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Shelton's Confirmation to the Fed Would Be Very Ill-Advised II—on Twitter

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On Twitter: Shelton's Confirmation to the Fed Would Be Very Ill-Advised II https://twitter.com/delong/status/1285609064706248706: The only person out there saying "confirm Judy Shelton" this morning is John Tamny... who says: confirm her because she's a goldbug and the gold standard is a good thing:

John Tamny: Let's Bring Rationality to the Monetary Discussion: Confirm Judy Shelton https://realclearmarkets.com/articles/2020/07/21/lets_bring_rationality_to_the_monetary_discussion_confirm_judy_shelton_499540.html: As always with money, it should be stressed up front how much better the monetary discussion would be if those who insert themselves into it actually understood money. Most don’t. Strange about this is that money is simple. It’s simple when it’s properly understood...

Filippos Petroulakis: 'This is remarkable stuff. I’m fine with him being a goldbug, but he’s original in that he doesn’t even believe the Fed can lower rates. Or that lowering rates is ineffective, it’s not exactly clear, but my impression of goldbugs was they were afraid of runaway inflation; he’s not.

Brad DeLong: A good way to view it is that both Judy Shelton and John Tamny are GPT-3: they are not economists, but rather expert systems trained on a text corpus. Thus you should not try to use their words to build a model of the Turing-class mind behind them, for there is no such mind. In fact, there is not even a sub-Turing class mind behind their words: just predictive text generation at the level of current AI technology, just like GPT-3 http://lacker.io/ai/2020/07/06/giving-gpt-3-a-turing-test.html.

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Werning, Rodrik, Dube, DeLong: Market & Government Failure—Dawn Procrastination Department

Classical economists

https://twitter.com/delong/status/1282300712718725121 Ivan Werning**: 'Many economists repeat (without thinking?) that the burden of the proof is on showing a market failure. Perhaps makes sense in some politico-economy perspective, to avoid lobbies. But scientifically, I cannot make sense of it from a Bayesian perspective.'

Dani Rodrik: 'It doesn't make sense even from a political-economy perspective (typically there are "barbarians" on the laissez-faire side of an issue as well). Here's something I wrote on this a while back, distinguishing first-best and second-best economists: Why do economists disagree? Non-economists are often baffled by the disagreements among professional economists on the issues of the day--from international trade to the minimum wage, from economic development to health policy... https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/weblog-rodrik-2007-disagree.pdf'

Arindrajit Dube: 'Exactly. I think since the 1970s, there has been a remarkably cavalier assumption that intellectual deviations from competitive, efficient, neoclassicism are somehow more amenable to capture by interest groups than fairy tales about how markets work.'

Brad DeLong: Say, perhaps, that we have very good theories of individual narow market failures, but no institutional ability to include them in our background model of how the economy outside of our narrow era of focus is working. Keynes's General Theory:

If effective demand is deficient, not only is the public scandal of wasted resources intolerable, but the individual enterpriser who seeks to bring these resources into action is operating with the odds loaded against him. The game of hazard which he plays is furnished with many zeros, so that the players as a whole will lose if they have the energy and hope to deal all the cards...

being only one of a very few attempts to even think about the implications for market Y of market failure in market Z.

And say that, while we have good models of market failure, we do not have good models of government failure. As Larry the S said a decade ago, on the one hand we have naive social democratic pollyannaish overconfidence about regulation, and on the other hand "the public choice school... driven... relentlessly towards nihilism in a way that isn’t actually helpful for those charged with designing regulatory institutions... https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/conversation-summers-wolf-bretton-woods.pdf

Cf.: Bill C. https://twentycentparadigms.blogspot.com/2007/08/two-kinds-of-economists.html

.#economicsgoneright #economicsgonewrong #twitter #2020-07-12

Racism & the University of Chicago's Stigler Center—Twitter

Twitter: Two great economics papers on COVID-19 https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1271125083029819392.html! However, the series is being conducted under the auspices of the University of Chicago's Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State, which puts itself forward as:

The Stigler Center aims to promote and disseminate research on regulatory capture, crony capitalism, and the various distortions that special interest groups impose on capitalism…

A naive alien coming to this world from outer space, a “stranger to human nature” as Adam Smith put it, might suppose that chief among those “various distortions” imposed by “special interest groups” is the long and sorry tale of American slavery-Jim Crow-disenfranchisement-massive resistance to integration-scared police shooting and not-scared police beating up people. Yet such a naive alien would be wrong.

