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Friday, November 2, 2012

Demystifying the national debt

Supporters of republican presidential candidate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stand next to a national debt clock during a rally at Exeter High School on January 8, 2012 in Exeter, N.H. 

Author: Simon Johnson, James Kwak
Publisher: Pantheon (2012)
Binding: Hardcover, 368 pages
Kai Ryssdal: A quick check of the official Treasury Department Debt Clock today brings us this sobering number: $15.6 trillion. It's actually $15.6 trillion and 83 cents, but we'll just round up.
What to do about that debt is helping to shape the election this fall. Just today the president was talking about it, as we said earlier.

Economist Simon Johnson's been thinking about debt a lot and what we ought to do about it. He's got a new book out with James Kwak. It's called "White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You." Thanks for being here.

Simon Johnson: Thanks for having me.

Ryssdal: How did we get here? What happened that this idea of our debt became -- I mean, it's all-consuming now.

Johnson: It certainly has become a big preoccupation. It's a very interesting story, and the history is that we went through repeated crises for the republic, and each time, ran up the debt but then managed to bring it down. The problem we encountered in the 1970s and 1980s was the conviction that you could cut taxes and yet get more revenue. That's an illusion but it's an illusion that's been with us for a long time. We also of course had a couple of big foreign wars recently, and we had this huge financial crisis, and that destroyed a lot of tax revenue -- that's what happens in a recession. So it's this combination that's brought us to a very difficult point. And now we're going to have a discussion, a debate I think, during this presidential election year: What should the government be doing and how do we pay for it?

Ryssdal: This is going to sound like one of those snooty, know-it-all public radio questions, but I kind of have to ask it anyway: Do we all understand what you -- that is, economists and policymakers -- are talking about when the subject is the national debt? I mean, do we get it, do you think?

Johnson: I think people, many people, don't fully grasp what the national debt is about. And I think it's a bad mistake to trust not just the politicians but also the economists to explain it all to you, frankly. Sure, some of these issues are maybe a little complex, but absolutely comprehensible for everyone. It's also not a set of problems that any of us individually can afford to ignore.

Ryssdal: To that point, and the idea that financial crises -- they happen slowly, but once they happen, they happen all at once -- how much time do we have, do you think, before we become another Greece?

Johnson: I don't think we'll ever be Greece. That's one thing. But we will come under pressure. When exactly? I can't tell you. But I can tell you this: If we don't prepare, if we don't start down the right road now, we are taking risks. We are taking unnecessary risks and we are pushing ourselves towards very difficult outcomes. We can get ahead of it but we have to push -- we have to push ourselves to understand, we have to push the politicians to get to grips with this.

Ryssdal: Let me turn it this way: If we're in such bad shape, as you and your co-author James Kwak, argue that we are with our debt, why is that the Treasury Department can go to the bond market and borrow money almost for nothing, in real terms? It's basically free for them.

Johnson: This is very much about the nature of the world today. There's a lot of people around the world who want to say they don't see a lot of strong, alternative, safe places to put their money; they put it into U.S. Treasury debt. And that's bit of a problem because the politicians are smart, rational, calculating people -- they say well, why should we even discuss measures that are potentially unpopular when we can continue to borrow at 2 percent? The problem is, you can't borrow at 2 percent indefinitely; sooner or later, the markets will turn against you. And of course, experience -- not just from our history but also from other countries around the world, including Europe recently -- is that when the markets turn against you, they turn very quickly. And you'd better be prepared for that day, otherwise you will be forced into precipitant, hasty and really disruptive austerity -- either cutting spending or raising taxes or both.

Ryssdal: Simon Johnson's at the Sloan School of Management at MIT. His new book with James Kwak is called "White House Burning." It's about the national debt. Simon, thanks a lot.

Johnson: Thank you.

From American Public Radio's Marketplace (click here). 
First Published 4/12/2012

Too many choices

Decision making is more difficult than ever. The problem today is that there is too much information, too many choices and too many options, many and almost a geometrical number more than just a decade or two ago.

Emotions are essential in the decision making process. A psychologist at Harvard says that we are not making “rational decisions” since we are mostly impacted by the physiological and psychological impact of our bodies. Subjects that are sad will pay ore money for something than those who are happy. If you are angry you are more likely to make mistake or a risky decision at the office or later in the day. Happiness works the same as anger, undermining certainty and control. Happy or angry people are likely to forget seat belts, use bike helmets, lock their cars or buy insurance.

Sadness, depression lead to spending money, doing things on the spur of the moment, and then regretting even good decisions.

Columbia University is looking at quantity for choice. The more choices that are out there, the less likely we are to make the correct decision. People get sensory overwhelmed by too many choices. More choices make actual choices less likely. Retailers are reducing choices and increasing sales by selling only what people “want”, meaning what most people buy. Small boutiques sell a higher per square foot than department stores, excluding high discount stores, because there are few choices and because there are sales people who help guide you, and therefore mean you have fewer decisions to make on your own.

For diets, avoid buffets and eat off smaller plates. It works. By reducing choice and quantity you will lose weight.

The biggest problem in  a recession is how to spend money, otherwise known as budgeting. There are too many choices to make and perceived needs for the funds available. Psychologists say that in our society it is almost impossible to return to the level of satisfaction we had when less was more. But some social, religious or philosophical groups do. Therefore the best way to control decision making the correct decisions could be to do it in groups, as long as your temper does not flare up and you spend money based on anger!

