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October 2012

Moving to a Better Higher Education System

Educational-technology skeptic Thoreau:

So, the institution is willing to spend money helping us videotape us giving lectures on basic content, so that students can watch them before class and then we spend class time doing examples and going over questions and whatnot…. They assimilate basic facts and definitions and whatnot on their own time, and they spend class time doing applications and discussing finer points.  One needn’t buy into any educrat buzzwords to think that’s a good idea.

Here’s the thing: They could just read the #*@&ing book before class.  Except they don’t.  Why should I believe that they’ll actually watch the video lecture and pay as much attention to it as they need to in order to assimilate the content?  I’m not opposed to doing this, but I don’t believe that it will be the big transformative world-saving thing that people think, because there’s absolutely no substitute for studying.  None.  Zero…. I want to do it as a way of getting them to study.  If I start going around… preaching… about how I have been transformed and redeemed, I want you to shoot me, and then dismember my remains, just to make sure I don’t come back….

[T]here’s no magic substitute for studying–if they don’t read and they don’t pay attention to the pre-class video and they don’t follow proper procedures for pre-class microchip brain uploads, nothing will save them…


John Griffith: Romney's Confusion About Qualified Mortgages

John Griffith snarks:

We’re thrilled to hear Romney give such a full-throated defense of the ability-to-repay rule. It’s a welcomed about-face from his recent calls to repeal Dodd-Frank and dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency that’s responsible for enforcing the rule. That said, Romney has a few key facts wrong.

Continue reading "John Griffith: Romney's Confusion About Qualified Mortgages" »


Liveblogging World War II: October 25, 1942

World War 2 Plus 55:

Just after midnight, Gen. Claire Chennault's US 14th Air Force attacks Hong Kong. The bombers attack the occupied British colony's oil depots, docks and ships, avoiding POW camps full of Britons and Canadians. The leading aircraft carries B.A. Proulx, a Canadian who escaped from North Point POW camp and made it to Allied-held China. Proulx guides the bombers to ensure that they do not hit POWs.

Continue reading "Liveblogging World War II: October 25, 1942" »


"Targeted Disposition": We May Well Find Out What "Even Worse than Obama" Looks Like

Paul Campos:

The disposition matrix: Pursuant to LGM’s official policy^ of not criticizing the administration until after the election, I’ll merely link to this article rather than comment on it.

^Joke^^

^^Sort of^^^

^^^Yes Romney would no doubt be just as bad on the issue of targeted “disposition.” (I almost reflexively wrote “even worse,” but what would “even worse” look like?).


Why Can't Chris Giles Admit That Contractionary Policy Is Contractionary?

Professor Richard Portes (President, Centre for Economic Policy Research) and Jonathan Portes in the Financial Times:

Sir, Chris Giles argues (Comment, October 18) that austerity is not to blame for UK output growth being much weaker than forecast two years ago by the Office for Budget Responsibility. So far, he says:

nothing suggests an effect of fiscal consolidation on growth. Austerity cannot explain feeble exports and private consumption.

But in fact the OBR assumed (except in the case of cuts to capital investment) that “fiscal multipliers” were much less than one – in other words, that cutting current public spending and raising taxes would actually lead to one or more of higher private consumption, higher business investment, or better net trade. In normal times, this is plausible: lower deficits would lead to lower interest rates for businesses and consumers and a weaker exchange rate. But these mechanisms are not operating now.... Sterling has actually risen slightly, while no one seriously argues any more that the “confidence fairy” has boosted either consumption or business investment. If such a fairy exists, austerity has scared her away. 

Mr Giles argues correctly that multipliers are likely to differ across countries and over time. But he draws the wrong conclusion. Both theory and evidence suggest that under current circumstances multipliers in the UK are likely to be considerably larger than the OBR’s estimates, based as they are on historical experience. As a consequence, the negative impact of fiscal consolidation on growth has been significantly larger than the OBR expected.

This time is different. The multiplier is high (and public investment has already been cut savagely); household deleveraging and emergence from a financial crisis are slow. All this was foreseeable in 2010.


Dylan Matthews Watches His TeeVee

I thought that our discussion was at a high and informative level. I am told the political discussion was a vicious food fight...

Dylan Matthews:

@dylanmatt: Daytime TV is generally awful but one channel runs discussions of Milton Friedman w/ @delong, @rodrikdani, Raghu Rajan & Kevin Murphy.


Give Us the Daily Numbers, You Dorks at RAND! Or else!

Microsoft Excel 11

GOD: Brad?

Brad: Huh?

GOD: Brad!

Brad: Who is that?

GOD: Brad!!

Brad: I am here.

GOD: Go thou to Santa Monica, California, and tell those conducting the American Life Panel for the RAND Corporation that they have 48 hours to repent, lest I rain fire and brimstone upon their heads, and consign their souls for eternity to Gehenna, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched!