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Negishi Prices & Social Welfare—Twitter

Twitter: _I remember back in the... spring of 1981, I think it was https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1271237461272715267.html. I asked my professor, William Thomson, visiting from Rochester, roughly this: "The utilitarian social welfare function is Ω = U(1) + U(2) + U(3)... The competitive market economy maximizes a market social welfare function Ωm = ω(1)U(1) + ω(2)U(2) + ω(3)U(3)..., where the ω(i)s are Negishi weights that are increasing functions of your lifetime wealth W(i)—indeed, if lifetime utility is log wealth, then ω(i)=W(i).

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Zeballos-Roig (2020-05-05): White House Adviser Devised Model Showing Covid-19 Deaths Hitting 0 in 10 Days—Noted

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing I have seen this week came from Trump economist Tomas Philipson, with his claim that Trump’s economic analysis instincts are “on par with many Nobel economists I have worked with at Chicago” https://www.wsj.com/articles/white-house-economist-tested-positive-for-covid-19-11593212011>. It is certainly the case that I do not have much of a regard for Phillipson's economic intuition: he seems to me to have made a career of advocating for a “freedom to try alternative therapies“ on the part of the sick that is overwhelmingly, in practice, a freedom for bad actors to steal from the sick by lying to them in order to hold out false hopes. (I must, however, admit that even I did not anticipate seeing Philipson waving to us from a prominent place on the hydroxychloroquine train.) But Philipson and his praise of Trump’s economic instincts is not the least competent thing Trump administration economists have done this spring. That prize goes to Kevin Hassett:

Joseph Zeballos-Roig (2020-05-05): White House Adviser Devised Model Showing Covid-19 Deaths Hitting 0 in 10 Days https://www.businessinsider.com/white-house-economic-adviser-hassett-model-coronavirus-deaths-zero-10-days-2020-5: ‘The White House is relying on a model prepared by a controversial White House economic advisor that shows coronavirus deaths dropping to zero by May 15 to help guide their decision-making.... The White House is reportedly relying on a "cubic model" prepared by controversial White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett that shows coronavirus deaths plunging to zero by May 15 to help guide their economic decision-making during the pandemic.... The "cubic model" from Hassett clashes with the assessment of public health experts who say the virus will continue infecting people and swell the US death toll for the foreseeable future.... Other critics argued that an economist with an unreliable track record on issues within his own realm of expertise shouldn't wade into public health matters... #coronavirus #economicsgonewrong #moralresponsibility #noted #orangehairedbaboons #publichealth #2020-07-03


Why Were University of Chicago Professional Economists Republicans So Stupid About Coronavirus?

I look at the Trump professional economists Republicans—Kevin Hassett, Tomas Philipson, Casey Mulligan, & co.—and I really do wonder: Why were they so incompetent? Why did they get so strongly behind the "epidemiologists have it wrong", the "reopen the economy"—originally by Easter—and the "this will burn itself out quickly"—deaths down near zero by mid-May—pushes? At least now Philipson and Hassett appear to be silent—although Mulligan is still out there, claiming that the depression is the result of government lockdowns alone, which he values at "15,000 dollars per household per quarter" not counting "intrinsic costs of forgone civil liberties".

By the end of January we knew that this coronavirus was (a) highly infectious, (b) transmitted by the presymptomatic, (c) something against which no human had immunity, (d) a disease with a normal-behavior herd-immunity point likely to be more than 50% of the population, and (e) a disease that killed—with treatment—about 1% of the infected. Those facts made it obvious that keeping it from killing 30 million people worldwide would bet a very difficult task, and that adding up mortality and morbidity costs valued at three million or so per death meant that the stakes we were playing for to avoid a worst-case three million dead epidemic amounted to ten trillion dollars, compared to which the 350 billion cost of a one-month complete non-essential business lockdown that reduced national income by 20% was relatively small change.

And, indeed, the rest of the global north—even Britain—with the exception of Sweden has bit the bullet, taken the lockdown hit, now has the virus (temporarily) on the run, and can move to test-and-trace and social distancing to stomp the virus. We and Sweden have not. We have thus become pariah nations, as far as coronavirus is concerned.

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Who Can Tell What Harald Uhlig Said Six Years Ago in Front of 60-Plus Witnesses?

