We're getting a painful lesson in economic geography. What Wall Street is to money, or Hollywood is to entertainment, the Gulf Coast is to energy. It's a vast assemblage of refineries, production platforms, storage tanks and pipelines--and the petroleum engineers, energy consultants and roustabouts who make them run.
If economics were a boat, it would be a leaky tub. The pumps would be straining, and the captain would be trying to prevent it from capsizing. Which is to say: our ideas for explaining trends in output, employment and living standards--what we call "macroeconomics"--are in a state of disarray.
Immigration is crawling its way back onto the national agenda--and not just as a footnote to keeping terrorists out. Earlier this year, Congress enacted a law intended to prevent illegal aliens from getting state drivers' licenses; the volunteer "minutemen" who recently patrolled the porous Arizona border with Mexico attracted huge attention, and members of Congress from both parties are now crafting proposals to deal with illegal immigration.
We are all taught that saving is good--indeed, Americans are often chided for spending too much and saving too little. But what if the problem of today's global economy is that people elsewhere, in Europe, Asia and Latin America, are saving too much and spending too little?
The interesting question about the advent of $50-a-barrel oil is whether it signals a new era in the economics and politics of energy. To sharpen the question: have we entered a period when, owing to consistently strong demand and chronically scarce supplies, prices have moved permanently higher?
There may be lots of reasons to vote for John Kerry over George Bush, but "job quality" isn't one of them. Kerry has been telling crowds that the country is "shipping jobs overseas and replacing them with jobs that pay you less than the jobs you have today." Ergo, job quality is going to the dogs.
We in the news business think we're impartial seekers of truth, but most Americans think otherwise. They view us as sloppy, biased and self-serving. In 1985, 56 percent of the public felt news organizations usually got their facts straight, says the Pew Research Center.
John Kerry recently made an interesting proposal that--if nothing else--illustrates the wide gap between political rhetoric and economic reality. Given the obsession with jobs and overseas "outsourcing," Kerry suggests that government policy should encourage U.S. companies to invest here, not abroad.