Credit the Good Economy

It’s becoming a common theme – the economy is in great shape! Whether you want to give credit to Trump or Obama, it’s definitely all about policy of some kind, right?

Wrong.

Barataria has been revisiting some old arguments to build a new study for how the economy is changing. As the Managed Depression of 2000-2017 moves behind us, the reshaping of how we work, shop, and generally get by is starting to take shape. It’s hard to be sure about much.

One thing we do know – none of this happened overnight. So let’s revisit some old discussion.

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Trade War – or Trade Tantrum?

President Trump is threatening a trade war with Europe. “I’ve had a lot of problems with the European Union, and it may morph into something very big from … a trade standpoint,” Trump said in an interview with British ITV on Sunday. “It’s a very unfair situation, we cannot get our product in. It’s very, very tough, and yet they send their product to us — no taxes, very little taxes.”

Yes, trade in goods and services with Europe is not precisely balanced. But why? Is it because it’s so hard to get products in, and they have a tax advantage? Wasn’t that supposedly taken care of in the recent tax bill?

Like most of what Trump says, the statement is not only wrong, but completely misses the difficult underlying reason why US trade will never be in balance. It’s a major feature of the power we wield around the world through the greatest strength we have – the US Dollar. And messing it up may make us lose far more than we think to in the destruction of a “war.”

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DACA Debacle

Should the Democrats push hard on the Dream Act, fighting hard for those who need them and never giving up? Or should they bide their time, crafting whatever small deals they can to save as many people as possible?

There is nothing more repugnant than to put the words “play” and “DACA” in the same sentence, yet that is where we are. We have to know how to play DACA in order to do as much of the right thing as we can. There’s nothing new about this, given that all legislation has to be “played” through the system in Washington. The problem with DACA is that it has become an oversized issue full of pointless symbolism, stripped of its real essence.

This is about the lives of hundreds of thousands of good, decent, and innocent people.

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Fractured World

How many articles will you read about the annual conference at Davos? How many will miss the point?

If you are a news junkie, the answer to the first question is “A lot.” The answer to the second question, sadly, is about the same. In a polarized world where everyone is more enthralled with their own opinion than any sense of objective truth most of what will be written on this conference will be colored.

And that’s a damned shame, because Davos has evolved into Ted-talk-o-rama. It’s really accessible and interesting – and worth reading up on whether you agree with the presenters or not.

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Imagine … Better?

One year into the Trump administration, and we have a lot to be thankful for. Yes, it’s true, it’s always good to warm up the crowd by opening with a joke. But seriously folks, is it possible to even look back and imagine a normal presidency at this point?

Everything has forever changed in the United States as a result of Trump, or more to the point everything is going to have to change. This should sound like good news to a nation that never looks back but it means there will be a lot of work ahead undoing the damage when the time comes. As we wait for that opportunity, this might be a good time to imagine how things can or should be different.

Let’s imagine a happy place for a moment with a functioning government and a universe of possibilities …

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Great Vowel Shift

This first ran in January, 2010.

How did spelling in English get so messed up?  If you have a child who is learning to spell, you may have taken the approach that I have – there’s no rhyme or reason to how it happened so you simply have to memorize it.  It turns out that there is a reason, if a bit convoluted, that is often hidden in the rhyme.  It’s a small comfort for the many people around the world, young and old alike, that have to learn how to write the most popular language, but it’s at least a great story.

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Developing Innovation

This post from 2013 is still very relevant.

What does the future hold?  The job is often left to Futurists, which is nice work if you can get it.  Then again, we still don’t really have flying cars, do we?  It’s always hard to predict just what will happen as technologies advance, and by that I mean a lot more than just information technology.  There’s still a lot to be done with advanced materials, machining, finance, and other more mundane things.

We have determined in Barataria that as the world’s population grows richer, more uniformly, working age populations are going to stabilize and even decline in the next two decades.  That means that future growth will come not from more workers but from new technologies.  That puts pressure on the Futurists, for sure, but it puts even more pressure on the delicate art of managing innovation – the process of rendering a bit of magic into practical use.  It’s a topic worth exploring.

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