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May 2014

Suresh Naidu: Eight Theses on Thomas Piketty from His Jacobin Review, "Capital Eats the World"

(1) Suresh Naidu: Capital Eats the World: "Piketty oscillates between paying homage to fundamental forces...

of technology, tastes, and supply and demand, and then backtracking to say that politics and institutions are important...

Continue reading "Suresh Naidu: Eight Theses on Thomas Piketty from His Jacobin Review, "Capital Eats the World"" »

Afternoon Must-Read: Jason Furman and James Stock: On Energy, ‘All of the Above’ Is Working

Jason Furman and James Stock: On Energy, ‘All of the Above’ Is Working: "U.S. gasoline consumption has fallen by 5.5 percent since 2007...

...or half a million barrels per day... gasoline consumption is now on a path to plateau, then decline after 2019.... Production of renewable energy has increased rapidly... electricity generation from wind has tripled while solar generation is up more than tenfold....Much of this energy revolution has been driven by technological advances and entrepreneurial risk-taking by a dynamic private sector. These trends have been supported and advanced by President Obama’s 'all-of-the-above' energy strategy... responsible development of oil and natural gas resources... accelerated the development and deployment of low-carbon wind, solar and nuclear projects... advanced energy efficiency... light-duty vehicles... appliances... buildings through the president’s Better Buildings partnership..."

Over at Project Syndicate/Equitable Growth: What Do We "Deserve" Anyway?: Monday Focus: June 2, 2014,280%C3%97720%20pixels Over at Project Syndicate and Equitable Growth: The best review of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century that I have read so far is the review in Michael Tomasky's Democracy Journal by my good friend and frequent co-author Lawrence Summers. Go read the whole thing. And subscribe to Democracy Journal. If you do that, you will make better use of your time than reading further here...

Still here? You are, you say, unwilling to read 5000 words? It would be time well spent, I assure you. But if you are still here, let me give not a highlight but a brief expansion of a very small and minor sidelight, an aside in Summers's review about moral-philosophy:

There is plenty to criticize in existing corporate-governance arrangements.... I think, however, that those like Piketty who dismiss the idea that productivity has anything to do with compensation should be given a little pause.... The executives who make the most money are not... running public companies... pack[ing] their boards with friends... [but] chosen by private equity firms to run the companies they control. This is not in any way to ethically justify inordinate compensation—only to raise a question about the economic forces that generate it... READ MOAR

Continue reading "Over at Project Syndicate/Equitable Growth: What Do We "Deserve" Anyway?: Monday Focus: June 2, 2014" »

Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for May 31, 2014

Over at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog



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Things to Read on the Morning of May 31, 2014


  1. Giovanni Peri, Kevin Shih, and Chad Sparber: How highly educated immigrants raise native wages: "The canonical economic model, based on demand and supply, holds that, all else equal, an increase in labour supply should cause wages to fall.... [But the labour market is more complex than the market for typical goods. Adjustment mechanisms exist to allow natives and firms to respond to immigration without experiencing lower wages or fewer employment opportunities. Immigrants may also generate positive externalities that benefit native workers.... Native and foreign labour differ.... Immigrants possess a comparative advantage and specialise in STEM. Thus, we might expect that natives respond... inflows of highly educated immigrants cause natives switch to more communication-intensive occupations.... A rather simplistic estimate of the contribution of foreign-born STEM to productivity in the US can be calculated... 50% of US total factor productivity (TFP) growth in recent decades is attributable to scientists and engineers... college-educated STEM workers grew from 2.9% of total employment in 1990 to 3.7% of employment in 2010... foreign-born workers were responsible for 80% of this growth.... Roughly 40% of aggregate productivity growth may be due to foreign-born college-educated STEM workers..."

  2. Adam Posen: Kuroda's plan is working: "The Bank of Japan's policies over the last 14 months are a welcome return to sanity. Mainstream economists inside and outside Japan had been asking the BOJ to stand up against deflation for nearly two decades.... There are three important improvements that the BOJ has made to its monetary regime... buying long-duration government bonds... the statement of a clear, positive inflation target... how the BOJ reacts to shocks.... This new regime of accommodating positive price shocks, at least under the current circumstances, is an extremely powerful shift..."

  3. Greg Sargent: Morning Plum: Mitch McConnell effectively abandons Obamacare repeal: "Today we have a big break in the Case of the Pathologically Dissembling Senate Minority Leader. As you know, Mitch McConnell has been struggling to articulate his position on the Affordable Care Act, ever since he laughably declared that the fate of Kentucky Kynect — the state exchange that has signed up over 400,000 people for coverage and is more popular than the hated Obamacare — is 'unconnected' to his push to repeal the law.... Now, however, the McConnell campaign has issued a new statement to Post fact checker Glenn Kessler that... suggests he might largely retain the Medicaid expansion.... 'Medicaid existed before Obamacare and will exist if we are able to repeal it. Obamacare loosened eligibility requirements for Medicaid recipients, and in the process, helped find many who were already eligible but no enrolled.  These people would remain eligible even after a repeal. The federal government does allow states flexibility in setting requirements and Kentucky could be able to keep many of the newly enrolled in the program if we decided to'. Well, there you have it... Kentucky could keep people on the Medicaid expansion..."

  4. Steve Beshear: Gov. Beshear Slams McConnell: "If each of the over 421,000 people who signed up via “kynect” could grab 10 minutes of Sen. McConnell’s time to explain what health care coverage means for their families, and if the Senator had the endurance to listen 24/7, it would take eight years to hear from each enrollee. That’s longer than the entire new Senate term he says he deserves..."

Should Be Aware of:


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Morning Must-Read: Andrew White: Timothy Geithner’s Stress Test

Andrew White: Book Review – Timothy Geithner’s Stress Test… only just worth the read…: "Oh, and one Dragon... laid to rest too.  It becomes clear that the US Government could have saved Lehman.  After all that hot air about how there were no rules allowing the Fed or Treasury to save Lehman, Geithner explains all the rule bending they did for everyone else ('exigent conditions').  They (whoever ‘they’ refers too) could have saved Lehman.  For a number of reasons partially explained in the book, ‘they’ didn’t...

John Stuart Mill (1858): A President in Council the Best Government for India, and Other Wrtings on India

John Stuart Mill (1858): A President in Council the Best Government for India: THERE ARE TWO political functions...

devolving on the British nation. It has to provide for its own government; and for the government of the much more extensive and populous countries which are dependent on it.

The majority however of its dependencies it has, wisely and necessarily, divested itself of the duty of governing; having found, after long trial, that it was unable to govern them satisfactorily. The only great outlying possession of the British Crown which is not now left substantially to its own government, is India.

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Weekend Reading: N.K. Jemisin: Wiscon 38 Guest of Honor Speech

Wiscon 38 Guest of Honor Speech | Epiphany 2.0:

I’m going to start this off with a quote from Chip Delany, writing in the essay “Racism and Science Fiction” which was published in NYRSF in 1998. It’s online, you can look it up.