Yes, it is John Cochrane blogging once again. Once again, some of the plain people of the internet who wish me ill tell me I need to go and read John Cochrane—presumably to make me ill. And I do. And it does: John Cochrane: "This account of events does not hold water. Ba, now a professor at U.C. Irvine, was sitting in—not taking for credit—a class in 2014, six years ago. At the University of Chicago, there was always the issue for classes that meet on Mondays, how do you reschedule the class that would normally take place on Martin Luther King day? It was always a mess. In that discussion, Harald said something that Ba found offensive—that much is undeniable. What "fun" did Harald make of Dr. King? Precise words would help. Clearly in this interaction the tone fo voice—whether Harald's inquiry as to offense was "sarcastic" or well-intended—mattered as much as what was actually said. Yes, this merits investigation, to the extent that one can investigate comments made in classes six years ago reported via tweet..."


.#economicsgonewrong #highlighted #moralresponsibility #racism #2020-06-16

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The Problem of George Stigler—Noted

George Stigler (1962): The Problem of the Negro https://www.bradford-delong.com/2019/05/weekend-reading-george-stigler-in-1962-on-the-problem-of-the-negro.html: ‘The great disservice of the leaders of Negro opinion was to direct the discontent at the white population.... It was a terrible disservice to identify the white man as the main obstacle to the rise of the negro. It was a disservice because it must lead to hatred, and hatred to violence, and violence to the retardation of the mounting compassion and assistance of the white mean. Could the stream of demonstrations, growing in size and in insolence, approved or at least tolerated by the political, intellectual, and religious leaders of the nation, have any other message for a semi-literate Negro teenager in a slum, than that evil prejudice of the white man was the fundamental cause of his low estate?… Consider employment. The Negro boy is excluded from many occupations by... prejudice.... But he is excluded from more occupations by his own inferiority as a worker.... Lacking education, lacking a tenacity of purpose, lacking a willingness to work hard, he will not be an object of employers' competition. What leader of Negro thought is fostering the ancient virtues of diligence and honesty and loyalty? It is so much easier to seek quotas.... It is not easy or popular to place the Negro's discontent upon himself. People will insist upon speaking of the previous or present faults of the white community, which numerous and deplorable—and now unimportant.... People will denounce any talk of the Negro's cultural and economic inferiority as racism... https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/article-stigler-negro-1962.pdf .#economicsgonewrong moralresponsibility #racism #2020-06-11

George stigler milton friedman Google Search


Not Aged Well

Things that have not aged well. Hassett was not an excellent choice for Chairman of the CEA: Mark M. Zandi, Justin Wolfers, & al. (2017): Letter in Support of the Nomination of Kevin Hassett to be Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers https://medium.com/@hassett.economists.letter/letter-in-support-of-the-nomination-of-kevin-hassett-to-be-chairman-of-the-council-of-economic-78c483f9821b: ‘Dr. Hassett has a record of serious scholarship on a wide range of topics, including tax policy, business investment, and energy. He has engaged on an even wider range of topics in the public policy debate and in his work at the Federal Reserve and as a consultant to the Department of the Treasury during the Administrations of President George H.W. Bush and President William J. Clinton. In addition, we appreciate that Dr. Hassett has consistently made an effort to reach out to a wide range of people from across the ideological spectrum both to promote economic dialogue and to collaborate on research and public policy proposals. For all of these reasons we believe that Dr. Hassett would be an excellent choice for Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and urge the Committee to move as expeditiously as possible… #economicsgonewrong #incompetence #moralresponsibility #noted #orangehairedbaboons #2020-05-29


This Is Not Like the 1970s...

The extremely thoughtful David Glasner explains why those who analogize the coronavirus supply shock to the monopoly oil price shocks of the 1970s are profoundly mistaken. This is not an inflationary supply shock. This looks overwhelmingly likely be a profoundly deflationary supply shock:

David Glasner: “The Idleness of Each Is the Result of the Idleness of All” https://uneasymoney.com/2020/03/20/the-idleness-of-each-is-the-result-of-the-idleness-of-all/: ‘Whether the cause of the downturn is a supply shock or a demand shock. Some, perhaps many, seem to think that if the shock is a supply, rather than a demand, shock, then there is no role for a countercyclical policy response designed to increase demand...

