Nevada eyes big political gamble

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – Like many Nevadans, hairdresser Helen Elgas is trying to decide between the devil she knows and the devil she doesn’t, and the future of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, hangs in the balance.

U.S. judge sets December 16 hearing on healthcare suit

PENSACOLA, Florida (Reuters) – A Florida judge said on Tuesday he would hear arguments on December 16 on a lawsuit by 20 U.S. states seeking to block President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.


Don McNay: What Does the "Recovery" That Washington Envisions Look Like?

There is no “there” there. ~ Gertrude Stein

I went back to Ohio but my city was gone. ~ The Pretenders

Since the collapse of the economy in 2008, economists and politicians keep talking in term of “recovery.” One television commentator kept bleating about “mustard shoots”. He was inventing positive signs in his head.

He wasn’t commentating, he was cheer leading. So far, the team he is rooting for has not been winning.

Washington has been throwing out gimmicks right and left. It’s been hard for Main Street businesses to make long term plans since we have no idea where Washington is going.

McNay Settlement Group, the structured settlement company that I founded, recently made a major investment in technology. We met with computer consultants for nearly a year and installed the system on September 1.

The next week, President Obama announced a major tax proposal for businesses to buy equipment. You can get it if you purchase after September 8.

Any of my competitors who waited at least 8 days longer than we did can get a huge tax break. We can’t. That’s the second time something like that has happened this year. We also lost out on a tax credit for hiring new employees. We hired someone a week before that tax gimmick was announced.

Normally, tax breaks start some significant period of time after the initial legislation. That gives businesses a chance to do long term planning and develop a strategy.

Not now. You never know what kind of new gimmick they are going to throw out there.

It’s not just crying about missing a potential break. It’s that it makes the playing field un-level.

It rewards people who failed to plan over those who do.

Suddenly, we have two competitors. One is the other people in my industry that I have always competed with. The new competitor is the United States government. Using my tax dollars, it is rewarding my competitors for not being as proactive as I have been.

Businesses need to make changes on a well thought-out basis, rather than getting “the deal of the week.”

This knee-jerk, grab-ass, immediate reaction style of economic planning is the result of no one in Washington thinking past the next news cycle. Everyone is looking for “quick fix” to get us back to “normal.”

My question is: What will “normal” look like?” When we were in our mid-decade “economic boom” that Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve Board were touting, individuals were living on borrowed money they didn’t have.

Now the government is running on borrowed money it doesn’t have. It’s also pushing interest rates low and hurting senior citizens. People who were encouraged to be savers are getting almost nothing in return. People who bought homes they shouldn’t have qualified for are getting bailed out.

So what is the “recovery” that Washington envisions going to look like? Are we going to have a new wave of people getting low down payment and no down payment mortgages? Are there going to be more floods of people running up their credit cards, buying stuff they really don’t need and can’t afford? Is unemployment going to go away? If so, how? Are we going to stop the flow of jobs to other countries? Are we all of a sudden going to start manufacturing goods again, after years and years of shipping those jobs overseas?

Too many in Washington pretend we are going to go back to the good old days. We won’t. Those days are gone. A number of new concepts, designed to create wealth without relying on Wall Street are materializing. The idea that Arianna Huffington started, Move Your Money, (see more at http://moveyourmoney.info/) is catching on.

People are learning to dine at home, cut up their credit cards and avoid going back to the out-of-control behaviors that got us in this mess to begin with.

Washington needs to be looking at hard economic realities instead of gimmicks. We have too many debts, too many people with their hands in the pies and too many wars. We have looming problems, like social security and health care, which need to be addressed and paid for.

To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, we need to have an idea of what “there” is going to be like when the recovery begins.

We won’t get “there” by using short term gimmicks.

Don McNay, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, CSSC of Richmond Kentucky is an award-winning financial columnist and Huffington Post Contributor.

You can read more about Don at www.donmcnay.com

McNay founded McNay Settlement Group, a structured settlement and financial consulting firm, in 1983, and Kentucky Guardianship Administrators LLC in 2000. You can read more about both at www.mcnay.com

McNay has Master’s Degrees from Vanderbilt and the American College and is in the Hall of Distinguished Alumni of Eastern Kentucky University.

