One Crisis at a Time, Please

There is a deadline – March 20th.  There is a plan – 70% default, much higher than what’s been suggested before.  The Greek Crisis has everything it needs to conclude after two and a half years standing on the edge of a cliff.  Left to negotiate is whether or not Germany will have a man in place in Athens to oversee the Greek budget process as what the Guardian calls a kind of “Viceroy”.  It probably won’t fly but it does beg the question, “What if we had a German overseer to our budget process here in the US?”.

Nevermind, there have been enough diversions.  At the EU summit this week the details should be finalized and the process for bailing out Greece will be in place.  The world can move on to other worries.  There is even the chance that the European Central Bank (ECB) will have some authority to print more Euros shortly.

Don’t care?  You should.  This is very important news to the US for astonishing reasons.  The bigger problem, brewing for generations, is that we have lost control over our currency and have no chance to get it back unless Europe gets its act together.

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No Way!

The air was heavy with only a slight chill weighing down the slushy footsteps down the sidewalk of Seventh Street.  It wasn’t exactly a crowd that slipped past the Ice Bar at Moe’s along the route of Saturday’s parade but there was a thin inkling of the start of Winter Carnival, about as relaxed as this warm winter itself.  Hands waved as a couple talked through a “What can you expect?” disappointment in the wimpy Winter.

Once inside we all started chatting, the Carnival spirit of a crowd coming more from huddling and the determination to make our own fun than the reality outside.  Slithered from their winter coats this couple was older and somewhat dignified.  He was balding and round-faced in an open smile, she was dark haired, elegant, and the kind of thin that comes naturally and not from a gym.  As is typical in Saint Paul, they slid right into a half-serious bar chatter that was a friendly gauge as to what neighbors across town really think.  “This year, just about anything can happen, I guess,” it started with the weather.  But it quickly ran to politics, at least of a sort.

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Gingrich? Really?

The Republican Establishment has a problem.  The real issue is that no one seems to like their designated choice for President, Mitt Romney.  The personification of this problem is Newt Gingrich, running what seems to be more of a grudge match than a real Presidential campaign, but it runs much deeper.  Republicans have counted on a base that did what they were told and stayed together in the “11th Commandment” of Ronald Reagan – thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.

Coming into this cycle, the party was hoping to take the Presidency and the Senate.  If this keeps up they could lose 25 House seats and control of that body.  That could happen for a number of reasons, starting with a terrible candidate at the top of the ticket, one way or another, and an exhausted and broke base that has completely lost interest in “politics” as it is being practiced today.

That might cut a number of ways.

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Citizens, United?

No Supreme Court decision in recent years has ignited a firestorm of protest and mayhem like the Citizens United decision, now two years old.  The basic finding was that corporations, like people, have certain free speech rights that cannot be curtailed without a “compelling interest”, and none has been described.  The current political campaign is being entirely shaped by this decision and everyone, left and right, agrees that it is not for the better.  But what can be done about it?

There are serious challenges shaping that could overturn this decision, at least in part.  But what’s most astonishing is that the worst offenses are not a direct result of the Supreme Court’s order but how it has been implemented in the chaotic political climate that rules Washington.  Blame the courts, yes, but there is much more that can be done to correct the worst of this.

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Debt Supercycle

The challenge came in a moment of weakness born of a position of power.  I was up giving a quick talk on the essence of storytelling to a group of students learning about marketing techniques, particularly focused on blog writing.  It’s a hot topic lately, but my approach is, as always, that there is really nothing new about it at all.  Just as the thought-out schtick was winding down, my friend and very capable professor Sara slipped the story sidewise.

“You say that storytelling can be used for anything.  You write about economics.  How does storytelling work in economics?”

The short answer is that there are many amazing stories to tell, but how can it be boiled down to a simple explanation?  The short version escaped me at that moment, but eventually it came back – it’s essentially the same as storytelling itself.  Things go along wonderfully until we somehow forget the lessons our grandparents learned the hard way and then have to call on another round of “experts” to tell us what should be obvious.  And that brings us to the concept of a “Debt Supercycle” – how Depressions have come and gone since ancient times because we lost the big story about the economy.

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