Goodbye Denver, Hello Miami

Al Lewis South Florida

I am leaving Colorado, where I’ve lived since 1990, for the Miami area to become editor in chief of the South Florida Business Journal.

Click here to read more in the South Florida Business Journal. Click here to read more in The Denver Post. And click here to read my parting column in The Wall Street Journal Sunday.

I’m sad to leave so many great people, but excited about a new opportunity.

American City Business Journals, which owns the publication, has made an impressive transition over the past few years, adding websites and mobile apps to its traditional base of weekly print publications in 40 U.S. cities. It is now firmly positioned as a business news reporting powerhouse in the digital age.

I’m especially pleased to joining this company in South Florida, a vibrant microcosm of the global economy, where billionaires flock to buy real estate and immigrants of more modest means come to chase the American Dream. Telling their stories, as part of a dedicated team of journalists, will be a great adventure.

I will miss writing columns for The Wall Street Journal and Marketwatch. To keep up with my Florida adventures, follow me on Twitter @tellittoal.com and hit the “like” button on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/tellittoal2.

ALSO SEE: Goodbye 9News.

32 Comments

  1. dear Al.. I am sooooo sorry to learn you have quit your emporium column. you are the most forthright honest writer working today. please let me know if you will have a new website I can follow you on or if your current one will be kept up. thank you for all your levelheaded and honest insight over the years. gary

  2. Good morning Al,

    I toiled in Milwaukee at Cityside, The Milwaukee Business Journal and the Milwaukee Journal and would find refuge at a local diner called Lenrak’s. Cheap and good coffee,
    sliders and blue plate specials that kept the vagus nerve at bay and energized me. Good conversation, leads and basic therapy. The camaraderie, priceless. When Lenrak’s closed, I sought a new place to feed myself. With Al’s Emporium moving into the archives I’ll need to search out a new place to feed my head and spirit.

    I found your column trustworthy, believable and stimulating. The few times I contacted you, there was always a reply. I’ll miss that.

    Take care, stay safe. Patrick Tilley

  3. AL,
    Add my name to your many fans. I’ll miss reading your weekly column in the Sunday WSJ. Best wishes in Florida.
    Walter Wedler

  4. Mr Lewis:

    The only reason I pick up a free copy of the San Francisco Examiner–where your WSJ column appears most Sundays–is because of your column. It is almost the only economic/financial commentary that I trust. I clip out your columns and have a collection of them, but I have no idea what I’ll ever use them for. They’re just too good to throw away.

    Jake Sigg
    San Francisco

  5. Going from a mile high to a low. Global warming might put you below the water line. Enjoyed your columns, wish you well and wishing that you could continue writing. It does get humid there in the hot, hot, hot, hot, summer.

  6. Dear Al Lewis (on the news of your last column for the Wall St. Journal;
    In my maturity I have found very few commentators who knew the truth about the worlds of economics and politics, and who told said truth plainly and fearlessly — you have been one of the best. Of the great stories of evil shameless government and crooked criminal business, you told many, with style and wit. Your cynicism seemed to be seasoned with the hope that once uncovered the bad things might be fixed; that exposure to sunlight and shame might kill the pathogens infecting our politics and economy — “It could happen!” (Judy Tenuta’s line). But now you are gone, to be crushed into silence by the sterile duties of a desk job; duties that might best be left to a wife (the most trustworthy of them) or a homely but competent intern paid in love and a little cash, who might enable your continued study of the news and creation of your warnings to the world (for those of us who still read a newspaper).

    But now you are gone, and (with the exception of Dan Walters of Sacramento Bee, Thomas Sowell, Charles Kruathammer, and a few other columnists I see too seldom) I am left to interpolate, deduct, infer, and estimate the truth from extreme data and views, or else to garden, read classics, and wait for my nation to become a mere cautionary tale for students in the Chinese Century. Darn; and I was hoping sometime you might possibly explain what Paul Krugman is talking about when he advocates lots of deficit spending and high taxes for economic health of all nations.