Since I began to publish in 1962, I have often been asked, by people of all colors, what my experience of racial prejudice in the science fiction field has been. Has it been nonexistent? By no means: It was definitely there. A child of the political protests of the ’50s and ’60s, I’ve frequently said to people who asked that question: As long as there are only one, two, or a handful of us, however, I presume in a field such as science fiction, where many of its writers come out of the liberal-Jewish tradition, prejudice will most likely remain a slight force—until, say, black writers start to number thirteen, fifteen, twenty percent of the total. At that point, where the competition might be perceived as having some economic heft, chances are we will have as much racism and prejudice here as in any other field.

We are still a long way away from such statistics.

But we are certainly moving closer.

I’m tempted to just stop there, drop the mic, and walk offstage, point made. Chip’s a hard act to follow.

Continue reading "Weekend Reading: N.K. Jemisin: Wiscon 38 Guest of Honor Speech" »

Liveblogging World War II: May 31, 1944: Eleanor Roosevelt

MY DAY by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 31, 1944:

WASHINGTON, Tuesday—So many people wonder, now that so many of our boys are somewhere in the British Isles, about their reception over there. I received a letter from Mrs. Lilian A. Howard-Watson of 'Nagara' Gwespyr, Holywell, N. Wales, which gave me so much pleasure that I am going to give as much of it as I can in this column. Most of us do not know exactly what billeting is over here. It means whether you like it or not, you take into your house the people whom the government assigns to you.

Continue reading "Liveblogging World War II: May 31, 1944: Eleanor Roosevelt" »

The Daily Piketty: May 30, 2014

I still do not understand what Chris Giles of the Financial Times thinks he is doing here...

Evening Must-Read: Ezra Klein: Obama’s Management Problem

Ezra Klein: Obama’s management problem: "It's clear that Obama doesn't personally hold Shinseki...

...responsible for the problems at the VA. Quite the opposite: he thinks he's a victim whose career is being sacrificed to help calm this storm. He's furious about the abuses themselves just as he was furious about the deficiencies in HealthCare.Gov. But he never quite seems to be furious at the managers he's appointed to run these bureaucracies.

Lunchtime Must Read: Mark Thoma: Obama and Geithner's "Biggest Policy Mistake"

Mark Thoma: The Great Recession's "biggest policy mistake": "The balance sheets of financial institutions were also...

...severely damaged as the assets they held lost value during the crash. Many of these institutions became illiquid and insolvent....The government's response was... TARP that helped to restore the balance sheets of financial institutions.... Banks had a tough time to be sure, but the bailout worked.... Households didn't get the same amount of help in large part due to the opposition of Geithner's Treasury. That's why I concur with Mian and Sufi that this is 'the biggest policy mistake of the Great Recession'. A policy that would have provided households with mortgage debt relief could have made a big difference to those trying to rebuild their balance sheets and eliminate debt.... Americans were forced to mostly rebuild on their own, and this is a primary cause of the ongoing, slow recovery. It would have still taken time to recover even if households had been helped the way banks were helped. A nation can't quickly dig out of a recession that's so deep--but it didn't have to take as long as it has."

Lunchtime Must-Read: Technical Appendix: Inequality of Capital Ownership Addendum: Response to FT

Thomas Piketty: Technical Appendix: Inequality of Capital Ownership Addendum: Response to FT: "This is a response to the criticisms...

...which I interpret as requests for additional information - that were published in the Financial Times on May 23 2014.... These criticisms only refer to the series reported in chapter 10 of my book “Capital in the 21st century”, and not to the other figures and tables presented in the other chapters.... Let me start by saying that the reason why I put all excel files on line, including all the detailed excel formulas about data constructions and adjustments, is precisely because I want to promote an open and transparent debate about these important and sensitive measurement issues. Let me also say that I certainly agree that available data sources on wealth inequality are much less systematic than what we have for income inequality.... My problem with the FT criticisms is twofold. First, I did not find the FT criticism particularly constructive. The FT suggests that I made mistakes and errors in my computations, which is simply wrong, as I show below. The corrections proposed by the FT to my series (and with which I disagree) are for the most part relatively minor, and do not affect the long run evolutions and my overall analysis, contrarily to what the FT suggests. Next, the FT corrections that are somewhat more important are based upon methodological choices that are quite debatable (to say the least). In particular, the FT simply chooses to ignore the Saez-Zucman 2014 study, which indicates a higher rise in top wealth shares in the United States during recent decades than what I report in my book (if anything, my book underestimates the rise in wealth inequality). Regarding Britain, the FT seems to put a lot of trust in self-reported wealth survey data that notoriously underestimates wealth inequality...

Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for May 30, 2014

Over at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog



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And on the Other Hand: Oklahoma Democrats Will Fight Where They Stand: Live from the Roasterie CXXXVI: May 30, 2014

Rebecca Schoenkopf: There Will Be Blood: Oklahoma Democrats Will Fight Where They Stand: "The Pottawatomie County Dems...

...My mother, current chair of the Pott County Democrats, had uncharacteristically permitted plastic cups for water, soda, and sweet tea. I threw them out before she could wander in and start worrying whether we shouldn’t wash and save those too. Environmentalism has its limits. For weeks my mother was absolutely convinced no one would come to the Dems’ big fundraiser for the year.... I was washing all the dishes because I didn’t want my mother’s friends to think she’d raised a daughter--in California, where I doubtless live with my common-law husband, Osama Bin Laden--who saw a pile of dishes and blithely ignored them....

I’ve been going to Oklahoma since I was a little girl, to see my grandma, who made rag dolls and loved Jesus and Mary with every bit of her heart. Thirty-five years ago, a big day out in Pott County was a trip to Van’s Pig Stand for lunch and then the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s heritage museum to look at the weavings, and the photos from their Trail--not of Tears, but of Death. Thirty-five years later, it still is.

Continue reading "And on the Other Hand: Oklahoma Democrats Will Fight Where They Stand: Live from the Roasterie CXXXVI: May 30, 2014" »

Things to Read on the Morning of May 30, 2014


  1. Kevin O'Rourke: Whither the Euro?: "All these difficulties were properly pinpointed by traditional optimal currency area theory.... Around the euro area periphery... capital inflows pushed up wages and prices. But what goes up does not come down so easily when there is no independent currency. Labor mobility within the euro area remains limited: young Irish workers emigrate to Australia or Canada, the Portuguese to Angola or Brazil. And with no federal budget to smooth asymmetric shocks, procyclical austerity, which exacerbates rather than ameliorates recessions, has been the policy weapon of choice during this crisis—whether imposed by the markets or by euro area politicians and central bankers. Mass unemployment in the periphery is exactly what theory would predict in such circumstances. Indeed, since 2008 we have learned that traditional optimal currency area theory was too sanguine about European monetary union. In common with much mainstream macroeconomics, it ignored the role of financial intermediaries such as banks, which link savers and borrowers. Many of the euro area’s most intractable problems stem from the flow of capital from the core to the periphery via interbank lending. When that capital stopped flowing, or was withdrawn, the resultant bank crises strained the finances of periphery governments. That further worsened bank balance sheets and credit creation, leading in turn to worsening economic conditions and rising government deficits—a sovereign bank doom loop that kept replaying..." The astonishing thing to me is how close the rhyme has been between the history of the travails of the interwar gold standard and the history of the twenty-first century Europe: terrible policies, repeated...

