting for new stuff to come out and stocks are pretty low on iPads and iPhones so she doesn't think there's ever going to be a sale.  

    I also noticed yet another cupcake place and this one sells mini-cupcakes for $1 each in 3+ amounts.  They were about the size of a cookie – and not the kind that would be worth $1.  They looked gorgeous but there was just no way I was going to pay $3 for 3 bites of cupcake.  What was my point?  Oh yes, so don't tell me people can't afford iPhones if they want them if they are lining up for $1 per bite cupcakes…

    Apple (AAPL) only looks cheap if it maintains its profit margins (35.3% in 2012), writes The Brooklyn Investor. Slapping Samsung's mobile operating margin of 18% on Apple's $181B in expected revenue this year then giving it a 10 multiple and adding back cash yields a value of $370/share. Margins might not decline right away (and revenues may increase to offset), but Apple bulls are fighting the powerful historical tendency (particularly for Apple) of excess margins getting competed away.

    Having digested more bad news and 4 days away from an FQ2 report expected to show an 18% Y/Y EPS drop, "investors are suspicious about the ‘E’" in Apple's (AAPL) P/E, notes fund manager Lawrence Creatura. But for now, Apple (AAPL) trades at just 5.6x FY13 EPS after backing out cash. Or as BI puts it, Apple needs only 6 years to produce enough cash to match its enterprise value, if it was simply produced at FY12's rate. The FQ2 report could include light guidance for an FQ3 that's about to see Samsung's Galaxy S IV go on sale, and could see iPhone/iPad buyers delay purchases ahead of refreshes. Is that enough to justify a valuation lower than Dell's?

    Silver/Dawn – Same as gold or copper – getting to the theoretical bottom here.  Things can spike lower but, as long as you stick to amounts where you're willing to DD at 50% off and then stick it in the vault for 2 years – I'm very much in favor of accumulating here.  

    Dr. Copper's diagnosis for the world economy: It isn't well. Copper ended the week wallowing in bear market territory after top copper consumer China reported slower-than-expected economic growth. At this point, weak demand and robust supplies could continue to put pressure on copper prices, or heavy short selling may dry up and spur a strong rebound.

    CSCO/QC – That and GE are both great VALUE plays but really nothing to do with inflation hedges.  I like F because they make a ton on financing and, even if the cars don't keep up with inflation, you can be damned sure their interest rates will and that's all gravy for them. 

    Advance-Decling/Bdon – Well we did have a nasty min-crash at the end of Feb…

    Thanks for sharing Burr.  Odd that they don't just let them cancel out like TOS does (they just give you the net).  

  7. How The Average American Spends Their Money

    Source: Credit Loan

  8. Oh, I forgot to mention above – AAPL has maintained those profit margins for 30 years so far.  AAPL doesn't make a product they can't net 30% on and 35% is the usual target.  Samsung, on the other hand, usually makes 10% selling chips so they are THRILLED to make 18% on a phone.  AAPL is simply a higher-quality product using cutting-edge everything and you can't really do that AND go for the mass market – but that's their plan.  

    They don't intend to be the cheap alternative selling to the masses – just the 1Bn people who can afford their phones and tablet.  In 5 years now, AAPL has sold about 300M iPhones and, of course, a lot of people who bought 1s now have 5s already.  So, maybe 200M of the 7,000M people on Earth (2.8%) have bought iPhones and the rest are still thinking about it.  

    If we assume only the top 10% of the people on the planet can afford an iPhone, then AAPL has narrowed their audience to 700M and a 50% penetration would be 350M people with iPhones and, if they roll over once every 3 years, then AAPL would sell about 100M a year.  As it stands, they are well above that pace at 35% margins.  If we assume the other 350M in the top 10% and, of course, the next couple of Billion, are more price sensitive then, like the iPod, I'm sure AAPL will grind the price down to under $199 and then under $99 while still having deluxe models to make the hard-core buyers happy.  

    Oh yes, girl at AAPL store also said they are very jazzed about the watch.  