Brad: Now? I'm in Washington DC.

GOD: Now!!

Brad: Um… May I ask why? Perhaps there may be ten virtuous? If ten virtuous would have saved Ninevah…

GOD: Abraham amused me. You do not. Now!!

Brad: But what shall I say when I get there? Why are they damned to eternal hellfire?

GOD: The American Life Panel presidential tracking poll…

Brad: Yes?

GOD: It gives Obama a 4% lead today, and gave him only a 2% lead yesterday.

Brad: Yes?

GOD: So rotating the Tuesday 10/23 data onto and rotating the Tuesday 10/16 data off of the poll--changing 1/7 of the sample--moved the needle by 2%.

Brad: Yes?

GOD: Meaning the net spread on 10/23 was 14% points higher for Obama than the spread on 10/16…

Brad: I see…

GOD: They need to release the daily figures so that I can see what is going on…

Brad: But aren't YOU supposed to be omniscient?…


No. You Have No Business Voting for Any Republican, for Any Office, at Any Time in the Future, Ever. Why Do You Ask?

Josh Fruhlinger:

GOP Candidate Richard Mourdock: Why Can’t Dames Understand That Rape-Babies Are God’s Precious Gift?: Hey, you know what’s tricky? Putting together a coherent philosophical system that reconciles belief in an omnipotent but also loving God with indisputable evidence that bad things happen to good people. And it can be frustrating when you’re running for Senate and someone at a debate tries to trip you up with a “gotcha” question that forces you into philosophical weeds that have baffled great thinkers for millennia. You know what’s even trickier and more frustrating, though? Getting raped and then getting pregnant as a result of getting raped! You know what’s not tricky at all? The decision of, “Hmm, will saying that your rape-baby is a part of God’s plan be good for my election campaign, or bad for it?” The correct answer is: bad. Do not imply this to people who might want to vote for you. Oh, wait, you already did it, Richard Mourdock? Oh, dear, that might not work out so well for you!

Continue reading "No. You Have No Business Voting for Any Republican, for Any Office, at Any Time in the Future, Ever. Why Do You Ask?" »


Martin Wolf: The Obama Administration Did a Good Job--and Stanford's John Taylor Is Doing a Bad One

Martin Wolf:

A slow convalescence under Obama: [W]e have no reason to regard the performance of the US economy under President Obama as poor, given the conditions he inherited. But this does not mean that recovery could not have been far stronger. Policy was insufficiently supportive of a stronger recovery. That is partly because the administration underestimated the forces for contraction. It is still more because of the opposition of the Republicans to any stimulus. In an economy afflicted by the implosion of a huge credit boom, the forces for contraction were bound to be both strong and enduring. With interest rates at zero, the effectiveness of monetary policy was limited. Given this, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which amounted to an average of a little under 2 per cent of GDP in the years it was effective, was plainly too small.

The great achievement of policy was to limit the severity of the post-crisis recession. This is largely due to the Federal Reserve and the decision to prevent a financial collapse in the autumn of 2008. But it is also due to sensible, albeit limited, action by the administration. Moreover, by historical and international comparisons, the US economy has performed quite well. Focusing on the recovery, without looking at the contraction, is clearly misleading. Finally, to the extent that the recovery was not stronger, the obstructionism of Republicans in Congress has to bear a sizeable part of the blame. But the big question is: what comes next? Who has the policies to ensure a strong and sustained US recovery? I intend to examine that question next week.

And Wolf on John Taylor:

[I]s he right? The answer is: no…. The first question is whether Prof Taylor is comparing like with like. Against him is widespread agreement that the aftermaths of systemic financial crises are worse than those of more normal downturns…. The second question is whether speed of recovery is a good measure of success. The answer is: no.


Paul Krugman on the Economic Consequences of Mr. Osborne: British Austerity Has Been a Disaster Weblogging

And Ryan-Romney monetary and fiscal austerity would be the same.

Microsoft Excel 10

Paul Krugman:

The Economic Consequences of Mr. Osborne: Schularick and Taylor have an update to their article on post-crisis economic performance. They previously showed that the United States is doing a bit better than one might have expected from the historical record. Now they show that the UK is doing significantly worse…. Gee, remember the enthusiasm with which the Cameron/Osborne turn to austerity was greeted by VSPs on both sides of the pond, with David Broder urging Obama to “do a Cameron”?


Liveblogging World War II: October 24, 1942

Cecil Ritson:

The advance was going steadily according to plan, but then out there in no-man’s-land something went awry and part of the creeping barrage descended on our own long line. We were forced to the ground as shells were bursting all around and shrapnel whistled in all directions. This was a most frightening time as the shelling was very heavy. This helpless situation seemed to continue for ages, but it was possibly only a period of five minutes or so. I was to learn later that many casualties had occurred in this period.

