Peanut Gallery

image: Reuters/Mike Segar

Lately Rand Paul has been churning out almost as many bizarre scandals as our beloved Mayor Rob Ford. The only difference is that, while Rob Ford does stupid things, Rand Paul says stupid things. And these things are not only stupid, but in many instances dangerous and awful. In fact, it is truly worrying that any elected official should go around propagating such hateful crap.

Paul’s latest incident occurred yesterday when he was caught summarizing the plot of Gattaca in a speech using words taken pretty much ad verbatim from Wikipedia. And, honestly, even if I had stopped that sentence at “speech,” it still would have been weird! (He was trying to make the point that a future with legal abortion and scientific breakthroughs will lead to the widespread practice of eugenics. In case that wasn’t obvious.)

One of Paul’s pet projects is a holdover from his father, former Representative Ron Paul, which is catchily named “Audit the Fed.” Actually, Ron Paul also wants to reinstate the gold standard and stop the theft that is inflation, but junior is taking a more moderate position, which apparently entails refusing to vote in favour of Janet Yellen as Chair of the Fed unless Congress also votes on a bill that would provide more oversight of the Fed. That nasty, scheming Fed.

Actually, I will grant him that. It has always puzzled me that an unelected entity has so much power over something so important. Though this is separate from the issue of lack of oversight at the Fed, which I personally don’t think is a problem. But we half agree on something, so that’s kind of a thing. I also didn’t mind his filibuster against drone strikes on Americans on American soil. Ok, fair enough.

However, one of the things I cannot accept is his relentless fear-mongering about an impending WAR between Muslim and Christian countries. In a speech at the Value Voters summit, Paul used his time to warn Americans about the impending war on Christianity that will be perpetrated by Muslim extremists, the numbers of whom he estimates at around 100 million. Leaving aside the fact that he makes no mention of how he arrived at this number, where is the evidence of this Muslim conspiracy against Christianity?


Well, the Boston Marathon bombing, for starters. Duh. An attack by two Chechen Muslims on athletes from 90 countries is undeniable proof of a vast, looming Muslim invasion of America. It doesn’t matter that, as Dean Obeidallah rightly points out in his article in the Daily Beast, that if this had anything to do with Christianity, they would probably have struck one of Boston’s numerous churches. Also, why did they choose one of the more internationally flavoured events for their attack? Nope, replies Rand, a strike on American soil is a strike against America, and, therefore, against Christianity. Hm….so I am beginning to understand.

America = Christianity

100 million Muslims = extremist

1.6 billion Muslims in the world


6.25% of the world’s Muslims are raring to battle the Christian Empire of America. That’s more than one in 20. I’m pretty sure that one in 20 Muslims have more important things to worry about than destructing Christianity. But I could be wrong.

In any case I don’t understand what he’s so worried about–according to most sources, around 80% of the Americans identifiy as Christian, which adds up to around 246 million people. So for every one Muslim extremist, there are 2.5 righteous American Christians. Outnumbered! Phew.

But wait. What kind of stupid idiot would show up for Paul’s war against 100 million nonexistent jihadists? Surely not all the Christians in America are that dumb. And sure enough, according to a poll that I just made up in my head just now, a mere 8% of America’s Christians would show up for the fictitious war. Oh shit–now they are outnumbered. Good thing the 100 million extremists are imaginary.

Yes, jihadists exist. Hundreds of millions of them do not, and most Muslims are as worried about them as Rand Paul is. Warmongering is not a good way to deal with religious differences, as all of history forever and ever has taught us. In fact, it is exactly this exclusionary, us-against-them attitude that contributed to the alienation of the Boston bombers from American society. (Though what they did is obviously unjustifiable.) I would argue that the isolating effect of America’s gradual slide toward a less communal, more every-(wo)man-for-himself society played a way bigger role in this whole thing than religion. And if Mr Paul is the best America has to offer, then they’re going to have to treat their immigrants (and citizens) better–they’ll need them!

(NB: Sorry Americans. I know there are a lot of smart ones of you out there; I’m not talking about you.)

It’s been rough going for me lately. In addition to having had to adjust to the departure of my favorite central banker, Mark Carney, I now have to deal with the shutdown of the US government and Miley Cyrus and Juicy J’s potential offspring.

