Growth or Austerity?

On the surface of it, the statement by top Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom is utterly ridiculous.  “[Romney’s] position on the bailout was exactly what President Obama followed. I know it infuriates them to hear that.” Romney himself made similar statements just before the Michigan Primary last February. “The president finally came around to my own view that Detroit needed to go through managed bankruptcy, the auto companies needed to go through managed bankruptcy to shed their excess costs.”

That wasn’t the way Romney’s opinion piece in the New York Times came off in November 2008, however.  At the time he was adamant that there was no role for the US government to write “a blank check” to save the US auto industry.

In the end this is a bigger story of how to manage the Depression we find ourselves in, no matter how the details are massaged for the purpose of a campaign.  It’s a choice between austerity and forgiveness, the paths taken by Europe and the US respectively.  For the campaign it’s a about a level of detail that takes far too much explanation.

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GDP: The Bet

Is the economy growing?  The short answer is “Yes”, but the long answer is “No”.  Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate for the first quarter of 2012 came in at 2.2% annualized, which is at least a positive number.  The UK and Spain can’t claim that, falling into recessions for the second time since 2008.  But this is nowhere near enough growth to create jobs and keep the forward momentum building at the end of 2011.

Some will blame rising gasoline prices and others will cite the sharp declines in government spending, especially at the state and local level.  Still others will refer to ongoing investor unease and unwillingness to put money into new projects.  But this is all speculation.  What we do know is that job growth has led the recovery so far and probably will have to in the next quarter if this will turn around.  And that’s exactly backwards from what you typically see in a recovery.

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The possibility of the world ending this December still makes the rounds, often as  a joke.  Very few people believe it will happen, and certainly no Mayan ever predicted such a thing.  But the idea caught on for an obvious reason:  we do appear to be at the end of some kind of cycle.

Then again, we’re also at the start of another.

While there may be morbid comfort in the idea that the world might end, an emerging new world should be much more comforting.  That’s why the K-Wave concept is likely to catch on.  This theory is not only more hopeful, it’s robust enough to explain an awful lot about our world from investing to generational identification – and more.

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Science, Technology, & Public Life

If you peer through a magnifying glass at a bug on a leaf, you may find yourself looking at a different world.  Tiny legs might work their way along the delicate structure, as firm as a human hiker across the solid ground itself.

This world takes on the color of the mind observing it when it becomes a story.  Some may see this new thing and ask questions – how the bug came to like that particular leaf, how it is able to grip it, and so on.  Others may be content reporting the details of the situation, such as the shape of the legs and jaws of the bug.

Anytime new perspectives open up the difference between science and technology is revealed at its basic essence.  Science is a practice of asking questions far more than providing answers.  Technology is about rendering that new information into something practical and useful.  That difference may seem subtle, but it is critical to understanding how new information shapes our personal and public lives in a world bombarded with new ideas and observations.

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Job Dynamics

Data comes in from an amazing variety of sources telling us just what is up or down in the economy.  If it can be measured, it probably is.  You want jobs information?  There’s information on unemployment, job creation, job destruction, hours worked …  just about whatever you want.  Deciding what is useful is always the hard part – and that is the great skill any of us have to develop in this information age.

A year ago Barataria was focused on Unemployment Initial Claims as a good proxy for total job growth figures that would come out later in the month.  It worked for a while because in 2010 through the summer of 2011 we were at or near the bottom of job creation, picking up steam very slowly.  This figure stopped being a good indicator for reasons that suggest  large employers are still laying off people (those who are eligible for unemployment benefits) while small companies are hiring.

But it would be wrong to drop our study of Initial Claims completely, so let’s take another look.

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