Krugman vs. Obama-Geithner

Princeton economist Paul Krugman has received a lot of attention lately for his opposition to the Obama-Geithner plan for dealing with the toxic assets issue.  He’s been making the rounds on the news shows, and this week he’s on the cover of Newsweek.  As one of the quotes in Newsweek’s article on him seems to imply, Krugman perhaps sees himself as sort of like the hero of one of those old Isaac Asimov sci-fi novels he used to enjoy as a kid:  as a bit of a nerd on a mission to save civilization.     

Of course, I don’t know anything about economics, but if I understand right I think Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s plan essentially involves a public-private partnership in which the private sector will purchase the bad bank assets (estimated at about $2 trillion dollars, mainly mortgages) at auction (perhaps as much as $1 trillion dollars worth), but largely subsidized (perhaps 85%) by taxpayer money.    

What’s Krugman’s beef with the toxic assets plan?  “The administration,” he wrote in a post on his blog,  

is now completely wedded to the idea that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the financial system — that what we’re facing is the equivalent of a run on an essentially sound bank. . . .  [T]here are no bad assets, only misunderstood assets. 

But Krugman believes the banks

really have made lousy investments, this won’t work at all; it will simply be a waste of taxpayer money.  To keep the banks operating, you need to provide a real backstop — you need to guarantee their debts, and seize ownership of those banks that don’t have enough assets to cover their debts. . . .  

Paul Krugman is certainly not the only economist out there who’s critical of the Geithner toxic assets plan; and perhaps most of these critics, like him, see some sort of nationalization of at least major banks as inevitable.  These others include:  the University of Texas at Austin’s James K. Galbraith; Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; MIT’s Simon Johnson; John McCain’s former economics advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin; and Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz, who won a Nobel Prize for economics in 2001. 

But Krugman has a huge following on his blog, as well as a twice-a-week column in the New York Times — and, to top it off, he also just won a Nobel Prize last Fall.  In this difficult time of financial crisis, it seems he has emerged as a sort of everyman’s economist of the moment.    

Anyway, if you’re interested in finding out more about Paul Krugman and his ideas, Greensboro Public Library has the following titles by him:  The Age of Diminished Expectations:  U.S. Economic Policy in the 1990s (1990); Peddling Prosperity:  Economic Sense and Nonsense in the Age of Diminished Expectations (1994); The Great Unraveling:  Losing Our Way in the New Century (2003); The Conscience of a Liberal (2007); and, last but not least, The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 (2009).

Tough Times for Private Colleges Too

While budget cuts for the UNC system have received a lot of attention in the last week or so, private institutions are hardly immune from the worsening economy.  

Though applications and enrollment seem to be up at private colleges in the Greensboro area, endowments have taken a hit, requiring cutbacks at Guilford College, among others, where salaries have been frozen and both staff and faculty positions cut.  Concerns about enrollments and endowments are also on the minds of administrators of private colleges near Raleigh, such as Louisburg College, Peace College, and Meredith.

Private colleges are especially vulnerable during a downturn because fees are higher compared to state-supported schools.  For instance, students living on-campus at Guilford College pay around $17,000 or $18,000 for their tuition + room-and-board, but in-state students at UNCG pay only about $10,000.

Whether you’re leaning public or private, if you’re evaluating colleges and universities, we might have some books for you.  The multi-volume College Blue Book set is a good place to start.  It has volumes dedicated to topics such as narrative descriptions of colleges and universities, degree programs, and scholarships. 

The College Blue Book is located in our Careers Reference section at Central Library downtown, along with plenty of other print resources which may be useful to prospective students.   

Included among these other print resources:  Peterson’s 440 Great Colleges for Top Students; The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges; Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges; Peterson’s Four-Year Colleges; and The Fiske Guide to Colleges.  Also, be sure and take a look at the Library’s Search for Schools page.  

And, if you’re on the look-out for financial aid, try some of these:  The Chronicle Financial Aid Guide; The College Board Guide to Getting Financial Aid; and Peterson’s College Money Handbook

Some useful websites for students seeking financial aid are the College Foundation of North Carolina and the U.S. Government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  You can also link to these sites on the Library’s Financial Aid page, as well as much, much more.

NC Unemployment Rate Hits Record 10.7%

This is just a brief post acknowledging the release of North Carolina’s February unemployment data.  Our jobless rate has now risen to 10.7%, the highest we’ve seen since record keeping began in the 1970s.  The previous high came during the recession of the early 1980s (February 1983 to be exact), when unemployment topped out at 10.2%.  Duke University economist John Coleman, in an interview with the News and Record, indicates the rapidity of job market deterioration in North Carolina has been unusually abrupt.