Miley Cyrus and rapper Juicy J are not expecting a baby together.  The singer took to Twitter to poke fun at latest reports.

It’s a wonder I manage to stay so calm amid all this controversy swirling around me. I have adopted a laissez-faire attitude that matches the important actors whose colossal blunders affect all of our lives. I live by the words of new Governor of the Bank of Canada Stephen Poloz, who used this phrase to describe his approach to leadership: “Sit back and let ‘er go.”

Patrick Doyle/Bloomberg

Really? That’s what the man in charge of a large chunk of our economy has to say? If he’s not worried, then why should I be? Is that what Miley Cyrus is going to say if the pregnancy test comes back positive?

And is that what US policymakers are saying now that they’ve let the government shut down? Ah, it’s fine, just sit back and let ‘er go guys, this battle’s just not worth fighting. A weeklong shutdown will slow US growth by 0.3%, but it’s not a problem. Ted Cruz is doing his part by pledging his salary to charity…because negotiating with Democrats doesn’t count as doing his part. And it’s totally considered charity to give up a salary you’ve earned in exchange for not doing the job you were hired to do. Awesome everyone!

I apologize if I sound bitter. I think I’m just jealous of Miley Cyrus.

I’ve been off my blog grind lately and on my international development grind. As some may be able to tell, I’ve also been listening to a lot of hip hop music, so it may take a while to get my writing style back to a normal place. Gangsta party.

I don’t really want to get too in-depth about anything today, but would like to observe how appallingly little has changed in the world since I last wrote about it. I check the econ blogs and see that inequality is still a buzzword, the financial sector is still improperly regulated,  Republicans still hate the poor, and Miley Cyrus is still twerking. Ok that last one wasn’t covered by the econ blogs, but it’s a pretty hot story right now for whatever reason.

Here in Canada, senators are still being bad, while in the Middle East, Syria is still imploding and the Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been able to come to any sort of deal despite the best efforts of Mr. Kerry. Across the pond, Mark Carney made his first public statement as Governor of the Bank of England, which contained more escape clauses than a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. And so the confusing central bank developments continue.

One story I have been following with genuine interest is the debate around who will succeed Bernanke as Chair of the Federal Reserve. The argument follows a trajectory sort of like this:

1. Someone makes a case for Summers to succeed Bernanke. This person is usually a friend of Summers.

2. Summers supporters are accused of sexism and a case is made for Yellen instead.

3. The Yellen supporter is accused of supporting her only by virtue of her gender, and therefore is also sexist.

4. Mark Carney is dragged into the controversy for saying that talent is being overlooked in the upper echelons of finance and central banking, his evidence being the near-complete absence of women in the upper echelons of finance and central banking.

5. Mark Carney is accused of being sexist like Larry Summers. In fact, anyone who mentions the issue of women’s advancement in finance is sexist and anyone who supports Summers OR Yellen is sexist. In fact, any human who was ever born, anywhere, and who regularly says words and breathes air is sexist.

So that’s where that leaves us, with no obvious successor to Bernanke and no obvious way to encourage women’s advancement in the finance industry. Ignoring the problem doesn’t solve anything, and drawing attention to the problem opens a floodgate of (GASP!) Larry Summers comparisons. Anyone who draws attention to the problem is labelled sexist, which is a wonderful way to stifle debate and perpetuate the status quo.

I’m in the Yellen camp–perhaps unsurprisingly–not because she is a woman, but because she has not shown the reckless hubris and complete lack of moral scruples that personify Summers. Hm where did I see those traits last….oh yeah, Alan Greenspan! Summers is a cad who deregulated asset-backed securities and then when shit got real he dipped, running straight to the private sector, where he had his pick of jobs from the banks he had helped (at the expense of pretty much everyone else) while in government. Yellen is not an asshole. Maybe it’s because she is a woman, but plenty of women are assholes, so we’ll have to ask Judith Butler about that one.

What I will say is that many arguments against Yellen are centered on her outsider status. “Outsider status” seems to me a euphemism for “she does not tolerate the cronyism that is rampant between finance and government.” Again, maybe it’s because she’s a woman, but probably not. In fact, the issue of sexism seems wholly beside the point to me in this debate–the real issue is cronyism. (Though cronyism can be sexist…but that’s another day’s post.) Would someone with Summers’ track record be hired solely based on his professional achievements? Not a chance–he has none of which to speak! He is being considered because he is known and he’s been around that way before. Shame on you, Obama.