  2. Nick Bunker: CEO pay, equity and efficiency | Washington Center for Equitable Growth: "The median... CEO... made $10.5 million in 2013.... Is this rising pay for executives a major contributor to rising inequality? And if so, is it necessary for a well-functioning company?... The overall income distribution compiled by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty... threshold for the top 0.01 percent, $7.2 million.... Are they a significant share of that group?... Bakija... Cole... and... Heim... executives, managers, and supervisors were 30 percent of the top 1 percent and 42.5 percent of the top 0.1 percent. That occupation group doesn’t include managers from the financial sector... another 13.2 percent of the 1 percent and 18 percent of the top 0.1 percent.... There is evidence that CEOs as a class are overpaid.... Bertrand... and... Mullainathan of Harvard University show that CEO pay in the oil-and-gas industry is just as responsive to upticks in business fortunes due to luck or to random rises in oil prices, as to upticks in fortunes due to skill.... Betrand and Mullainathan argue that their result is evidence of the capture of the pay-setting process by CEOs..." Larry Summers likes to state that private-equity CEOs make as much--more--than public-company CEOs, and so it cannot be purely capture of the pay-setting process. I think that is an inference too far: talk to the princes of private equity and see how many public-company CEOs they would hire--I think the number is rather small...

  3. Nick Bunker: Tax cuts for the kids: "A number of reform-minded conservatives gathered at the American Enterprise Institute last week to celebrate the publication of a new book, Room to Grow.... One particularly interesting proposal is a call for 'family friendly' tax reform from economist Robert Stein.... Senator Mike Lee... child rebate set at $2,500 per child.... By focusing the tax cut on families that have children, the plan would help the development of future human capital.... The Stein-Lee plan does have some serious problems. The tax refund is not refundable.... And in an effort to make the plan revenue neutral, Lee would reduce tax credits for those at the bottom of the income ladder, as Chuck Marr at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has pointed out, making the issue of access even worse for low-income families. This conservative version of family friendly tax reform won’t become law anytime soon. Nor should it. But the recognition that increasing the disposable income of families is key to growth and mobility is certainly a welcome policy position from the right..." I am less sanguine: a non-refundable tax credit really is a non-starter from the get-go...

Should Be Aware of:


Continue reading "Things to Read on the Morning of May 30, 2014" »

Morning Must-Read: Timothy Layton: If ObamaCare plans are only offering narrow networks, blame information asymmetry

Timothy Layton: If ObamaCare plans are only offering narrow networks, blame information asymmetry: "I think there is an additional issue... consider: the salience of information provided to consumers. In the Marketplaces, plans are differentiated mostly by three factors: Price, cost-sharing, and network. Anyone who has visited one of the state Marketplace websites knows that both price and cost-sharing information are very salient. However, information about a plan’s network is much murkier. Sure, anyone can follow a series of links to an insurer’s (often unclear) website and type in the name of specific providers to determine whether they belong to the insurer’s network. But, for most consumers, especially those with limited experience interacting with specific providers, a list of every doctor in the insurer’s network obviously does not provide a clear picture of the quality of the network. In economics, this lack of information about network quality is referred to as an information asymmetry. Information is asymmetric because insurers know more about the quality of their network than consumers.  In a famous paper that won him the Nobel Prize in Economics, George Akerlof showed that asymmetric information can produce market failures...

Morning Must-Read: Paul Krugman: Cutting Back on Carbon

Paul Krugman: Cutting Back on Carbon: "Next week the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce... rules designed to limit global warming. Although we don’t know the details yet, anti-environmental groups are already predicting vast costs and economic doom. Don’t believe them. Everything we know suggests that we can achieve large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions at little cost to the economy. Just ask the United States Chamber of Commerce. O.K., that’s not the message the Chamber of Commerce was trying to deliver.... [But] the report considers a carbon-reduction program that’s probably considerably more ambitious than we’re actually going to see, and it... sounds like Dr. Evil intoning 'one million dollars'. These days, it’s just not a lot of money...

Morning Must-Read: Daniel Kuehn Reads Howard Reed on Piketty vs. Giles: "It's All About the Discontinuities"

Daniel Kuehn: Facts & other stubborn things: It's all about the discontinuities: "The other day I posted a suspicion of mine...

...that Giles was very wrong about Piketty based on his treatment of discontinuous data series.... It was just a suspicion, but it was due to a problem that I think anyone who has worked with disparate data sources would immediately recognize. ]Howard Reed has gone through the data sources and he agrees....]( This is one of the best commentaries on this argument that I've seen yet. He does a great job walking you through the problems in Giles's work. What's more amazing is that Giles seems to recognize the difference between what he did and what Piketty did, but he does not recognize it's significance. btw - some comments by Phil Magness on Facebook suggest he doesn't get this point either..."

Continue reading "Morning Must-Read: Daniel Kuehn Reads Howard Reed on Piketty vs. Giles: "It's All About the Discontinuities"" »

Washington Center for Equitable Growth: House of Debt

Nick Bunker: The dangers of debt: "The two authors of the newly released book House of Debt...

...Princeton University economist Atif Mian and University of Chicago economist Amir Sufi, will discuss their findings at an event today in downtown DC. Much of the attention to the book has been due to Mian and Sufi’s argument that the failure to sufficiently help underwater homeowners was a large reason for the severity of the Great Recession and the slow recovery from it. The argument, powerful on its own, has been given even more attention as House of Debt was released just two weeks after the publication of former Secretary Treasury Tim Geithner’s memoirs, in which Geithner defends the policy response to the financial crisis.

The debate about the proper response is a vital one, but focusing solely on that aspect of the book sells “House of Debt” short. Mian and Sufi present a powerful argument against debt and our economy’s overreliance on it. As the economists point out, debt is the anti-insurance. Debt amplifies economic shocks, making households, countries, and firms more economically fragile.

Throughout the book, Mian and Sufi give examples of ways we use debt that could be made more like equity and rely less on debt. Student debt, a topic of frequent conversation these days, is one example. The authors argue that student loans could be replaced by agreements to repay the investor with a fixed share of the student’s income every year. This repayment system would insure that students who fall on hard times wouldn’t be overwhelmed with debt payments.

The authors even speculate that sovereign debt could be amended so that repayment is based on a country’s gross domestic product. Given the connection between sovereign borrowing and declines in consumption in the Eurozone, Mian and Sufi may well be onto something.

Other work has shown how our banking sector is too reliant on debt financing. “The Bankers’ New Clothes” by economists Anat Admati of Stanford University and Martin Hellwig of the Max Planck Institute is a powerful argument for requiring financial firms to use more financing from their earnings or the stock market than through borrowing. The banks of the pre-crisis era were so fragile and toppled so easily because they were highly leveraged.

