ROADS NOT TAKEN

1. It’s Thursday, December 17, 2015.

2. It’s Beethoven’s 245th birthday. Today’s Google Doodle is one of the best distractions I’ve seen in a long time.

3. One more thought about Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate:

I’m not sure if this is CNN’s problem or the candidates’, but I don’t understand why there was no question about whether the easy availability of assault weapons is a threat to the nation’s security. It’s been a topic for awhile, and especially after the killings at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs and the Inland Resource Center in San Bernardino.

Ted Cruz, when he wasn’t trying to talk well past when Wolf Blitzer told him his time was up, kept digging at President Obama by saying he wasn’t going after terrorists while trying to deprive law-abiding Americans of their rights. That was his code phrase for appealing to the gun nuts who love this eaf.

That idea was never questioned. I guess it would not be brought up by the other Republican candidates, who either agree with Cruz or shriver at confronting the gun lobby.

That’s a shame, because San Bernardino and Colorado Springs prove that perhaps the biggest terrorist attack doesn’t need to be planned in Raqqa or Mosul. It can start with a sulking guy driving past Cabela’s.

4. It’s been a long time since I’ve typed the words “The Fed raised interest rates.” It did that yesterday for the first time in nearly a decade, having kept them at virtually zero in an attempt to mitigate and recover from the financial crisis.

There are reasons to raise rates – concern about inflation and a strong dollar being the primary one. There are reasons to keep rates low – this recovery has clearly not been felt by everyone hurt in the Great Recession.

Here’s why I’m for it. At some point, the United States has to get out of the mindset of being in crisis. Confidence is as much a part of the economy as the actual nuts and bolts of money supply and interest rates. It’s time to move out of recovery mode and into a phase when we start thinking about how we’re going to grow in a steady, sustainable way.

The Times’ Peter Eavis points out two things that I find interesting. One is that the federal government failed to take advantage of almost interest-free money to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. That’s a political calculation – Republicans don’t see the idea of collapsing bridges and rail tunnels as a problem to be solved by government.

But there’s no indication that anything will change if we keep rates low. And maybe by raising them, projects with a sense of urgency might get launched.

The other thing Eavis points out is that low interest rates have protected bad businesses by just allowing them to roll money over instead of forcing them to make improvements. Most businesses haven’t invested in development since interest rates hit near zero – that also would not change if rates stayed low.

The rising interest rates, if Janet Yellen and the Fed do this right, will not thwart real growth, but will keep badly run businesses from protecting themselves with zero percent loans.

In a few months, when we start seeing the jobs growth reports, we’ll know if the Fed is right.

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