McNay has written two books. Most recent is Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win The Lottery

McNay is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Round Table and has four professional designations in the financial services field.

Read more: No Down Payment Mortgages, Small Business, Recovery, President Obama, War in Afghanistan, Move Your Money, Social Security, Federal Reserve Board, Lobbyists, Washington, Bailouts, Main Street, Tax Planning, Tax Credit, The Fed, Econmic Recovery, Legislation, Economic Gimmicks, Economic Recovery, Cnbc, Payroll Taxes, Unemployment, Economic Collapse, Economic Boom, Ohio, Gertrude Stein, Move Your Money Campaign, Stimulus Plan, American College, Lottery Winners, Personal Finance, McNay Settlement Group, moveyourmoney.info, Structured Settlement, Quick Fix, What to Do When You Win the Lottery, Kentucky, Don McNay, Fox Business News, Barack Obama, Upside Down Mortgages, Manufacturing Goods, Outsourcing, The Pretenders, Credit Cards, Wall Street, Vanderbilt University, Health Care Reform, Underemployment, Son of a Son of a Gambler, Million Dollar Round Table, Eastern Kentucky University, Certified Structured Settlement Consultant, Arianna Huffington, Ben Bernanke, Low Down Payment Mortgages, Alan Greenspan, Entrepreneurship, Too Big to Fail, Spending Spree, Business News

Bill Singer: Yo, Congress, Keep on Truckin’ — Can You Dig It?

There is an obligation upon those drafting laws and regulations to do so with sufficient clarity so as to convey what precise conduct is proscribed or prohibited. Failing to discharge that task with clarity builds speed-traps that catch the unwary and burden our judicial system. Recently, Congress has churned out a flurry of laws for the financial services industry (and various governmental agencies will be charged with further rulemaking), and it is imperative that the new rules of the road are concise. A stop sign must look like one. The speed limits must be clearly posted. Sadly, as appellate courts have ruled in recent months, our lawmakers do not always say what they mean, and those charged with enforcing our laws do not always do so in the spirit of equal justice for all.

Defendants often complain that they had no idea that the acts they are accused of engaging in constituted proscribed or prohibited conduct. They point to the language of whatever law or regulation that they are charged with violating and argue that it doesn’t say what their adversary suggests, or that it says what it says but it means something different. Similarly, prosecutors and regulators sometimes have a penchant for stretching the laws and regulations that they enforce to cover a whole host of sins. In some cases, one would think that the statute or regulation was made of rubber.

Of course the byproduct of lawmaking is rarely a pristine outcome. Too often our legislators burden a proposed law with so many amendments and special-interest provisions that a once clear-cut statute is rendered unintelligible. As a result, the press becomes filled with stories about laws being over-turned because they are “void for vagueness” or because they failed to give adequate notice. All of which regularly leads to one verdict at trial and a different one on appeal, and an up-and-down, twist-and-turn nature of criminal and regulatory enforcement that drives all of those who participate in the process crazy. Consider the recent cases of Skilling, Black and the Public Accounting Oversight Board.

When I try to explain the concept of void for vagueness, I typically have to resort to all sorts of examples — many involving legal arcana and others which don’t quite make the point. However, the other day I was presented with a wonderful illustration of this legal puzzle while visiting the Bronx Zoo in New York City.

Consider this sign that was posted at the zoo along an asphalt walkway and in front of a wooded area:


Okay, so, go ahead, tell me, according to the sign, what exactly is prohibited? As best I can tell, you can’t do something with some kind of footwear that has a wavy soul. As you can tell from the background image, there isn’t any grass around, so I’m not particularly sure what the green tufty stuff at the bottom of the image is, but let’s assume that it’s either natural or maybe artifical grass.

  • There is no human leg in the sneaker, so perhaps you’re not allowed to throw a shoe — a la the protest launched at former President Bush in Baghdad? Perhaps if the Iraqi authorities had prominently posted this sign on the doors leading into the press room, that dissident reporter would not have been arrested and jailed?

  • On the other hand, there seems to be some prominent issue about wavy treads on the bottom of the shoe and I don’t see any shoelaces, so maybe the sign is warning us wearing loafers or slip-ons?

