What is “Productivity?”

Nine years ago, January 2010, was the bottom of what I’ve come to call the Managed Depression.  Here is a piece from that time which is still relevant.  At that time, we were awaiting a “recovery” and hoping for productivity gains to get us out of it.  But they didn’t.  And the core issues outlined here remain.

What would make a recovery sustainable?  If you ask an economist, they’d tell you that what makes any economy grow and prosper is, ultimately, what they call “productivity gains”.  That’s the ability to make more with less that allows a people to prosper.  During the 1990s this was given as the reason why interest rates could remain low and we could have one Hell of a party – a sloppy, hazy bender.  We live in the hangover that resulted, but have we really learned how intoxicating this one, simple idea is?

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Building Trust

A high technology world is a world fundamentally based on trust. The lack of this is currently the single largest issue, defining politics within and without national borders.

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What is a Bear Market?

We recently stated that this is a “Bear Market.” So what does that mean?

It’s not all that scary, at least not once the market really settles into bear territory. In fact, it can be a great time of opportunity for many investors, particularly away from stocks. It’s worth spending a moment contemplating what a bear market is and why it’s important.

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It’s a Bear Market

I hope everyone had a good Christmas. I’ve been slow to write about the stock market for two reasons. The first is that it would ruin the holiday cheer, and the secondly this is a long developing story that I have written about for a year now and will probably write about for the next year.

But we’ve reached an important threshold. It’s now down 20% off the peak, meaning that we are in a Bear Market. We haven’t been in one for a decade, and there hasn’t been a nasty one for at least two decades, so let’s run down what that means.

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Endgame?

The endgame is approaching. The truth about Trump is being revealed. After disastrous midterm elections he is weak and has the stench of a loser attached to him. The most recent revelations are going to be the the last straw, and his part will finally abandon him. This week showed us why.

Of course, this has nothing to do with what’s been said in court. Nevermind that his longtime lawyer has completely turned on him, or the man who buried his secrets for decades. The Republican Party doesn’t care about illegal activities now any more than they did before the election – when it was just about as obvious as it is today, as chronicled here.

It’s the steep decline in the stock market that is the unforgivable sin.

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A Model for Federal Equity, not Debt

Given that the stock market appears to finally be taking a pause after a decade long run, this may seem like a terrible time to talk about subtleties like debt versus equity or how to finance federal debt. Yet this is exactly the time when something like what is proposed here would be useful for the government and investors alike.

Our national debt is financed through a complex system with fixed interest and market trading which is cumbersome and difficult. Worse, it ties the government down to fixed costs which are currently taking up 329B$ per year in interest payments, nearly $3,000 per household.

In short, there has to be a better way to manage the 21T$ or so of debt. Step one would be not creating more, but here is a plan for managing the potentially crippling debt we already have.

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GM & the National Industrial Model

The layoff notices came right after Thanksgiving. GM, a symbol of American industry, was going to close four US plants and can over 14,000 workers. Despite the relatively low numbers of people involved, the symbolic value is tremendous. The company was once the symbol of American manufacturing might. Besides, after a bankruptcy and government bailout the company surely has had what it needs to bounce back, right?

Yet there is much more to the story than this. Automobile manufacturing is in a period of massive, completely disruptive change. GM has been in trouble for a very long time simply because it cannot possibly change, and there are reasons to believe that everything is only going to be worse.

Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, has been trying to explain the situation to members of Congress this week. It’s unlikely that she can, especially since the very fact that she is obliged to do so points to the real problem. The national industrial model is dead, and it is being replaced with a global market model. GM’s problem is that it simply has not adapted to this reality in any important way.

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