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David Anderson: Cubic Fits & Department of D'OH https://www.balloon-juice.com/2020/05/05/cubic-fits-and-department-of-doh/: ‘The first thing a data analyst trainee should learn is that playing with Excel’s functions and tools is a great way to get into trouble when you don’t have an underlying understanding of the fundamental data’s behaviors AND don’t understand the functions and tools core assumptions.  This is important.  The second or third lesson a data analyst trainee will learn is to not use Excel but that is advanced training. Why does this matter? It seems like the White House is using Excel and not understanding the phenonomenon they are trying to model. Eyeballing the data, there sure as hell seems to be a day of the week seasonality. But let’s go beyond that. If we were to assume that a cubit fit is an appropriate choice to model the data, and that we can project out of the current data to the near future so that there are almost no deaths on May 15th, that requires a What the Hell response…

Trump-CEA-are-idiots

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Things that have not aged well at al. From 2017: Letter in Support of the Nomination of Kevin Hassett to be Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers https://medium.com/@hassett.economists.letter/letter-in-support-of-the-nomination-of-kevin-hassett-to-be-chairman-of-the-council-of-economic-78c483f9821b: ‘Dr. Hassett has a record of serious scholarship on a wide range of topics, including tax policy, business investment, and energy. He has engaged on an even wider range of topics in the public policy debate and in his work at the Federal Reserve and as a consultant to the Department of the Treasury during the Administrations of President George H.W. Bush and President William J. Clinton. In addition, we appreciate that Dr. Hassett has consistently made an effort to reach out to a wide range of people from across the ideological spectrum both to promote economic dialogue and to collaborate on research and public policy proposals. For all of these reasons we believe that Dr. Hassett would be an excellent choice for Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and urge the Committee to move as expeditiously as possible to ensure that the Administration has the benefit of his economic advice...

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Time to Bang My Head Against the Wall Some More (Pre-Elementary Monetary Economics Department): Hoisted from the Archives from 2009

Hoisted from the Archives: Time to Bang My Head Against the Wall Some More (Pre-Elementary Monetary Economics Department) https://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/01/time-to-bang-my-head-against-the-wall-some-more-pre-elementary-monetary-economics-department.html: Oh boy. John Cochrane does not know something that David Hume did--that the velocity of monetary circulation is an economic variable rather than a technological constant. Cochrane:

Fiscal Fallacies: First, if money is not going to be printed, it has to come from somewhere. If the government borrows a dollar from you, that is a dollar that you do not spend, or that you do not lend to a company to spend on new investment. Every dollar of increased government spending must correspond to one less dollar of private spending.  Jobs created by stimulus spending are offset by jobs lost from the decline in private spending. We can build roads instead of factories, but fiscal stimulus can’t help us to build more of both. This is just accounting, and does not need a complex argument about “crowding out”...

Let us take this slowly.

  1. Suppose that we have four agents: Alice, Beverly, Carol, and Deborah.

  2. Suppose that Beverly has $500 in cash that she owes Carol, due in two months. Suppose that Alice and Carol are both unemployed and idle.

  3. In one scenario in two months Beverly goes to Carol and pays her the $500. End of story.

  4. In a second scenario Beverly says to Alice: "I have a house. Why don't you build a deck--I will pay you $500 after the work is done. Here is the contract." Alice takes the contract and goes to Carol. She shows the contract to Carol and says: "See. I will be good for the debt. Cook me meals so I will have the strength to build the deck--here's another contract in which I promise to pay you $500 within 90 days if you cook for me." Carol agrees.

  5. Two months pass. Carol cooks and feeds Alice. Alice goes and builds the deck.

  6. Alice then asks Beverly for payment. Beverly says: "Wait a minute." She goes to Carol and says: "Here is the the $500 cash I owe you." Beverly pays the money to Carol. Beverly then says: "But now could I borrow the cash back by offering you a long-term mortgage at an attractive interest rate secured with an interest in my newly more-valuable house?" Carol says: "Sure." Beverly files an amended deed showing Carol's mortgage lien with the town office. Carol gives Beverly back the $500. Beverly then goes to Alice and pays her the $500. Alice then goes to Carol and pays her the $500.

  7. The net result? (a) Alice who would otherwise have been idle has been employed--has traded her labor for meals. (b) Carol who would otherwise have been idle has been employed--has traded her labor for a secured lien on Beverly's house. (c) Beverly has taken out a mortgage on her house and in exchange has gotten a deck built. (d) Carol has the $500 cash that Beverly owed her in the first place.

