Dangerous Games

The deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling came and went without anything happening.  Some say that this is proof that it was never a real issue to start with.  Is it possible that they are right?

Not a chance.  We got an extension until August by raiding the pension fund.

You may or may not be willing to take the risk, as some are, but it is unreasonable to think government default has anything other than horrible consequences – starting with a complete government shutdown, likely involving higher costs to service the massive debt we have, and probably threatening the fragile recovery we have in the economy.

Yet there are many who want a long-term budget balancing plan before they agree to increasing the debt limit.  It may surprise you to know that just such a plan has already been crafted by a bi-partisan commission, and it is a damned good one.

Continue reading

Structural Unemployment

When is unemployment more than just the lack of a job?  The term “Structural Unemployment” has started to gain prominence in the news for the first time since the 1980s, and it means a lot more than the lack of work.  It refers to a lack of appropriate skills among many of the labor pool that makes many people difficult or impossible to employ.  While this is a serious problem, it could actually be good news – there is a new economy rising out of the ashes of the old one.

The difference between good economic news and bad is, as always, written in our ability to deal with the situation at hand.

Continue reading

Loose Ends

When I write these blog pieces, I’m sitting alone in my kitchen relating the best information I can on a topic.  That doesn’t mean I cover any of them thoroughly.  Your comments always raise new perspectives that sometimes flat-out school me – and either make my arguments stronger or tell me to drop them.  I can’t thank you enough for this great experience in social media, where community works together to arrive at something like “truth”.

Lately there have been a number of loose ends that have come to my attention from other sources, however.  Those, combined with an interest in longer replies say that it’s time to tie a few things back together.  It’s all good!

Continue reading

Conspiracy Theories

It hasn’t been a good month for popular conspiracy theories.  Several theories with different levels of popularity have been thoroughly put down, including the idea that President Obama was not born in Hawaii, bin Laden was already dead, and very quickly the idea that the raid conducted to kill him was a fake.  The world appears to be just what it is on the surface.

That doesn’t mean that there will be an end to rumors and the “official” retelling of some major events won’t continue to be doubted by people that believe they are elaborate diversion away from the truth.  People like to believe that things aren’t how they seem because dark forces in charge of the world explains why any one of us seems to have little power over our own lives.  But some research on my part has yet to come up with a single good example from history that was later shown to be a vast conspiracy.

Continue reading

The Managed Depression

There is little doubt that the economy is not healthy.  I have used the term “Managed Depression” to describe it, claiming that we are in a long-term slowdown that is more severe than most officials and prognosticators are willing to admit.  I glibly defined the term “Managed Depression” some time ago, but many people have asked me for a more rigorous one.  Here is the case stated as simply as possible.

What’s in a word?  Why is there value in calling this a “Managed Depression” or anything else using the dreaded “D Word”?  There are two reasons.  The first is that a sense of urgency has been missing as our politics and news analysis has been easily distracted by side issues that seem expedient. The second is that while a Depression is an unusual event historically, it’s not without parallel.  We’ve learned a lot along the way and know something about how to handle it.  But we won’t get past it until we’re honest and tackle it directly.

Continue reading