March 3rd, 2011

Breaking News

Negative interest rates

One of the problems with the economy is that we are up against the zero lower bound. For my non-economics inclined friends, one of the ways that the government (specifically the Federal Reserve, our central bank) manages things is by raising or lowering interest rates. If inflation gets too high, they raise interest rates. If unemployment gets too high, they lower them. In other words, to combat high inflation, they put people out of work. To combat high unemployment they allow inflation to rise.

However, unemployment has been high in the U.S. for long enough that the Fed has run out of room to lower interest rates. It’s been at 0.25% since December 2008. They can’t lower it any more, which causes all sorts of issues. Paul Krugman has been blogging about this for 3 or 4 years.

However, it turns out that the zero lower bound is more psychological than real. I missed it at the time, but Sweden instituted a negative interest rate in August 2009. Banks that banked their money with the Swedish central bank actually paid a penalty to do so. I don’t think they went negative on interest rates to loan money, which might be more complicated. The Fed funds rate above is more like the second, but the two interest rates should move in tandem. (Couldn’t find a link to the comparable Fed rate.)

What penalizing banks for saving money does is make it worth their while to loan it out, where they can make money.

And what’s the result been? Sweden’s highest quarterly growth rate ever.

crossposted from King Rat.

Cooking

Shrimp and Stuffing Bake

Back to cooking some new things for me. This one is based off a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Casseroles (page 105 if you care). Other than the soup, little else is pre-made.

The recipe calls for frozen or fresh medium shrimp, but I prefer smaller shrimp in dishes. So I got canned since I didn’t see any of the small shrimp in the freezer. The downside is there’s a lot of salt in canned shrimp. I figure boiling the shrimp removes some of the salt though. I also avoided the condensed soup in the recipe because the only condensed version of cream of celery at Whole Foods was super high in salt. If I remember correctly, it was about 33% U.S. R.D.A. per serving. So I got an uncondensed kind and used a little bit more. It was pretty thick stuff, so I only increased the amount used by a couple of ounces over the book’s recipe. I bought bread made in store, which unfortunately doesn’t list the sodium content. It is the third ingredient on the list though. I’m thinking the sodium I don’t know about in the bread is balanced somewhat by the amount of sodium taken out by boiling the shrimp.

  • 12 oz. canned shrimp (1980 mg sodium)
  • 1 celery stalk
  • ½ large onion
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • about 12 ounces creamy celery soup (720 mg sodium)
  • ¼ cup milk (32 mg sodium)
  • ½ teaspoon sage
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • dash of pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 10 oz. crusty bread loaf
  1. Cut bread into cubes/small chunks
  2. Bake bread at 350° for 15 to 25 minutes to dry it out/firm it up
  3. Boil shrimp for about 3 minutes (if fresh/frozen, until they are opaque)
  4. Chop the celery
  5. Chop the onion
  6. Cook celery and onion in butter until tender (can use the same as the shrimp)
  7. Add soup, milk, sage, thyme (crush first), and pepper
  8. Beat eggs
  9. Add eggs to the concoction
  10. Mix well
  11. Fold in bread chunks
  12. Fold in shrimp
  13. Transfer to 1.5 quart casserole dish
  14. Bake covered for 30 minutes at 350°
  15. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes.
  16. Let it cool.

Pretty tasty is the result. About 4 servings. About 690 mg sodium per serving, done my way.

Also, now I know basically how to make stuffing. Can’t say it tastes a whole lot better than boxed though, which is cheaper. This has less salt. Without the shrimp the price might be comparable and the salt in this really a lot less.

And yeah, I know I’ve been harping on the salt a lot lately. It’s been one year today since my grandfather died, and I’m basically of the opinion that a high salt diet was the proximate cause of his heart attacks in the last year. The doctors told him on a couple of E.R. visits that salt intake was what caused his shortness of breath that prompted the 911 call. Can’t know what would have been; without the salt it might have been just as bad. Still, I owe it to myself to make these changes now rather than when I have heart problems at 83.

crossposted from King Rat.