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Sell the farm or keep the ‘psychic income’?

April 14, 2013
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According to the Murray County assessor, our 211 acres of farmland is worth $225,100 more than it was a year ago. Not only is that a lot of money, at least for a couple of ink-stained scribblers like my wife and me, but it raises questions that go to the heart of current economic problems. For example, does the tripling of farmland values since 2007 in many parts of the…

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Politics makes strange taxes

April 11, 2013
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We certainly weave a tangled web when we try to finance pro sports stadiums and universal medical care through public contributions — better known as taxes. In each case, in Minnesota, economists would be quick to critique proposals that seem to come more out of desperation than practical application. Let’s start with the Vikings stadium. The latest tangle is a projected $32 million shortfall in the $34 million that electronic…

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For Social Security, CPI move is sensible

April 7, 2013
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President Barack Obama created a hullabaloo by including a proposal to index future cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits to a chained consumer price index rather than the one used over the past 38 years. Many Democrats are beating him up for his alleged willingness to hurt the poor and helpless. Senior citizens’ lobby groups like the AARP are doing the same. Some Republicans are trying to pin the label…

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Return to gold standard won’t work for a modern economy

April 7, 2013
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David Stockman, a former congressman from Michigan and the boy-wonder director of the Office of Management and Budget for the first four years of President Ronald Reagan’s administration, kicked up a lot of dust with a recent op-ed in the New York Times. Some criticisms of his rant are justified, but even the most immoderate tirades can provoke useful reflection. Stockman argues that “the future is bleak” because we have…

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Currency swap, BRICS bank are a tempest in a teapot

March 31, 2013
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As an intro to a five-nation summit in South Africa, China and Brazil this week announced an agreement to swap their currencies to support trade between themselves if necessary in some future crisis. What does this actually mean, and why are they doing it? And does this threaten the “exorbitant privilege,” as a French official once put it, that our country gets from the U.S. dollar’s role as the common…

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