After passing through the enemy’s minefield we were called back into the minefield to adjust the line and wait for a coordinated final attack. We overran the emplacements on the ridge, rounded up prisoners, and took up defensive positions for a possible counter-attack.

We now came under sustained shell fire, and a mortar crew just behind me suffered a direct hit. I was to learn that Ted Harrison had “copped it” in this incident. He had been a fellow student in my 1939 Matric class.

Although a counter-attack was not forthcoming, ‘B’ Company’s duties were not over for the night. In the early hours of the 24th October, ‘B’ Company was assigned to attack positions held by German paratroopers. Apparently this defence area was set back from the front line in a depression, and the Field Force Battalion on our left flank had suffered heavy casualties in attempting to capture the positions.

We passed back through the minefield on a cleared gap and moved left to join the F.F.B.’s positions. Here we were given an appraisal of the conditions ahead, and I remember that we were told to beware of injured and dead F.F.B. men in front and also of German snipers.

Our Company Commander, Capt. Vic Paul, called for mortars to lay a smoke screen and we advanced as the dawn was approaching. In the charge, I remember having to negotiate a fence, and then there was a blinding explosion next to me. I must have passed out, because when I gathered my wits, I found I was lying about 15 paces in front of an enemy machine gun pit.

Our platoon officer, Lt. Dennis Platt, was lying on my immediate left. At that moment he raised his body possibly with the intent of charging and he was shot through the head. I “froze” in my exposed position and I could clearly see the gunner pointing his spandau in my direction. It was a terrifying moment.

Then I was aware of Jimmy Shrimpton closing in from the right and being shot as he jumped in among the Germans. I then rushed at the gun pit as other comrades converged from the left. The positions were taken and prisoners rounded up. It was now dawn and I was guarding the group of prisoners from a stand-off position.

One of the paratroopers decided to make a break, and with head down, he dashed to my left front. I shouted to him to halt, but he still continued. My Bren gun was set on single shot, and I fired from the hip well ahead of him. I was amazed to see him drop like a log, hit in the head by a single bullet. This action appeared to put paid to any further attempts at escaping.

Friendly tanks and support trucks, etc., started to come through the area. Suddenly a shot rang out near us. Apparently, a German soldier hiding in a hole had jumped up, and shot a driver of one of our vehicles and attempted to make his escape in the vehicle.

We rushed across to the scene of action and, to our amazement, a whole company of German soldiers rose out of “dug-in” positions and surrendered to us. We were fortunate that they had elected to surrender, because they greatly outnumbered the weary survivors of our ‘B’ Company.”


John Holbo Performs a Signal Service by Informing Us of the Concern-Troll Gap

Those of us liberals who find amusement and profit in concern-trolling conservatives Have long focused on the three standards: lack of contact with reality, lack of intellectual substance, and lack of arithmetic competence.

We have long warned conservatives--completely for their own good, of course, and out of no motive than altruistic benevolence--that they cannot and will not survive and flourish and that nobody will take them seriously as long as they promote and put forward as their speakers people as lacking in contact with reality as Ramesh "Romney did too tie Obama in the second debate!" Ponnuru, people as lacking in intellectual chops as Victor Davis "Ezra Klein is the real racist here!" Hanson, and people as lacking in arithmetic competence as Kevin "Dow 36000 by 2003!" Hassett.

Now the thoughtful and keen-eyed John Holbo has added yet a fourth standard that those of us who seek to concern-troll our conservative brethren and sistren: a meta-standard: John Holbo worries about the concern-troll gap:

John Holbo:

Not Doing It Right: I am increasingly concerned that a critical concern troll gap is opening up between liberals and conservatives.

Liberals, due to our honorable tradition of not being able to take our own side in an argument, have a healthy aptitude for it. We love to talk up, in a ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ sort of way, the good sort of conservatism we’d like to have, if only we could. But conservatives don’t really have a go-to fantasy of the ‘good’ liberal who needs to be rescued from the ‘bad’ liberal. This may be because conservative rhetoric--the rhetoric of reaction--is so dominated by slippery slope arguments. The bad thing about liberalism is its bad spirit, causing it to be the case that apparently moderate policies are, in effect, creeping Jacobinism, due to soul-destroying nihilism or resentment, what have you, that lurks behind.

If the spirit of liberalism--as opposed to its letter--is the essential problem, per the slippery slope style, you can’t switch gears smoothly, suddenly coming over all concerned that the spirit of liberalism is in danger of slipping. After all, how much worse could it get than communism and fascism? Where is there for liberalism to slip to but up?

So I reiterate my concern that posts like this one suffer from a critical missing piece:

Liberalism isn’t doing so well lately. In fact I’d go so far as to say that liberalism is becoming downright pathological.