Of course, debt shouldn’t be abolished. Lending is a necessary and important part of our economy. But overreliance on debt threatens economic stability and prosperity. How and where we pull back on debt is a question we need to answer soon...."

Amir Sufi Presents House of Debt

ADVISORY: Amir Sufi presents House of Debt | Washington Center for Equitable Growth: "Please join Equitable Growth...

...for a presentation by Amir Sufi on the findings in his new book, House of Debt: How They (And You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again. Sufi and... Mian argue that the Great Recession was the result of a sharp fall-off in consumption due to the unequal distribution of household debt run up in the first six years of the 21st century.... Mian and Sufi argue that the run-up in household debt they found to cause economic catastrophes is a preventable occurrence... governments must implement smarter financial systems before crises strike, move away from a reliance on debt, and share risk more broadly if we are to prevent such crises in the future and cultivate sustained economic growth.

  • Featured author: Amir Sufi, co-author, House of Debt and Associate Professor of Finance, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

  • Discussants: Michael Barr, professor of law, University of Michigan Law School; former Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions, U.S. Treasury Department

  • Moderated by: Heather Boushey, Executive Director and Chief Economist, Washington Center for Equitable Growth

When: Thursday, May 29, 2014
Time: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Where: Hotel Monaco
700 F Street, NW
Athens Room, 4th Floor
Washington, D.C.

Liveblogging World War II: May 30, 1944: Eleanor Roosevelt

MY DAY by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 30, 1944:

NEW YORK, Monday—It is hard to face another Memorial Day and find ourselves still at war and decorating an ever-increasing number of graves. Even these graves are but a small percentage of those we cannot decorate, in which the men of our land lie where they have fought all over the world. When we go to the Memorial Day services it is not just for those who lie in our own churchyards that we bring flowers. We transcend space and place our symbols of thought on all the oceans and in all the far-off lands.

Continue reading "Liveblogging World War II: May 30, 1944: Eleanor Roosevelt" »

On Bloomberg TV's "Street Smart": Bill Janeway, Trish Regan, Matt Miller, Me, and More: Thursday Focus: May 30, 2014

  • Why Is the Market Dismissing the GDP Decline?: Video - Bloomberg: "May 29 (Bloomberg) –- Warburg Pincus Partner and Senior Advisor Bill Janeway and U.C. Berkeley Professor of Economics Brad Delong discuss the decline in GDP growth. They speak with Trish Regan and Matt Miller on Bloomberg Television's 'Street Smart'":

  • OnDeck Leads the Way in Alternative Lending’s Rise: "May 29 (Bloomberg) –- OnDeck CEO Noah Breslow, Warburg Pincus Partner and Senior Advisor Bill Janeway and U.C. Berkeley Professor of Economics Brad Delong discuss alternative lending. They speak with Trish Regan on Bloomberg Television's 'Street Smart'":

  • How to Avert the Next Financial Crisis: Video - Bloomberg: "May 29 (Bloomberg) –- Warburg Pincus Partner and Senior Advisor Bill Janeway and U.C. Berkeley Professor of Economics Brad Delong discuss banking and how to avert another financial crisis. They speak with Trish Regan and matt Miller on Bloomberg Television's 'Street Smart'":

  • Is Silicon Valley Playing With Monopoly Money?: Video - Bloomberg: "May 29 (Bloomberg) –- Warburg Pincus Partner and Senior Advisor Bill Janeway and U.C. Berkeley Professor of Economics Brad Delong discuss valuations in the tech sector. They speak with Trish Regan and matt Miller on Bloomberg Television's 'Street Smart'":

  • Edward Snowden: More Than Just a Low-Level IT Guy: Video - Bloomberg: "May 29 (Bloomberg) -- On today's 'The Roundup', U.C. Berkeley Professor of Economics Brad Delong, Warburg Pincus Partner and Senior Advisor Bill Janeway, Trish Regan, Eric Chemi and Matt Miller wrap up the day’s top market stories on Bloomberg Television's 'Street Smart'":

Welcome To Shawnee, Oklahoma: The Worst City In America To Be Homeless: Live from the Roasterie CXXXV: May 29, 2014

When I see things like this, my only reaction can be: just what is wrong with these people?

Scott Keyes:Welcome To Shawnee, Oklahoma: The Worst City In America To Be Homeless: "Gary Lynn Roy was too poor to live indoors...

At night, even when it was cold, even when it snowed, he slept outside. He had no choice. There are plenty of reasons why he was poor. He’d earn occasional pay as a builder, but construction jobs were too few. Nor did it help that he and his twin brother Larry used to drink heavily together. Larry eventually got clean. Gary tried. Sometimes he’d sober up, but just as often he’d relapse. Larry wanted to help, but alcoholism is a vicious disease. Eventually, Larry returned to the family home, alone, in order to get his life back on track, while Gary remained on the streets. “I feel so guilty [leaving my brother],” Larry told Glenn Blankenship, who ran a nearby homeless non-profit.

By late 2012, though, Gary seemed to be turning things around. He’d stopped drinking. He’d found a construction job. Things were looking up. Then, while working on a roof one day, he fell. The impact broke both his legs. He couldn’t move without a walker, so construction work was out of the question. “Sleeping outside is hard enough, but then having a hard time getting around and being cold?” Blankenship told ThinkProgress. “He just had to be miserable.”... On February 20 of last year, as Gary Roy was readying for sleep by the railroad tracks in a small city called Shawnee, that local news ran dire headlines: “Oklahoma Bracing For Second Wave Of Winter Weather.” Temperatures dropped below freezing. Snow started falling and it didn’t stop. By the next day, six inches had blanketed the area. No one will know if Roy had final words, because no one was there when he took his last breath.

Roy died, as so many homeless do, surrounded by homes. He may have even helped build some of them, knowing he himself couldn’t afford to be in one. Authorities discovered his body the next day, lying in the snow. He would have been 50 today. He’ll forever be 49. It didn’t have to be that way. Less than a mile from where Roy froze to death, there was supposed to be a brand new shelter for Shawnee’s homeless.... And yet the shelter was never built.... Standing between Roy and dozens of new shelter beds that night was one wealthy city commissioner and a city that has declared all-out war on its homeless residents...

Liveblogging World War II: May 29, 1944

From World War II Today: Housing Officer George Beardmore, in London:

Part of history is that fact that Enid from No 41, Christine from the Crescent, and Audrey also from the Crescent — all three being handsome and desirable young girls ranging from ages 17 to 20 — have developed patches on their lungs. If this isn’t a direct corollary of war I have never heard a bomb drop.

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Jack Goldsmith Tries Patience: It Seems to Be All-Michael Kinsley All the Time Here on Thursday Idiocy: I Have to Do Some Intellectual Garbage Collection

national%20security%20agency%20-%20Google%20Search Today's Lesson:

Jack Goldsmith: Why Kinsley is Wrong About the Connection Between Democracy and the Publication of National Security Secrets: "Michael Kinsley, in his review of Glenn Greenwald’s book...