  • Of course, since this is a sign at the zoo, maybe the wavy lines aren’t part of the shoe but are a failed attempt to depict animal feces and we’re supposedly being told not to wipe our shoes off on the non-existent grass?

  • Then there’s the existential issue that no leg is implanted in the shoe. Perhaps you are not supposed to levitate shoes at the zoo? Or maybe you’re not allowed to play that popular child’s game of shoe skipping in which you sidearm a shoe across the grass in the fashion of a shell or pebble at the beach?

  • Of course, what the hell is $6? This part of the sign really puzzles me.

  • Maybe the $6 is the cost of playing shoe skipping along the grass or the charge for levitating loafers at the zoo?

  • The $6 could be a fine but nothing indicates that on the sign and, anyway, have you ever heard of any fine being a measly $6?

Not that I’m so eager to show my age and all, but, come to think of it, way back in the ’60s, comic artist Robert Crumb had this image of four guys who were truckin’ What’s truckin’ you ask? Oh my, how do I explain that word… hmm. You know it’s sorta from that period when we rapped with each other and talked about the man and things were cool and groovy and, can you dig it, but, like, y’know, wow, it was far out. In any event, to the extent that I actually remember the ’60s, I do recall that there were these raised shoes in the iconic Crumb image. So, maybe the zoo sign means that you can’t “Keep on Truckin'” and, if you do, it’s gonna cost you $6?

If any of you have an original take or insight as to the Bronx Zoo sign, please post it here.

Read more: Bronx Zoo, Supreme Court, Jeffrey Skilling, Conrad Black, Congress, Wall Street, Wall Street Reform, Finreg, Lawmakers, Speed Trap, Pcaob, Business News

Michael Hais and Morley Winograd: Generational Economics

This week three top Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives– Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Paul Ryan — will release their new book, Young Guns, outlining a vision for America’s future that reflects their Generation X philosophy of individual autonomy and hostility to community or collective action.

Originally, Young Guns was the name of a popular movie back in 1988 when Generation X’s political idol, Ronald Reagan was in the White House, but the philosophy espoused by Cantor, McCarthy, and Ryan hardly reflects the beliefs and values of today’s youngest and largest generation, Millennials (born 1982-2003). Millennials believe in trusting one another and sharing ideas in order to come up with the best results for the entire group. That’s why the country is more likely to find economic ideas that call for community action and local initiative more attractive than those being pushed by House Republicans.

On Wednesday, September 15, D.C. think tank NDN will host a roundtable discussion on how to use government to catalyze bottom-up innovation and economic growth at the local level. NDN Fellow Dan Carol will host, and joining him will be U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce John Fernandez to discuss his agency’s “Jobs and Innovation Partnership” initiative to help build regional economic ecosystems where the private sector can flourish. These ideas, to be detailed in a paper scheduled for release the same day, offer Democrats the opportunity to seize both the generational and the policy initiative in the 2010 midterm election’s economic debate.

The proposal’s focus on nurturing local economic networks captures the insights of a new economic paradigm, based on complexity science, which suggests economies grow in the same way ecosystems do. Innovation is the key to this process as the system moves through constant cycles of experimentation and reconfiguration, or what economist Joseph Schumpeter called waves of “creative destruction.” Complex ecosystems and modern economies continuously adapt and grow through a process of rewarding what works and discarding what doesn’t. More trials, including more errors, produce better results and more innovative ideas. Unlike classical economics, which equates wealth with money, this new paradigm states that wealth is maximized when the largest number of people are generating ideas in a competitive, evolutionary environment.

