Mmmm, mmmm good, taste that economic imbalance

The Bureau of Labor Statistics today reported that usual weekly earnings are falling behind expenses. In short, on average, the typical American family can buy one percent less than a year ago, because wages are not keeping up with expenses. But if you dig in a bit, you see that the differences become exaggerated the higher you go on the management hierarchy. Managers’ income rose about 250% more than the typical workers’ income, so you can see in even one BLS report the growing wage gap in the United States.

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Trade Gap hits another record

WSJ.com – U.S. Trade Gap for 2005 Widens Sharply to Record:

The U.S. trade deficit worsened slightly in December, capping off a year that saw the shortfall rise nearly 18% to a record $725.76 billion. Deficits with China, Europe and a host of other markets reached all-time highs.

Want to address the real challenge of our generation? How about investing in the people to bring the intelligence and creativity that raised the U.S. to the pinnacle of the global economy after the Second World War. Instead of cutting education spending (while saying the opposite in his SOTU speech), President Bush should be diverting every spare dollar into education in order to brace America for ever-increasing economic competition. There’ll be little to protect from terrorists at the rate Mr. Bush is going.

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Trouble ahead: China’s set to pressure the U.S.

FT.com / Home UK – China signals switch in reserves away from dollar:

China indicated on Thursday it could begin to diversify its rapidly growing foreign exchange reserves away from the US dollar and government bonds – a potential shift with significant implications for global financial and commodity markets.

For about the past year I’ve been saying that if China really wanted to hurt the U.S., in the sense that it wanted to exert pressure on the U.S. to get something it wants, all it needs to do is start to shift its reserves to the Euro. It’s about to happen. What will they ask for? I’d bet it is simply to hear a lot less about human rights violations, but also some relaxed controls on textile imports and greater access to technology currently restricted by U.S. export laws from being conveyed to a potential foe, like China.

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Mmmmm, taste that bitter deficit

FT.com: US Trade gap hits new high at $68.9bn

The US trade gap reached a new all-time record of $68.9bn in October as surging deficits between the world’s largest economy and its top exporters overshadowed the effect of declining energy prices.

The US commerce department said on Wednesday that the overall deficit expanded by 4.4 per cent in October after it had risen by 11.9 in the prior month.

Meanwhile imports of goods and services advanced by 2.7 per cent to a record of $176.4bn as exports rose by 1.7 per cent to $107.5bn, the second-highest reading.


Just another way we’re borrowing against the future. We can also see the declining value of American education, since the majority of added value in industrial products comes from human intelligence. The United States desperately needs to focus on creating human capital to counter the physical capital of emerging economies.

On a related note, though, I am glad that I bought Boeing at 33; it hit an
all-time high today. Planes, one of the ultimate knowledge value-added products, are selling like hot cakes.

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AP to charge differently for online content….

pr_041805a.html:

The Associated Press Board of Directors has approved a new online licensing structure to cover use of AP content on newspaper and local radio and television station member Web sites. Starting next year, all members who use AP content in their online operations will begin paying a license fee.

Previously, AP newspaper and local radio and TV station members had been allowed to repurpose for the Web the AP materials received for their print publications and on-air broadcasts at no additional charge. While ending this “free re-use” policy, AP intends to couple this paid online license with an annual assessment increase that is smaller than the yearly average for the past decade, said Burl Osborne, chairman of the AP board and publisher emeritus of the Dallas Morning News.

Currently, newspapers that pay to use AP content online generally are charged according to their print circulation, and local radio and TV station members according to market size. The method for determining the licensing fee has not yet been determined.

This strikes me as an oddly unprepared announcement and a strikingly ill-timed move toward fees that may be passed along to the audience (or not, who knows?) But if you wanted to raise people’s hackles, this is exactly how’d you’d announce this kind of policy: short on detail and full of potential downsides.

Enough really is enough

Enough Is Enough:

“There isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything I need to get done.” Baker, who hears that complaint every week, says that it misses the point. Balance, he argues, is not a math problem: It’s not a matter of shifting a few hours each week from one activity to another. If it were that easy, everyone with a PalmPilot would look as serene as the Dalai Lama. Balance is a design problem — a matter of coming to terms with your values and priorities, of reckoning with the trade-offs that they require. Balance is not about willpower, Baker insists. If you depend only on willpower, you’re likely to cave in whenever you feel pressured, tired, or unhappy. Balance is about discipline: It’s about deciding what’s important and then creating a structure that defines how you spend your time.

All of that may sound self-evident. But when you lead the kind of pedal-to-the-metal schedule that many of his guests lead, you don’t stop to ruminate about time and values. And, if you do stop, you’re likely to see huge gaps between what you say is important and what you actually spend your time doing.

Well, no, it is self-evident. The idea of going to someone to, according to article, “pay a small fortune to plumb their souls, to wrestle with their private pain, to rethink — and perhaps to redesign — their fast-lane, high-stress lives” is simply the sort of excessive perk that shouldn’t be necessary for smart people. Fast Company shouldn’t be endorsing such idiocy.

Blog Safety Guide

EFF: Press Room:

San Francisco, CA – With the privacy of bloggers and their news sources coming under fire in the court system, it’s crucial that web writers know how to express themselves without risking their jobs or social lives. Yesterday the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released “How to Blog Safely (About Work or Anything Else),” a how-to guide for bloggers worried about protecting their privacy and free speech.

A solid resource, but it needs to lay out how individual speech will fit with employment, to define the battles ahead. I don’t think anonymous blogging is an answer, since host records can be subpoenaed if there is an investigation of leaked corporate information.

Sharing is good, to a point?Yahoo! News – Bertelsmann Launches New Peer-to-Peer Service

Yahoo! News – Bertelsmann Launches New Peer-to-Peer Service:

German media giant Bertelsmann, a former investor in the Napster file-sharing network, is taking another stab at peer-to-peer technology with a new service for downloading and sharing movies, games, and other content over the Internet.

The service, called GNAP, will allow mobile and fixed network operators, ISPs, TV stations, and other content distributors to market large downloadable files both legally and cost efficiently, Arvato spokesperson Gernot Wolf says. Arvato is the services and technology arm of Bertelsmann.

P2P’s future is as a user-provided distribution system. It’s cheaper for everyone, for sure, but the question is at what point will users’ resources be perceived to be exploited and a potential backlash come roaring into the market? Remember “push” technology? The main complaint was that it used too much of the user’s hard drive.

When the virtual spaces were open and the buffalo roamed

Is an ‘open’ Internet a doomed concept? | Perspectives | CNET News.com:

No one involved seriously disputes the value of Internet “openness.” The issue is whether the government must mandate openness on cable modem and other networks, or whether openness will occur without such mandates.

Despite dire predictions to the contrary, openness has persisted for the last several years–a point correctly noted by cable and other broadband providers. The more content, applications and devices consumers can use with their broadband connections, the more they will value those connections. In turn, increasing consumer value makes cable companies and others more confident about recouping the high cost of building networks or upgrading customers to higher speeds.

Former FCC advisor Kyle Dixon warns that the Net’s fate is slipping into the hands of government instead of remaining a reflection of the people’s will.