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Capitalism with American characteristics


Fri, Jan 9th, 2009
Posted in Commentary

When Deng Xiao Peng emerged from exile after the Cultural Revolution in 1978 and started espousing economic reforms for communist China, he talked about "capitalism with Chinese characteristics."

Over the last 20 years, China's economy has seen phenomenal growth, with near double digit annual GNP, which has increased the standard of living for millions of people. What China couldn't accomplish with a centralized command economy, with government the main provider of goods and services, it was able to do by embracing market forces.

America finds itself on the opposite end of the capitalism paradigm. Unrestricted economic activity, including easy credit for home mortgages, has led to chaos in the banking system and a loss of consumer confidence.

President Bush's bailouts of Fanny Mae, Freddy Mac, the banking industry and Detroit automakers are recent attempts to back up free market entities for fear of a greater collapse of the economy. This economic nationalism, where the government takes an investment stake in private enterprise, is not unprecedented (remember the bailout of Chrysler in the early '80's where government backed bonds were used to keep the automaker afloat). But the scale in which government is pumping money into private industry to shore up key sectors of the economy is reminiscent of the depression-era 1930's.

In her book The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes, documents the successes and failures of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to create jobs through public works programs.

One example of how President Roosevelt used government to provide solutions was the electrification of America. Shlaes writes that Roosevelt had four goals:

"The first was to provide electricity to homes and farms - many farms were still without. The second was to increase the use of electricity in all homes, providing Americans with a better standard of living. The third was to reduce the cost of electricity to the average consumer. And there was a fourth...that through the electricity industry the New Deal might create a new and more prosperous form of society."

Roosevelt accomplished electrification through government investment in building dams (public works) and by taking on private utility companies by creating the Tennessee Valley Authority (cooperative utilities).

In addition to putting people to work, Roosevelt created new social programs like Social Security and reformed the banking system by creating .....
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How many zeros?

Fri, Dec 19th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Know why they always print 70b or 700b? Because only mathematicians know how many zeros are in a number so large. The reason our math teachers taught us up to the thousands and then used those "to the power of" and algebraic letters was, they had no ..... 
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What will happen when wind turbines arrive in Fillmore County?

Fri, Dec 12th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Earlier this year EcoEnergy, a French-owned corporation with a regional office in Harmony, erected several wind measurement towers between Greenleafton and Harmony. More than 30,000 acres of Fillmore County farmland has been signed up to allow 400' ..... 
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Forgetfulness and counting ballots

Fri, Dec 12th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

If you're like me the mind plays little tricks on you from time to time. Chalk it up to age, too many things to think about; in your mind one second, gone the next.

Is there a difference between forgetfulness and not remembering what you we ..... 
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An Invitation to Democracy

Fri, Dec 5th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

It's practically an American sport to criticize our elected officials. I probably did my share of thoughtless criticism, too, until I took a job "moonlighting" as a reporter and started regularly attending my local school board and city council meet ..... 
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Corporate Welfare in the Medicare Program

Fri, Dec 5th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

How would you like to have a health care insurance plan that allows you to help pay for your neighbors' healthcare insurance plans? That includes neighbors who have six figure incomes. Welcome to the world of Congressmen who succumb to the blandishm ..... 
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A Time to be Thrifty

Fri, Nov 28th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

Because I was born in southwest Iowa in the very middle of the Great Depression, and have never been even moderately wealthy, some of my favorite places to shop are the Salvation Army stores, Saver's, Saint Vincent DePaul, and the Depot. Having grow ..... 
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Meet me in the poetry section

Fri, Nov 21st, 2008
Posted in Commentary

I must confess, I was a nerdy little kid. I didn't much like other kids; they always wanted to play outside, go to the park, and organize teams and clubs. My family forced me to answer the door when kids came to play, and made me go outside at least ..... 
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Political ruminations on Southeast Minnesota agriculture

Fri, Nov 14th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

As American families sit down at the supper table these next few weeks and chew over the collective political decisions we made in the voting booth this year, can we also take a moment to ruminate on agriculture?

It's a good time to realize ..... 
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