The truth about the state of the economy

No one seems to know the real state of the economy or rather agree on where the crisis stands or where its headed. The stock market is doing fine, yet unemployment is at an all time high and the dollar seems to be on a steady decline. The entire world is keen to learn the answer but it’s interesting to note that even the experts are unsure and can’t agree on this issue.

A perfect example of this confusion is reflected in two articles in today’s NY Times, one by David Brooks for praising Obama’s economic team headed by Tim Geithner, the other by Paul Krugman, criticizing the same team for failure.Both seem to agree though that public opinion on the overall state of the economy is negative. I suspect the Mr. Brooks given his conservative credentials is thankful that Mr. Geithner and co. didn’t swing so far to the left and go on a nationalizing binge, while Mr. Krugman is very much focused on the technicalities of the financial mess.

Mr. Krugman…

For the economy is still in deep trouble and needs much more government help. Unemployment is in double-digits; we desperately need more government spending on job creation. Banks are still weak, and credit is still tight; we desperately need more government aid to the financial sector.,….

So here’s the real tragedy of the botched bailout: Government officials, perhaps influenced by spending too much time with bankers, forgot that if you want to govern effectively you have retain the trust of the people. And by treating the financial industry β€” which got us into this mess in the first place β€” with kid gloves, they have squandered that trust.

While David Brooks…

Well, the evidence of the past eight months suggests that Geithner was mostly right and his critics were mostly wrong. The financial sector is in much better shape than it was then. TARP money is being repaid, and the debate now is what to do with the billions that were never needed. It now seems clear that nationalization would have been an unnecessary mistake β€” potentially expensive and dangerously disruptive.

The Dollar’s demise?

Check out this piece about the dollar and its demise. The article helps put things in perspective.Besides, it gives you a nice “techie” analogy which I thought was interesting.

One economist likens it to using the Windows operating system for your computer; sure, it’s expensive and has bugs, and sure there are freeware alternatives, but it’s more convenient to use Windows because ‘everyone else is using it’. And like Windows, reserve currencies enjoy an ‘incumbency advantage’: unless a new currency can demonstrate that is offers vastly superior benefits, it cannot dislodge the entrenched one….

The author summarizes saying…

All this is not to say the dollar won’t weaken in the short term; it will. And over time, as other economic powers rise and US’ share of the global economy shrinks, other reserve currencies could organically emerge.

But the only ones who are profiting from short-term volatility driven by market hysteria of a ‘dollar collapse’ are dollar bears and bullion bulls who are looking to make jackasses of us others.

Robert Reich argues against Sen. Snowe’s Trigger

Check out this piece by Robert Reich, former labor Secretary (under President Clinton). He argues in favor of the public option without the need for any triggers.

The beauty of Snowe’s proposal is that it seems to offer Blue Dogs a way out and liberal Democrats a way in. Nobody has to vote for or against a public option. The public option just happens automatically if its purposes — wider coverage and lower costs — aren’t achieved. And the trigger idea seems so, well, centrist.

The problem is twofold. First, it’s impossible to design airtight goals for coverage and cost reductions that won’t be picked over by five thousand lobbyists and as many lawyers and litigators even if, at the end of the grace period, it’s apparent to everyone else that the goals aren’t met. Washington is a vast cesspool of well-paid specialists who know how to stop anything resembling a “trigger.” Believe me, they will.

Second, any controversial proposal with some powerful support behind it that gets delayed — for five years or three years or whenever — is politically dead. Supporters lose interest. Public attention wanders. The media are on to other issues. Right now the public option is very much alive because so many Democrats care deeply about it, with good reason. But put it off for years, and assign it to the lawyers and lobbyists I just mentioned, and you can kiss it goodbye for ever.

Blogging, Twitter, and now Lifelogging!

First it was blogging. Then it was Twitter. Now it lifelogging — logging every step of your life!

Don’t miss the last part of the article.

Of late, Bell has eased back on lifelogging. Microsoft opted not to develop its own suite of commercial lifelogging products given other priorities, so he and Gemmell moved on to other projects, such as building databases for cancer research.

That’s a relief! πŸ™‚

Book about “Afterlife”

Read a review of the book “SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives” in the Mercury News.

David Eagleman shows in his new book, “Sum,” very entertaining, too. The author, a neuroscientist with literary leanings, has set out a series of possibilities for the afterlife, described in 40 vignettes, each of which presents a different explanation of who God is and why he or she (or, in some cases, they) chose to create us and what might be planned for us on our demise.

Here is another section of the review that’s very interesting.

“There are three deaths,” Eagleman writes. “The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

In this scheme, when we die, we go to a cosmic waiting room where we mark time until our name is never again mentioned. The famous are trapped here, of course, for a very long time; they wish for obscurity, but it may take an eternity to arrive.