Beyond outrage and anger… Solutions. A podcast for our times.

We’re gearing up for another great year with more independent-minded, contrarian guests — kicking off this week with Claire Cain Miller of TheUpshot, the New York Times and economics site.

After all the recent anger and outrage over sexual harassment our podcast team decided to do a show about how to reduce bullying and harassment in the workplace. What works? What doesn’t?

Employers are paying lip service to the need for change, but until now there has been little coverage in the media about solutions and training: how to make this a teaching moment.

At “How Do We Fix It?” here’s our un-resolution for 2018: What we do NOT want is the obvious: opinions you’ve heard a hundred times in other places and podcasts.

We’re fired up about solutions — ideas to make the world a better place, topic-by-topic.

Future episodes this month will include the well-known author and skeptic, Michael Shermer, who explains why pessimism is a threat to all of us. Michael also takes apart the human zest for utopia.

Stanford University Politics professor Mo Fiorina is also on our dance card. He will tell us why Americans are less partisan than many think — Fascinating subject for discussion and debate in this time of political flame-throwing.

Please weigh in with your ideas, responses and suggestions. And if you have the time, spread the word about our show with lots of likes, shares and retweets on iTunes, Stitcher and social media.

Here’s hoping that 2018 will be the best year every for humankind and that more of us will throw our pebbles into ocean of progress.

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How Do We Fix It As We Leap Over a Cliff?


I’m in London – capital of “we have no idea what’s going to happen next.” 

This much is certain: Never in recent decades have Britain’s intelligentsia and political elite been in such a fog – baffled by Brexit and troubled by Trump.   I can’t remember a time when so many op-Ed writers end their articles with the limp observation that “only time will tell.”

It’s almost as if you can hear an audible shuffling of papers and clearing of throats, as the great and the good struggle to explain how great events might unfold in 2017. Most of them – us really – were so wrong about remaining in the European Union or the inevitability of Hillary. We have no idea exactly what is coming next.

It’s well past time for a little humility.

Speaking in Liverpool this week, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, admitted that many ordinary people had been screwed by the rise of globalism.  “The combination of open markets and technology means that … a globalized world amplifies the rewards of the superstar and the lucky,” said Carney. “Now may be the time of the famous or fortunate but what of the frustrated and the frightened?”

What indeed?  The usually bold and confident Governor didn’t seem to have much of an answer. 

How much damage will the Brexit vote do to the U.K. economy? It seems that the economic forecasts change almost weekly. 

After dire predictions during the summer of a great slowdown, promoted by uncertainty over the implications of the Brexit referendum, Britain should finish the year as the fastest growing economy of the G7 economies – according to a survey by Scotiabank. The Bank of England recently upgraded its outlook for the near future.

What will Donald Trump do to the environment and America’s standing in the world?  The omens are not good, but it’s hard to know if America will be the laughing stock when so many other countries are facing a similar challenge.

The voters smashed the china and there is very little agreement – here or back home in the U.S – on how it’s going to be put back together again. As “The Thunderer” (aka The Times of London) said in a recent editorial, it is not business as usual.  

To be continued.

How Do We Fix It? When Did It Become Cool To Be So Angry?

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Why are so many of us so damn angry?

Signs of fury are everywhere.  The national mood has darkened and it’s doing nothing to improve our democracy.

From chaotic scenes last weekend in Las Vegas when Bernie Sanders’ supporters threw a hissy fit at the Nevada’s Democratic Convention, to Donald Trump’s string of outrageous insults, it seems perfectly acceptable to claim that those who we disagree with are evil.

Yet these eruptions come at a time of modest improvement in many aspects of American life.  President Obama has been a disappointment, even to many supporters,  but his approval rating  – 51% says Gallup – is pretty decent for a President close to the end of his second term.

The jobs and housing markets are far from great, but they’re in much better shape today than when Obama first took office after the worst financial crisis in nearly 80 years.

The Affordable Care Act, while flawed, has not been the utter disaster claimed by many critics. Many more people are signing up and the U.S. uninsured rate is at a record low.

The “flood” of Mexicans surging across our southern border is a myth.  Since 2009, more Mexicans left the U.S. than entered the country.

Terrorism is always a threat, but the worst attack on U.S. soil happened nearly 15 years ago.

And he many of us are gripped by a deep sense of malaise and insecurity.  More than 7 in 10 Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country.  Cultural divisions, income inequality and a decline in living standards for non-college educated Americans threaten to pull is further apart.

All are reasons why Trump and Sanders have attracted huge crowds and surprising levels of support. But their policy prescriptions are simplistic.  We have very little idea of what they would do, if elected.

Who would pay for Sanders’s sweeping pledges of free health care and college education? How would Trump deal with China, The Middle East, immigration, job creation or the details of tax policy?

After his recent meeting with Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “Going forward, we’re going to go a little deeper in the policy weeds.” Too bad that hasn’t happened already.