And now, lest anyone think I’ve focused on frivolous trifles at the expense of the issues, here is one story that matters for everyone, regardless of gender or interest rate policy preference:

View image on Twitter

It’s great to be back!

The fallout from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s suggestion that the Fed would begin tapering of its QE3 program in September of this year was swift and vociferous. Yields on almost all Treasury notes continue to rise, and the Fed is now embarking on what many see as a remedial PR campaign to undo the damage caused by Bernanke’s comments. The general consensus among economists and investors is that Bernanke has made a terrible mistake that will substantially slow down US, and therefore global, prospects for recovery.

Paul Krugman attributes this change in attitude of the Fed to two possible factors: a fear of bubbles, and worries about inflation, which have been voiced loudly and often by many concerned conservatives. I wholeheartedly disagree. While human kind as a whole has a long history of fudging macro policy, I still find it hard to believe that the Fed would honestly see inflation as a real threat at this point. Even with all the money being pumped into the economy, it’s looking like a bit of a struggle just to keep inflation above 1%–it was 1.1% in April and shows no sign of rising to dangerous levels. And as Krugman has argued, a rate of 4 or 5% wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, as it would inflate away some of the US’ debt, and would perhaps incite firms to let go of some of that hoarded cash we’ve been hearing so much about. Harm to savers would be minimal, as current personal savings rates are abysmal. (Yes, the St. Louis Fed really outdid itself with this page. All flash and no substance, guys!) And as for the bubble threat, there doesn’t seem to be any on the horizon. One of the classic signs of a bubble is a thriving economy–albeit, an artificial sort of thriving driven by an asset that is about to crash spectacularly–but there is no thriving of which to speak. I am of the mind that the Fed knows all this perfectly well.

So if bubbles and inflation are not a concern, then why would the Fed want to begin tapering QE? Quite simply, because it’s not helping those that it intended to help. The one bubble that there has been some concern about lately is a stock bubble–the words “record high” are tossed around with astonishing frequency these days, enraging the struggling masses who wonder when they will see the benefit of all that prosperity. The answer is probably never, and the Fed probably sees this. What seems to be happening is that firms are getting hold of all that cheap money and, instead of reinvesting it to create jobs and improve efficiency, opt to instead use it to inflate their share prices by way of share buybacks and dividend increases. This is good for investors, but bad for people who need jobs. Exacerbating this pooling of money at the top is the fact that investment income is taxed so lightly, the result being that shareholders, usually those with the most disposable income, benefit disproportionately. This chart pretty much says it all:

While one could tell a story about how lower tax rates have given investors increased incentive to seek out profits, as this blogger has, that is not my primary concern here. What I am seeing is a very little portion of society benefiting from the Fed’s QE program, perhaps in part due to low tax rates on capital gains that raise the stakes, giving added incentives for companies to placate investors in hard times while ignoring long-term growth. Indeed, share repurchasing is at a record high, according to the Financial Times. So, seen in this light, why would the Fed want to continue a policy that is not having its intended effect? Will doing it more help matters? I personally don’t think so–the flaw lies in the structure of our financial system, not in the attitudes of business owners and CEOs.

A report on cash-hoarding by the St. Louis Fed gives a number of reasons for companies’ reluctance to reinvest, and acknowledges that many firms prefer to keep earnings overseas to avoid repatriation fees. The report cites tax uncertainty in the US as the primary reason that firms are holding cash, as well as the looming threat of tightened monetary policy, which may make it more difficult for firms to get cash quick if needed. It observes that the ratio of cash to net assets has more than doubled in the past 20 years, and that it is mostly smaller firms that are holding cash.

This very clearly signals a need for legislators in the US to make more cash available to smaller firms, because they are best-positioned to return the US to its former status as innovator and land of opportunity. Of course, I don’t think the Fed’s stats tell the whole story–many larger firms such as Wal-Mart seem intent on increasing share prices, regardless of the long-term effects this may have.

So, the solution is two-fold: make more cash available to smaller firms, and discourage large firms from engaging in stock market tomfoolery which they will certainly regret later, anyhow. Another sound policy might involve a clearer and more predictable system of taxation that encourages corporations to bring profits to the US. The Fed itself has acknowledged that companies are holding money abroad to evade taxes: why is this acceptable?