Three levels of student...need to listen to and understand each others needs.

From a student:

Majority of underachieving students now a days just don't seem to care about school, while majority of overachieving students think they know everything and don't bother to listen to the teacher anymore. Both affect the way average students think and in my personal opinion this problem should be addressed.

Join AmeriCorps

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The success of AmeriCorps largely depends upon an appropriate match between programs and members.  Considerable value is placed on personal references during the application review and selection process.  To complete a reference form for this applicant, please click on the link provided below.

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Find the Magic of Childhood

“One of my favorite professors in college taught directing. An actor himself, he remarked one day that he hoped he'd never grow up, because our childlike instincts are what keep the joy and wonder in our work. That sense of play and make-believe is natural to all of us and we'd better not lose it.” 
—Mike Pniewski

From a student of mine now on staff at The Nebraskan

Here's a story my class and I have spent all semester researching. Be sure to check the county to see how registration rates have varied:

Parking for Tonight's Mieola Twins First Friday performance

First Friday and The Mineola Twins at 8PM @ The Art Square Theatre. There's no better night to feel the energy of the Arts District! Come early. Eat. Drink. Then be entertained.
Here's some info if you're parking:
Yesterday at 8:00pm at Cockroach Theatre

Who Should Play Luke Skywalker in a Star Wars Disney Musical?

Weekend Poll: Who Should Play Luke Skywalker in a Star Wars Disney Musical?
Which Broadway actor should take on the role of Luke Skywalker in a 'Star Wars' musical by Disney?
Great bantha! Disney has joined forces with Lucasfilm for a brand new Star Wars series, scheduled to hit theaters in 2015. Since Disney is responsible for a few of our favorite stage musicals, we thought it would be awesome to see Luke, Leia, Chewie and the gang singing, dancing and, of course, lightsabering on Broadway. After adapting hit films like The Lion KingMary Poppins and Newsies for the stage, who knows? A Broadway Star Wars musical might be right around the corner. We already know Luke and his pals have some serious musical theater experience—remember the Star Wars Holiday Special? So young Jedis, we have to know: Which Broadway hunk should star as Luke Skywalker in a new Star Wars musical?

'Odd Couple,' 'Glengarry Glen Ross' opening with gender-switch revisions


Turnabout is fair play.
Make that plays.
At least this weekend, when not one but two award-winning favorites open in Las Vegas - with women in roles usually played by men.
In the case of Neil Simon's classic comedy "The Odd Couple" - presented Saturday and Sunday at The Smith Center's Troesh Studio Theater - a female version is nothing new.
Simon himself oversaw the gender-switch revision, which debuted on Broadway 30 years after the 1965 original's arrival. (Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers played the roles originated onstage by Walter Matthau and Art Carney.)
But David Mamet's blistering "Glengarry Glen Ross," which opens an 11-day run Saturday at downtown's theatre7 , has undergone no changes.
Except, of course, that women embody the play's driven Chicago salesmen trying to peddle Florida real estate.

How brainwashing and "fair and balanced" really works

For Second-Straight Day, Fox Carries Entire Romney Speech Live But Only 3 Minutes Of Obama

For the second day in a row, Fox News devoted extensive coverage to a campaign speech by Mitt Romney, far overshadowing the coverage the network gave President Obama's campaign speech. In fact, Fox News carried Romney's entire 26-minute speech live, while it cut Obama's remarks off after just three minutes.

MSNBC, meanwhile, aired about 14 minutes of Romney's speech as opposed to 15 minutes of Obama's. CNN gave Romney and Obama equal airtime, going back to regular coverage after each had spoken for about 12 minutes.

Fox's America's Newsroom joined Obama's campaign speech in Hilliard, Ohio, at 10:49 a.m. on Friday but cut away at 10:53 to go to commercial. Four minutes later, Fox showed footage of the West Allis, Wisconsin, venue where Romney was scheduled to speak later that day. The hosts then segued to showing footage of Staten Island, New York, while talking about the damage the area sustained because of Hurricane Sandy.

At 11:25 a.m., Fox interrupted a discussion on the recently released October jobs report to go live to West Allis for Romney's speech, which it aired until Romney stopped speaking at 11:53 a.m. Co-host Jon Scott then led a discussion about both campaign speeches with Fox News contributors Monica Crowley and Julie Roginsky.

On Thursday, Fox also aired Romney's entire speech, which lasted almost 25 minutes, but cut away from Obama's remarks after just six minutes. While Obama was speaking in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson attacked him over Hurricane Sandy and what Carlson called the Obama campaign's "incredibly divisive, nasty" tone.

By contrast, MSNBC aired both Thursday speeches in their entirety -- Obama's speech lasted about 23 minutes -- while CNN aired the entire Obama speech and all but the first two minutes of Romney's comments.

According to C-SPAN, Obama's speech in Hilliard lasted a total of about 28 minutes.

Do you think the 2 presidential candidates should receive coverage equal to each other from news outlets? What about in incumbent running for relection?

"There's a sucker born every minute...know your audience."

These are actual communication strategy points from a PowerPoint presented to professional Republican fundraisers and organizers. (Click on image to enlarge). Someone had a sense of humor, as the points were taken directly form Adolph Hitler, master propagandist. The conference, held in Florida, was a full weekend of motivation and how to's for marketing whomever would become the presidential candidate.