You can’t pull that off unless you can fake-praise the good, true spirit of liberalism for at least, like, a paragraph. A sentence, even. What’s so great about liberalism that it should be a bad thing that it’s gone crazy?

As Disraeli probably said somewhere: you can judge the health of a party by the health of its concern trolls, so--in a society whose political culture rests on the health of its two-party system--it is a matter of utmost concern to both parties should the health of the concern trolls of either of the two great parties fail to such a degree as this.

Seriously: aside from Conor Friedersdorf's high-quality concern-trolling on the issue of the unchecked executive power to unleash flying killer robots, are there any other examples of high-quality right-wing concern trolling these days?

I think this gap is now the most serious of the four. I recommend that--for their own good, of course--conservatives abandon their efforts to learn arithmetic, to contact reality, or to discover how to make coherent arguments, and instead focus their attention on upgrading the concern-troll elements of their keyboarding battalions.


Harold Pollack on the Wall Street Journal

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

Believing in the power of evidence and reasoned argument to overcome greed, vested interests, and prejudice and shape the future, here's Harold Pollack: Some of the best and worst health policy coverage in America—and in the same newspaper:

The Wall Street Journal news section is an essential information source for anyone seriously interested in health policy…. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal op-ed section regularly include disgracefully misleading accounts of health policy…. Consider yesterday’s op-ed essay by Heather Higgins and Hadley Heath: “Informed Independents Cool to ObamaCare.”…

Independent Women’s Voice, an educational advocacy organization that runs the Repeal Pledge calling for the elimination of ObamaCare, believes that opinions about health care can be changed. When people’s views are based on faulty or incomplete information, IWV has had great success in changing those views by offering solid information. Over one week in mid-September, IWV conducted a message test among independent voters in 24,000 households spread over four states. The goal was to see if simply providing the facts about the true costs of the health law would affect popular support. Would independents, once they were educated about little-known but very real aspects of ObamaCare’s popular elements, change their minds about those elements? Would their support overall for repeal increase?…

Just what was the “solid information” that changed people’s views? A strange laundry list of obviously incomplete, untrue, or misleading claims from a website called healthreformquestions.com…. "The average family’s health-insurance premiums are already up $1,300." Readers who track through the references to a Kaiser Foundation report will find no evidence that this $1,300 increase arises from health reform or could have been prevented by a bill whose strongest provisions have yet to kick in…. "Young workers who buy their own insurance will see a 19%-30% increase in premiums as a result of ObamaCare." This analysis cites an Avik Roy column in Forbes which cites an original analysis of health care markets in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Colorado by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber. I’m not crazy about Avik’s column…. Avik is an outside advisor to the Romney campaign…. At least Roy properly references the pertinent details. Readers of healthreformquestions.com would not know several important facts noted by Gruber himself to Ezra Klein last year…. Then there’s the strange discussion of preexisting condition health plans (PCIP) and high risk pools…. Pretty much everything is incorrect here…. Senator DeMint’s writers divide a tendentious estimate of the total costs for the entire full-implemented health reform effort which serves many millions of Americans over a full decade. They then divided this total ten-year expenditure by last year’s enrollment in one tiny and temporary program that accounts for maybe 0.25 percent of total spending under health reform….

[W]hat’s disgraceful here is not that Independent Women’s Voice chooses to peddle crude propaganda under the guise of educating people about health reform. That’s who they are and what they do. The real disgrace is that the Wall Street Journal regularly grants op-ed space for people to make claims that couldn’t pass a ten-minute fact-check in the bottom paragraph of its fashion or sports pages…


Steve Benen: The Death of Romney's Biggest Talking Point

The hard-working Steve Benen:

The death of a talking point: If I had a nickel for every time Mitt Romney has said the unemployment rate has been above 8% throughout the Obama presidency, I'd have, well, nearly as much money as Mitt Romney…. [T]he talking point [has] died. The unemployment rate… [is] 7.8%.

As we've discussed before, decreases in the jobless rate are not always good news -- the figure sometimes falls when discouraged Americans drop out of the workforce altogether -- but that's the case with the new data. The employment-to-population ratio went up, job creation went up, and the labor force went up. In other words, the drop in the unemployment rate is heartening, not discouraging….

In February 2009, President Obama's first full month in office, the jobless rate was 8.3% and climbing. As of today, it's 7.8% and falling.

Literally every day for a long while, Romney and his allies have said Obama must be a failure based on this metric alone. The Republican said in Wednesday's debate, "We've had 43 straight months with unemployment above 8 percent."

It's always been a ridiculous argument -- blaming Obama for the jobs crisis he inherited and helped alleviate is absurd -- but now it's also a bogus one.

Of course, the news also seems to lead to a follow-up question for Romney: if unemployment above 8% is proof that Obama should lose, does an unemployment rate below 8% prove that Obama deserves to win?

