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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

The unbearable strangeness of economics

Economy, walnuts, Wisconsin

Walnuts, which go about $7 a pound these days, are at the top of my shopping list. I use them in everything: baked oatmeal, salads, cakes and cookies, pesto.

But the trip to the store was delayed. First I had to pick up the driveway litter dropped by the recent high winds. In this case, about 120 pounds of. . . black walnuts.

When we first moved into this house, those walnuts thrilled me. My husband's family had a recipe for black walnut bread no one had made for generations, and I was going to impress them. So I gathered the hardball sized green globes, which smell like heaven and stain everything they touch forever brown.

Smashing off the husks was messy and left my driveway polkadotted. Washing them was cumbersome. Then I had to find a dry place to winter them. By this time I'd lost interest and was glad to get them out of sight.

Spring renews enthusiasms. Out came the nuts and hammers, but not luck in cracking them open. Then the vise-grips afforded a small success. I broke into a couple and found the meats small and hidden in the convoluted crannies, not easy to lift out like those of their English cousins. And you guessed it: I tossed the rest.

There's something wrong with this picture, of course. Now the walnuts get discarded in with the other yard debris. No men, old and stooped, come around asking for them as they did 20 years ago. And I visit Sendiks to buy what I already have or could have.

Lots of other strange economics and math going on. The business pages carry a lament about a poor Wisconsin billionaire, John Menard, slammed by the recession and "losing ground" to the tune of a $.2 billion  increase in his net worth. Meanwhile, County Executive Scott Walker talks about creating jobs at the same time he promises to eliminate existing jobs in the University system and other government areas. (Most of you know I happen to have one of those jobs.)

Billionaire Menard's "loss" is only a loss in relative rank among other billionaires. I'm not weeping for his drop from 40 something to 50 something. That only means something in bragging rights.

And if Walker is elected Governor, the promised jobs "increase" is likely to be a shift from existing jobs in one sector to the possibility of jobs in another -- a net wash, at very best. Recent history shows those shifts usually lead to lower paying jobs with fewer benefits. Or the jobs move from one state to another, with no net benefit to the nation as a whole. There's no reason to expect anything different here.

Not only kids in schools are struggling to do the math, I guess. Meanwhile, I'm feeling some guilt about those walnuts. But not too much. A lot of the economy is about spreading the work and the money around, not concentrating it in one place -- or the .1% of places it's going now.

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