Private sector job losses here in Greensboro have of course been very bad.  For example, RF Micro devices has cut 600 positions over the last year, and folks over in Winston-Salem were stunned a couple of weeks ago when an unspecified number of cuts were confirmed at the much-vaunted Dell.  

Now we’re beginning to see mounting layoffs in the public sector.  UNCG, which is trying to cut its budget by as much as 7%, may eliminate as many as 100 positions, Guilford County has seen another round of job cuts, and the County schools just told their library media assistants that their positions had been eliminated effective July 1st.   

Here, you can link to a previous post on Greensboro Public Library’s resources for job hunters.

Follow-up to Community Dialogue on Economic Stimulus

On March 19th, the library sponsored a very successful community dialogue on Congress’ recently passed “Stimulus Bill” (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009).  If you missed the program, you can still view it on Greensboro’s Channel 13

To give you some idea of the program’s content, here’s a list of the questions which our panel of experts fielded during the meeting:

The expectation is that the stimulus will create new jobs.  But it’s not clear that jobs will automatically generate economic growth.  Should local government, i.e., City Council, establish a mechanism to coordinate all the efforts to maximize the potential for economic growth?

Will the tax credits for new cars and new homes apply to business purchases as well as for individuals?

What assistance is available to help small businesses obtain stimulus funds?

What employment opportunities are there for 18-24 year olds (college students)?

How will employers connect with the youth supported by Guilford Workforce Development?

What percentage of the stimulus money will go to infrastructure/public works?

How many new jobs will be created by the 1st wave projects?  How many will be created by the 2nd wave?

Would sidewalks for neighborhoods be eligible for stimulus funding (under the $65 million allocated to this area from the $735 million?

Are bike trails included in transportation funds?

Do the tax changes you mentioned exist in a brief summary form such as a brochure, pamphlet, etc.?

In administering funds, do we have the leeway to specify that a preference or priority is given to Greensboro, Guilford County or Triad-based residents and companies?

There has been a lot of conversation on “low income” help from the government regarding stimulus money assistance for Homeless Prevention.  Are there any funds to address the current homeless population?

Gov. Perdue has a plan to train 300 public librarians state wide on assisting with job searches – will there be networking with those public libraries to announce new job opportunities?

Are contractors [receiving] money to stimulate our economy [going to] be required to hire only documented U.S. citizens?

What plans if any are being prepared for small retail operations/business owners already in business?

[Has] any thought [been] given to supplementing transportation services since many of the youth don’t drive – so they can get to the jobs?

The Warnersville Community Center was built in 1959.  If not the oldest[,] it is the smallest center in the city.  It has [responsibility for] the largest youth population in the city. . . .  The gym is small (not a full size basketball floor) with only two basketball goals.  There are no dressing rooms, small meeting rooms and rest rooms from the original structure.  How can this stimulus package provide for a center that meets the needs of our community in 2009?

Concerning weatherization, what agencies [are involved] and how much money do we expect?

What efforts will be made to assure minority businesses also benefit from the stimulus?

How will money be given to nonprofit organizations?  Will there be a grant cycle?

Can small business apply for [the] labor pool available to assist with administrative duties?

How will individuals receive stimulus proceeds in social security or paychecks?

Will you provide the bullet points offered by each panelist in written form on the website and in your connect newsletter?

For additional information on the Stimulus Package, try some of the following links:

A Summary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

An article from the IRS Reporter with information which may be useful to employers

Another IRS link with beneficial tax information   

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act official website

The American Library Association’s website on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and what it means for libraries

Once again, we would like to extend thanks to our panelists:  Mike Mills, Division Engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Division 7; Gale Cruise, Director of the Triad Region Self Help Credit Union; Lillian Plummer, Executive Director of the Greensboro/High Point/Guilford Workforce Development Consortium; Sue Schwartz, Neighborhood Planning Manager of Greensboro’s Housing and Community Development; and, our moderator, Assistant City Manager Denise Turner.    

Unemployment in Guilford County Just Under 10%

The January unemployment data for North Carolina counties is now in, and, as expected, Guilford’s rate is way up — to 9.9% from 8.3% in December.  The rate for the Greensboro-High Point metro area is even higher at 10.5%.  Nationally, jobless claims were actually a little lower than expected last week, but unemployment statistics are still trending higher than they have since the early 1980s, so we should probably expect to see North Carolina’s rate for February to be still higher (it was 9.7% in January); that figure is due to be released on March 27th.