Live by the unemployment rate; die by the unemployment rate.

The thing I think that every American voter needs to focus on is that while Obama's plans to deal with the jobs crisis are inadequate, Romney's are disastrous: the policies that have sent Britain into a double-dip recession over the past 2.5 years.


Robert Waldmann: Romney Suffers from CEO Disease

Why do so many ex-CEOs flop in their next jobs? I forget who I first heard the phrase "CEO disease" from--that after 5 years of everybody you come in contact with telling you you are brilliant and that your every thought is the best thought ever, you come to believe it and are thereafter useless for any purpose.

From his eyrie in the heart of the Eternal City, Robert Waldmann thinks this now applies to Mitt Romney:

Robert's Stochastic Thoughts: I have always assumed that Romney must be smart, because of the way in which he acquired great wealth.  Yes he was ruthless and dishonest (the real scandal is what is legal).  But there are lots of greedy ruthless dishonest people and the vast majority are no where near as good at it.

But he's campaigning like an idiot. 

Affirmative action sometimes puts some people in very uncomfortable situations -- admission to a ruthlessly competitive University based on the assumption that a student's potential exceeds academic performance so far (due to say come on being taught at school in Malay-Indonesian for much of one's childhood) puts gigantic pressure on some people.  One reacted by acquiring work habits and self discipline I can't even dream of.  

Being sole shareholder chairman of the board of directors CEO and President of a company can put people in a too comfortable position -- surrounded by flatterers and able to settle all debates by authority.  I suspect that this can lead to an erosion of the ability to think critically.  Romney seems to think that he still has the power to settle debates just by saying they are settled.  If so he can't campaign or govern.  

How many CEOs have ever gone on to be successful at anything else?  Unless you define being a CEO as success by definition (as we do) how many have been successful CEOs?

The only standard of comparison is other CEOs -- if they are generally incompetent because of vanity and lazy brain syndrome how would we know. Is there any evidence against the wildly speculative hypothesis that  the vast majority have lost their ability to think straight, because of years of flattery?


The IMF Has a Stronger Case for High Multipliers Right Now than It Knows

Paul Krugman sends us to Eichengreen and O'Rourke:

Gauging the multiplier: Lessons from history: The IMF grabbed headlines and upset officials earlier this month when it released an analysis which concluded that, starting in 2009, the fiscal policy multiplier has actually been considerably larger than previously supposed (IMF 2012). The Fund’s new estimates, which range from 0.9 to 1.7, suggest that Europe’s policies of austerity are in fact directly responsible for the fact that the continent’s recessions have been even deeper than initially forecast.

We are shocked – shocked – to find that there’s multiplication going on in here.

Actually, not so shocked. This is of course just what standard theory would suggest: that the fiscal multiplier will be unusually large when there is little monetary response to the fiscal impulse, whether because interest rates are at the zero lower bound or for other reasons….

The IMF’s analysis… relies on observations for only a handful of national experiences…. [H]istory provides more evidence on the relevant magnitudes. In a paper written together with Miguel Almunia, Agustin Bénétrix and Gisela Rua, we considered the experience of 27 countries in the 1930s, the last time when interest rates were at or near the zero lower bound, and when post-2009-like monetary conditions therefore applied (Almunia et al. 2010)….

[Fiscal policy] was tried, in Japan, Italy, and Germany, for rearmament- and military-related reasons, and even in the US, where a Veterans’ Bonus amounting to 2% of GDP was paid out in 1936…. [W]e estimate panel vector regressions… we estimate the response of output to government spending using a panel of annual data and defence spending as an instrument for the fiscal stance…. [O]ur estimate of the multiplier is 1.6…. These estimates based on 1930s data are at the higher end of those in the literature, consistent with the idea that the multiplier will be greater when interest rates do not respond…. The 1930s experience thus suggests that the IMF’s new estimates are, if anything, on the conservative side...


James Fallows: Obama Won the Last Debate Decisively

Last Debate - James Fallows:

As a matter of performance, this was as one-sided a win for Obama as the first debate was a one-sided embarrassment for him. Romney's ill-at-easeness on nearly every subject that came up was palpable, as was Obama's barely-contained certainty…. As a matter of substance, it was depressing in principle that this was the level of presidential-campaign discussion…. But it was more striking as a matter of substance that on virtually no issue did Romney make an actual criticism, of any sort, of Obama's policy or record. Including topics where he used to disagree, like the timeline for withdrawal for Afghanistan! Instead it was, "I agree, but you could have done it better."… I know that Obama did very well this evening, and Romney put up his worst showing.


