Graffiti has a place
I was a bit dismayed when I saw the Montague Police has proposed to not only make unwanted graffiti more of a crime (isn’t it already?) but to require building owners to remove it and outlaw spray paint. Unwanted defacement is one thing, but to restrict what a building owner can allow is going way too far, especially since Turners Falls for one, had made a major comeback by promoting public art via the River Culture project. Consider, if you will, the Mission District of San Francisco, one I know fairly well due to family living there. We spent the last three weeks wandering the side streets and alleys amidst the hundreds of stunning murals. This public display of art is what happens when you support “graffiti” artists to be more than spray and hide. When allowed on private property with owner’s permission, it reduces unsightly and unwanted graffiti, and even reduces police work. One group has taken it so far as to arrange for licensing of the artist’s work, to provide a source of income for budding artists. Look up “Balmy Alley” or “The Precita Eyes Muralists” (at precitaeyes.org). SO I urge you in Montague to vote against this ban, and support River Culture and your Local Cultural Council for public art projects.
RICH ROTH Greenfield
How about creating jobs? By STEPHANIE KELTON
Look, up in the sky! It’s a “fiscal cliff.” It’s a slope. It’s an obstacle course.
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what we call it. It only matters what it is: a lamebrained package of economic depressants bearing down on a lame-duck Congress.
This hastily concocted mix of across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases for all was supposed to force Congress to get serious about dealing with our nation’s debt and deficit. The question everyone’s asking is this: On whose backs should we balance the federal budget? One side wants higher taxes; the other wants spending cuts. And while that debate rages, the right question is being ignored: Why are we worried about balancing the federal budget at all?
You read that right. We may strive to balance our work and leisure time and to eat a balanced diet. Our Constitution enshrines the principle of balance among our three branches of government. And when it comes to our personal finances, we know that the family checkbook must balance.
So when we hear that the federal government hasn’t balanced its books in more than a decade, it seems sensible to demand a return to that kind of balance in Washington as well. But that would actually be a huge mistake.
History tells the tale. The federal government has achieved fiscal balance (even surpluses) in just seven periods since 1776, bringing in enough revenue to cover all of its spending during 1817-21, 1823-36, 1852-57, 1867-73, 1880-93, 1920-30 and 1998-2001. We have also experienced six depressions. They began in 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893 and 1929.
Do you see the correlation? The one exception to this pattern occurred in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the dot-com and housing bubbles fueled a consumption binge that delayed the harmful effects of the Clinton surpluses until the Great Recession of 2007-09.
Why does something that sounds like good economics — balancing the budget and paying down debt — end up harming the economy? The answers may surprise you.
Spending is the lifeblood of our economy. Without it, there would be no sales, and without sales, no profits and no reason for any private firm to produce anything for the marketplace. We tend to forget that one person’s spending becomes another person’s income. At its most basic level, macroeconomics teaches that spending creates income, income creates sales and sales create jobs.
And creating jobs is what we need to do. Until the fiscal cliff distracted us, we all understood that. Today, we have roughly 3.4 people competing for every available job in America. The unemployment rate is like a macroeconomic thermometer — when it registers a high rate, it’s an indication that the deficit is too small.
So in our current circumstance — a growing but fragile economy — policymakers are wrong to focus on the fact that there is a deficit. It’s just a symptom. Instituting tax increases and spending cuts will pull the rug out from under consumers, thereby disrupting the income-sales-jobs relationship. Slashing trillions from the deficit will only depress spending for years to come, worsening unemployment and setting back economic growth.
The effort to balance the books that’s at the heart of the fiscal cliff is simply misguided. Instead of butting heads over whose taxes to raise and which programs to cut, lawmakers should be haggling over how to use the tool of a federal deficit to boost incomes, employment and growth. That’s the balancing act we need.
Stephanie Kelton is an associate professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the founder and editor of New Economic Perspectives. She wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.
In addition, to my usual 50-60 hr/week running my company I have started a new effort
I’ve worked with enough local groups in the last few years, I found that we are each working in our local areas for much the same goals, and it’s past time (long past) for each local area to reinvent themselves by themselves, and not rely on major companies or big government to do all heavy lifting — neither has ever been good at innovating.
SO I found that the groups I worked with needed my technical skills, to carry their message, and as I work more on those projects, it became clear this is not a local issue for us, other areas
have the same needs. What Thrives Publishing is an effort to balance local and global, local events, efforts and groups, global resources, reference information and connections to larger efforts.
The recent story (and followup editorial) about Franklin county having higher underemployment, and lower average income, than the rest of the state, shows more about how statistics lead to mis-placed efforts of economic development then any real news. To start, let’s get clear about ‘facts’, yes, incomes are lower here, but so is the cost of living, a lot lower. What underemployment is really about is a long term lack of real economic development vision, not about what jobs there are or what they pay. The hidden story in the numbers is about all those people who are not counted, and conversely, where the efforts of the developers of policy put their efforts. All business development statistics clearly show that small business creates far more (and better) jobs than large businesses, including related franchised operations. Yet, the valley economic developer focus (including our own town efforts) are about real estate and getting good press, and that means bigger business deals. Such deals take far longer to close, and produce fewer jobs, usually including tax incentives that rarely pay off, than efforts at small business development. To really create more, better jobs in the area, look more toward efforts that support small and micro business, including the ‘Creative Cluster’ and so-called Hidden businesses, those you can’t find on a street sign, yet will fill the current vacant upper floors of buildings in town. (Disclaimer: I am a founding board member of Hidden-Tech, a 1000 member strong valley association that runs without dues, as well as CEO of a growing small business in Greenfield)
For those interested: see http://www.hidden-tech.net
I am on sabbatical – well actually my wife is and I got to come along, you can see the story of our travels on her blog. I am going to use this travel time to write on a number of projects I have been exploring for years – outside my usual computer field.
This article is the start of an exploration of what I call (for want of better title): “Darwinian Culture“. In short, the idea is that various world cultures have developed along the same lines that Darwin has used to explain biological evolution. Some simple examples of this are the Jewish Kosher rules, and the treatment of water, eastern cultures make tea while western cultures make beer and wine. Clearly these are very simplistic examples, the essence is that these cultural approaches have evolved to address critical health issues, through a method that does not appear to be driven by purely intellectual decisions.
Now I am a trained engineer and scientist, but have not read much of the actual work of Darwin or commentaries, so I will start using Darwin’s theories as known by popular science rather than evolutionary biologists. As these writings develop, I hope to hone that understanding. Likewise, I will start by explain my ideas using examples that have not been scientifically verified – I will be doing so as I expand the work.
This is enough for now, more to come.
Tim Blagg’s editorial about the risk to defense because of grounding of the F15 fleet misses a key lesson of history. The editorial starts with an interesting review of the history of the air defense net build around the US during the cold war. There is significant evidence that that net did not secure the US BUT actually the construction of it was a key part of what drove the Soviet Union under, by causing them to spend so much on the military. I don’t have all the facts and figures of that debate but I know someone who does, my dad, he was a key engineer involved in creating that system, an expert in IFF radar (Identification Friend or Foe) and helped build the famous Omaha war room big board (remember Dr Strangelove ?).
In fact, the state of those planes is just like the state of the radar system of the FAA or of our bridges for that matter. A law of physics is “if you build it, it will fall down – eventually, and surely will if you don’t maintain it”.
A fact of life those in Washington, and many of the state governments have ignored for far too long to our detriment.