  9. Phil,
    Enjoyed the lesson re the effect  wage increases have on corp profits (neg) and the counter-intuitive effect (bullish) on equities. Thus higher Chinese wages in 2011 and related increased economic growth should have driven the Chinese economy and stk market higher in 2011 but your April-ish short play ( triggered by expectation of lower corp profits due to higher wages) provided to be a great call. Sooo, why would higher wage related falling corp profits in China cause a sell-off in equities in 2011 but expect to cause an inflationary rise in equities here in 2013? What am I missing?

  10. UPS
    Would UPS be a good inflation hedge? BTW, within the coming weeks, UPS is expected to get a large portion of the postal contract. If that happens, their second day package traffic is expected to increase a lot. The number of daytime flights will have to increase to meet the demand and possibly more airplanes will be needed on the line.

  11. Turning1 // UPS
    But I dont thinkUPS has that kind of fleet – wouldn't it spill over into FDX or DHL ? I can't argue with the USPS goin bankrupt but how would the spill-overof OPs be handled. ( I'm sure someone has already made a back room deal )
    Phil // AAPL
    Looking at articles on SA and NYT – it's amazing to me that the analysts are driving towards $350. The lion share of my AAPL position ( I would assume the same as Stj – unless he really did go all in on the $225's ; > ) is the $350's. I worked out the SQQQ for financing the roll with TOS ( sorry Pharm, that sucks ) but I was wondering what your thoughts were – at what point would you execute the roll to $300. My CB fo rthe $350's is about $42, so I'm going to see what happens with the 'E' on P/E. BTW – I noticed you were still holding $400 short puts in the 25K.
    Rogue Cowboy

  12. Wombat UPS has a large airplane fleet of B747, B757, B767, A 300, MD 11, with close to 3000 UPS pilots based in Miami, Louisville, Ontario, and Anchorage. DHL is a small player in the US compared to before they pulled out of the US ,  and FDX is the one that's going to lose part of the postal contract they hold now. The announcement is expected soon!

  13. Jabo – good article on the miners.  Besides the usual stocks, GDXJ looks interesting w 6% yield.  

  14. Dawnr – you should join us in AC at the conference even if just for Monday's live trading.  

  15. Good Morning!

  16. The Apple iwatch looks cool, but it's no replacement for an iphone, or a Timex for that matter….

  17. Barrons front page…gold stocks could rise 40%. Also says ABX is the most risky due to it having some of the highest debt levels, CAPEX that exceeds FCF, and the issue in Chile. It does say though that it also has the most upside and is the cheapest if gold turns back up. ABX reports Wednesday and it could be a bomb but I also wonder what else could go wrong from here? We know mining companies were working on cutting their costs months ago already so hopefully some of that should show back up, and any hint of resolving the Chile issue should help immensely as well. 

  18. Good Morning every one!
    I have started a new weekly play including the following stocks  AAPL, GOOG, AMZN, NFLX,
    I will be selling a serious of Max 3 weekly OTM puts at different stock price levels. I have entered already AAPL, GOOG, and NFLX.
    The positions need to be observed on a daily basis, as these stocks can have a greater change as normal stocks. AAPL will have to wait for any one starting, after their announcement, as the change in value may exceed that of GOOG. With the exception of AMZN I will only sell one option at each price level.
    The play will have to be started on the TOS real time paper trade ONLY for anyone wishing to participate. Make sure you have enough margin to do these trades. I will set out a time frame of about 8 weeks to analyze the outcome of the operation.
    For anyone wishing to participate please contact me via so I can send you the basic excel worksheet in which you will enter your weekly trades and changes for your record. You need to make out one sheet for each stock.

  19. drudge reporting 12-man sleeper cell.  wow.  this ain't over yet.  FBI really dropped the ball on this.  bomber #1 spent 6 months in Russia within past year.  

