In celebration of a decade of Barataria, I have to present another repeat. This is from March 2008. It’s an interesting time in that it was six months after the stock market peaked and six months before the financial collapse became obvious. One of the great themes of Barataria since this time has been how we’ve seen it all before and we’re about to see it again. The real story here isn’t that I called it at this time – it’s that so few people saw what was obvious as it happened around us.
Imagine that a new technology comes along that spawns a whole new industry. Not only is this industry a revolution in how people lead their lives, it’s immensely popular and generates a big pile of cash. The field starts out wide-open with many small entrepreneurs, but gradually they become rich as they are bought out by a few big players. Soon, the industry has consolidated and re-investment slows dramatically. Those who made big money start to put it into real estate, specifically in Midtown Manhattan, Florida, and Los Angeles.
By the time you read this, the big news is likely to be jobs. It hasn’t been a hot topic since the election, and most of what was said during that strange period wasn’t exactly true. The big job gains for February, along with a large round-up for January, make it impossible to ignore.
The economy has definitely turned around.
It’s all over but the shouting, of which there will be a lot. There is little doubt that Republicans will claim credit for a big turnaround in 2017, which will be utter crap. This has been a long time in the making and things have not been actually bad for a long time. Nevermind. Positive news will feed on itself and everyone will be happier.
But there is one final twist to the very good news – it’s really in the adjustment.
With all of the noise coming from general politics there’s hardly been any space left over for economic news. There’s nothing like a huge distraction to keep people’s minds off of how things are going in the areas which really matter the most.
So how are we doing?
One handy measure comes to us from what Barataria has taken to calling Yellen’s Dashboard. This is a list of the five most stubbornly bad indicators that were simply not turning around 3 years ago, despite many signs of improvement. With the Fed sending strong signals that rate hikes are assured in coming months they make a good place to start the conversation.
What happens in a Democratic-Republic when the most powerful person has an agenda which seems at odds with the legislative body?
We found out today when Janet Yellen, who is not at all orange, testified before the Senate Banking Committee for the first time since … well, really since all Hell broke loose. Financial issues have largely taken a back seat since the circus came to town and the opportunity to return to such a basic issue had the wonderful air or normality to it.
That didn’t stop anyone from trying to bring in the clowns, of course. But real leaders, like Yellen, know better than to take the bait. It was delightfully boring, as all banking should be. But it still had its moments.
Around the surprisingly excellent Superbowl we have the usual display of ads. It’s one of the features of the big event – and for some the main event. But what do these over-produced ads usually bring the advertisers who are spending $20M and more for a minute?
Most of them are here to “build the brand,” or improve the image of the company more than actually sell a product. Anyone who has been in marketing for any length of time will roll their eyes at the idea. It’s usually an excuse for the worst excesses of advertising, the small telenovelas which are really money pretty much down the drain. Targeted advertising, driven by “Big Data,” is what really sells products, after all.
Still, branding is an important exercise all around. People are willing to pay more for a product they feel good about – whether that is corporate responsibility, perception of quality, or a connection to a greater good. And brands are more than corporations sometimes – the value of a brand can also come in a tag that says “Made in USA” or any other nation.
What will it take to Make America Great Again? A big part of it, at least in terms of the public show, is the creation of manufacturing jobs. Of the four words in MAGA, the top two appear to be “America” and “Make”. It’s a noble effort all around, without a doubt.
But can this be done as a matter of policy? Can we turn back evils like bad trade deals and force the products which are consumed in America to be made in America?
Two stories from the opening daze of the Trump administration demonstrate just how unlikely this effort will be. Indeed, it’s entirely possible to cause more damage than good in many ways.
The news is full of Trumpestuous nonsense. Denials of Russian involvement in our election devolved into a tweetstorm lasting for days, apparently without sleep, causing many to question his mental health and/or drug use. You can read about this nearly anywhere, so consider this the main attraction of the circus.
Away from the noise there is a lot more going on, of course. As we have said here before, the real stories will be away from the nonsense presented front and center. For all of our reasonable worries about his stability and allegiances, Trump poses a far greater danger to our nation.
Where we should reasonably be about to enter a great period of economic activity, it is still entirely possible to screw it up.