When Rudyard Kipling died on Jan. 18, 1936, just three weeks after his 70th birthday, he had been one of Britain's most heralded writers for no fewer than 47 years. During much of this time, he also used his fame to intervene in politics as a propagandist, prophet and doomsayer. His standing in Britain was exceptional: for almost his entire adult life, he wrote in the knowledge that he would be read and he spoke with the expectation of being heard.
His life's cause was defense of the British Empire, but he also opined of →on every imaginable topic. A conservative by instinct, a rebel at heart, his views were unpredictable: many echoed on (去掉) the mood of the street, some were stridently pugnacious, a few unapologetically eccentric.
His immense popularity guaranteed himfor （去掉） a lifelong pulpit. Yet how did he achieve this power at so young an age? Born in India in 1865, he was just 5 when he was shipped back to England and installed unhappily in a boarding house in Southsea. At 12 he was packed off to one of myriad boarding schools preparing boys to running →run the empire. Then at 16 he returned to India, there→where his father found him a job on a newspaper in Lahore. So →Yet only seven years later, when he arrived back in England, he was proclaimed as (去掉) Tennyson's successor.
His precocious talent, it seems, was born of sharp powers of observation, an ability to empathize ＋with ordinary people, and a fearless and fluent pen. His early political views reflected a belief that India was well served by British rule. Thus, moves to give Indians＋a greater say in running the country stirred his fury. At 17, young Rud had the gall to assail the British viceroy of India in print. Soon, he was also publishing poems and stories, beginning with clever parodies of well-known British poets, then moving into political and social satire.
The Current State of the U.S. Debt
As of June 7, 2016, the U.S. national debt stood at $19.279 trillion, which is 101% of our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). This is more than double the national debt from 10 years ago, when it was 61% of GDP. However, when broader measures of debt are included, such as entitlement payments and government pensions, the actual debt load rises to a staggering 288% of GDP. The good news is that the rate of growth in national debt is slowing. The bad news is, even with a slowing growth rate, federal budget experts suggest that the high national debt may not be sustainable without significant reductions in government spending and an increase in tax revenues, a feat not likely to happen anytime soon with a polarized U.S. Congress. Under current circumstances, the national debt will soar to more than $30 trillion in 2026.
How the National Debt Grew So Large
The increase in national debt comes from the government spending more than it takes in, which creates a fiscal deficit in the year when it occurs. The fiscal deficit is added to the national debt every year. A surplus would reduce the national debt, but the government has not generated one since 1998 through 2001. The rapid increase in the national debt can be
traced back to 1974, when it grew at an average annual rate of 10.9% through 1978. In 1980, when annual deficits spiked sharply, the rate of growth was 13.4% through 1990. These periods followed the decoupling of the dollar from the gold standard by President Richard Nixon in 1971. Since dollars were no longer redeemable in gold, and were backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, there was no limit on what Congress could spend.
That newfound freedom ushered in the era of pork spending, in which politicians could add pet projects to bills to benefit people in their districts or states. These earmarks add billions of dollars to the budget each year. Although Congress imposes debt limits each year, a budget deal between Congress and the administration effectively removed them in 2015, allowing the government to borrow as much as it needs.
In 1974, the fiscal deficit was $6.1 billion. By 1983, it mushroomed to $207 billion. Following the surpluses in 1998 to 2001, the deficits grew under President George W. Bush, reaching $459 billion in 2008. In President Barack Obama’s first year of office, the def icit ballooned to $1.4 trillion, due in large part to the stimulus package he enacted during the Great Recession. After four years of trillion-dollar deficits, the combination of a recovering economy, higher taxes and reduced government spending cut the deficit in half. In 2015, the deficit was $438 billion, and the projected 2016 deficit is $500 billion. Although that is a big improvement, the current deficit level is projected to add around $1 trillion to the national debt every two years.