  20. FSC 10.58 paying div. .10cents monthly
    Buy stock and sell Nov. staddle for 1.35 base 9.23/9.61

  21. Good morning!

    Pretty slow news weekend so far.  Yen 100 seems to be the goal:


    Japan's Aso: Recovery 'Few Years' Away

    Japan's finance minister said it may take longer to cure Japan of deflation than the two-year goal that the Bank of Japan has set and a self-sustaining economic recovery is at least "a few years" away.

    China/8800 – As you can see, now that they've had their little dip Hang Seng stocks recovered very quickly and it's been ages since we touched FXP, even with the recent 10% drop.  China's economy is not the same as America's or Europe's – I should have made that distinction, I suppose.  China is more like America in the 30s-50s – as people left the farms to go work in factories in the big cities only they haven't had a massive war to suck up excess employees or give them a focus for Government spending (and war spending is great as you literally spend money on things and then destroy them so there's no oversupply after the fact).  Anyway, so the gist of the commentary was re. our situation here – China is so much smaller with so many other dynamics – you can't apply the same model but we did realize that higher labor costs would lower corporate profits and spook investors and they had a 30% correction but it came back so quickly early last year that I lost my taste for messing around with China and, anyway, our markets looked so good I saw no reason to stray. 

    UPS/Turning – I think, on the whole, they're a good bet on that premise but does inflation help or hurt them?  Generally, the transports don't do better with inflation as they are all wages, fuel and equipment costs and, since the volume of items shipped doesn't increase – only the price – and since the manufacturers they have to pass increased costs on to are themselves having trouble passing on price increases fast enough to maintain margins – I don't think it would qualify as a hedge against inflation.  

    AAPL/Wombat – My house and my neighbor's house are almost identical.  They were at the same time by my neighbor and his parents, who wanted to live next door to each other.  When I bought my house it was $400,000 and, at the top of the housing market, someone offered us $950,000 for it.  At the bottom of the housing market, we would have been lucky to get $500,000 and now, I would imagine around $650,000 or so is fair.  It's the same house – it hasn't moved, it hasn't grown or done anything special and my neighborhood hasn't changed since 1998 and, had the house not shot up to $950,000 at some point, I'd feel like a real genius for being up $250,000 now.  

    Meanwhile, when "THEY" took the PRICE of our houses down to $500,000 at the bottom of the market – had my neighbor decided to sell his house, I would have been THRILLED to buy it because I KNOW it's worth more than that.  Maybe not at that time but, eventually, I KNOW it's worth more so I make an INVESTMENT.  My current investment in my home is up 60% in 15 years, had I gotten my neighbor's home for $500K in 2008, I'd be up 30% in 5 years – even better.  

    Even if I had bought my home for $950,000 and then bought my neighbor's home for $500,000 (doubling down), I'd now have two homes for an average of $725,000 and I'd be down but not too unhappy – especially compared to being down $300,000 on the one home.  Since my main intention is to own my home "forever", none of this stuff even bothers me but I damned well know a bargain when I see one and, if I find myself with more homes than I actually intend to use – THEN I can take advantage of an offer for $950,000 next time it comes around and lighten up.  

    AAPL is the same thing, you say you have $350s at $42 so you OWN AAPL at net $392 and now it's $390.  Do you think this calls for drastic action?  Can you comfortably afford to put more into the position and wait a very, very long time if things go against you?  As you note, we're still holding the short $400s because we don't have any reason to panic out of them at this point.  If earnings really suck and guidance sucks and we don't see that we have enough time to recover – THEN we will worry but, otherwise, we have about as much AAPL as we'd like to have and we'll be THRILLED at this point just to see it back over $450.  Before earnings (before getting better information) is not a good time to press our bets – but you'd damned well better be ready, willing and able to press your bet AFTER earnings – otherwise you have no business taking that chance in the first place.  

    AAPL/Jabob – Oh no – it's HORRIBLE – Abandon ship!!! 