Liveblogging World War II: October 23, 1942

Project 60: A Day-by-Day Diary of WWII:

The Battle of El Alamein opens as Montgomery unleashes the British 8th Army. The attack begins with a 1000-gun barrage. After 20 minutes, 30 Corps sends four of its infantry divisions forward into the German minefields on a six mile front. The 8th Australian and 51st Highland Divisions attack toward "Kidney Ridge" while slightly to the south, the New Zealand Division supported by 1st South African Division strike toward the Miteirya Ridge.

At Stalingrad, German attacks in the factory district result in heavy fighting. Soviet forces are pushed out of 2/3 of the Red October Factory.

Japanese forces attempt to cross the Mataniko River on Guadalcanal but are thrown back with heavy loses (estimated at 600 killed).

US forces under the command of General George S. Patton, sail from Hampton Roads, Virginia destined to land on the North African coast in Morocco.


Laura Tyson on Why America Cannot Afford to Elect Mitt Romney

Laura Tyson: Mitt Romney and America’s Four Deficits:

The United States is beset by four deficits: a fiscal deficit, a jobs deficit, a deficit in public investment, and an opportunity deficit. The budget proposals put forward by presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, could reduce the fiscal deficit, but would exacerbate the other three.

To be sure, Romney and Ryan have failed to provide specifics about how they would reduce the fiscal deficit, relying on “trust me” assertions. But the overarching direction of their proposals is clear: more tax cuts, disproportionately benefiting those at the top, coupled with significantly lower non-defense discretionary spending, disproportionately hurting everybody else – and weakening the economy’s growth prospects.

Damned if I can see how this would reduce the long-run fiscal deficit. Plans that increase the deficit save for magic asterisks never work: the reason that the deficit-reducing measures are not specified is that they are political poison--and they will remain political poison after the election, and will not be implemented then.

Laura goes on:

Despite 30 months of private-sector job growth, the US still confronts a large jobs deficit.... More than 11 million additional jobs are needed to return the US to its pre-recession employment level. At the current pace of recovery, that is more than eight years away. In the meantime, persistent high unemployment reduces the economy’s growth potential by robbing today’s workers of skills and experience.... Romney promises to slash federal spending.... And he has ruled out additional temporary fiscal measures aimed at job creation, like President Barack Obama’s proposals...


Charles Pierce on Mitt Romney

Two weeks to election day. Two weeks. And Charles Pierce tries to hold on to the last remnants of his sanity. But it is hard:

America Has Now Met the Many Romneys, and America Knows They Can Get Their Asses Kicked: At the Debate: Those of us who lived under the barely distinguishable leadership of Willard Romney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (God save it!) know very well that the emotional membrane separating Lofty Willard from Snippy Willard is thin indeed, and that the membrane separating Snippy Willard from Dickhead Willard is well-nigh translucent….

I thought that… Romney would be able to keep both Snippy Willard and Dickhead Willard in check.

Continue reading "Charles Pierce on Mitt Romney" »


Duncan Black: The Evolution of Republican Suburban Tribalism

Our moddern-day Indiana Jones, Duncan Black, ventures out of Center City Philadelphia into the jungles beyond PennWynne:

Eschaton: Suburban Tribalism: The evolution of Republican antipathy towards cities has been interesting. It used to be mostly racial, but now I can "amuse" myself reading people on the internets simultaneously decry cities as places where the "animals" live (how they label African-Americans) and the playgrounds of rich entitled white liberals.

Continue reading "Duncan Black: The Evolution of Republican Suburban Tribalism" »


Stockyard Oatmeal Stout by JosephBrau Brewing Is Not What I Thought!

  1. It does not come from St. Joseph, Missouri.

  2. It is not made in a brewery located where there used to be a stockyard.

  3. It is not drunk by workers at a stockyard.

Instead, it is from San Jose, California.

Well, "Wichita Lineman", "Galveston", and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" were all written on the beach in Malibu. And both "Dixie" and "Swanee River" were written in Philadelphia…

Where did Walter Scott write, anyway?


Hari Sevugan Wants to Watch Byron York and John McCain Fight Mitt Romney

Hari Sevugan (HariSevugan) on Twitter:

.@ByronYork in his own words on @MittRomney's OBL position: “Perhaps Romney should watch the tape of the planes hitting the towers again.”

.@ByronYork in his own words on @MittRomney's OBL position: “I can’t imagine any serious Republican candidate for president [saying that]"

.@SenJohnMcCain in his own words on @MittRomney position on OBL: shows "naïveté."

.@MittRomney in his own words on OBL: "It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person."

And here is the tape:

LIZ SIDOTI: Why haven’t we caught bin Laden in your opinion?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: I think, I wouldn’t want to over-concentrate on Bin Laden. He’s one of many, many people who are involved in this global Jihadist effort. He’s by no means the only leader. It’s a very diverse group—Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and of course different names throughout the world. It’s not worth moving heaven and earth and spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person. It is worth fashioning and executing an effective strategy to defeat global, violent Jihad and I have a plan for doing that.