...made the following claims about leaks of national security secrets:

The question is who decides.  It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government. No doubt the government will usually be overprotective of its secrets, and so the process of decision-making--whatever it turns out to be--should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay. But ultimately you can’t square this circle. Someone gets to decide, and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald...

I disagree with Kinsley, as both a descriptive matter and a normative matter.

As a descriptive matter, the press does effectively have the final say over the publication of U.S. national security secrets. The only constraints are the weak ones of marketplace... and even weaker... legal constraints in practice.  We have been moving toward this system of journalistic hegemony for a while, and the trend has been exacerbated by digital technology and the globalization of media....

I think Kinsley is also wrong about the normative question.... The government should not have the final say about which of its secrets is published.

Continue reading "Jack Goldsmith Tries Patience: It Seems to Be All-Michael Kinsley All the Time Here on Thursday Idiocy: I Have to Do Some Intellectual Garbage Collection" »

Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for May 29, 2014

Over at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog



Things to Read on the Morning of May 29, 2014


  1. Michael Spence: Digitally enabled supply chains.... Economic activity... moved to any accessible country or region that had relatively inexpensive labor... complexity became manageable.... Many services related to intermediate and final demand require knowledge, expertise, information, and communication for their delivery. What they do not require is geographical nearness or the physical movement of goods.... Now comes a second, potentially even more powerful, wave of digital technology that is replacing labor in increasingly complex tasks. This process of labor substitution and disintermediation has been underway for some time in service sectors--think of ATMs, online banking, enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, mobile payment systems, and much more.... With a huge potential global market to amortize the upfront fixed costs of design and testing, the incentives to invest are compelling.... Unlike the preceding wave of digital technology, which motivated firms to gain access to and deploy underutilized pools of valuable labor around the world, the driving force in this round is cost reduction via the replacement of labor.... Meanwhile, the impact of robotics... is not confined to production... the impact on logistics is no less transformative..."

  2. Albert Wenger: Computers and Wages: "There is good reason to believe that computers are substitutes for labor in general. Their apparent complementarity with skilled labor was the result of substituting skilled labor for unskilled labor rather than being based on a fundamental technological complementarity.... Let's look instead at the type of skilled work that to date has been boosted by the use of computers.... As we have used computers to substitute for unskilled labor we have created massive additional profits. Skilled labor has been given some share of that but that share is limited to roughly the marginal product by competition between engineers. That leaves a large pool to be split between top management and capital. And in that bargaining situation it turns out that top management is surprisingly well positioned. Why? Because there is a large principal-agent problem between board members and the capital that they represent.... We should not expect the benefits for skilled labor to last forever. Instead, we will gradually see computers substituting for those as well and only top management (and capital) continuing to benefit. And so the current idea that we can somehow educate our way out of this divergence without the need for more profound changes in how we think about income is likely deeply flawed..."

Should Be Aware of:


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Afternoon Must-Read: Alicia Munnell: Is RomneyCare Working in Massachusetts?

Alicia Munnell: Is health reform working in Massachusetts?: "One fear following the Massachusetts health reform...

...and reiterated on the national stage, was decreased labor supply–making it easier to get health insurance not tied to employment might cause some individuals to stop working. It was also feared that employers would cut back on employees or hours to avoid the requirement to offer health insurance, which is based on the number of full-time equivalent workers.... Compar[ing] Massachusetts to four other states and found that the... employment rate followed a generally similar pattern.... Massachusetts did not see relative increases in the share of workers working part-time.... Another concern was that employer-sponsored insurance would be crowded out by public insurance, as employers simply dropped coverage and paid the $295 fine per employee. In fact, the percentage of employers offering coverage actually increased after the reform.... Insurance coverage and access to health care have increased, that health outcomes appear to be improving, and that the worst fears about employment have not come to pass in Massachusetts. Costs, however, remain an issue...

This Is Not a Macroeconomy That Marginal Investors Think Will Be at Full Employment Anytime in the Next Five Years

Graph 10 Year Treasury Constant Maturity Rate FRED St Louis Fed

That is all...

Rob Wile: 10-Year Treasury Yield Tumbles: "The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note has tumbled to 2.4413%, a new low for 2014, per Bloomberg data.

There are a variety of factors fueling the rally, some of which we've previously discussed. The main ones are ongoing uncertainty about the recovery and constrained inflation. “Long-dated Treasuries outperformed because of the perception that the U.S. is going to have moderate growth without inflationary pressure,” Salman Ahmed, a London-based global strategist at Lombard Odier Asset Management, told Bloomberg. “Or at least, that’s what the Fed is saying.” Other factors include fears that the European Central Bank will lower interest rates, making Europe's bonds relatively less appealing; overseas demand for U.S. debt; and short covering among those who thought yields would rise.

Estimates of World GDP, One Million B.C.-Present [1998]: My View as of 1998: The Honest Broker for the Week of May 24, 2014

Time to update this, as my thinking on a bunch of issues has changed over the past sixteen years. But first, as I think about how to so, let me reprint it...

I construct estimates of world GDP over the very long run by combining estimates of total human populations with largely-Malthusian estimates of levels of real GDP per capita.


I take my estimates of human population from Kremer (1993), but it would not matter if I had chosen some other authority. All long-run estimates of human population that I have found are quite close together (with the exception of estimates of population around 5000 BC, where Blaxter (1986) estimates a population some eight times that of other authorities). Note that this does not mean that the estimates are correct—just that they are roughly the same.

Delong typepad com print 20061012 LRWGDP pdf

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Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for May 28, 2014

Over at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog



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Things to Read on the Morning of May 28, 2014


  1. Tim Duy: Policy Induced Mediocrity?: "It seems that monetary policy over the past year can be summarized as a missed opportunity to supercharge the recovery, thereby locking the US economy into a suboptimal growth path.... The Federal Reserve could have chosen to lean into this generally upbeat forecast.  Yet instead they chose to lean against it by turning to tapering and setting the stage for interest rate hikes. And the data so far suggests that once again the turn toward policy normalization was premature.... What is remarkable is that the Federal Reserve understood that their forecasts have tended toward optimism.... The Federal Reserve has set reasonably clear expectations that rates will remain low for a long time.  That path, however, seems to be a consequence of doing too little now to ensure a stronger recovery.  In other words, the Fed seems to be taking a lower-rate future as a given rather than as a result of insufficient policy.  Instead of acting to ensure a stronger forecast, they seem more interesting in acting to lock-in the lower path of activity.  And that in turn will tend to lock in a low level of long-term rates.  This, I think, is the best explanation for the inability of markets to sustain higher rates. It is simply reasonable to expect that the conditions which justify higher long rates will be met with tighter policy sufficient to contain growth to something closer to the current path of output than to current estimates of potential output..."

