Fiscal cliff...not resolved
At this stage, either something last-minute must be resolved, or it's going to be a needlessly rocky January. ■ It's time for some real honesty. The people who make the decisions at the highest level in this republic are either dishonest or utterly economically incompetent if they don't say the following out loud: "We are demanding more out of our government than we can presently afford. We need to pay more, get less, or both." There's no escaping it, just as there is no escaping several other facts. ■ One is that we cannot get richer as a country without getting better at what we do. Part of having things like iPads and Galaxy S-III smartphones is paying for these new things by being better at what we do -- be it sweeping sidewalks or performing brain surgery. It's not right, nor possible in the long term, to be a free-rider on progress. ■ For an economy to grow at 3% or 4% a year per person, then we must produce 3% or 4% more per year per person. And that is substantially more to be produced per worker, since not everyone works, and moreover we have a demographic change in which lots of people are retiring and are not being replaced by new workers. ■ It's also inescapable that workers can't get much better at their work without tools. Someone has to pay for those tools -- and the training necessary to make them useful. That requires capital. No capital means no increase in labor productivity. No increase in labor productivity means no increase in national income. And when policies and political language persecute capital, that hurts workers and national income alike. ■ One more thing: There are lots of free riders, and they're not always poor, as some people might believe. There are too many free riders on Wall Street and Silicon Valley.