Happy Tax Day! If it doesn’t feel like a holiday, consider this – you are obliged to count up all your blessings from the previous year and spend time doing something you don’t entirely understand or enjoy all that much. If you’ve really procrastinated, like me, you may have to take off work. But if you haven’t filed yet, here is your last minute advice from Barataria: stop screwing around on the internet and file already!
This is an even more special day than your typical holiday because Tax Day means one thing to Americans everywhere – we all get to complain. Bitterly and constantly. Rather than whine about the amount of taxes, however, it seems more appropriate to take note of the incredibly complicated and expensive way we go about collecting the money that is necessary to run a government. It costs between $160 and $234 billion just to prepare the paperwork, or about as much as the feds collect in corporate taxes.
It became official on Sunday. The 2016 Presidential election cycle is fully underway now that there are candidates in both parties. We have 19 months of this to look forward to, so if you are underwhelmed now it might be best to find a cave to live in. As the sometimes hilarious satire site “The Borowitz Report” put it, “The two major political parties’ unconscionable waste of money officially commences this weekend, as Democrats and Republicans will soon begin spending an estimated five billion dollars of their corporate puppet masters’ assets in an unquenchable pursuit of power.”
Why care? If not for the spectacle, you might want to care for the simple reason that whoever becomes the next President may become an American icon through the blessing of really good timing as this depression winds down into a potential new golden era. It’s all about managing inevitability for Clinton, something that she appears to be doing a much better job of all around.
Eight years ago, Barataria began as a humble blog like so many others. It grew out of a need, first and foremost, to get a few things out of my head that would otherwise rattle around and bump into the stories that paid the bills from my job as a professional writer. It has grown into a loyal community of readers who are hunger for new perspectives on this crazy world and respectfully offer their own.
A rapidly changing world needs a diet of more than high calorie headlines. It needs time for a slow meal, carefully prepared and savored through a lingering evening. In a visceral sense that’s what I mean by “I don’t break news, I fix it.” We are all in this together, taking time to chew and swallow before we open our mouths in a joyous moment among friends.
Our team, 2491 No Mythic, is set for the North Star Robotics tournament next week. It’s an event that teaches all the aspects of engineering and entrepreneurship – design, build, teamwork, and budgeting. This year’s competition also brings back an important concept in any business – Coopertition. The teams competing in a match can bump up all their scores at once if they work together.
It goes against the sporting aspects of the match in many ways, but it is critical. In business, companies have always worked together for mutual benefit even as they have competed. Cooperation can be a powerful force for change or a descent into stagnation. No matter what, business has never been purely a “survival of the fittest” in ways that define the boundaries of ethics and will almost certainly be more critical in a close-knit global economy increasingly defined by technology.
The Middle East is dangerous, complicated, and generally just plain messed up. You may respond to that statement by saying, “Yeah, and the sun rose this morning,” or something less polite. But for all the turmoil that the region has been through in recent years it’s actually much worse right now.
A combination of shifting alliances, horrific blow-back from past adventures, and an ancient rivalry blowing up fast are converging rapidly into one regional conflict. Who is on whose side? Who might or might not be winning? It’s nearly impossible to tell, and that makes everything far more dangerous than ever.
There is probably no more contentious issue at the crossroads of politics and technology than hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process, where oil and gas drillers chew up rock deep in the earth, is responsible for the major oil boom that produced so much oil it collapsed into the current bust – with very low oil prices. It also creates a lot of environmental damage and, as a relatively new technology, is remarkably unregulated.
New rules were introduced for fracking on federal land on Friday by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Eagerly awaiting them were the drilling industry and environmentalists, both of which had a big stake in the regulations. If you are a long time follower of these procedures, or simply a cynic, it might come as no surprise that both sides are unhappy.
There is little more important to the US economy than the price of oil. In the last year, about $500B of gasoline alone was sold at gas stations across the nation, with another $180B in other fuel oil – about 3.9% of total GDP.
Despite its importance, no one is willing to predict where the price of oil will be in the future. The Economist said “If your correspondent could forecast that, he would be on a yacht reading The Economist rather than at a desk writing for it.” Indeed. It seems like a task for an idiot to even try, as Barataria has several times in the last year. We were so wrong about it that it might make sense to bet heavily in the opposite direction.
Low oil prices appear to be here to stay, at least through the year. The implications are worth talking about, even if we can’t be sure what happens after that.