Category Archives: Ideas, Opinions & News
Here’s a question for you: are there degrees of dishonesty?
If no one saw you miss a golf swing in the rough, and you didn’t add it to your score, is that dishonest?
If bad traffic made you late for work, should you lie and say you were on time, so to let your employer bear the cost of your missed time instead of you?
If you serve in the Legislature, and a certain political contribution from a trade association made it much simpler for you to agree with their reasoning, have you sold your vote? Read More
Yes, that is a serious question. And in my reasoning, yes is also the ultimate answer to the question.
Trust me when I assert that I am a committed free-market capitalist. I believe in the power of the profit motive to move mountains, revolutionize the world, and spread assorted good things to millions of people. Without it, we might be still be living as serfs in 18th century conditions under the knuckles of some knight.
Profits motivate ordinary individuals to unleash their imagination, energy, and industry to create opportunities, innovation, and relief. Profits solve problems, feed people, and change the planet. Without profits, the world would collapse on a moribund economy that couldn’t even feed us, resembling the failed communist societies that herded citizens into forced labor in collective, state-owned enterprises, rife with corruption, fraudulent output, and dispirited participants. Read More
Over this past weekend the federal budget drama ended with an hour to spare ahead of a threatened shutdown. Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep funding operations after a deal was cut to reduce the remaining 2011 budget by $38 billion, while taking several social issues off the table demanded by conservatives.
The story was covered like a natural disaster with hourly updates and frequent progress reports. Realistically, it was only the prelude to a larger fight looming over the 2012 budget and the necessity of raising the federal debt ceiling in the weeks ahead. Now comes the frightening part. Read More
Across the media I keep seeing the discussion going back and forth about who or what is the culprit for tight business credit and a continuing sluggish rate of economic growth. Depending on the guru you tune into, the average projected 2011 growth of the Gross National Product is only about 3%, meaning that new job growth will remain lethargic for the foreseeable future. At that pace, it may take 15+ years to return to the same employment level enjoyed prior to the housing bubble.
So where is the money to fuel a more robust economy? Let’s look at all the players in that cycle: Read More
Have you heard the phrase “information age?” Truly we are living in that time, as free information connects the world more rapidly than ever before with an increasing frequency and volume than ever before possible. Technology has made everyone an expert capable of distributing facts, fiction and opinions to most of the literate world, if they will only click on your site or email. You are reading this blog as an example.
To quantify this information, Wikipedia reports that as of 2006, Google had already indexed more than 25 billion websites (long before this one existed), and was getting 400 million inquiries per day. In 2010, YouTube reported that 35 hours of video was being uploaded every minute, and that it already consumed more bandwidth than the rest of the internet. Read More
Remember the imagery of an ostrich with its head buried in the sand? That is sort of how I view the average American taxpayer. They may be opinionated, but choose to remain purposely blinded to what is really happening around them. It is much easier to just not see anything in the periphery and keep to ourselves, or maybe just vent about what we think we don’t like and won’t try to understand.
The Concord Coalition (www.ConcordCoalition.org) was formed in 1992 to create a bi-partisan dialogue on fiscal responsibility by then U.S. Senators Warren Rudman (R-NH) and Paul Tsongas (D-MA). Obviously it has not made enough progress in the years since to raise awareness of the need to reform the U.S. budget or its drunken propensity to continue an endless cycle of spending growth and income reduction. Read More
I keep hearing that we are waiting to recover from the great recession of 2008, but I will share a few thoughts on that statement that you might ponder. First of all, this period we are experiencing is no recovery. Nothing resembles the typical way our economy has always performed by taking a few months of rest, and resuming steady growth with consumer confidence restored and good job still held. We Americans always expect to return to the good life with gusto. And to do so quickly.
In fact, my view is that we are not in recovery – we are at the beginning of living with less. Recovery assumes you will return to where you were. Think about residential housing and new bank start-ups. We are not going back to the heedless growth in those two sectors, and they were a significant part of the economy that fueled our blind confidence. The fallout from the loss of those two sectors continues to reverberate in virtually every sector of our economy. Read More
I keep reading about the debate playing out across the country among the many interested parties. Who is the culprit behind tight credit and a continuing sluggish economy? Some say banks are still too tight with their credit decisions. Others cite a lack of demand for credit as the problem with growth. My answer: It depends.
It is demonstrably true that hundreds of banks continue to struggle with capital issues, and frankly don’t have the money to lend. It is also true that many banks do have sufficient funds to lend, but are still holding a tighter grip on lending criteria, and only funding the best deals. And both sides can accurately point to a zealous regulatory environment, which perhaps didn’t act forcefully enough when the bubble was inflating, but are darn determined to keep it flat now. Read More
I have never owned a single share of Berkshire Hathaway stock. My interest and observations of Warren Buffett have always been passive, but my admiration is nonetheless strong. As a captain of American industry, he strikes me as a solid individual who has conducted his life and business with values we can only revere. Old-fashioned? Absolutely. Out-of date? Never.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what Warren Buffett is thinking now as our democratic process has delivered this republic to a point of perpetual government deadlock? At the core of every issue: money. Read More
In honor of the 250th anniversary Albert Gallatin’s birth, a Swiss native who became the fourth and longest serving U.S. Treasury Secretary, Atlanta’s Swiss Consul General Claudio Leoncavallo recently organized a forum to offer international perspectives on two timely topics on which Gallatin was quite outspoken: public debt and fiscal policy.
Emigrating to the U.S. at age 19, Gallatin was elected to the U.S. Senate only 13 years later. Venomous politics shortened his tenure, yet he later spent six years in the U.S. House of Representatives where he served as majority leader and founded the Ways and Means Committee.
Thursday’s panel discussion at The Commerce Club was titled Balancing Act: A Dialogue on Public Debt and Fiscal Policy and gathered well qualified panelists for an insightful discussion – Fritz ZurbrÃ¼gg, Director General of the Swiss Federal Finance Administration; Dennis Lockhart, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; Annabelle Malins, Her Majesty’s Consul General of Great Britain, Atlanta; and Glenn Campbell, the Consul General of Canada, New York and Head of their Economic Finance Program. I was selected to moderate the discussion, which was a real treat to share a conversation with such an imminent gathering of economists, bankers and diplomats. Read More