    Look at this disaster, sales up about 70% and earnings didn't even double – what could people be thinking?  Cash only went up 50% last year after climbing 50% the year before that and less in prior years – what kind of madness is this?  Who would stick with a company that is gathering so much cash at only the same rate (but, of course, the total amount of cash is up 100%).  Imagine this year if AAPL only drops $40Bn into cash – that would be just 33% of the $120Bn they already have and more than any other corporations ENTIRE NET INCOME!   Yes – abandon ship!!!  

    I liked the gold article too:


    iWatch/1020 – Yes but it's only one of the proposed designs.  I liked the first set I saw better (more like regular watches) but I don't think the technology can support such a small form factor yet.  The wrist-band idea lets them spread the electronics and batteries over a good amount of area so it can be more functional.  Long-term, I just want a little pin on my chest like in Star-Trek and, when you want to know something, you hit the button and ask and the computer tells you – end of story. 

    ABX/Bdon – Yes, that big upside is what I love.  Gold doesn't even have to bounce – they can just get Chile back on track and the stock will take off.  That's what I do like about them.  

    By the way, is anyone watching Matt Harvey (Mets) this year?  Holy cow – this is everything I used to love about baseball back when Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, John Matlack and Dwight Gooden used to make it a party to go the Shea Stadium and watch a game.  I haven't cared about baseball in years but this kid's 4-0 with 32 strike-outs in 29 innings and an ERA of 0.93!  That's fun!  Unfortunately, like so many Mets teams in the past – they just have the one great guy and then you have to endure the next 3 games until it's his turn again…

    Weeklies/Yodi – Sounds like fun.  

    Drudge/Terra – I haven't seen anything legitimate to support that on this side of the ocean.  It's a rumor that started in The Mirror, which is like using the Start as your primary news source.    

  22. Phil,
    What are your fundamental thoughts on WTR? I do not mean this is an inflation hedge by itself but, if your hobby is extrapolating you can say that by early summer they are about to double their Jan. price.Is there any play around?

  23. AAPL / Wombat – The way I look at it, earnings are in 4 days so why would I want to jump on board now unless I am addicted to trading and I need the action. If AAPL misses and gets down to $350, I'll get a better entry point. If they beat with amazing guidance and go up $50 I only missed the first inning. Last time AAPL went from $400 to $700, it took them 6 months. I doubt that it would be different this time and they go up $300 in one day. In which case, the May 700 calls at $0.01 are a much better deal with a 50,000% potential…. 

  24. Sorry Diamond… I have the dates but not the day! So 3 days from now then. Here is the calendar I am keeping:

    Tomorrow – NFLX! And plenty the rest of the week…

  25. ABX—is this normal for them to report before the open and have the CC after the close?
    First Quarter Results Release

    April 24th before market open

    Conference Call and Webcast
    April 24th 4:30 pm ET

  26. Inflation Hedge – Mosaic (MOS) – Genetically modified seed, fertilizers, etc.  Sell the Jan15 50 Puts for 5.75 for a net entry 44.25 that is 23% discount to their current price of 57.53 (under the 50dma but on the 200dma).

  27. Phil,
    Thanks for the clarification re wage infl plays in China vs USA – part of the 10K hours.
    Now, if you can just get Tim C to produce a 5" screen iPhone, partner with CHL (instead of CHU) and put a little pizzaz in his new product development and presentation skills we may be able to order something besides Egg McMuffins.

  28. This chart shows why the growth has been hard to come by during this last recession:

    I guess we can blame Excel for this one.

    What in the World. The slowing gold market by Fareed Zakaria

  30. Phil – You pointed out to Bill Maher's point that Democratic senators actually represent more people than the GOP one and someone made the calculation for the Gun Bill:

    After last afternoon's pivotal vote on Manchin-Toomey, a reader emailed to say he'd looked "at how the vote broke down if you factor in the size of the Senators’ respective constituencies." Each senator represents half a state, obviously, so he broke those populations in half.* The result: Around 198.4 million people were represented by senators who backed Manchin-Toomey. Around 114.9 million were represented by senators that opposed it. Those backing the amendment represented around 63 percent of the population.

    That's 63% of the population that is represented and it was still defeated. It's getting hard to call that a democracy now!