Henry Farell: Le **La** Condition Humaine Moderne
Somebody Has Been Feeding Jonathan Chait More than Wheaties: Criticizing Michael Boskin Department

Noted for March 7, 2013

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  • Joe Weisenthal: Bersani's First Priority: Get Out Of The Austerity Cage: "Bersani… is… attempting to form a government… [and] has a good first priority: 'Michael McKee…. First priority: get out of "austerity cage."' The idea of loosening the austerity cage is growing a bit more popular in Europe. Yesterday Bloomberg reported that EU Commissioner Olli Rehn said it may be appropriate to loosen some deficit targets."

  • Steve Benen: A tale of two falsehoods: "Education Secretary Arne Duncan and House Speaker John Boehner both… made claims that were not true…. Duncan acknowledged that he'd made a mistake, apologized, and set the record straight…. Boehner told NBC, "[T]here's no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester." This, too, was fact-checked and also proven to be incorrect…. Boehner's office actually doubled-down on the lie, saying the falsehood is true if Republicans are allowed to change the meaning of basic words [like 'plan' and 'replace']"

  • Timothy Burke: The reality of MOOCs is something hypesters remain defiantly unacquainted with: "Digitization in higher education has already often been a powerful, transformative force…. MOOCs… may pretty much kill off preceding forms of for-profit online education, most of which make even the most half-assed MOOC look good by comparison…. MOOCs do their business out in the open…. The University of Phoenix and its ilk made it impossible for to see who was teaching, what their qualifications or skill as a teacher might be, or what a class was like until you were signed on as a paying customer…. [E]ven if they don’t succeed in being either the magic edu-topia or devilish capitalist plot… they… [bring] academics into contact with a wider range of the public… [like] Wikipedia, digital culture, crowdsourcing and so on…. MOOCs aren’t the best or most generative way I can think of to open classrooms and subject expertise to different kinds of feedback and pressure, but they are A way for that to happen. Yes, that means that Thomas Friedman’s latest blandulations have some validity to them, but roughly for the same reason that it’s possible to think that an astrological forecast has some truth in it: throw enough conventional wisdom and irrefutable fortune-cookie sloganeering at the wall and some of it’s bound to stick."

  • Ryan Avent: Output gaps: When the Fed fights, it wins: "There are three big things worth noting… we… observe substantial disinflation in the absence of countercyclical policy… we… observe decelerating disinflation at low levels of inflation…. It's not the case that every wage and every price are rigid… but it is much more difficult to impose nominal wage cuts than it is to leave nominal wages flat…. The answer to the question of why deflation in, say, America hasn't been sustained despite little progress closing the output gap is extremely simple: the Fed has been determined not to allow that to happen."

  • Felix Salmon: Why fiscal problems don’t have fiscal solutions: "The main lesson I’ve learned from the sequester fustercluck, and from the failure of austerity programs in Europe, is that you can steer yourself very, very wrong indeed if you try to find fiscal solutions to fiscal problems… the more that a government worries about long-term fiscal balance, the less effective it becomes in attempting to stimulate the economy to provide the kind of growth that everybody wants to maximize…. The solution… has to be to maximize the number of people with jobs; to maximize the amount of money those jobs pay; and to maximize the number of years that people are earning money in those jobs…. The rhetoric of the sequester is making everybody look in exactly the wrong place for solutions to America’s long-term fiscal problems. The amount that the government spends on national parks, or on FBI salaries, or even on mine-resistant, ambush-protected Army vehicles, is of course irrelevant to the question of how to create an economy which can afford medical care for all over the long term."

  • Barry Ritholtz: Wrongstradamus: The Money Losing Forecasts of Michael Boskin: Over the years, I have been critical of economist Michael Boskin…. In the new radical right movement, being consistently wrong is some kind of a badge of honor, and so he rose through its ranks, failing upwards as an economist, but scoring points as a propagandist…. What is most unforgivable is that he sandbagged investors for political reasons…. You see, it was never Boskin’s intentions to give you investing advice… That he did so in financial papers like the Wall Street Journal or Investor’s Business Daily simply reveals the contempt he (and their OpEd managers) hold for their readers — saps, marks, subscribers, investors — suckers all. Over the years, I have mocked the WSJ OpEd pages as filled with drunks and cads hell bent on losing you money. Boskin is a classic example."

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On March 6, 2013: