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March 19, 2001—Tomorrow Has Been Cancelled Due to lack of Interest

Amongst life's graffiti, one keeps coming to mind. The wall of a graduate student bar in a Northern California reads, "Tomorrow has been cancelled due to lack of interest."

These days the squawk shows--Don Imus in the Morning and Hardball Chris Matthews--have been busy inventing stories, new celebrities, and mini-rhubarbs, because the news has turned tepid. The Sunday talk shows also look like they are going through the motions, with Russert striving to create mountains where there are not even molehills. Even Pardongate has petered out. So tomorrow could very well get cancelled.

It's not that there isn't news--very big news, in fact. It's just that the pundits and journalists are in denial. As you have heard, half the country still believes we are not in recession. But already nostrums are being offered up as to how to get us out of the economic doldrums. Some say a tax cut might work. Others want Chairman Greenspan to pour on the cuts in interest rates.

Chances are that neither will get us out of this "non"-recession. Wall Street guru Ray Devoe and others think this is a technology-led slump that will not be alleviated by government motions in either the fiscal or monetary sphere. Perhaps it is even a structural problem--as in Japan--which would mean we are really in for some fun.

In a bold cold-war stroke, the administration has downgraded China and revived our discourse with mercantilist, inert Japan. The question is just how non-existent we plan to make China, which now seems to have the only fast-growth major economy in the world. Are we to backburner it at the very moment when it may hold the keys to economic recovery here and overseas?

So we have a number of non-solutions for the non-recession we are experiencing. And we may ultimately end up distancing ourselves from the world's biggest growth market, forgetting Willie Sutton's important advice: "Go Where the Money Is." At our peril. A little denial will not take us a long ways.

Beneath the surface, however, there's also lots of good news. As you can learn on the Global Province this week, shoppers in Japan are rebelling against the overpriced retail system and are shopping instead at Costco, Carrefour, and other foreign discounters, which are finally cracking Japan's hyper-expensive distribution system. A college on the Hudson, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), just got the largest college gift ever--$360 million--and its able president, Shirley Ann Jackson, promises to make more waves than the little-known but very competent RPI has been able to generate before (see www.rpi.edu). All the interesting things in education seem to be happening at places we are mostly ignoring. Tony Blair's bad plan for the London subways has been run off the tracks, because Red Ken of London--its mayor--backed up by an old pro from the New York subways, have stood firm on how the Underground will be run.

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