Remember when envelopes from credit card companies held good news? Like “0% Interest on All Balance Transfers.” Back then we became quite accomplished at the game of balance-transfer hopscotch, using a card till the interest rate jumped, then transfering the balance to a new card. Nowadays a letter from a credit card company invariably brings bad tidings. They’re canceling your card because you’re not using it enough. They’re going to charge you a fee because you pay off your balance every month. They’re going to raise your interest rate if you don’t stop wearing your old cut-off shorts in public. (Man, we hated to see our cut-offs go.) Well, now there’s a credit card you can feel good about again. It’s called the Bartercard. Members use their Bartercards to get goods and services and pay with goods and services from their own business. Say you own a plumbing company and you need an air conditioner. If you get your unit from another member of the Bartercard network, you can pay for it by fixing a leak for another Bartercard member. (The bad news: Bartercard is available in only eight countries around the world and the U.S. isn’t one of them.)
Economic recovery: is that all there is? There’s a lot of news these days about the stock market’s big rebound. A few months ago this was seen as a sign that the broader economy would soon climb the ladder. Well, happy days aren’t here again. And the new thinking is: this is as good as it gets. Experts are saying that not only will this be a jobless recovery, it will be a recovery in which people continue to lose their jobs. Economists are at a loss to explain why companies aren’t hiring. Some blame healthcare costs. Some blame China’s currency policy, which keeps the value of the yuan low, keeps down the cost of Chinese exports and limits the ability of U.S. manufacturers to compete.
Yuan the horse you rode in on. Whatever Chinese policymakers are doing, it seems to be working–for them, anyway. Their economy is expanding faster than the average American’s waistline. China is now the world’s largest auto market. It will construct more square feet of real estate in the next 15 years than the U.S. has built in its history. Of course, there’s a downside, as these rather ghastly photos of pollution in China show. (That’s the price of progress these days? Yikes.)
Obama’s broken promise. We received a press release today from the always-fervent Lloyd Chapman, president of the American Small Businesss League and tireless champion of the little guy. In it, Chapman accuses Pres. Obama of…well, lying, basically. And he has a point. Obama’s much-ballyhooed small-business initiatives have amounted to almost nothing. Since the recession started, the feds have spent $2.8 trillion on economic stimulus. Of this, $17.3 billion has gone to small business. That comes to 0.6 percent. Put it another way: AIG got $180 billion in bailout money, while the 27 million small businesses in the U.S. have received $17.3 billion. (That’s almost as gruesome as those pics from China.)