Getting back to Bernanke’s actions in the past week: the reaction has been very extreme, but perhaps it was long-overdue. Interest rates on US Treasury notes were at all-time lows to begin with, and the US is still a long way from ever having to default. If Bernanke’s statements incite large firms to begin planning for a time when easy money will no longer be available, by, say, reinvesting instead of engaging in share repurchasing, then perhaps they will have had their intended effect. Interest rates will still be low, so small firms should not feel that they cannot take calculated risks as well.

Though Bernanke’s recent tactics seem wrong-headed to some, a closer look at just who was benefited by QE shows that perhaps there is some method behind the madness. The subsequent contradictions by other Fed officials only serve to highlight internal divisions and show the Fed’s weakness to corporate interests. With the enactment of the policies I have suggested above, however, I see no reason why the end of QE should be the death knell of the US economy.

Despite all Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s big talk about Mexico’s economy, growth this year has been disappointing. As The Economist points out, this is partly due to one-time events, such as Banco Santander’s listing of its Mexican subsidiary, and partly due to a weak export market. Pena Nieto has been busy drafting reforms that attempt to address Mexico’s vulnerability to global market downturns–a worthy endeavour–and his focus on improving productivity within the country is well-founded. However, there are ways in which he could improve the export sector that would require little more than stepping out into Mexico’s own backyard.

The US, Canada, and China are Mexico’s biggest trade partners, with an alarming 74% of Mexico’s exports going to the US and 53% of imports coming from there. This makes Mexico extremely vulnerable to the mildly erratic whims of the US economy. To further complicate matters, China is also experiencing slower growth, which may take a chunk out of the $5B per year Mexico gets from selling to China. With the exceptions of Colombia and Brazil, Latin American countries all take less than 1% of Mexican exports. By diversifying its export customer base, Mexico could avoid some of the risks that come from putting all its export eggs in one American basket.

The main reason for Mexico’s northward focus is convenience: NAFTA has facilitated trade between Mexico, the US, and Canada. Mexico’s exports to the US have quadrupled since the agreement came into effect in 1994. While Latin American countries would have a hard time matching US demand for exports, it would still be worthwhile to diversify a little. Mexico is not a member of either of the two South American free trade blocs, Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), but these organizations are divided anyway and are weighed down by excessive political strategizing on the part of their members. Ten years ago there was discussion of turning NAFTA into a 34-country free trade area; these talks should be restarted.

Though there will likely always be debate over the economic effects of NAFTA and other free trade agreements, a Latin American free trade area would be significantly advantageous from a political standpoint. Free trade agreements can lead to increased political integration in regions, and Mexico’s increased participation in Latin America would be mutually beneficial. Unlike its neighbor to the north, Mexico has been loth to get involved in countries’ domestic matters. However, the various political crises and power struggles as of late have made it clear that the region needs a stabilizing presence to moderate disputes. Ranging from the comical (a diplomatic crisis was narrowly averted after Uruguayan President Jose Mujica called his Argentine counterpart an “old lady” and her late husband “cross-eyed”) to the serious (Paraguay and Venezuela’s democracies are borderline illegitimate), domestic disputes are increasingly spilling over borders and even affecting trade, as evidenced in Mercosur’s ejection of Paraguay after a suspected coup d’etat and subsequent installation of Venezuela in the bloc.

Latin America is deeply divided economically, with Mercosur and CAN competing for members. It would immensely improve efficiency if all the countries could agree to comprehensive and far-reaching terms under just one trade agreement. It is evident from the diagram above that there are too many acronyms and not enough overlap in the Americas.

Of course, the negotiations would be excruciating, and Latin American states tend to be less tolerant of perceived slights than the US has been; Chavez managed to get away with calling George W. Bush a donkey, but equally colorful allegations against Vicente Fox caused a diplomatic crisis in 2005. More recently, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos provoked the ire of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro by meeting with Maduro’s opponent in the disputed April election, Henrique Capriles. After watching the fallout from the incident, Pena Nieto declined to receive Capriles. While this is in keeping with Mexico’s policy of non-intervention, it is disappointing that the country is not taking this opportunity to participate more actively in Latin American democracies, as many are floundering.