LIZ SIDOTI: But would the world be safer if bin laden were caught?

GOVERNOR ROMNEY: Yes, but by a small percentage increase—a very insignificant increase in safety by virtue of replacing bin Laden with someone else. Zarqawi—we celebrated the killing of Zarqawi, but he was quickly replaced. Global Jihad is not an effort that is being populated by a handful or even a football stadium full of people. It is—it involves millions of people and is going to require a far more comprehensive strategy than a targeted approach for bin laden or a few of his associates.


"Uncertainty" Will Decline When (a) Fiscal and Monetary Policies Are Stimulative Enough to Bring About Full Recovery and (b) the Republican Party as We Know It Vanishes from the Page of TIme

Microsoft Excel 9

Paul Krugman:

The "Uncertainty" Scam: For the most part, “uncertainty” seems to reflect the fact that the economy is weak. Not surprising: while economists may define uncertainty in terms of second moments, most people use the term to mean fear that things could get worse.

Now, there is a spike in uncertainty in mid-2011. And we know what that’s about: the confrontation over the debt ceiling. There’s also some correlation between the Bloom uncertainty index and troubles in Europe.

So think about it: even if you accept the Bloom et al paper as gospel (which you shouldn’t), what it’s really saying is that the US economy is being held back by Republican extremism, by the GOP’s unprecedented willingness to hold the full faith and credit of American hostage for political gain. It is not, repeat not, about Obama looking at rich people funny.


Glenn Hubbard on Housing Policy

Mike Konczal: A Post-Debate Interview with Glenn Hubbard on Housing Policy:

Mike Konczal: In 2008 you co-wrote a plan with Chris Mayer on the housing market that called for mass refinancing and principal reduction through the GSE. In 2011 you released another plan with Mayer that just featured the mass refinancing. Why was there the change?

Glenn Hubbard: It wasn't principal reduction; it was setting up a Home Owners' Loan Corporation model.

Konczal: There was a debt-to-equity swap in your proposal.

Hubbard: Right. What we focused on in 2011 was trying to give direction to the Obama administration, which was bungling the mass refinancing so badly. That's why we focused on that. I still think it would be a good idea to have a Home Owners' Loan Corporation. But the point of that piece was that the Obama administration had bungled every housing plan, so we were trying to provide some guidance.

Konczal: Earlier this year, HARP, the Home Affordable Refinancing Program, was relaunched as HARP 2.0.

Hubbard: It's still a failure.

Konczal: After the relaunch, we are seeing a large increase in refinancing on very underwater homes, particularly those with loan-to-value over 125 percent.

Hubbard: It's still a failure. If you compare it to the number that Chris Mayer and I had argued, it's trivial.

Konczal: Compared to the number of possible refinancing?

Hubbard: Yes. The reason is the GSEs have stood in the way, and the Obama Treasury has not managed the GSEs in such a way as to facilitate its own policies. It's really quite sad.

Konczal: But that's an FHFA problem, is it not?

Hubbard: I'm sorry, but you can't duck the FHFA.

Konczal: So you think President Obama should have done a recess appointment [to replace Ed Demarco] at the FHFA?

Hubbard: I don't manage the Obama appointments, but I do know that the FHFA has mismanaged the president's own plan.

Konczal: What would a President Romney put forward in the housing market?

Hubbard: What Governor Romney wisely is focused on is the long term in housing. We need to wind down the portfolios of the GSEs and reassess the governmen'st role in such a way to get more private capital back into housing.

Konczal: In 2008 you argued that cramdown, or some sort of bankruptcy reform, was a bad idea because it could impact long-term growth. In retrospect, do you still think that?

Hubbard: Yes. I still believe that. I absolutely think that was the correct call.


The Thoughtful Gavyn Davies Says That the Austerity Policies of the British Conservative Government Are the Destructive Policies of Incompetent Fools

Observers of the U.S. take note: Ryan-Romney wants to replicate the spending cuts of Cameron-Clegg-Osborne, and to reinforce austerity with an end to QE ∞.

Gavyn Davies:

High fiscal multipliers undermine austerity programmes: [A] 3-page article in the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook promises to have a greater effect on global economic policy than all of the interminable meetings held at the Annual Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Tokyo a week ago…. IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard and Daniel Leigh, presented evidence that the fiscal multiplier in the advanced economies is considerably larger than had been assumed [by Cameron-Clegg-Osborne] when fiscal austerity plans were set in train in most economies in 2010…. [A]usterity is much more damging to output in the near term than was anticipated…. [T]hey suggest that the multiplier under current circumstances might be as large as 0.9-1.7, compared to the initial assumption of 0.5…. If the multiplier is 0.5, then an initial public expenditure reduction of 1 per cent of GDP reduces… taxation or increase public transfers by about 0.2 per cent of GDP, leaving the budget deficit improving by 0.8 per cent of GDP…. If, however, the multiplier is 1.7… [t]he net overall improvement in the budget deficit would therefore be only 0.32 per cent. The economy would be in recession, and the budget deficit would hardly improve at all. Even if this were acceptable to governments, it would not be acceptable for very long to their electorates. This pessimistic arithmetic is not that far away from describing what has actually happened in some countries, like the UK….