    The hardest thing to take is that you won’t be replaced by anyone as ethical, moral, and old-school as yourself. Bloggers, Tweeters, and anonymous Internet trolls will speak in codes understood only in their tribes. Agitprop practitioners (some of who, like Obama, can be quite artistic) will simply be the paid mouthpieces of various marketeers. The new journalists will be mere tools of the eventual dictator (when Hillary tires of democracy), and will simply take the ruler’s bread to do the ruler’s bidding.

    I will miss your column more than I can say.
    -Frank Wortham

  7. > Dear Al,
    >
    > I’m sorry, for my sake, that you’re ending the column. It was one of
    > the few things in the WSJ Sunday insert to my Daily Herald that was
    > worth reading. Don’t be too upset with the folks who don’t agree with
    > you. People seldom want to hear the truth.
    >
    > In one of your recent columns, you opined about the health insurance
    > industry & Hobby Lobby, I believe, and I had been meaning to respond. I apologize for
    > the length of this Email, but I would really like you to ponder some of
    > the ideas I offer below. They might give you fodder for a future blog.
    > Let me preface by saying that I’ve worked as a Medical Social Worker in
    > a hospital for 18 years and so, I’ve had some experience with health
    > insurance.
    >
    > The system is terribly broken except for the large insurance companies.
    > Hospitals have been screwing the public for years but now they are
    > getting squeezed by Medicare and commercial insurance companies. So,
    > the fat-cats at the top are laying off the line staff.
    >
    > We have not had a truly Capitalistic health market place for years. What
    > other industry sells you a product or service without telling you how
    > much it is going to cost and then the both of you rely on a third party
    > to pay the bill? Welcome to healthcare.
    >
    > I can’t begin to tell you how, “Entitled,” patients have become,
    > expecting Hyatt Regency service on what is becoming a Walmart budget.
    > Our society has gotten used to someone else picking up the tab for so
    > long, they just expect every thing. Now that Medicare and insurance
    > companies are cutting back, it’s making my job dealing with these folks
    > a lot harder. Their expectations just don’t match reality.
    >
    > I had an idea about what might fix the situation, but the powers that be
    > won’t go for it. The fat-cats want the status quo because it lines
    > their pockets, and that includes those of the government.
    >
    > To reduce healthcare costs, everyone has to have some skin in the game.
    > That means insurers, medical providers, and most importantly, patients.
    > The monetary feedback loops have to be changed to accomplish this.
    >
    > First, we have to get employers out of the business of providing health
    > insurance to their employees. Group plans can be achieved by
    > voluntarily forming groups. Companies like Sam’s Wholesale Club and
    > COSTCO have a natural membership base from which to form a group.
    > Religious organizations could also form large groups for their
    > members. Various civic groups might do the same. The laws would have
    > to be changed to permit this. Each group would purchase health plans
    > from the exchanges for their members, with their target market’s values
    > and needs in mind. Now, think how this would eliminate the current
    > issue that’s gone all the way to the Supreme Court regarding Hobby Lobby
    > and other faith-oriented businesses vs. Obamacare’s mandate to provide
    > all manner of birth control, even abortifacients which these companies
    > object to. Individuals and families would simply join the group that
    > meets their needs the best. Consumer choice is a grand thing! The
    > groups would be responsive to their members to keep their business and
    > the exchanges would have to be responsive to the groups.
    >
    > Currently, Obamacare reinforces the Employer-driven insurance model. If
    > you stop to think about it, this benefits large corporate employers the
    > most because it forces most Americans to have at least one family member
    > working for a large company in order to have insurance for the family –
    > a guarenteed workforce. Second, the customer of the insurance company
    > is the employer. The insured is the employee but but employers don’t
    > typically listen to their employees. As an employee, my choices are
    > limited to the group insurance choices my employer offers. Third, the
    > law forcing companies that have over 50 employees to provide insurance
    > to their workers benefits the larger corporations. How so? This
    > requirement is a financial headwind that businesses must contend with
    > and a bigger company can deal with it more easily than a smaller one, so
    > this limits competition from smaller rivals. The game is fixed.
    >
    > There are two other issues that need to be dealt with. First, the
    > greatest amount of healthcare dollars are spent on a person towards the
    > end of his/her life. Second, we need to make sure patients have skin in
    > the game. I propose a cradle to the grave approach, regulated by
    > government to keep players honest but based on the free market. An
    > actuarial premium chart would determine premiums from birth to the
    > grave. In addition to the straight premium amount, the premium chart
    > would include an extra premium to build a cash value (not like a whole
    > life insurance policy). It would be more like a 401-K plan that
    > features targeted funds except the individual would not be in charge of
    > managing the account, the insurer would be. In other words, at any
    > given point in a person’s life, the premium chart would indicated what
    > his or her accrued cash value should be. If the insurance company
    > invests wisely they get to keep the difference between what the accrued
    > value ought to be and however much more the investments actually made.
    > They might choose to lower premiums because of this profit which will
    > help to attract and retain business. If, the insurer invests unwisely,
    > they must pay into the individual’s premium account what ever it takes
    > to raise it to where the chart says it is supposed to be. When a person
    > makes a health insurance claim, the insurance company might pay 80%, the
    > patient might pay 10%, and 10% might come out of the person’s accrued
    > cash value. The future premiums will now go up (and individuals making
    > a claim would be informed of this) in order to raise the premium account
    > to where it is supposed to be within a regulated amount of time. Once
    > the account is caught up, premiums would return to where they are
    > supposed to be. Now, patients have skin in the game and with the help
    > of their group sponsor, they might make better, more informed choices
    > about their healthcare spending. Also, by the time the individual is
    > nearing the end of his or her life, the cash account should have grown
    > to help offset all the costs associated with end of life care.
    >
    > Since, people are not all alike, don’t earn the same amount, or have the
    > same lifestyles that may affect their health, a one size fits all
    > approach won’t work. There will need to be a welfare version of health
    > care. It would work in a similar way. But, before the government sends
    > a welfare check to a recipient, the premium for their healthcare
    > insurance would be deducted, thus, guaranteeing they are insured.
    > What’s cheaper, for the government to actually pay the recipient’s
    > medical bills or to pay his or her insurance premium and allow the
    > insurance companies to absorb the rest?
    >
    > Anyway, that’s as far as I’ve taken my thinking so far. I’d be
    > interested to know your thoughts and like I said, perhaps this will give
    > you some material for your blogging.
    >
    > Best wishes on your new endeavor.
    >
    > Brian Van Dine
    > Glendale Heights, IL
    >

