Standing on a Firm Foundation

Is there a difference between a conspiracy to collude and just being a total tool?

That’s one question before the American public and Congress now that the Mueller report is out in the open. The long and short of it is that there is a difference, and it’s clear that America has been under a sustained attack for years. There may not be an initial crime committed by the Trump team, as the operation was entirely led by Russian operatives.

There was, however, plenty of effort spent trying to hide it all. There still is. This is much more likely a crime, but more importantly it makes the case for impeachment even stronger. It’s much less about a crime than about getting out the truth about the threats that our nation, and every open democratic society, currently face.

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Do We Have an Actual President?

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. I have said many times that the best thing to do with President Trump is to ignore his antics. His address to Congress is the chance to redeem it all and make something happen.

In keeping with what passes for press today, here is my live commentary.

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Capital Idea

It was 70F in St Paul today, and my mind is on other things.  This repeat from 2013 is still good, but the numbers have changed slightly since it was written.

Borrowing money isn’t bad.  When it’s used to purchase something big that will last for years, like a house or a car, it often makes sense to do it now and pay the finance charge.  Borrowing to buy equipment or a build to be rented is an investment – as is borrowing money to learn a good trade.

When we look at how the Federal government borrows to keep itself going we can and should be able to ask the same questions – was this an investment?  Did we get anything good for the money?  Unfortunately, the accounting practices used by the Feds lump capital and other investment into the same pot as operational expenses, making it impossible to tease everything out.  It’s a procedure the Founding Fathers would recognize, if you wanna get all Tea Party on the practice.  But it’s still a dangerously stupid way to run things – and totally counter to the way any business or state is run.

As we talk about the need for serious reform in Washingtoon, we should add this to the list.

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Grandstanding, not Governing

Unpatriotic! Unconstitutional! Treasonous! Illegal! The reaction to the letter signed by 47 Senators telling Iran that any treaty signed will be un-done in two years was swift and brutal. Some of the harshest condemnation came from those who oppose any agreement with Iran, too, so it wasn’t just Democrats this time. But was it really all those things that have been alleged?

The short answer is that today’s popular media always hyperventilates, so something this unprecedented had to test the limits of hyperbole. Sorry, this blasted through the stratosphere of outrage! But the real problem isn’t this one action, which we can be sure our foreign policy and our democratic-republic will survive. What is more troubling is the new standard set for obstruction and grandstanding that tells us nothing, absolutely nothing, is going to be accomplished in the next two years.

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Confidence In …. ?

How much faith do you have in the institutions that make up our world? According to a recent poll, people don’t have a tremendous amount of confidence in most of the somewhat organized systems that make up daily life in the US. That dissatisfaction is disturbing if you think about it, but it’s also perfectly natural.

The Barataria line of reasoning is that we are in an economic depression that won’t end until there is a significant restructuring in just about everything that we depend on – and a whole new economy and perhaps social arrangement takes the place of the one that failed. If nothing else, it goes without saying that we are living in a time of tremendous change and something as rigid as an institution or industry often changes much slower than the world around it.

Whatever the case, dissatisfaction points to more upheaval ahead – and perhaps opportunities for entrepreneurs who can re-imagine these institutions for a new world.

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New Boss, Same as Old Boss

Janet Yellen completed her first day of testimony on Capitol Hill as Chair of the Federal Reserve. While the event was historic, it was remarkable mainly for how unremarkable the actual testimony was. There is a great deal of continuity in the Fed from Bernanke to Yellen, who both have very similar approaches to both policy and communication.

What was left unsaid was probably more important, however. We live in a time with a very active Fed which is taking a bigger role in the economy than any central bank in US history. But congress appears to be very comfortable with that role and very willing to let Yellen do what she does best – place a firm hand on the tiller and guide the economy as close to full speed ahead as it can chug along.

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Good, Evil, Puzzling, & Stupid

Every once in a while Barataria has to take a pause from deep economic rumination. It’s time rundown the odd stories that may not have received enough attention elsewhere. There is a lot of news in these chaotic times that smells like it may be important one day but hasn’t quite bubbled up to the level where it hits the mainstream yet. This is just one of those days.

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