Santa’s Fall

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

There has to be more to it, doesn’t there? Doesn’t this “Santa” guy have some ulterior motive? Continue reading

It’s Clearly Different

Consumer confidence, as measured by a survey plugged into a magic formula, is at the highest level in nearly five years.  Housing prices have risen for the sixth straight month.  All is attributed to improvements in employment, something rarely noted in the media over the summer but felt by people all across the US.

The long answer is that everyone who watches this never believed that employment was improving much.  Employment growth leading the overall economy hasn’t been the way recessions have run since the end of WWII.  That alone tells us that this time is different.  What makes it different is important because it highlights what Barataria readers have been clued into since 2007 and urgently since 2008 – that this is at the very least a different kind of economic event.

Call it what you will, but there can be little doubt that different times call for different measures.

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Taxing Solutions

The election is over.  The Sunday morning gab shows suddenly found a purpose, interviewing serious Senators and other concerned about the work that the new (and first old!) Congress will face – particularly the “Fiscal Cliff”.  A tremendous amount of movement on the Republican side shows that tax increases, particularly coming as reform in the deductions allowable, is definitely on the table.

Grover Norquist now knows what it’s like to be in a position where you can’t deliver the votes.  Must be a shocker.

The question remains, however, as to how much of the roughly $1.1 Trillion deficit will be tackled in year 2013, and how much will be spun out into the future.  No one expects the gap to close overnight, but instead are looking for serious progress towards balance.  More to the point, they want to assure markets that it won’t grow from here.  How much can they raise get us down the path right away?  Here is a short guide to some of the ways to look at it.

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Infrastructure & Payback

As the water from Hurricane Sandy receded, tens of thousands of homes remained without power for weeks.  New York Governor Cuomo was livid – “The utility system we have was designed for a different time and for a different place,” Cuomo told a news conference. “It is a 1950s system.”  The ConEd grid is, of course, managed entirely by private money, but it is a highly regulated utility.  You can bet that the hammer will fall on them as they are forced to rebuild a completely new system in areas where the old one was more or less washed away.

Down the coast in Washington there is a different focus, one that highlights how a developed nation can have such a terrible problem with antiquated infrastructure.  There, the talk is about how to avoid a “Fiscal Cliff”, a political problem focusing and complicating a very real problem with excessive deficits built not around long-term investment but merely keeping the government running.

The divide between the two is bigger than the 3 hours 25 minutes it takes the Amtrack Acela to cover the distance.  It is the gap between the reality that infrastructure investment has an incredible immediate impact on the economy, pays for itself in the long term – but remains neglected as too expensive.

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Our Promised Land

First came God’s paradise, Eden, which mankind was kicked out of for not following instructions. After that came floods, slavery, fratricide, and a whole lotta smiting. The three great “Religions of the Book” – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – differ as to when and where it happened, but all agree that at some point God became weary of it all. Those who managed to get through it and somehow achieve Righteousness are given the charter to a Promised Land. To a surprising number of faiths that Promised Land is right here in the USofA, and the delivery of the righteous to a land of great wealth is what Thanksgiving is all about.

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Black Friday Boycott

Black Friday is well named.  The term seems to originate with the Philadelphia Police, who in 1966 started to dread the massive disruption in traffic that put them all on overtime the day after Thanksgiving.  The massive public expense for the benefit of retailers was given the dark moniker because it was something that the city wanted to dissuade.

It’s worth noting that this was the first holiday retail season after the debut screening of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” in December 1965, which also decried how commercialism has destroyed Christmas.

From this simpler time, things have only gotten worse.  After a few decades of tacit acceptance of the dark day, the hours have been pushed back from a 6AM start time to before midnight.  This year, Wal-Mart plans to open at 8PM on Thanksgiving Day and workers are organizing a strike that may shut the whole operation down.  The issue?  Over work, under pay – and much of the cost of low, low prices ultimately born by the public.  It’s time to put a stop to Black Friday as we know it.

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While Europe Burns

It’s been a long time since I wrote about Europe.  How many ways can a humble blogger say, “Nothing has really changed”?  Nothing has.  Currency union has turned into a straightjacket of austerity and the European Union is plunging into a deep recession.  The only true news has been a day of protest across Europe, fueled in part by the now 25% unemployment rate in Spain and other nations.  It has become a full meltdown.

But so far, no banks have failed.  Isn’t that wonderful?

There are several potential problems for the US as this continues, but the most important is its effect on our trade.  Yet, for all the trouble in Europe, it may not affect us at all.  Can Europe burn while the US stands by?  The short answer is sure, why not.  Here’s why:

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