Continue reading "The Thoughtful Gavyn Davies Says That the Austerity Policies of the British Conservative Government Are the Destructive Policies of Incompetent Fools" »


Noah Smith's Sanity Requires That He Stop Reading Steve Williamson: Foundations of Monetary Theory Weblogging

Noah Smith:

Noahpinion: Money is just little green pieces of paper!: Have you ever heard people say that "money is just little green pieces of paper"? Well, that is exactly what Steve Williamson claims in this post. Most of the post is an anti-Krugman volley, but buried in one of Steve's points is the following extremely interesting claim:

What is a bubble? You certainly can't know it's a bubble by just looking at it. You need a model. (i) Write down a model that determines asset prices. (ii) Determine what the actual underlying payoffs are on each asset. (iii) Calculate each asset's "fundamental," which is the expected present value of these underlying payoffs, using the appropriate discount factors. (iv) The difference between the asset's actual price and the fundamental is the bubble. Money, for example, is a pure bubble, as its fundamental is zero.

Can this be true?… [M]y answer is: No…. [M]ost financial assets entitle you only to a stream of money…. If money has a fundamental value of zero… the fundamental value of every bond… is precisely zero. That's a weird way of thinking about the world…. [Williamson's claim] seems to hinge on the definition of "fundamental value"…. So what is "fundamental value"? Is it consumption value? If that's the case, then a toaster has zero fundamental value, since you can't eat a toaster…. So does a toaster have zero fundamental value, or is its fundamental value equal to the discounted expected consumption value of the toast that you will use it to produce?… If the toaster has fundamental value, the money should too…

Indeed. Noah is, of course, correct.

Continue reading "Noah Smith's Sanity Requires That He Stop Reading Steve Williamson: Foundations of Monetary Theory Weblogging" »


Liveblogging World War II: October 22, 1942

Harold Moon:

Over two months had passed now since we had arrived in Egypt, for it was now October 22, and I was congratulating myself on the finest camping site so far, when we were moved to the coast with its refreshing sea breeze. That day, however, came the announcement that we all knew had to come, but which we had all been dreading. The whole battalion was put on parade, and before we were actually told, I knew what was to happen. The big attack was about to come off. I was right, our C.O., Colonel Roper-Caldbeck, gave us the news.

Tomorrow night, October, 23, we go into action against the Afrika Korps.

He painted a rosy picture to us, of how superior in tanks, aircraft and men we were, and how Rommel was believed to be short of petrol. We had a new Commander, a General Montgomery, who had been put in charge of the Eight Army, with General Alexander in command of all the armed forces in the desert. These two men were confident of victory, our C.O., said, and that was half the battle won. However, we were as inexperienced as Spitfire pilots in submarines. Ninety per cent of us had never been in action before.

The whole battalion was to enter the front line, the same part in which we had already had an uneventful stay, and the move was to take place under the cover of darkness. There we were to stay until the next evening, the 23rd, when Monty’s big offensive was to be launched.

Thus that evening found us in main defences, which before then, had been manned by one brigade. Shortly after midnight that sector of the front line contained our entire division. The enemy, however, did not know that. What was more, he was not to get to know, because every precaution had been taken to keep our presence a secret. Extra slit trenched had been dug for us and we were ordered to get into them, two men to each hole.

As another soldier and myself made our way to the dug-out detailed to us, I observed that each trench was covered with a sheet of corrugated iron, that had been camouflaged to look like the rest of the desert by sand having been strewn on it.

We jumped down in our hole and pulled the corrugated iron along over our heads. We had been told to stick down our holes for the next twenty hours and under no circumstances to show ourselves. This was in case enemy aircraft should come over in daylight on a reconnaissance flight and take picture that would reveal the fact that a whole division was now in a sector that normally contained only one brigade. Such information would give the game away, and Rommel would immediately realise that an attack was impending.

It was with a feeling of uncertainty, something like waiting in a dentist’s chair for one’s first tooth to be pulled, wondering if it would be as sore as most people said, that I said goodbye to the moon, stars and sky. As I sat there in the darkness, questions kept popping into my mind, which by brain answered in every ugly manner, as I though of the morrow. I couldn’t speak to my trench-mate as my mind was so full of disquieting thoughts. Sleep at last lent a soothing hand, and my fears of the morrow were bludgeoned by fatigue.