  8. Hi Mr. Lewis,

    I was saddened to read in the Wall Street Journal Sunday version within my San Diego Union Tribune that you are leaving the paper.

    I am also a capitalist, but like you, believe that corporations in general and Wall Street and investment banks in particular have become too powerful. And with that power, has come subtle and sometimes not so subtle abuses of the markets, tax laws and the buying of elections which subverts our very democracy.

    To me, you have been the strongest watch dog / whistle blower within the WSJ and I admire you for exposing the nasty manipulations by the 1% of the 1%.

    I hope your new position in Florida will be fulfilling, but if you ever get bored, I hope you will return to “Al’s emporium”!

    A grateful reader,

    Hunt Kooiker
    San Diego, CA

    • Dear Al,
      Just a note to tell you how much I appreciated your syndicated column which I’ve read every Sunday for years in the San Diego U-T. I really like your clear and accessible writing style, and I most often learned something useful each week. I always felt like you were on the side of the common man and woman. As for your critics, whatever. They must’ve found your column very engaging in order to elicit so much ire. I hope you weren’t fired from the WSJ!
      I’ll look you up on your Florida business blog. Keep fighting the good fight!
      Sincerely,
      Cindy Hartley

  9. Hey Al, while we’ve not seen too much of you over the past few years, we too will miss you. Hope you and the family thrive in South Florida. Keep in touch. Wil Kristy and those who used to call you Mr. Owl.

    • Thanks, Wil. Appreciate the kind words.
      I should wear a graduation cap, everywhere I go, with that nickname.