  8. Alice has more income and consumption expenditure than if she hadn't taken Beverly's job offer. Carol has more income and saving than if she hadn't cooked for Alice and then invested her earnings with Beverly. Beverly has an extra capital asset (the deck) and an extra financial liability (the mortgage) than if she had never offered to hire Alice.

  9. A deck has gotten built. Meals have been cooked and eaten. Two women have been employed. And all this has happened without printing any extra money.

John Cochrane would say that this is impossible.

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Executive Summary of Obama Transition Economic Policy Work: Hoisted from the Archives

Obama-plans

Hoisted from the Archives: Note that if 600 billion in fiscal stimulus would have reduced the expected unemployment rate as of the end of 2010 from 9.5% to 8%, 900 billion would still have left the economy with an expected end-of-2010 unemployment rate of 7.25%. And, of course, the memo ought to have highlighted that things had a 50% chance of being worse than expected—even considerably worse, which they were: the end of 2010 unemployment rate was 9.3%. To seek as your economic policy goal a set of policies that would might well have—and did—leave the unemployment rate two years hence above 9% seemed like malpractice on the part of the Obama-Emmanuel-Biden team then. It still seems like it was malpractice now: Obama National Economic Council Presumptive (December 2008): EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF ECONOMIC POLICY WORK https://delong.typepad.com/20091215-obama-economic-policy-memo.pdf: 'In the absence of fiscal stimulus the economy is projected to lose 3 to 4 million jobs in 2009. Together with the jobs we have already lost and population growth, we will be 7 million jobs short of full employment. The unemployment rate is projected to rise above 9 percent and not projected to start falling until 2011. We believe that $600 billion in stimulus over two years would create 2.5 million jobs relative to what would happen in the absence of stimulus. However, this falls well short of filling the job shortfall and would leave the unemployment rate at 8 percent two years from now. This has convinced the economic team that a considerably larger package is justified.... The memo outlines four alternative plan ranging from $550 billion to $890 billion...

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Stop Inflating the Inflation Threat: Project Syndicate

Inflating-the-inflation-threat

Project Syndicate: Stop Inflating the Inflation Threat https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/us-inflation-flat-phillips-curve-by-j-bradford-delong-2019-10: Given the scale and severity of inflation in America in the 1970s, it is understandable that US monetary policymakers developed a deep-seated fear of it. But, nearly a half-century later, the conditions that justified such worries no longer apply, and it is past time that we stopped denying what the data are telling us.: I remember September 2014: That month the U.S. unemployment rate dropped below 6%, and I was assured by very many that that meant that the Phillips Curve predicted that inflation would soon be on the rise, and that it was time for the Federal Reserve to begin to—rapidly—normalize monetary policy—to begin shrinking the monetary base, and raising interest rates back into a "normal" range. Today unemployment is 2.5%-points lower than what I was then assured was the "natural" rate of unemployment. According to the rule-of-thumb as they stood back when I was an assistant professor in 1990, such a low unemployment rate should lead annual inflation to climb by 1.3%-points every year: if this year inflation were to be 2.0%, next year's would be 3.3%, and—if unemployment stayed this low—the year after that's would be 4.6%, and the year after that 5.9%.

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No, We Don’t “Need” a Recession

No__We_Don’t_“Need”_a_Recession_by_J__Bradford_DeLong_-_Project_Syndicate

Project Syndicate: No, We Don’t “Need” a Recession https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/myth-of-needed-recession-by-j-bradford-delong-2019-10: Business cycles can end with a "rolling readjustment" in which asset values are marked back down to reflect underlying fundamentals, or they can end in depression and mass unemployment. There is never any good reason why the second option should prevail: BERKELEY – I recently received an email from my friend Mark Thoma of the University of Oregon, asking if I had noticed an increase in commentaries suggesting that a recession would be a good and healthy purge for the economy (or something along those lines). In fact, I, too, have noticed more commentators expressing the view that “recessions, painful as they are, are a necessary growth input.” I am rather surprised by it.