  2. Henry Farrell: On Chris Giles of the Financial Times: Political Economy is Political: "The best explanation of the current Piketty-Financial Times brouhaha was written by Mike Konczal a few weeks before it actually happened.... 'Understanding how the elite become what they are, and how their wealth perpetuates itself, is now a hot topic of scientific inquiry. Many have tried to figure out why the rich are freaking out.... Perhaps they are noticing that the dominant narratives about their role in society—avatars of success, job creators for the common good, innovators for social betterment, problem-solving philanthropists—are being replaced with a social science narrative in which they are a problem to be studied. They are still in control, but they are right to be worried.' Political economy is political.... I would guess that one can explain the immediate reaction of 85% of economists and public writers to the book by looking to their priors on this question--whether they like to emphasize efficiency questions over distributional concerns, or vice versa (another 10% can be explained by whether the writer in question is miffed because he/she and his/her mates do or don’t get sufficient citations and respect). People who might have found the book interesting had it been an academic exercise, and perhaps even agreed with large parts of it, are freaking out because they worry that it has serious implications for political debate.... Even if the actual reason why people are casting around for Devastating Critiques is because they don’t like the book’s political implications, they may actually find good criticisms, and uncover real mistakes. Motivated reasoning, if properly harnessed, can be epistemologically very valuable.... Argument about politically divisive topics is only disinterested in rare and isolated instances--yet it still can have great benefits.... Plausibly, it’s the people who are least willing to acknowledge the political aspects of the debate who are most completely captured by them. Practical economists, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any political influences, are usually slaves of some defunct political philosopher."

  3. Doug Henwood: The Top of the World: "[Piketty's] core message... can be delivered in a few lines: Left to its own devices, wealth inevitably tends to concentrate in capitalist economies. There is no 'natural' mechanism... for inhibiting, much less reversing, that tendency. Only crises like war and depression, or political interventions like taxation (which, to the upper classes, would be a crisis), can do the trick.... It was once believed, during the decades immediately following the Great Depression and World War II, that vast disparities in wealth were features of youthful capitalism that had been left behind now that the thing was reaching maturity.... Economics as a discipline loves stories about equilibrium and convergence. Vast inequities should, in theory, be 'competed away', as neoclassical economics likes to say. But mostly they’re not. Globally, poorer countries should gain on richer ones as technology and education spread and mobile capital’s search for higher returns makes the poor less poor.... In the case of personal wealth, old fortunes should decline and be replaced by new ones.... The major frustration of the book is political.... Hs political thinking is hardly a model of complexity or effort. He mostly aspires to contribute to rational democratic deliberation about 'the best way to organize society'..."

Should Be Aware of:


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Thursday Idiocy on Wednesday: New York Times Book Review Editor Pamela Paul

Margaret Sullivan: Kinsley, Greenwald and Government Secrets: "I asked... Pamela Paul why Mr. Kinsley was chosen... review the book. The intention, she said, was not to produce a particular point of view or to somehow exact revenge....

We chose Michael Kinsley, a frequent contributor to the Book Review (he recently reviewed “Double Down” for us, and before that “Going Clear”), because he has decades of experience in news journalism as well as in book criticism, has written extensively about the media and current affairs, and is thoughtful and smart...

How dumb does Pamela Paul think we are? You hire Michael Kinsley only when you explicitly want his "particular point of view". That's what he does--he does not bring deep substantive expertise or the ability to produce a balanced assessment of arguments or an ability to draw a bright line between matters of empirical fact and matters of philosophical value. He brings his particular point of view.

Liveblogging World War II: May 28, 1944: The Sinking of USS Block Island (CVE-21)


USS Block Island (CVE-21):

USS Block Island (CVE-21/AVG-21/ACV-21) was a Bogue-class escort carrier for the United States Navy during World War II. She was the first of two escort carriers named after Block Island Sound off Rhode Island. Block Island was launched on 6 June 1942... commissioned on 8 March 1943, Captain Logan C. Ramsey in command....

After two trips from New York City to Belfast, United Kingdom, during the summer of 1943 with cargoes of Army fighters, she operated as part of a hunter-killer group. During her four anti-submarine cruises, Block Island′s planes sank two submarines: U-220 in 48°53′N 33°30′W on 28 October 1943 and U-1059 in 13°10′N 33°44′W on 19 March 1944. She shared credit with destroyer Corry and destroyer escort Bronstein for the sinking of U-801 in 16°42′N 30°20′W on 17 March 1944 and with Buckley for U-66 sunk on 6 May 1944 in 17°17′N 32°29′W. Thomas, Bostwick, Borie and Bronstein sank U-709 on 1 March 1943 and the same day Bronstein got U-603.

Block Island was torpedoed off the Canary Islands at 20:13 on 29 May 1944. U-549 had slipped undetected through her screen. The submarine put three torpedoes into the carrier before being sunk herself by Eugene E. Elmore and Ahrens of the screen in 31°13′N 23°03′W. The carrier lost 6 men in the attack; the remaining 951 were picked up by the escort screen.

We Have a New Front Page at Equitable Growth!: Wednesday Focus: May 28, 2014

Homepage%20%7C%20Washington%20Center%20for%20Equitable%20Growth It is here: Homepage

It has lots of new stuff on it. Let me especially recommend:

Jesse Rothstein: Extended unemployment insurance remains critical: "New analyses of recent data covering unemployed workers during the Great Recession...

...and its aftermath indicate that the impact of unprecedented extensions of Unemployment Insurance on job uptake were smaller than previously thought while the benefits were extremely important to maintaining family incomes. The program helped sustain families and communities during an unusually long period of weak labor demand, helping to promote long-term labor market resiliency and higher future prosperity by helping the long-term unemployed remain out of poverty and attached to the labor market. Extended Unemployment Insurance benefits expired at the end of 2013, and Congress is now considering whether and how to reinstate them. The new data and analysis detailed in this issue brief—based on the roll-out of extended benefits in 2008-2010 and the roll-back that began in late 2011—indicate that... the downsides of UI extensions are smaller than in past economic downturns, and there are some previously unanticipated upsides...

Extending UI benefits for the long-term unemployed is one of the largest, ripest pieces of low-hanging economic-policy fruit that we are not picking right now.

And let me especially recommend, from my step-second-cousin:

Ariel Kalil: Economic inequality and the parenting time divide: "Researchers have not until recently thought about parents’ time investments in children... a mechanism for the intergenerational transmission of economic status.... Jonathan Guryan and his colleagues used data from national time diaries to show that mothers with a college education or greater spend roughly 4.5 hours more per week directly interacting with their children than mothers with a high school degree or less.... My own national time use research, with... Rebecca Ryan and... Michael Corey, finds... [that] highly educated parents not only spend more time... they spend that time differently... shift the composition of their time as the child grows in ways that adapt to children’s development at different developmental stages... preschool... reading and problem solving... middle school... management of children’s life outside the home.... We still don’t know precisely why these patterns have emerged...