Improved stock market performance in the last week or so, some better numbers from banks such as Citigroup and Bank of America, as well as Ben Bernanke‘s hopeful interview with Scott Pelly on 60 Minutes this past Sunday, in which he predicted the recession would end later this year, have fed optimism among the pundits in recent days — and all this despite the fact of a rising chorus of public anger over AIG‘s bailout and its bonuses.   

On the other hand, market reaction to the FED’s purchase of $1.2 trillion worth of treasury bonds is mixed (some worry about Weimar-style hyperinflation owing to the huge multi-trillion dollar price tag of the bailout).  Doom and gloomers such as Martin Weiss and Jim Rogers continue to talk in near apocalyptic terms.  But probably of greatest concern to the man in the street, joblessness tends to be the last thing to get better after a recession.

Remember, if you lose your job, Greensboro Public Library has plenty of resources which can help you find another.  Check out this link to a previous post on our resources for job hunters.

One of the things that’s supposed to help us combat unemployment is the “Stimulus Bill” (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), recently passed by Congress.  Tonight, Greensboro Public Library will be holding a community dialogue on the stimulus, with perspective from a variety of speakers.  We invite you to come down.  But if you can’t make it, worry not, you should be able to view a tape of the event on Greensboro’s Channel 13.   

If you’re interested in still more information about the economic stimulus, Frank Barefoot, our Government Documents Librarian here at Central Library, would like to remind you of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 website; also, there is a North Carolina Office of Economic Recovery & Investment website.  You can explore these to track funding and State projects supported by the stimulus.

A 16th Century Venetian “Vampire”

Wow, how cool!  A woman’s skull with a brick jammed in her mouth, was recently found in a mass grave near Venice, Italy!

I won’t go into the gory details, but as this MSNBC piece explains, superstitious folks back in the 16th century interpreted normal processes associated with the decomposition of corpses as evidence of vampirism.  Suffice to say that the brick was to keep the corpse from drinking blood.  (Here’s another article on the same topic from Discovery News.)

These articles led me to do a keyword search for “vampires” in Greensboro Public Library’s catalog.  When I did so, I was simply amazed at the number of adult and young adult fiction works we have on this macabre subject — I think I found around 90 records just for works published since 2007!  Could this have something to do with the success of the Twilight series books by Stephanie Meyer?

If you decide to browse some of our vampire novels, be sure and notice the links to the left of each title’s record; there you can find things like reviews, excerpts and plot summaries.

If non-fiction is more your thing, try some of these:  Actual Factual Dracula:  A Compendium of Vampires (reference) by Theresa Bane; Sundays with Vlad : from Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man’s Quest to Live in the World of the Undead by Paul Bibeau; Vampires:  A Field Guide to the Creatures that Stalk the Night by Bob Curran; Dracula:  The True Story (DVD); The Dead Travel Fast:  Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula by Eric Nuzum; Piercing the Darkness:  Undercover with Vampires in America Today by Katherine Ramsland; The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters (reference) by Rosemary Ellen Guiley; and The Vampire Encyclopedia (reference) by Matthew Bunson.

Community Dialogue: Impact of the Economic Stimulus

Where is the money going?

Where is the money going?

We are seeing a great deal of buzz about the Economic Stimulus Package.  Four speakers will try to help us understand how the funds will flow down to the local level and directly impact on Greensboro.  All of the answers are not available yet.  There is a great deal to be ironed out.  The following people will appear at the Central Library to give their perspective on the package and plans for helping individuals and small business in this current economic climate:

Mike Mills, Division Engineer for N.C. Dept. of Transportation’s Division 7

Gale Cruise, Director of Triad Region Self Help Credit Union

Lillian Plummer, Executive Director of the Greensboro/High Point/Guilford Workforce Development Consortium

Sue Schwartz, Neighborhood Planning Manager of Greensboro’s Housing and Community Development

Assistant City Manager Denise Turner will moderate. This event will be held at Central Library on Thursday, March 19 at 7 pm. For more information contact Beth Sheffield at 373-3617 or visit our website at

Stop! Do not read any further

As I browsed the weekend news I was faced with more and more sad news.  The economy, loss of jobs, and an 18 year old boy forcing a stand-off with police officers.  It reminded me of a friend and fellow professional women’s book discussion group participant.  She stated that she no longer watches or reads the news.  Now, more than ever, I understand what she meant.