Perhaps, Yuval Levin is right.  In his new book, “The Fractured Republic,” he argues that our politics have been paralyzed by nostalgia for the 1950’s and 60’s.  Liberals hanker for a time of greater income equality, before “the rise of the rest” meant that our workers had to compete in the resurgent global marketplace.  The right is nostalgic for cultural cohesion and  “traditional values”.

But those days of post-World War 2 U.S. dominance will not return. Our politics must address the technological and global challenges of today, instead of wallowing in the past.  We need to move beyond the primal screams of anger and work together, across party lines for a better future.

Why the UK Election May Send a Potent Message to the US in the 2016 Race for the White House.

  

An ad for “The Independent” at a London newsstand.

London- 

The warnings are everywhere.  Britain could plunge into political uncertainty after this election with no clear roadmap for what happens next.  
But what is all the arguing about?  The surprising thing for Americans is the issues here are very similar to the hot arguments in the U.S. 
Conservatives are for cutting government deficits, welfare reform and passing a “no new taxes” law.   The left-leaning Labor party wants higher taxes on the rich, more regulation of big business, and extra spending on health services and daycare for young children. Sound familiar?
The last opinion polls before the election suggested the two main parties would get roughly 33% of the vote each, with the centrist Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists, UKIP and Greens fighting over the remaining third.  Hardly a recipe for strong government. 
  
Front page headline warns of post-election chaos
What’s surprising to me is that while British voters believe David Cameron’s Conservatives are better at managing the economy, he is not way out in front. While Cameron has a stronger job approval rating than Labor’s Ed Miliband, the race has been very close.
This suggests that the current government’s record of economic growth, creating more jobs, and cutting the deficit is not enough.  As in America, voters here are profoundly worried about the decline of the middle class, and growing inequality between the rich and the rest.
While UK unemployment has dropped, and education standards have improved in the past five years, the parties of the left (Labor, the SNP and the Greens) skillfully exploited class resentments and the widespread concern that globalization and technological change are more of a threat than an opportunity.
If it forms a government Labor may be damaging to financial markets, entrepreneurs and wealth creation. But the fairness issue is front and center in this election.  This vote is about values as much as it is a referendum on competence.  The same could be true next year when U.S. voters pick a new President.

Count ’em! Signs the economy is ready for liftoff

GTY gas pump ml 140616 16x9 608 Gas Prices Up as Mideast Turmoil Threatens US Economy

              (Photo Credit: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Motorists are about to get a price break from the soaring cost of gas. New claims for unemployment benefits are close to a 7-year-low.  Businesses plan to hire more workers.

Call me a Pollyanna, but I think the US economy is ready for stronger growth. And after years of flat-ling, living standards may be set to improve

One thing I love about reporting the economy is that you can never be sure of anything. It’s easy to change your mind when confronted with fresh evidence.

So, if you’re among the majority of gloomy Americans who still think the economy is in a funk, here goes….

The US Labor Department said this morning that first-time jobless claims dropped again last week.  For several months, the weekly average for new claims has been sharply lower than last year’s level – an indication of fewer pink slips from employers.

A new mid-year employment survey says today there is “forward momentum in the job market.” CareerBuilder, a job placement firm, asked more than 2,100 HR and hiring managers about their hiring plans for the next six months.

“Employers expect to add more jobs in the back half of the year,” spokeswoman Jennifer Grasz of CareerBuilder tells me. “The results of this year’s survey were indicative of a more confident employer population compared to 2013.”

“Fed, Confident in Economy, Details End of Bond-Buying Program,” proclaims a headline in The New York Times.

Because of recent improvements, the new Fed statement says the central bank plans to stop adding to its bond holdings by October.

“The labor market appears to be firing on all cylinders and is finally self-sustaining,” wrote two PNC Financial Services economists, Stuart Hoffman and Gus Faucher, in their recent note.

The price of oil has dropped for 9 straight days as global supplies continue to flow despite the growing problems in various parts of the Middle East – the world’s most important oil-producing region.

The truth is supplies are plentiful.  US refineries are producing more gasoline, which may lead to sharply lower prices for motorists in the weeks ahead.

Although the insurgency in Iraq is a humanitarian disaster, it hasn’t halted oil exports. The fighting now seems unlikely to spread to Iraq’s major oil fields.

Tensions between Israel and Hamas have escalated in the past week, but they aren’t threatening any major oil production.

Oil exports from Libya may rise after an agreement between the government and local militias cleared the way for export terminals to open. And US production continues to soar.

Cheaper oil is a short-term plus for the airlines. Revenue at American, United and Southwest – three of the largest US carriers – is up this summer, compared to last year.

Until now the biggest drag on US growth has been flat living standards. Since the stock market bounced back from the 2008 financial crisis, there’s been a yawning gap between the Main Street and Wall Street economies.

Consumer spending is has been limited to only modest gains.  Long-term unemployment is still way above average.

But if the CareerBuilder forecast is correct, and the job market shows much stronger signs of life, more of us will have reason to agree with Pharrell Williams and be Happy.

 (Parts of this post from my MorningMoneyMemo blog at abcnews.go.com/business)