Open Letter to South Carolina

Dear Palmetto State:

How are you doing?  It’s been a while.  I’ve always loved South Carolina for reasons that are hard to describe.  Perhaps it’s the history that lies just below the surface – even the bad stuff (you know what I mean here).  It could be the unique “Shag” dancing (no, that’s not a euphemism) or the passion for ACC hoops.  It might just be that I’m a swamp kind of guy.  But whatever it is, I’ve always known you as straight-up and honest people who are kind and decent.

You’ve all heard about the mayhem that native son Stephen Colbert has been plotting in your primary by now.  I’m sure it seems pretty silly, but it isn’t.  The thing is that we in the rest of the nation are asking you to help us out.  You’re on the front lines of nasty campaigning election after election, and you keep taking it and taking it and taking it.  But this year you can take a stand. This could be your second Battle of the Cowpens.  You probably heard this story in grade school, but let me explain:

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It may seem a bit trivial on Dr. Martin Luther King Day to focus on one aspect of the craft that made him a great leader.  Wasn’t he much more than a great orator, a man who inspired not just with word but with deeds?  Didn’t he march bravely in front of the dogs and the firehoses and men with guns, inspiring by walking as much as talking?

For everything Dr. King accomplished in his life there was much left to do when he was brought down.  It’s up to us to carry on and inspire our friends and neighbors to stand up, march proudly, and make a difference.

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A Better Tomorrow, Eventually

When the going gets silly, the silly get going.  Stephen Colbert, the ultimate exercise in personal branding gone horribly amok, is possibly running for President.  The reigns of Colbert  SuperPAC have been turned over to Jon Stewart, who immediately asked the most important question – “Does anybody know where the key to the Super PAC bathroom is?”

It had to be turned over to Jon because what matters in SuperPacLand is that there is no “coordination” between the candidate and the PAC.  If that seems awkward, consider that “awkward” is a synonym for “uncoordinated”, so there you go.  And now Colbert is free to pursue an exploratory campaign to possibly run for President, maybe.

That’s what our political system is today – a kind of performance art.

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Obama’s Job and Yours

Will the economy produce a lot more jobs in 2012, or are we stalled looking at permanent unemployment and a new underclass?  It’s an important question because the answer to it predicts the course of the election season far more than anything else.  It’s the economy, stupid – really it’s the jobs.  Nothing else is likely to matter as President Obama makes the case for his own re-election – and likely runs against Congressional paralysis in the process.

If we want to predict tomorrow’s news today, there is nothing more important than what might happen with employment.  While we can never be sure exactly what will happen, we can put boundaries on the possibilities.

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Growing Jobs, Revisited

Back in October 2010, job creation was at a complete standstill.  The bottom of total employment was hit in February of that year and little had changed since.  A simple analysis came through Barataria from Gary Shilling designed to predict when the turnaround might possibly occur – sometime after the economy (as Gross Domestic Product, GDP) started to grow at a rate of 3.3%.

Since that time, 2M jobs have been created in the economy and the headline unemployment rate has fallen to 8.5%.  It feels like some improvement, if not much.  Yet many people feel it can’t be a real decline in unemployment in part because the economy itself is not growing much (running an estimated 1.8% GDP growth in 2011).

Is there real job growth, or is the regression line from all the postwar data presented by Shilling telling us it can’t be real?  My own analysis, which at the time pessimistically showed that higher growth might be necessary to grow jobs, may actually be telling us that job growth is indeed real – because it was so anemic over the previous decade of the Managed Depression, starting in 2000.

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