And we have even more stuff on it:


Understanding how raising the federal minimum wage affects income inequality and economic growth * A Video of an Event with Thomas Piketty, Author of “Capital in the 21st Century"” * Taxes as policy: A Review of "Capital in the 21st Century: * “Expanding Economic Opportunity for Women and Families” * Thomas Piketty’s big book: What do you really need to know? * Extended unemployment insurance remains critical * Piketty’s data deserve better analysis * The aftermath of wage collusion in Silicon Valley * Economic inequality and the parenting time divide * Can letting kids watch TV make them better students?

Value Added:

Separate and unequal mobility * Holding inequality in reserve * Heather Boushey reviews "House of Debt" * Tax cuts for the kids * Unequal higher education * The evidence on the minimum wage * Senator Marco Rubio’s retirement plan * Bailouts for bankers or homeowners?

Morning Must-Read: Christian Broda and Jonathan A. Parker: The Economic Stimulus Payments of 2008 and the Aggregate Demand for Consumption

Christian Broda and Jonathan A. Parker: The Economic Stimulus Payments of 2008 and the Aggregate Demand for Consumption: "Using a survey of households in the Nielsen Consumer Panel...

...and the randomized timing of disbursement of the 2008 Economic Stimulus Payments, we find that a household’s spending rose by ten percent the week it received a Payment and remained high cumulating to 1.5–3.8 percent of spending over three months. Our estimates imply partial-equilibrium increases in aggregate demand of 1.3 percent of consumption in the second quarter of 2008 and 0.6 percent in the third. Spending is concentrated among households with low wealth or low past income; a household’s spending did not increase significantly when it learned about its Payment.."

Mitch McConnell Doubles Down on Lies: Live from the Roasterie CXXXIV: May 28, 2014

I really would not have believed that Mitch McConnell--that even Mitch McConnell--could be this cynical and this mendacious:

Joe Sonka: Mitch McConnell doubles down on lie that Kynect is unconnected to Obamacare: "When Mitch McConnell dropped jaws last Friday by saying that the fate of Kynect--and the health insurance coverage of over 400,000 Kentuckians--is “unconnected” to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, many wondered if he embarrassingly misspoke, or if it was an intentional deception designed to fool voters into thinking that the popular state Obamacare exchange could survive without Obamacare. Today’s story from WFPL shows that McConnell’s choice of words was, in fact, intentional, and his campaign is doubling down on deception:

Continue reading "Mitch McConnell Doubles Down on Lies: Live from the Roasterie CXXXIV: May 28, 2014" »

Morning Must-Read: David Cutler and Steven Walsh: Will the Country Look to Massachusetts Again? « news@JAMA

David Cutler and Steven Walsh: JAMA Forum: Will the Country Look to Massachusetts Again?: "The centerpiece of the current Massachusetts reform effort... a target for the growth of medical spending in the state. Spending on medical care should not increase more rapidly than the long-run growth of the state economy, a value forecast to be 3.6% annually.... There were a range of opinions about the target, ranging from the view that it was impossible to predict cost growth and so a target was not appropriate, to the view that medical costs were so high that the target ought to be set at no annual growth or even below.... If the target is breached, the entities—for example, clinicians and hospitals—found to be most responsible for the high rate increases are required to develop and implement a performance improvement plan. The plan can be negotiated over, but state government regulation of rates is prohibited under the law. The power of the target lies not in its enforcement backstop, but in the collective sense that the public and private leaders of Massachusetts have committed to it. Consistent with this, contracts between payers and those who offer health care services are being rewritten to ensure that cost increases do not exceed that goal..."

Morning Must-Read: Carter Price: Piketty’s Data Deserve Better Analysis

Carter Price: Piketty’s data deserve better analysis: "Perhaps the key claim by Giles is erroneous.

Giles bases his argument that there was not an increase in wealth concentration in the United Kingdom but rather a decrease on a single data point from a 2010 wealth survey in the UK. Because that survey did not exist in 2000, it cannot be directly compared to other time series data without harmonization. The entirety of the drop Giles claims is occurring can be explained by switching from one survey to another.... Piketty had to look at disparate data sources, harmonize them (so that he could compare apples to apples), and draw conclusions. Wealth is notoriously difficult to measure, which makes working with wealth data especially tricky. Piketty has been exceptionally transparent with the data sets.... Giles uses the raw, non-harmonized wealth data to claim that wealth inequality in the United States has been flat and that it has been decreasing in the United Kingdom. Yet by combining these non-harmonized data sets, Giles is comparing apples to oranges...

Loretta Lynn: One's on the Way: Live from the Roasterie CXXXIII: May 27, 2014

Loretta Lynn:

The girls in New York City they all march for women's lib
And Better Homes and Gardens shows the modern way to live
And the pill may change the world tomorrow but meanwhile, today
Here in Topeka the flies are a buzzin'
The dog is a barkin' and the floor needs a scrubbin'
One needs a spankin' and one needs a huggin', Lord, One's on the way
(Oh gee I hope it ain't twins again)

Noted for Your Morning Procrastination for May 27, 2014

Over at Equitable Growth--The Equitablog



Things to Read on the Morning of May 27, 2014


  1. DougJ.: Their eyes were watching Jeb: "This [by Michael Barbaro] sounds eerily like some of the North Korean-style Dear Leader fan fiction Elisabeth Bumiller used to write about W in the [New York] Times..."

  2. Matthew Boesler and Aki Ito: Piketty Rejects ‘Ridiculous’ Allegations: "Thomas Piketty rejected allegations that data behind his best-selling book on inequality are flawed as fellow economists spoke up in his defense... called a Financial Times analysis of his statistics 'just ridiculous'.... The newspaper’s economics editor, Chris Giles, wrote last week that figures underpinning the 696-page book contain unexplained statistical modifications, 'cherry picking' of sources and transcription errors.... Two of the book’s 'central findings--that wealth inequality has begun to rise over the past 30 years and that the U.S. obviously has a more unequal distribution of wealth than Europe--no longer seem to hold', according to Giles..."

  3. Thomas Mann: Politics Is More Broken Than Ever: Political Scientists Need to Admit It: "I’ve spent decades in Washington explaining and defending the American constitutional system in the face of what I considered to be uninformed and ill-considered attacks on Congress and our way of governing. I’ve also worked scrupulously to avoid any hint of partisan favoritism.... But I believe these times are strikingly different from the past, and the health and well-being of our democracy is properly a matter of great concern. We owe it to ourselves and our country to reconsider our priors and at least entertain the possibility that these concerns are justified--even if it’s uncomfortable to admit it.... Congress has ceased to operate as an effective legislative body.... The supposed promise of linking more tightly party and ideology was that it would offer more clarity and accountability for voters.... Austin Ranney... argued that more ideologically coherent, internally unified, and adversarial parties in the fashion of Westminster-style parliamentary democracy would be a disaster within the American constitutional system.... Republicans have become a radical insurgency--ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. The evidence of this asymmetry is overwhelming."