To be sure, Mexico has its own internal issues and is far from a paragon of modern democracy. However, strengthening ties with its neighbors to the south would likely bring increased stability and prosperity to the region, thus decreasing the number of illegal immigrants that pass through its borders on the way to the United States. It certainly will not be easy, but the rewards are worth it. Countries in Latin America must adopt the mentality espoused in the (optimistic) OECD motto: “whatever the weather, we must move together.”

My ongoing job search and the experiences of my friends have caused me to think about the labour market in new and pessimistic ways. After each new rejection, I think, I deserved that job more than any of the other morons who applied. They probably just hired some pretentious cretin. I also think other things that are too profane to write here. But why do I deserve that job? And are the criteria used to evaluate potential employees fair?

It’s a pretty widely accepted fact by now that young people trying to break into the labour market are getting the short end of the stick. Their plight tends to start at the post-secondary level–the cost of education has grown exponentially in recent decades and students now have the debt to prove it. Mother Jones has excellent stats on this. What struck me most from these figures is that student debt has quadrupled in the past decade!! Though it’s easy to blame this on the recession, if you look at the student debt chart on Mother Jones, you’ll see that this trend was well underway years before the crisis struck. I chalk it up to a phenomenon called “post-secondary-mania,” in which getting a degree is a widely accepted ticket to success. If you look at the chart below, it is easy to surmise that the rise of post-secondary-mania, and thus tuition, coincided with North America’s shift from manufacturing to service jobs. In 1980 the US lost 1.1 million manufacturing jobs; now, a degree was paramount to getting one of those fancy finance jobs, hence tuition costs’ meteoric outpacing of inflation:

The mentality behind this rise is that education pays for itself. I recently met with a post-grad adviser in regard to a two year MA program I was considering taking. It focused on international relations, economics, and international organisations. The adviser told me that most of the recent graduates of the program were gainfully employed, but only because they had had connections waiting to employ them even before they entered the program. So how much does a Master’s that won’t help me get a job cost? $18,000 PER YEAR. Awesome. What I took from this experience was the knowledge that, if you’re in, you’re in, and, if not, then no amount of expensive education can get you in. So that’s one thing that people should probably start accepting, if they haven’t already.

Westerners are very fond of the idea of meritocracy, the idea that, with a lot of hard work and skill, anyone can succeed. This is the value that the American Dream represents. However, meritocracy is a fundamentally flawed concept, and one that drew its last breath sometime in the past 20 years.

First of all, true meritocracy can never be a reality, as Simone Brunozzi points out here. There are too many variables and no one starts from the same point. Those who started with less still have to work harder. And there is the uncomfortable question of the definition of merit. If two people start out with nothing and each works hard, one may be more successful than the other because of higher intelligence, increased persistence, or a charming personality. But it is not Person A’s fault that she is not as talented, determined, or likeable as Person B. Both worked hard, but meritocracy dictates that Person B succeed because of traits with which she was born. Is this fair?

Affirmative action policies attempt to level the playing field so that each may have an equal chance to succeed on merit alone. Unfortunately, they do so by acknowledging that people of a certain ethnicity are more likely to have had insufficient education, thereby institutionalising deplorable standards of education while simultaneously shutting out whites who may have gone to those same terrible schools. I agree with the Economist that affirmative action should be scrapped, but only if we can provide better education earlier on, thus ensuring that everyone is given an “equal” opportunity.

Despite all these flaws, the idea of meritocracy is sort of nice. The American Dream served as a great motivator for generations of Americans who believed they could make it through grit and determination. Now, however, social mobility is substantially less than it was in the 1950s (it began declining in the ’80s), and the US lags behind most other developed countries in Mark Thoma’s chart:

This suggests that our current society is not a meritocracy, but rather a mishmash of plutocracy, aristocracy, and nepotism. I say this because the descendents of the beneficiaries of meritocracy are now the ones that benefit from the merit of their parents. They are the ones who can pay for college, and they are the ones who can afford to slave away at the unpaid internships that are all the rage these days. So we have a plutocratic system in the sense that the wealthy are afforded (can afford) more opportunities. We’ve become an aristocratic society in the sense that if you are not born into a family that made its fortune from “merit,” then you are probably not going anywhere. And the labour market is ruled by nepotism and cronyism, now cronyism more than ever. If you don’t know people at the company you are applying for, you can probably forget about working there. It makes sense that people want to hire people that they know would be good employees, but I now see this devolving into people wanting to hire only people that they know, regardless of qualifications.