  10. I loved your last column for the Sunday WSJ. You provided an alternative, skeptical vision of the US economy that was a pleasant change of pace from the rah-rah capitalism that predominates at the WSJ. I often wondered why they hired you and whether they regretted their decision. For my part, I have never regretted investing time reading your column and I hope to continue to see (or hear) your perspective in your new “emporium”. Best of luck to you!

  11. Al, will miss your column in the Arizona Daily Star. Always felt you had the real info and I enjoy your humor.
    Hope to keep up with you in another source. Good luck!

  12. So sorry you are ending your columns. Our local paper only started including WSJ articles a few years ago. I save ALL your columns which are so full of wit and (un)common sense. Florida’s gain will be our loss! Good luck!

  13. Your column is full of good ideas. Might readers like the idea of a carbon fee with 100% of that fee deposited in your bank account and the bank account of every U.S. citizen?

    Why a fee on coal, oil and natural gas? When you burn them, that puts extra carbon dioxide into the air, and that extra carbon dioxide is melting the North and South Pole ice, raising sea levels, making hurricane winds extra strong (like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina), and the air pollution is causing asthma and pneumonia.

    This fee would start out at $15/ton of CO2 produced by burning the coal, oil or natural gas. The fee would be imposed as the coal, oil and natural gas came out of the ground or were imported into the United States. The fee would be increased so that at 10 years it would be $105 per ton of CO2 produced by the burning of that coal, oil and natural gas..

    This “carbon fee with 100% deposited in your bank account and the bank account of all U.S. citizens” is also described as a “carbon fee with 100% dividend” or as a “revenue neutral carbon tax.” It is not a tax because all of the money is given to U.S. citizens. A tax is money that is retained by the government. None of this money would go to the government

    May you have great success in Florida (though watch out for the 24 inches of rain in 24 hours. That is also from the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.)

  14. Personally I hope the weather drives you back to Denver so I can still read you in the Sunday Denver Post. Sometimes your column was the only thing I read in the Business Section. I do wish you success and hope you will continue to write columns that I can find somewhere. Although I still prefer print media — which makes me probably your least desirable demographic, senior. So please find someplace else besides just twitter and facebook.
    Thanks for your writing — we’ve enjoyed it immensely.

  15. I will truly miss you. Your articles were always so interesting, and helpful. I work and live in MI my husband is retired and lives in FL. He really likes it there so I believe you will too. God bless.

  16. I’ve enjoyed your column for a long time. It’s been a favorite of my Sunday reading.

    Congratulaions and best wishes!

  17. I hope you will continue writing with the same critical insight in your new venue. You are a rare talent among business writers, and I will me reading you in the Sunday Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

  18. Question. In your column ‘That’s it. I quit’, you say “Most investors would do better in index funds rather than pay a so-called expert to manage their money”: I tend to agree.

    Who would benefit,generally, from qualified expert advice?

    PS. I never miss your column (unless the one where you answered addressed this question). Sorry to see you go.

  19. Welcome to Florida! If things get hectic over there try coming west to Naples. Best of luck to you!

  20. Just read your last column ‘That’s it. I quit’ and it is a good one. I don’t know what ever happened to Common Sense
    but it seems to be gone except in your columns and I will miss them. Congratulations, good luck. and I’ll be looking for your work in the the South Florida Business Journal.

  21. Best wishes Al. I really enjoyed “Al’s Emporium”. I hope this isn’t the end of your writing. I live about 2 1/2 hours north of Miami and will be visiting the SFBJ website often.

  22. Congratulations and best wishes Al.
    I’m up near St. Petersburg so be sure to let me know whenever you’re in the area.
    Sorry, I don’t do FB or Twitter.
    But let me know if SF Business Journal is online and available for viewing.
    Best,
    Dan

  23. Congrats! Have enjoyed reading and hearing your perspective on our crazy financial world. Does this mean that this website will shut down? If you commented on that, I missed it. Tim

  24. In order not to appear as a spoiled, selfish Denverite I will join the others in wishing you the best in hot, humid, bug infested South Florida, Al. I have enjoyed your articles for years. Thank you!

  25. SO incredibly happy for you, Al! So glad we got to catch up recently. This is a great fit for you!

  26. The South Florida Business Journal will be lucky to have you. Congratulations! Mom

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