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Contra Raghu Rajan: Economic Stimulus Has Not Failed, It Has Not Been Tried (on a Large Enough Scale)

Hoisted from the Archives from 2013: Contra Raghu Rajan: Economic Stimulus Has Not Failed, It Has Not Been Tried (on a Large Enough Scale): "Back in 2007 I would have said that every macroeconomist who has done any homework at all believes that coordinated monetary and fiscal expansion together increase at least the flow of nominal GDP. Now comes the very smart Raghu Rajan to say, apparently, not so.... From my perspective... Raghu is... saying that if we were to undertake more aggressive coordinated monetary and fiscal expansion we would hit the inflation wall sooner than I think likely--that the difficulties of retraining and readjustment mean that the division of the increase in the flow of spending would soon shift to 100% inflation, 0% extra production. Perhaps it will. But we have not gotten there yet. We are still in a world where the flow of nominal GDP in the North Atlantic is some six percentage points below its pre-2008 trend. Fix that trend of nominal GDP first via coordinated monetary and fiscal expansion, and then we will examine the division at the margin of PY into P and Y, and talk…...

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Ricardo's Big Idea, and Its Vicissitudes: Hoisted from the Archives

Hoisted from the Archives: Ricardo's Big Idea, and Its Vicissitudes https://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/10/ricardos-big-idea-and-its-vicissitudes-inet-edinburgh-comparative-advantage-panel.html:

INET Edinburgh Comparative Advantage Panel


Ricardo's Big Idea, and Its Vicissitudes

https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0QMFGpAUFCjqhdfLULfDbLE4g

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Income and Wealth Distribution, or, Watching Professional Republicans Sell Their Souls Back in 1992: Hoisted from the Archives

Inbox 31 brad delong gmail com Gmail

I have long wanted an undergraduate to write a senior thesis about this episode. I have never found one to advise to do so:

Hoisted from the Archives: The income distribution came on to the stage that is America's public sphere between February 14 and December 12, 1992. And the rhetoric of "X% of gains in per capita income over years Y-Z went to the top W%-iles of the income distribution" became a one in American political-economic discourse over that time period as well. Over those ten months then-New York Times economics reporter Sylvia Nasar wrote eight stories about income inequality in America. All of them were pitched at a high substantive and intellectual level—they would have fit into the New York Times's later Upshot (which has recently refocused at a less analytically-substantive level as concerned with "politics, policy, and everyday life"). This was, needless to say, very unusual for the New York Times.

Sylvia's first story addressed the peculiar fact that the "80's Boom", as Reagan Republicans and the New York Times called it, had seen the poverty rate not diminish but rise. Sylvia attributed that rise to union-busting, and a growing disparity between high- and low-wage jobs springing from a decline in relative manufacturing employment and possibly from boosted high-wage white-collar productivity from computerization. Her second story, on March 5, took a turn. Instead of continuing to investigate the causes of rising poverty and wage stagnation in a decade of supposed boom, it focused on "who had reaped the gains" from "the prosperity of the last decade and a half". It highlighted the "Krugman calculation". It began:

Populist politicians, economists and ordinary citizens have long suspected that the rich have been getting richer. What is making people sit up now is recent evidence that the richest 1 percent of American families appears to have reaped most of the gains from the prosperity of the last decade and a half. An outsized 60 percent of the growth in the average after-tax income of all American families between 1977 and 1989—and an even heftier three-fourths of the gain in average pretax income—went to the wealthiest 660,000 families, each of which had an annual income of at least $310,000 a year...

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How Damaging Is Plutocracy for Economic Policy?

Is Plutocracy Really the Problem by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate: Is Plutocracy Really the Problem?: After the 2008 financial crisis, economic policymakers in the United States did enough to avert another Great Depression, but fell far short of what was needed to ensure a strong recovery. Attributing that failure to the malign influence of the plutocracy is tempting, but it misses the root of the problem.... In fact, big money does not always find a way, nor does its influence necessarily increase as the top 0.01% captures a larger share of total income.... The larger issue...is an absence of alternative voices. If the 2010s had been anything like the 1930s, the National Association of Manufacturers and the Conference Board would have been aggressively calling for more investment in America, and these arguments would have commanded the attention of the press. Labor unions would have had a prominent voice as advocates for a high-pressure economy. Both would have had very powerful voices inside the political process through their support of candidates. Did the top 0.01% put something in the water to make the media freeze out such voices after 2008?... Read MOAR at Project Syndicate

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Hoisted from the Archives: Department of "Huh!?": Raghu Rajan Is a Member of the Pain Caucus, and I Don't Understand Why...