So I don’t really have the answers to the questions I posed above. Being a descendent of those who succeeded on mainly merit hasn’t helped me much; I chalk this up to me having assumed for too long that I was living in a world similar to that of my parents, and not in a savage jungle where you must kill or be killed. Perhaps meritocracy isn’t as dead as I thought, but rather the “hard work” element of the thing has been replaced by tech-savvy, noisiness and connections. And those who do not adapt must marry rich!

Wealth distribution is unquestionably a problem in many societies these days–and not just in poor countries, as has traditionally been the case:

USA Wealth Distribution

It’s becoming hackneyed to point out that this is really bad, but I want to do so anyway: this is really bad! Consider that in 1980, the top 20% of earners in the US held “just” 42.8% of wealth.

There are many reasons as to why this has happened, but the most obvious and oft-cited has to do with this:

ratio of pay

Most people would agree that the pay of CEOs has quite swiftly spiraled out of control, and now the debate is centered upon how to mitigate the wealth inequality that has arisen from said spiraling. Unfortunately, as CEOs’ pay has been increasing, something interesting has been happening…

tax burden

There are several alarming implications of this chart. (Yes, it is an old one, but surprisingly little has changed since 2004. And this is a good-looking chart.) First of all, the share of taxes that the wealthy pay has been cut in half. This is alarming to me not because I believe that everyone should pay more taxes, but because of the astronomical disparity between top earners and the rest of the population. Which brings me to the second implication of this chart, which is more a question: how the heck is the government funding itself if the rich’s  tax burden has been dramatically slashed, and middle to low earners have seen little change in their rates?! While Obama has slightly raised taxes, an uphill battle to be sure, he has made little headway in changing the overall look of the tax burden paradigm.

In my research I have encountered the argument that the rich actually have a bigger tax burden now because they end up paying more money due to the ginormous fortunes they have amassed–40% of $10 million is a lot more than 94% of $500,000, after all. So yes, more money is being taken from less people as a consequence of unequal wealth distribution. Those millionaires who argue that this should not be the case should talk to the “99 percent,” many of whom are happy to scrape by on $30,000 a year or much less.

Now I’m no class warrior, nor am I a communist. I have no problem with people working hard and reaping the rewards of hard work. But it is becoming apparent that at some point, someone built a dam in the river of wealth, and instead of trickling down, the wealth is building up at the top, out of reach of the many. While I cannot speak to the exact causes of this situation, I can surmise that it has to do with a unique combination of communism panic in the 1960s, stagflation in the 1970s, and an individual by the name of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. This is overly simplistic. Business Insider has a helpful article on the history of tax rates, and they also point out the correlation between low taxes and ballooning deficit.

I think the legacy of the 1980s is one of unquestioned trust in bankers and CEOs due to a widespread lack of understanding of what they do. I am reminded of a scene in the film American Psycho in which a woman tells Christian Bale’s character, who works in finance, that she really appreciates how hard all the “guys on Wall st. work for us.” Meanwhile his character is shown day after day sitting in his office, doing nothing. While this attitude is no longer all that prevalent, I think it played a big part in inflating salaries (and bonuses) of CEOs and bankers.

What we have here is a systemic issue that has arisen in part because of a values system that places a premium on knowing how to manipulate a complex financial system that no one understands. Taxing the rich is a good way to temporarily redistribute wealth AND reduce the deficit (you’re welcome, Paul Ryan). But it is not a good solution in the long run. Nor is putting a cap on salary or bonuses, as policy makers in the EU are attempting to do, unless every country in the world gets on board.

In taxing the rich, we are taxing the symptom of a deeply rooted way of thinking that no longer serves the greater good. This is like taking an Advil for a brain tumor; the pain will be temporarily alleviated, but at some point you’re going to have to deal with the cause of the headache. This is not an anti-business sentiment–on the contrary, we should be encouraging entrepreneurs and companies that create jobs and innovation, not giving a CEO a five million dollar bonus that (s)he will stash in Switzerland until it is noticed that (s)he’s been fudging the books to inflate his/her company’s stock price. Of course, simply changing our thinking will do little if we cannot stop the horrendous feedback loop that the coziness of lobby groups and Congress has produced. But acknowledging the situation and getting angry about it is a good start.