Friday News Digest, Black Friday Edition

The day after Thanksgiving marks the official beginning of the Holiday shopping season, but at the Marohn household it kicks off something far more important: the Holiday music season. Our Fridays (when my wife is at work and I am home with the girls) have already included a fair mix of jolly tunes, but now we are free to play them all week. When the baking begins next weekend, we will be in total festive mode. I hope your next few weeks are as wonderful as ours.

Enjoy this week's news.

  • It has always seemed a little strange to me that we are seeking the economy's "recovery" and are measuring that, at least in part, by increasing consumer spending. Is it not runaway consumer spending that put us here in the first place? At least one AP reporter sees an end to the recession in better-than-expected consumer spending numbers.
  • Combine the spending numbers with a slowdown in the rate of job loss (we're still losing jobs, just more slowly) and higher (subsidy-induced) home sales, and some are saying the recession is near an end. On the other hand, a downward revision to GDP could indicate a double-dip is on the horizon. With these typical measures of prosperity contradicting, I can't help but think we are missing something. Instead of measuring recovery - which would seem a denote a return to a prior condition - shouldn't we be measuring transformation?
  • The difficulty we have in transforming our economy into something that will create long-term prosperity is troubling. The fact that the Fed is worried that the impossible task of balancing near-term recovery with fixing our long-term imbalances may induce another bubble adds to that troubled feeling I have.
  • It could be that the speculative bubble we are inducing this time may be a government one. This article in the NY Times examines the devastating impact that the eventual increase in interest rates will have on our public debt.
  • While many of us see the failed residential development has been at the heart of the recent downtown, the specter of increased commercial failures in the form of "zombie buildings" is a scary thought.
  • In my home state of Minnesota, this transformation for communities is going to mean doing more with less. Despite huge recent cuts in aid to local governments, more are apparently on the horizon.
  • If the system can be reformed from within - and that is a huge IF - then it will need to be in fulfilling statements like these from Representative James Oberstar, Chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

The Interstate highway era, begun more than 50 years ago, is nearing an end. Current funding streams are unable to maintain the system, let alone add to it. Transportation policy itself is adrift, lacking clear goals and measurable results. Given current funding constraints, smarter, more focused spending is needed.

  • When pondering transforming the transportation system, what is interesting to consider is how interstate highways are funded. As this post shows, it is more and more by people who do not use the system.

  • Those people still use local streets, and as long-time readers to this blog know, we are passionate about transforming our local streets. Here is a fun article showing some different street sections. Check out the lane widths in this one - just perfect!

  • Finally, to kick off the holiday music extravaganza, here is a crazy clip - no, an insane clip - from one of Minnesota's originals, Bob Dylan. When I heard he was making a Christmas album, I thought it was a joke. Watch this and then you tell me - is the joke on us or him?