When Does Normal Happen? Economists at the IMF suggest that interest rates – which have been declining for more than three decades – may remain “lower than normal” for a long, long time. Wouldn't a thirty-year decline tend to redefine “normal”? But it does suggest that worrying about budget deficits should take a back seat to using government spending to get things moving.
Kamikaze Capitalism: Russia is waging economic war on Ukraine. So is the US. Well, the IMF, actually, but they work for us. The Ukrainian government says it will enforce the austerity measures demanded by both (a near doubling of the price of gas by Mr. Putin and the looting of public enterprises and gutting of the workers to benefit the rich at the behest of the IMF). Both sides are doing their best (for which read, worst) to destabilize the Ukraine. Suicide is not going to be all that painless.
Teacups: The trouble with the future is that it's too far away. Humans pretty much ignore the promised consequences of our thirst for energy – much beyond next week is the future to us, and next year is the distant future and ten years from now is never-never land. We were designed to outsmart the tiger and hide in the trees. For tens of thousands of years we've responded to future threats by having more kids. Yes, we're going to destroy the planet, but there are profits to be made along the way. The IPCC report on the disaster than humans are to the Earth is nothing new – we've been working up to this since we stumbled onto fire. We are addicts.
Part-Time Nation: Hourly wages fell in March, mostly because nearly all of the jobs added were in service industries (for which read “minimum wage”). The best-paying industries – information technology, finance and manufacturing and such – only added 2,000 full-time jobs. The rest joined the ungainfully employed.
Lies, Damned Lies and GOP Budgets: The USA is not broke. Not even close. Nor is it broken, at least not beyond repair. Our short-term budget outlook is stable, and our long-term challenges are manageable or would be if the creatures in Washington were on speaking terms with each other and with reality. But some politicians continue to lie and clam that the US is broke, destined for the poorhouse in order to justify the destruction of of the social contract Americas have made with each other – Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, Medicaid, pubic education, national infrastructure. You know very well who keeps lying to you about all this. And why.
Drink Up: By 2100, about one-third of the Earth's land mass will be desert. Dessicated. Stock up on sunscreen.
To Infinity And Beyond: Too late to be an April Fool prank, the markets in Europe are now pricing Italian and Spanish bonds as though they were safer than US Treasuries. It's all based on the hope that the ECB's Draghi isn't full of hot air. Which he is. Investors are pretending to believe that European taxpayers are going to make good on the borrowing by the trustworthy gentlemen in charge of Club Med. Maybe the ECB will institute a form of QE through asset purchases. Maybe not.
Fair's Fair: An elementary school in Casey County Tennessee, having been dumb enough to let the Gideons hand out Bibles to the students, was then smart enough to let the Tri-State Freethinkers distribute copies of Humanism, What’s That?: A Book for Curious Kids by Helen Bennett. A high school near Chattanooga forced a teacher to resign because she had taken two sick student to the hospital and saved one's life (and paid for the privilege). For caring too much, apparently.
Values: Is college a waste of time and money? Yes! No,no,no. Maybe. Depends. Ah, that's it, it depends on what degree you get and how much it cost you. Some are worth a lot of money, some are essentially worthless, most are not worth what you pay. A lot of tech school careers pay much more than a degree in the humanities, but what's college for? Learning a trade? Learning to live? Growing up? Would 4 years reading great books, wandering the world and going to the Tate and d'Orsay do as much for you as a degree in philosophy or the history of the novel? You want fries with that?
Afflicting the Afflicted: The city fathers in Birmingham, AL have made it illegal for churches to feed the homeless unless they have a permit from the health department. Having a commandment from Jesus doesn't count. Feed the poor, but only for a profit.
The Parting Shot: