Has anyone noticed the new wave of stories dealing with autism lately on the various talk shows and 'snews' media? I am generally very skeptical of any health stories on the mainstream media and that skepticism spikes when I hear the statistics that 1 out of every 110 children are not diagnosed with autism. Why? Are these kids being over-diagnosed? That has been a big contention with the numbers of children diagnosed with ADHD. It makes you wonder how many kids were needlessly drugged into a stupor so parents and teachers didn't have to deal with normal, active kids. So now 1 in every 110 kids need expensive drug or behavioral intervention? Who is supposed to pay for it? Or, if those statistics are real, why do we have a surge of diagnosed cases? It seems that doctors have been diagnosing an increasing number of allergy, asthma, ADHD, and autism over the last 30 years or so. Better diagnosing tools? Or something in the environment? Given the number of chemicals in common use that have been shown over the last few years to have harmful or undesirable consequences, I would guess the answer is heavily weighted toward the latter explanation.
So, President Obama is running for reelection. That is no surprise. What floored me was the notion that his team is planning to raise $1billion dollars for the campaign. The last Presidential campaign was mind-bogglingly expensive and, in my mind, totally wasted. If this is the best political system 'money can buy,' we have been swindled.
This seems to be a day for personal observations without linking to articles. Here is another. I remember a segment of a U.S. history class dealing with the causes of the Great Depression (the one in the 1930s not the recent Great Recession). One theory that has stuck with me and that has come to mind as the argument concerning the national debt concerned a fundamental shift in the economy. By around 1920 the manufacturing sector of the economy first equalled agriculture in terms of product value and numbers of workers and, at the same time, the consumer became a larger part of the economy. But by 1929 the manufacturing sector had a crisis of over-production, the consumer sector was not strong enough (or large enough) to pick up the slack and the agricultural sector was in the middle of both the dust bowl and their own crisis of over production spurred by farmers trying to produce as much as possible to overcome the problem of low prices. So we had an economy sitting on a three-legged stool and some one was sawing into the legs. Today, agriculture employs about three percent of the workforce while major agri-business corporations control most of the resources and garners most of the profits, manufacturing constitutes less that 20% of the economy (my own very imprecise guesstimate), the consumer is now 60+% of the economy but much consumer activity was based on access to easy credit which has dried up. The largest sector of the economy (by profit) has been the finance, real estate, and insurance group. But real estate is on the ropes and whether it is rebounding depends on who you read and which economic tea leaves (a.k.a., statistics) they are reading. Finance and insurance don't produce any tangible goods and the profits don't spread very far in the economy beyond the upper 1-5%. Government (especially Federal) is coming under attack from many angles--businesses and individuals who are increasingly strained by this lack-luster economy. Does anyone see something is this mess that can return this economy (and the people who depend on it) to the kind of prosperity we have come to expect? I don't. The major drivers seem to be the consumer and the Federal Government. Whether the consumer is coming back also depends on which prognosticator is looking into which crystal ball. Even though my financial situation is much better than it was (thanks to taking Social Security as early as possible--waiting was not an option)--I am not going back to the kind of gung-ho spending I was once used to. Confidence has nothing to do with this. If the Federal Government puts on the breaks is there any sector of the economy that can take up the slack? In the 1930s no economic sector was strong enough to counteract the contraction. Though the details differ the basic situation seems to have reappeared.
I finally found an interesting (interesting enough to link and comment on) article. Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds posted this today. I love his description of modern economists, what ever their school of thought (a.k.a., mental straight jacket), as creatures born in the morning and living in the bright daylight but never having experience the darkness of night. He is absolutely right. None have ever had to think about economics in which cheap energy was not the dominant factor facilitating economic growth.
I just got a good laugh from the CNBC segment concerning the NFL stalemate between the players and team owners. This is described as a contest between 'the billionaire owners and the millionaire players.' But that isn't what tickled my funny bone. The talking head claimed that the parties would come to an agreement before really endangering the coming season because the economics of the matter (a.k.a., the economic losses to each side) are too great to ignore. This talking head has obviously had a very scanty historical education. I, on the other hand, remember reading the reassurances of various very respected economists who insisted that the era of wars between major industrialized countries (read European and North American) was impossible because the potential damage to the economy was simply too great to even contemplate. That was the received wisdom between 1900 and 1914. WWI started in August of 1914. When the greed itch flares up, all bets are off.