Fed Futzes, Fuses Financial Fracas

Janet Yellen – is there anything she can’t do?

In a speech to the Economic Club of New York the most powerful person in the world, elections be damned, called back the need for continuing “ramp up” in the Fed Funds Rate. The stock market rallied as the happy days of last year returned and everyone had reason to believe that free money was on the horizon.

Funny, they don’t cheer like that for Bernie Sanders.

What is going on? Are we not going to raise rates this year after all? Has Yellen started channeling her inner Greenspan by saying as little as possible in the maximum number of words?

No, this is what we have to expect. It’s really all about China, which is to say all about currency conversion, and the much-hyped “dual mandate” of the Fed that’s really a much more complex triple mandate or more. And we all, sadly, have to stay tuned to find out what it really means.

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A Smaller Government is a Peaceful Government

A long weekend needs a repeat – this one from a year ago that leads into some of the reforms that should be talked about through the election cycle much more than candidates wives and mistresses.  Back on Wednesday with more about reform and what has to happen when (if?) grown-ups are in charge again.

“Get government off our backs!” It’s a chant we’ve heard a lot of over the last few years, usually in the deep, gruff voice of those old enough to remember the heyday of our parents and grandparents. It’s a call to a simpler time when there was less government, less taxation, and more to go around. At least, that’s the story we are told.

But an analysis of the size of our Federal Government as a share of the economy shows that while it is a shade bigger than it used to be, it’s way below its maximum. There are peaks in Federal Government size which fit not to an increase in social benefits or productive spending, but the very expensive line item that has been pricey enough to bring down governments and cultures for centuries – war.

In short, it’s time for the progressive left to embrace “smaller government” of a kind and to show that world that peace is not idealistic but practical.

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How? the System? Works?

If you’re paying attention to things like the Arizona primary, you probably wonder what could possibly go wrong next. This cluster-eff of an event featured 60 polling places where 200 were normal, creating miles-long lines and many hours of wait just to vote.

Of course, if you’re a cynic, you might say that the attempts at voter intimidation worked perfectly.

But that’s the strange miracle of an election cycle that has been so incredibly surprising that nothing, absolutely nothing has gone by the script. The systems we have are being strained to the point where we have to ask why we have them in the first place. The cynics? As always, it’s easy to point out places where our Democratic-Republic was deliberately designed to be less than open. Systems, as we know them, are hardly designed for today’s world – that much is true.

But today we have light shone on nearly everything in ways we never have before. The main reason that every gear in the machine of democracy seems more broken than ever is at least in part because we never knew how ugly it was before. And that’s reason enough to get ourselves to the point where the system is fixed.

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Coopertition

Robotics season – it’s intense.  It’s time for another repeat, this one about the team and the world that our kids are learning to navigate even as they create it.

Our team, 2491 No Mythic,  is set for the North Star Robotics tournament next week. It’s an event that teaches all the aspects of engineering and entrepreneurship – design, build, teamwork, and budgeting. This year’s competition also brings back an important concept in any business – Coopertition. The teams competing in a match can bump up all their scores at once if they work together.

It goes against the sporting aspects of the match in many ways, but it is critical. In business, companies have always worked together for mutual benefit even as they have competed. Cooperation can be a powerful force for change or a descent into stagnation. No matter what, business has never been purely a “survival of the fittest” in ways that define the boundaries of ethics and will almost certainly be more critical in a close-knit global economy increasingly defined by technology.

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Racism

The United States is still an amazing nation which attracts millions of people every year who want a better life. What they find when they come here, however, has to cause some dismay. As open as our society is it still has barriers, lines drawn in stark black and white. Racism remains at the core of nearly every aspect of public life.

Racism isn’t just a part of our culture – it seeps into everything. A discussion of public policy eventually degrades into “those people” who “take from the system”, a series of code words carefully intoned now that openly racist language has been purged from polite conversation. This year a certain demagogue has inflamed that speech into a violent public melee, and it horrifies us. Is this really America in 2016?

Yes, it is. Racism is at the core of everything. And we don’t know how to deal with it.

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Trade Deals – Bad Deals?

Through this populist uprising standing in for an election, one issue unites all the candidates that are left. Sanders was always against free trade agreements, like the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Clinton is too, at least now she is. Cruz doesn’t seem to have much time for them, and after years of talking both ways Trump is now firmly against these “bad deals”.

It’s not about TPP or any new trade pacts, either – it’s about (supposed) horrors of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and our current deal with China.

Going over the past is a way to pin down the establishment, which is to say Clinton. But Trump, at least, once to re-negotiate the old deals and turn them back. Was free trade such a bad deal for the US? Is it worth going over old ground?

For all the noise on this issue this year it’s actually not a good issue outside of its value as a populist rallying cry.

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Original Source

Robotics season and new work means I have to run a repeat.  This one, while a bit dated, has a message that needs to be repeated anyway.

The internet is a wide, rolling river of information. It can be treacherous and dangerous to wade into if you’re not careful. If you’re looking for a cool drink of truth, the muddy brown of this mighty Mississippi of data often has a harsh stench of bias bubbling along with the waves. What can a reader thirsty for knowledge do?

The answer is to seek the source – the cool, clear stream that feeds into the torment at the headwaters. I call it the “Urquelle”, a German word meaning “original source” favored in the mountains and rolling hills that are the source of so many great rivers in Bavaria and Bohemia. This process of seeking out primary sources is valuable not just for writers, for whom primary sources have long been a staple of good, useful prose. As surely as reading is writing, today’s discerning reader should also seek the Urquelle.
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