In recent weeks, The Financial Times, along with others, reported on the gut-wrenching news that the recovery has weakened and lost momentum not only in the United States, but in the European Union and China as well. The hope has been that we would lead the way to carry over our influence to the rest of the world. We are still the economic powerhouse -- however, one factor is the playing field has changed and worldwide wealth is more distributed. For example, the hotspots for current financial growth are in nations like India, Brazil and Russia.
We are witnesses to a time when we were indisputably the greatest nation on earth to one in which we are still the greatest but now with others nipping at our heels. There is no real threat that we will lose our first-place position overall as long as we don't make colossal kinds of mistakes like going to war instead of first doggedly pursuing every option through diplomacy.
The current state of worldwide economics is so mind-boggling many have simply tuned out. President Obama refers to this as a growing cynicism because partisans can't find ways to work together.
Rather than enduring this obstinance, admittedly it is much easier to read the entertainment stories. Yahoo, the nation's number one homepage, seems to be making that choice for us with their news features. Though Kim Kardashian has little bearing on our lives, you'd never know it by the amount of press coverage her pregnancy related weight gain gets. Whether it's by Yahoo's algorithms or "trending now" rankings, the popularity of celebrity coverage leads to a reasonable conclusion that the amount of distractions we need in order to cope with the difficult times we live in has increased. In fact, new polls show consumer optimism dipping yet again.
It's deja vu all over again -- so what do we do about these economic times other than trying to escape them?
One thing is to lower consumer interest rates and keep them low especially for home mortgages. Take talk of increases off the table for discussion.
Another is to work more fervently to increase our exports of food. Big farms receive government subsidies to not grow food as a way to stabilize supply and demand here. Instead, it would be better to grow the food for exportation. This way we can not only increase profits by opening new markets, but we can better fight hunger. Besides, it's the compassionate thing to do.
Another is to step up the battle against Big Oil and harness more green energy for ourselves and sell the excess to others. An oil-dependent economy is doomed.
Another way is to continue working for women's equality. We create a bottleneck in our cash flow by discriminating. The rich get richer while the rest stay stuck in the grips of bigotry.
Legalizing marijuana with responsible restrictions is another way. We are spending billions fighting dope and billions more imprisoning nonviolent drug offenders under current laws. That money could be better spent repairing our bridges and roads.
Leveling the investor playing field also would help. Currently the stock market is rigged against individual investors and in favor of institutional influence and insider information. Quoting The Wall Street Journal, "the influence of computer-driven, high-frequency-trading hedge funds, which by some measures account for as much as half of U.S. stock market volume." Institutional traders are in positions where they can deliberately manipulate stock prices and buy or sell short according to their strategy leaving the individual investor at their mercy. As counterintuitive as it may seem, since the stock market is global with millions of participants, it actually is a relatively small pond patrolled by some big fish.
One final idea for now is to expand the house arrest programs many prisons already have in place. With an increasingly aging inmate population, releasing under house arrest prisoners who are senior citizens and those physically debilitated would save resources that could be better invested in education, as one example. Be clear, only qualified prisoners who are frail, elderly, or debilitated and of no harm to others or themselves would be eligible. They are already prisoners of their less than responsive bodies and we can only afford justice, not vengeance.