Deficits Are Going to Increase From Here
Since 2007, the federal government has benefited from near-zero interest rates, which came about through its quantitative easing programs in the wake of the financial crisis. However, as the interest rates rise, the cost of maintaining the debt will increase. Interest on debt is projected to overtake military spending by 2021, which will require major cuts in domestic spending to avoid a dramatic debt increase. Over the next 10 years, interest on debt, Social Security and federal health care programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare are expected to account for 83% of the projected increase in spending, driving the federal deficit back up to the trillion-dollar level.
Short of drastic changes in the way Congress and the administration approaches the federal budget, the national debt is expected to continue on its current trajectory. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says we can maintain the current debt-to-GDP level by either raising taxes or cutting spending, or a combination of both, by 1.1% of GDP if it is done today, or 1.9% if it is not done in the next 10 years. In the current political environment, in which neither side has an appetite for compromise, it is more likely to get done later rather than sooner.
Alibaba sparks China’s consumer revolution
This Saturday is Singles Day, which Alibaba, the Chinese ecommerce giant, has made into the world’s biggest fashion and gift -buying extravaganza. It is the climax of a “shopping and
entertainment festival” that easily exceeds the sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US.
Chinese shoppers spent $18bn online on November 11 last year, 82 per cent using mobile devices. This year, 140,000 brands, including 60,000 international names, are offering 15m items for sale. Singles Day is an expression of the power of Chinese ecommerce.
The numbers, although huge, understate the significance of the phenomenon. China is experiencing a consumer revolution, comparable to the one that happened in Europe in the 18th century, culminating in the 19th-century invention of the department store. Alibaba and competitors such as JD.com are making ecommerce not merely efficient but entertaining.
Singles Day, which Alibaba calls 11.11, started as a celebration by students in Nanjing and has become an online parade stimulating a frenzy of buying. David Hill, the producer of its countdown show on Friday evening, talks of mounting “a lavish experience that is emotionally satisfying and delivers a psychic reward activating people to go online at midnight”.
Note the contrast with online shopping in the US and Europe, which draws its appeal from scale and price, rather than entertainment. If you desire fun, visit a shopping mall or a fashion boutique; if you want something cheaply and conveniently, go to Amazon to get it delivered. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, has done everything he can to eliminate the frictions of shopping.
The difference reflects the gulf between the US and China in the development of physical retailing. Americans have many choices of places to shop, so Mr Bezos first focused on the efficiency that only a digital platform can deliver. China is a less mature market outside the big cities and Alibaba’sTmall and JD.com sell global brands online that shoppers cannot otherwise buy.
These companies have to offer the entire experience of shopping, including the fun of browsing and discovering things. Alibaba calls this “new retail” — the integration of ecommerce with stores with apps and augmented reality. “I truly believe shopping is fun,” says Chris Tung, Alibaba’s chief marketing officer. “When you open the box, your heartbeat speeds up a little bit.”
The growth of shopping in China mirrors the past. “Novelty, fashion, adaptation and innovation — the fuel of consumer societies — were the product of east-west exchange,” Frank Trentmann writes in Empire of Things, his history of global consumerism. The 18th-century revolution started with the import of spices, coffee and tea to Europe, along with porcelain from China.
Eur ope’s consumerism grew out of urbanisation: the growth of cities where people could both make and spend money. A similar phenomenon is occurring in China. Morgan Stanley
estimates that private consumption could reach 47 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2030, with most consumption growth in lower-tier cities to which people are flowing from rural areas.
Consumerism blurred social classes in Europe after the lifting of the sumptuary laws of the late Middle Ages, originally imposed to curb luxury and prevent the masses from dressing like aristocrats. The twist in post-revolutionary China was that everyone had to dress like a peasant; on Singles Day, the new middle class can please itself.
This raises a question for a society that still counts itself as being under Communist rule. The 18th-century upsurge in consumerism predated the industrial revolution, and some historians argue that one led to the other — the heavy demand for imported goods provoked technological advances in British manufacturing.