Perhaps the most Millennial of all the insights generated by this new paradigm is the importance it places on establishing a new sense of trust in the way individuals deal with each other. In complex economies, such as that of the United States, the expectations and interpretations each person has about what all the other players want and expect creates an invisible web of human expectations that can only be managed in a Millennial atmosphere of trust and cooperation, not in the Gen X mode of everyone looking out only for themselves. Complexity economics argues that the classical economic paradigm enunciated in the 18th century by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, was wrong in suggesting, “wealth is created by the pursuit of narrow self-interest.” Instead, Eric Beinhocker, whose book The Origin of Wealth: Evolution, Complexity and the Radical Remaking of Economics, is intentionally titled and written as an answer to Smith, argues, “Norms of unchecked selfishness kill the one thing that determines whether a society can generate (let alone fairly allocate) wealth and opportunity: trust. High-trust networks thrive; low-trust ones fail.” While the Generation X Republican prescriptions for returning to the discredited laissez faire doctrines of the past rest on the argument that you can’t trust government, Millennials know that the only answer to the question “Who do you trust?” is “each other.”

Trust is built over time when people have a chance to work together toward a common goal. That is what the Jobs and Innovation Partnership initiative from EDA is designed to do at the regional level. Dan Carol’s research paper will present several innovative ideas on how to use government’s resources to develop and nurture these networks so that working together becomes easier and more effective. (He hinted about some of the things that will be discussed in the paper in an NDN blog post back in May for those who can’t wait until Wednesday to hear more.) But the key to all of these proposals is the emphasis they place on sharing ideas and using a more bottom-up approach to the challenge of restructuring America’s economy.

Millennials, suffering the highest levels of unemployment of any generation, will welcome this approach. It reflects their values and beliefs and represents how they will lead the nation in the future. It’s time for the rest of the country to embrace these ideas as well rather than returning to the Wild West economics of Generation X’s childhood. Counter to the message of another popular 1980s movie, greed isn’t good; trusting each other is the best way to breathe new life into the nation’s economy.

Read more: Young Guns, Innovation, Millennial Generation, Economy, Politics News

Arkady Dvorkovich: "Go Russia:" Progress, One Year Later

At last week’s Global Policy Forum in Yaroslavl, experts and thought leaders from around the world gathered to discuss Russia’s modernisation and economic development. The timing for such a meeting was auspicious; it came one year after President Medvedev shared his vision for Russia’s future in an article titled, “Go Russia!” in which he outlined five strategic vectors of economic modernisation; energy efficiency and new fuels; medical technologies and pharmaceuticals; nuclear power engineering; information technologies; and space and telecommunications.

As President Medvedev noted in his article, Russia will accomplish this by harmonising the interests of the individual, society and government and by developing concrete projects and technologies that are both transferable and scalable.

Over the course of the past year we have worked to put these aspirations into action, and to date we have made meaningful progress in a number of areas. Specific examples include:

• “Energy Efficient City and District” – pilot projects implementing energy efficient programmes and technologies have been launched in several regions across the country and are being monitored and studied for best practices that can be replicated elsewhere.
• Pharma 2020 – aims to increase the competitiveness of the domestic pharmaceutical market, calling for a $6 billion investment in the sector.
• “New generation of nuclear energy technologies” – a mid-term, 120 million rouble programme has been launched to support research in fundamental physics between 2010 and 2012.
• Russia’s first supercomputer – The government has allocated 2.5 billion roubles to create the first Russian supercomputer that can perform quadrillion operations a second, or a “petaflop,” by 2011.
• e-government initiative – the recently launched website www.gosuslugi.ru helps to cut bureaucracy by allowing Russians to apply for passports, register property rights and check their tax profile online.
• Broadband internet access – plans are being developed to drive large-scale implementation of broadband services so that 90 percent of Russia’s population has broadband access by 2015.
• Skolkovo – to spur true, “home-grown” innovation, we have put in motion the creation of a hub for high-technology research and business , covering all five modernisation priorities, to be located in Skolkovo, outside of Moscow. We expect the site plan to be completed and construction to begin in 2011, with a substantial number of research projects started by the end of next year.

All of these and many more were discussed in greater detail at Yaroslavl, particularly within the broader context of Russia’s democratic modernisation, where Russia can learn from the successes and failures of other nations.

As we all know, constructive changes take time, persistence, and commitment. They require new ways of thinking. They do not happen overnight, but their lasting effect can be dramatic nonetheless. We invite you to track Russia’s progress – both on ModernRussia.com and by visiting www.i-Russia.ru – in the months and years ahead.

Read more: Russia, Modernization, Innovation, Technology, Investment, Economy, World News