stacks and stacks of books

Department of "Huh!?": Back in 2010, there were a great many people for whom I had immense respect who were members of the Pain Caucus. And I still cannot follow what they were thinking at all. Construction had already shrunk fully by late 2007. It remains a great mystery—was it just a Chicago echo chamber in which people did not look at data?:

Raghu Rajan Is a Member of the Pain Caucus, and I Don't Understand Why...: Raghu Rajan: "this recession is not a 'usual' recession. It followed a period of ultra-low interest rates when interest sensitive segments of the economy got a tremendous boost. The United States had far too much productive capacity devoted to durable goods and houses, because consumers could obtain financing for them easily. With households recovering slowly from the overhang of debt resulting from the binge, and with lenders extremely risk averse, it is unrealistic to expect households to spend beyond their means again, and unwise to try to tempt them to do so...

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John Cochrane Prostitutes Himself to Republican Politicians Department: Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from 2015

Clowns (ICP)

Noah Smith: John Cochrane Smackdown: "John writes: 'My surprise in reading Noah is that he provided no alternative numbers. If you don't think Free Market Nirvana will have 4% growth, at least for a decade as we remove all the level inefficiencies, how much do you think it will produce, and how solid is that evidence?...' I don't really feel I need to produce an alternative to a number that was made up as a political talking point. Why 4 percent? Why not 5? Why not 8? Why not 782 percent? Where do we get the number for how good we can expect Free Market Nirvana to be? Is it from the sum of point estimates from a bunch of different meta-analyses of research on various free-market policies? No. It was something Jeb Bush tossed out in a conference call because it was 'a nice round number', after James Glassman had suggested '3 or 3.5'. You want me to give you an alternative number, using the same rigorous methodology? Sure, how about 3.1. Wait, no. 3.3. There we go. 3.3 sounds good. Rolls off the tongue..."

I must say, Cochrane here reminds me of one of my most favorite quotes from tank economist Paul M. Sweezy:

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DeLong Smackdown: Why I Was Wrong Over 2006-2010...

Smackdown/Hoisted: Why I Was Wrong...: Calculated Risk issued an invitation:

Calculated Risk: Hoocoodanode?: Earlier today, I saw Greg "Bush economist" Mankiw was a little touchy about a Krugman blog comment. My reaction was that Mankiw has some explaining to do. A key embarrassment for the economics profession in general, and Bush economists Greg Mankiw and Eddie Lazear in particular, is how they missed the biggest economic story of our times.... This was a typical response from the right (this is from a post by Professor Arnold Kling) in August 2006:

Apparently, the echo chamber of left-wing macro pundits has pronounced a recession to be imminent. For example, Nouriel Roubini writes, "Given the recent flow of dismal economic indicators, I now believe that the odds of a U.S. recession by year end have increased from 50% to 70%." For these pundits, the most dismal indicator is that we have a Republican Administration. They have been gloomy for six years now...

Sure Roubini was early (I thought so at the time), but show me someone who has been more right! And this brings me to Krugman's column:

... Why did so many observers dismiss the obvious signs of a housing bubble, even though the 1990s dot-com bubble was fresh in our memories? Why did so many people insist that our financial system was “resilient,” as Alan Greenspan put it, when in 1998 the collapse of a single hedge fund, Long-Term Capital Management, temporarily paralyzed credit markets around the world? Why did almost everyone believe in the omnipotence of the Federal Reserve when its counterpart, the Bank of Japan, spent a decade trying and failing to jump-start a stalled economy?

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Karl Marx, First Real Business Cycle Theorist: Hoisted from the Archives

J Bradford DeLong s Awesome Presentation On The History Of The Bank Bailout Business Insider

Hoisted from the Archives: Nine years ago: Karl Marx, First Real Business Cycle Theorist: We see the affinity between Karl Marx and the Pain Caucus in his notes on crises in Theories of Surplus Value. Negative supply shocks and missed collective guesses on what the extent of the market will be in the future create overaccumulation and overproduction. Marx is very clear that the monetary crisis theorists--like John Stuart Mill--must be wrong, and that the system cannot run itself without crises.

In Marx this is one of the reasons why the system is abominable and must be overthrown. For the Pain Caucus the conclusion is opposite: because the system is good crises must be suffered.

Karl Marx:

Theories of Surplus-Value, Chapter 17: "When speaking of the destruction of capital through crises, one must distinguish between two factors...