Can a book group really help bring folks up from the downward spiral?  The answer is a resounding YES!  The Central Library professional women’s book group has read a few wonderful books that allowed readers to shift to a more positive and productive place.

I feel that everyone should read the Four Agreements.   Our group discussed this classic over a year ago and we still refer back to the basic lessons that we learned.  We also took a great deal away from Quantum Wellness, My Stroke of Insight, Three Cups of Tea, and our new discussion title, Journey 2 Joy.

All of these books have a common theme: choice.  These books can be life changing.  I especially wish that teens would take the time to read these books.  How I wish that I had learned many years ago that I could choose my path. 

The professional women’s book discussion group currently meets at the Mental Health Association of Greensboro on Tuesdays 11:45am – 1pm.  All of the books mentioned above are available at the library.  Whether you feel inclined to join the group or prefer to read on your own, these titles, and many more can help you build confidence and reach your highest potential.

Stewart vs. Cramer

The media was all abuzz Friday in the aftermath of the big square off between CNBC’s manic “Mad Money” Jim Cramer and Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show.”   By all accounts, Stewart held Cramer’s feet to the fire, lambasting the so-called financial expert for misleading investors.  Take a look at this article from Business Week; and here’s another good one from

Clearly, the response is suggestive of just how successful Stewart was in channeling public frustration in the wake of the financial meltdown of the last few months.  Cramer himself appeared remarkably humbled (and guilty), as Stewart drove home the point time after time that the so-called financial guru was in bed with the very corporate interests which he was promoting on his show as sound investments — such as the likes of Wachovia and Bear Stearns, both of which have since gone bust.  And now millions of middle-class Americans (including many aging Baby Boomers) must come to grips with the fact that their retirement nest eggs are not what they once were.  As Stewart emphasized, for them “this is not a game”; their personal finances and their hopes for the future are teetering on the edge.        

If your curiosity about Jon Stewart is piqued in the wake of his takedown of the “Mad Money” man, you might want to check out his satirical America (the Book):  A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction.

We have a number of books by Cramer, including:  Confessions of a Street Addict; Jim Cramer’s Mad Money:  Watch TV, Get RichJim Cramer’s Real Money:  Sane Investing in an Insane World; and Jim Cramer’s Stay Mad for Life:  Get Rich, Stay Rich (Make Your Kids Even Richer).

The Real Robinson Crusoe

Scottish archaeologist David Caldwell and Japanese explorer Daisuke Takahashi have recently discovered what they think may be the original campsite of the castaway who inspired Daniel Defoe’s famous novel Robinson Crusoe, a Scottish pirate named Alexander Selkirk.  Their expedition and findings are described in a recent in-depth article published in the online international version of the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Selkirk, a pirate, was stranded off Chile on an island called Más a Tierra (now known as Robinson Crusoe Island) for four years before being rescued in February, 1709.  He attained celebrity status when he returned to England in 1711, and his adventure came to the attention of Daniel Defoe.  Eight years later, Defoe published his immortal book, considered to be the first work of fiction in the English language.  

During their expedition to the island, Caldwell and Takahashi found possible evidence of Selkirk including fire sites, post holes, and a fragment from a navigational instrument.  They have recently published their findings in an academic journal called Post-Medieval Archaeology (brief abstract here).      

If you’re interested in reading more about the story of Selkirk, Greensboro Public Library has Timothy Severin’s recent In Search of Robinson Crusoe; and younger readers may enjoy Marooned:  The Strange But True Adventures of Alexander Selkirk, the Real Robinson Crusoe by Robert Kraske, or James Poling’s The Man Who Saved Robinson Crusoe:  The Strange Surprizing Adventures of the Original Robinson Crusoe and His Most Remarkable Rescuer.

We also of course have copies of Daniel Defoe’s classic Robinson Crusoe, as well as criticism, such as:  Twentieth Century Interpretations of Robinson Crusoe:  A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Frank H. Ellis; and Robinson Crusoe / Daniel Defoe:  An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds and Sources, Criticism, edited by Michael Shinagel.  

Readers curious about the life of the novel’s author may be interested in Daniel Defoe:  Master of Fictions by Maxmillian E. Novak, and Daniel Defoe:  The Life and Strange, Surprising Adventures by Richard West.