Long Distance Information, Give me Memphis, Tennessee

I’ll be writing a story soon about a Downtown Memphis business owner who hails from Europe.

One of the interesting things about him is his enthusiasm for his adopted hometown, which is infectious.

He actually told me, “I knew where Memphis was before I ever knew where London was.”

Do you Believe in Memphis?

If you can describe someone or something good in Memphis in roughly double the maximum length of a Twitter post, head over to www.believeinmemphis.com and spread the love.

The site appears to be little more than a simple community bulletin board with which to honor the unsung heroes of our sophisticated yet unruly river town.

I think I ought to leave a post about Ray Williams and his crew. Because my stomach believes the proprietors of Soul Fish in Midtown are special Memphians, indeed.

A Modest Proposal, from Harold Ford Jr.

Former Memphis congressman Harold Ford Jr. has some advice for President Obama in Fortune Magazine (link here).

I will sum them up.

Don’t raise taxes. (Though one could argue Obama is not advocating raising taxes on anyone – merely the expiration of tax cuts. The same way when a pair of shoes costs $50, then after a half-off sale is over, no one would say the retailer is raising the price.)

Put a moratorium on new regulations for businesses.

Add “new and fresh voices” to the White House team (which shouldn’t be hard since everyone is presently scrambling for the exits).

And, finally, Washington should look to business leaders for solutions to today’s problems.

Willie Stark Moment

Tn. Gov. Phil Bredesen and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear were in Clarksville today for one of those rituals that comes with being governor anywhere.

They unveiled some new highway signs directing motorists to the Robert Penn Warren birthplace in Guthrie, Kentucky, a town near the stateline on Interstate 24.

What makes this a bit more interesting, at least to me, is Warren’s role as the author of the 1947 Pulitzer Prize winning novel “All The King’s Men.”

The central character in the book is a rising politician of the Depression era named Willie Stark who becomes a governor and undergoes a transformation that is the heart of the story.

Published as the post World War II American political ethos was just beginning to form, Warren’s book has become a political time capsule of sorts. When Stark became Governor, the office in many states was much different than it is today. Governors in many states were dispensers of patronage with few specific duties aside from controlling state road projects and the highway patrol and the National Guard.

Unveiling new signs on a highway is just the type of event Willie Stark would have had on his calendar and he would have been magnificent. There probably would have been a parade through the town and large crowds at the ceremony. After all, the powerful undercurrent throughout the novel is what happens when citizens turn over politics to the politicians.

Willie Stark just had to win. And that was much more difficult than governing in his era.

Being a governor is much more complex for Bredesen and Beshear and their generation. Some of that is because of the shift in responsibilities during the Reagan era in the 1980s. And some of it is a change in our politics, in part, because of the tremendous influence Warren’s book had.

Warren’s achievement and influence in that regard are sometimes forgotten because in the analysis of our political history as a country, many moments are defined as the exact spot where our innocence died. Innocence dies a lot in political analysis. And it’s hard to argue that Watergate and the Kennedy assassination weren’t significant moments in that regard. But Willie Stark as a cautionary tale early in the timeline will always be relevant.

Warren always denied the book was a political tome that in today’s parlance we would say is “ripped from the headlines.”

In his introduction to the Modern Library Edition of “All the King’s Men,” Warren wrote that Stark represented “the kind of doom that democracy may invite upon itself. The book, however, was never intended to be a book about politics. Politics merely provided the framework story in which the deeper concerns, whatever their final significance, might work themselves out.

Paul Krugman vs. Bob Corker

Senator Corker, New York Times columnist and Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is calling you out.

A post on Krugman’s blog Tuesday titled “Merchants of Misery” focused on Corker. It links to a Wall Street Journal piece describing how Corker met with Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke Tuesday.

After that meeting, Corker told reporters he thinks the Fed’s dual mandate of promoting price stability (i.e., managing inflation) and pursuing maximum employment needs to be cut in half.

In other words, forget employment. Corker thinks the Fed needs to focus on getting inflation and interest rates right.

That ain’t sitting well with left-leaning economists like Krugman, who have practically begged Congress and the White House to pursue more fiscal policy moves (fiscal stimulus is what lawmakers control – taxes, spending programs, stimulus, etc.) to bring down unemployment.

But Congress is all about belt-tightening these days. That leaves the Fed, which controls monetary policy (the flow of money in the economy), to do something. Which it recently did with the big quantitative easing announcement, oh, you may have heard about recently.

Nevertheless, Republicans like Corker think the Fed needs to ratchet its efforts like that way down.