But you never know where a revolution will lead, as 18th-century England discovered. There may yet come a clash between Chinese consumer power and party discipline. One era’s retail entertainment is another’s sin.
Among those retired in the EU, women on average receive 39% less in pension income —from state and workplace pensions—than men do (see chart). This puts women at greater risk of old-age poverty. The European Institute for Gender Equality, a think-tank, warned in a study in 2015 that it also makes them more likely to stay with abusive partners. Reforms to European pensions, tying benefits even closer to individual contributions and thus income, mean the gap may widen further.
The schism is primarily a reflection of the labour market. Women on average work fewer hours than men, in less well-paid jobs, for fewer years. So of course their workplace pensions are smaller. But retirement is more costly for women. In Europe they retire on average earlier than men and live five years longer. Longer lives are not a problem if the state or a company has promised to pay a fixed income until death. In the EU, annuities are not allowed to discriminate on gender grounds and so are a better deal for women than men. But women also have longer periods of illness and are twice as likely to live alone in old age. And they tend to be more cautious than men, often preferring cash or fixed-income investments. Mercer, a consultancy, found that women are 67% more likely than men to invest in a defensive fund with a lower expected level of growth. So women without a fixed pension tend to be worse off.
In Germany the gap is far more pronounced in the west than in the east, where more women work, partly a hangover of the communist past. Then women worked almost as much as men and pensions were tied to years worked, not income. That helps explain the small pension gaps among the retired in former Soviet countries. Such historical legacies must be kept in mind when projecting what the gaps might be in the future, says Ole Beier, from the OECD, a think-tank.
A few recent developments, however, may aggravate the problem, notably a steady shift from public to private pensions. This is vital if state pensions are to be affordable as societies age.
But unless women earn and save more, the gap will widen. And after years of progress in many countries, the pay differential between men and women has stopped narrowing. Prescriptions for narrowing the gap in workforce pay are well-known. Access to affordable child care, paid parental leave and flexible working all help. Abolishing lower retirement ages for women, as is happening in most OECD countries, will also help. But even so, for the immediate future women are likely to continue to have different career trajectories from men’s, with more breaks—for raising children and caring for the elderly —and fewer promotions. Diane Garnick, from TIAA, a financial-services firm, says that many women think that so long as they put the (default) recommended share of their pay into a savings pot they are on track, even if in absolute terms the number is too low.
Accomplishment is often deceptive because we don't see the pain and perseverance that produced it. So we may credit the achiever with brains, brawn or lucky break, and let ourselves off the hook because we fall short in all three. Not that we could all be concert pianists just by exercising enough discipline. Rather, each of us has the making of success in some endeavor, but we will achieve this only if we apply our wills and work at it.How can we acquire stick-to-itiveness? There is no simple, fast formula. But I have developed a way of thinking that has rescued my own vacillating will more than once. Here are the basic elements: "Won't" power. This is as important as will power. The ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius said, "Men must be decided on what they will not do, and then they are able to act with vigor in what they ought to do." Discipline means choices. Every time you say yes to a goal or objective, you say no to many more. Every prize has its price. The prize is the yes; the price is the no. Igor Gorin, the noted Ukrainian-American baritone, told of his early days studying voice. He loved to smoke a pipe, but one day his professor said," Igor, you will have to make up your mind whether you are going to be a great singer, or a great pipesmoker. You cannot be both. " So the pipe went. Delayed gratification. M. Scott Peck, M.D., author of the best-seller the Road less Traveled, describes this tool of discipline as "a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with." This may involve routine daily decisions---something as simple as skipping a favorite late-night TV show and getting to bed early, to be wide awake for a meeting the next morning. Or it might involve longer-term resolves. A young widow with three children decided to invest her insurance settlement in a college education for herself. She considered the realities of a tight budget and little free time, but these seemed small sacrifices in return for the doors that a degree would open. Today she is a highly paid financial consultant.
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