  4. Minxin Pei: Minxin Pei asks whether the Chinese Communist Party can rule for another quarter-century: "25 years ago the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was nearly toppled by a nationwide pro-democracy movement. It was the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s steely nerves and the tanks of the People’s Liberation Army... that enabled the regime, at the cost of several hundred civilian lives, to avoid collapse.... How has the CCP survived the last quarter-century, and can its rule endure for another 25 years?... Policy adjustments, clever tactics of manipulation, and a healthy dose of luck enabled the CCP to win the support it needed to retain power and suppress destabilizing forces.... Deng again managed to save the Party... an unprecedented wave of growth and development... granting Chinese citizens considerable personal freedoms.... Carefully orchestrated moves to promote Chinese nationalism and exploit xenophobia also helped. Even repression, the mainstay of the regime’s survival, was fine-tuned.... The post-1992 reforms coincided with a surge of globalization... the so-called demographic dividend.... The problem facing the CCP now is that most of the factors that enabled it to survive since Tiananmen either have already disappeared or are headed in that direction. Indeed, for all practical purposes, pro-market reforms are dead. A kleptocracy of government officials, their families, and well-connected businessmen has colonized the Chinese state and is intent on blocking any reforms that might threaten their privileged status.... Rampant corruption and rising inequality, together with obvious environmental decay, are causing ordinary Chinese--especially the middle class, which once had high hopes for reform--to become increasingly disillusioned.... That leaves only repression and nationalism in the CCP’s post-Tiananmen toolkit. And, indeed, both of them continue to play a central role in President Xi Jinping’s strategy for ensuring the Party’s survival."

  5. Michael Hiltzik: Tim Geithner gets FDR very wrong (but so did Obama): "It's necessary to correct an old canard repeated by former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner about Franklin Roosevelt's behavior in the long interregnum between the 1932 election and his 1933 inauguration.... Geithner's goal is to draw a distinction between FDR's ostensibly shocking irresponsibility and President Obama's ostensibly laudable behavior in going along with his predecessor's economic crisis response.... The truth is that Hoover didn't need FDR's help--he just didn't want to act on his own. It's important to set the record straight, because Geithner's version was ginned up by Hoover himself and is cherished by Hooverite conservatives, who still walk among us today.... A fuller discussion is in my book about the Roosevelt administration..."

Should Be Aware of:


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Morning Must-Read: Dylan Matthews: The Tuition is Too Damn High, Part II: Why college is still worth it

Dylan Matthews (2013): The Tuition is Too Damn High, Part II: Why college is still worth it: "Perhaps the most persuasive skeptical case... that while the average student still benefits from college, that doesn't mean the marginal student does.... The best study I've seen on this comes from Seth Zimmerman, a PhD student at Yale. He compared the earnings of Florida students whose GPAs were just above and just below the Florida State University system's cutoff. There's a huge effect of being just above the cutoff (3.0, for most students), suggesting that students at the margin still gain substantially from college.... Work by Nobel laureate James Heckman and his colleagues backs this up...

Reviewing Lawrence H. Summers's Review of Piketty IV: Combatting Inequality on Many Fronts: Tuesday Focus: May 27, 2014

Mark Thoma sends us to Larry Summers at Michael Tomasky's Democracy Journal:

Lawrence H. Summers: The Inequality Puzzle: "His policy recommendations are unworldly....

Success in combating inequality will require addressing the myriad devices that enable those with great wealth to avoid paying income and estate taxes. It is sobering to contemplate that in the United States, annual estate and gift tax revenues come to less than 1 percent of the wealth of just the 400 wealthiest Americans. With respect to taxation, as so much else in life, the real scandal is not the illegal things people do-—it is the things that are legal. And second, such efforts are likely to require international cooperation if they are to be effective in a world where capital is ever more mobile....

Beyond taxation, however, there is, one would hope, more than Piketty acknowledges that can be done to make it easier to raise middle-class incomes and to make it more difficult to accumulate great fortunes without requiring great social contributions in return... vigorous enforcement of antimonopoly laws, reductions in excessive protection for intellectual property... profit-sharing schemes that benefit workers and give them a stake in wealth accumulation, increased investment of government pension resources in riskier high-return assets, strengthening of collective bargaining arrangements, and improvements in corporate governance... the strengthening of financial regulation... an easing of land-use restrictions that cause the real estate of the rich in major metropolitan areas to keep rising in value...

Continue reading "Reviewing Lawrence H. Summers's Review of Piketty IV: Combatting Inequality on Many Fronts: Tuesday Focus: May 27, 2014" »

Erik Tarloff's "FaceTime": Tuesday Archived Book Reviews Weblogging

Review of Erik Tarloff's Face-Time:

Erik Tarloff (1998), Face-Time (New York: Random House: 0609604635).

The most famous and talked about novel about the American White House in the 1990s was not Erik Tarloff's Face-Time: it was Joe Klein's Primary Colors. Klein's novel is about a presidential campaign--read 1992. It is about a young, naive, but competent and high-ranking aide--read George Stephanopolous. It is about the candidate's wife--read Hillary Rodham Clinton. And it is about a charismatic and intelligent presidential candidate with a past full of sexual and moral lapses--read Bill Clinton.

Continue reading "Erik Tarloff's "FaceTime": Tuesday Archived Book Reviews Weblogging" »

This Day in Labor History: May 26, 1924 - Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money

Erik Loomis: This Day in Labor History: May 26, 1924: "On May 26, 1924, the doors of the United States closed to most immigrants... President Calvin Coolidge signed the Immigration Act of 1924. The law set the yearly quota for a nation’s population to immigrate to the U.S. at 2% of its U.S. population in... 1890.... This law put an end to the immigrant flows to the U.S. that had provided the labor force for the nation’s stupendous industrial growth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It also demonstrates the great discomfort many Americans had with the diversity that became a byproduct of the need for such an expanding labor force. Immigrants from southern and eastern Europe seemed to threaten American values for reasons outside their funny religions, peasant clothing, and garlic-eating ways. Most people came to the U.S. for the precise reason they do today: to make money for their families back home... many hoped to make money and then return... and many did that.... But some of these immigrants, even if they just wanted to work, also believed in the need for a better world.... The Jewish women leading the Uprising of the 20,000 against apparel company exploitation in 1909 and after the Triangle Fire in 1911 were the cheap labor the department stores and clothing designers wanted but they had radical tendencies of standing up for their rights that was definitely not what the capitalists wanted.... Individual acts like Russian Jewish immigrant Alexander Berkman trying (and failing in spectacular fashion) to assassinate plutocrat Henry Clay Frick after Homestead or the native-born but son of immigrants Leon Czoglosz killing President William McKinley was a sign of the very real violence.... The American Federation of Labor strongly supported all anti-immigration legislation despite being headed by an English immigrant by the name of Samuel Gompers.... The events of World War I changed the equation. The unfair equation of the IWW with pro-Kaiser sentiment... meant that immigrants were more suspect than ever and that everything about them needed watching.... Perhaps the most notable feature about the Immigration Act was setting the racial quotas to 1890 level. The quotas of immigrants from each country would be based upon their numbers in the United States according to the 1890 census. It meant that Germans, Irish, and English could still come over in relatively undiminished numbers...