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Monday Smackdown/Hoisted from the Archives: Scott Sumner Knew Better than to Do This!

Smackdown

Hoisted from 2011: Sumner really knew better than to do this, and really ought to have restrained himself:

Scott Sumner: A Slightly Off-Center Perspective on Monetary Problems: "They are both basically saying: 'if we hold nominal spending constant, fiscal policy can’t fix it.'... [I]t’s really rather sad when people like Krugman and Brad DeLong keep insisting that these guys don’t understand basic macro principles.... I don’t know for sure that Fama was using the same implicit assumption... [but] I think it quite likely that Fama was also cutting corners.... Lots of brilliant people talking past each other.... Welcome to elite macroeconomics, circa 2011.... If I was going to assign blame I’d single out Krugman/DeLong for rudeness and Fama/Cochrane for poor communication skills...

Me:

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Risks of Debt: The Real Flaw in Reinhart-Rogoff: Hoisted from the Archives

There never was a 90% cliff. And most of the downward slope in teh scatter came not from debt accumulation but from growth that had been slow for other reasons. See Owen Zidar (2013): Debt to GDP & Future Economic Growth:

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Hoisted from the Archives: Risks of Debt: The Real Flaw in Reinhart-Rogoff: 2013: A country that spends and spends and spends and spends and does not tax sufficiently will eventually run into debt-generated trouble. Its nominal interest rates will rise as bondholders fear inflation. Its business leaders will hunker down and try to move their wealth out of the corporations they run for fear of high future taxes on business. Real interest rates will rise because of policy uncertainty, and make many investments that are truly socially productive unprofitable. When inflation takes hold, the web of the division of labor will shrink from a global web he'd together by thin monetary ties to a very small web solidified by social bonds of trust and obligation—and a small division of labor means low productivity. All of this is bound to happen. Eventually. If a government spends and spends and spends but does not tax sufficiently.

But can this happen as long as interest rates remain low? As long as stock prices remain buoyant? As long as inflation remains subdued. My faction of economists—including Larry Summers, Laura Tyson, Paul Krugman, and many many others—believe that it will not...

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Smackdown: Failing to Do Robustness Checks Is Not a Virtue

Smackdown

This, from this past April of all times, greatly puzzles me: WHAT IN THE HOLY NAME OF THE ONE WHO IS IS GOING ON HERE?!

Let us remember what really happened back in 2011 when the unemployment rate was 9%:

"Reinhart... explained that countries rarely pass the 90 percent debt-to-GDP tipping point precisely because it is dangerous.... Reinhart and Rogoff... 'current debt trajectories are a risk to long-term growth and stability, with many advanced economies already reaching or exceeding the important marker of 90 percent of GDP'..."

Yet there never was any "90 percent debt-to-GDP tipping point".

Reinhart and Rogoff thought there was because they did not do any robustness checks of their data-analysis binning procedures.

Perhaps an apology to the misled world should be a high priority? Perhaps it should be a higher priority than rants claiming that their critics like me—who were right—engaged in "years of mounting polemics against austerity policies, Keynesian dogma has become something close to a secular religion"?

Marking your beliefs to market makes your thoughts stronger and raises your credibility. Not doing so does the reverse:

Ken Rogoff: The Austerity Chronicles: "After years of mounting polemics against austerity policies, Keynesian dogma has become something close to a secular religion in popular economic-policy debates. But a new study of 16 advanced economies shows that, as with all dogmas, righteousness is no substitute for empirical facts...

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Weekend Reading: Discussion of J. Bradford DeLong and Lawrence H. Summers: "Fiscal Policy in a Depressed Economy

Il Quarto Stato

Weekend Reading: Discussion of J. Bradford DeLong and Lawrence H. Summers (2012): "Fiscal Policy in a Depressed Economy:

Robert Hall observed that a better title for the paper would be “Eta,” since the paper’s surprising results all stem from the authors’ beliefs about the value of their hysteresis parameter η. The other parameter values the authors used for their simulations seemed mostly reasonable and uncontroversial to Hall. He noted that although Valerie Ramey had estimated a relatively low value for the multiplier on fiscal spending, the standard error on her estimate was large and did not rule out the possibility that the authors’ baseline value of 1.5 was correct. Hall also observed that some alternative ways of analyzing government spending data from World War II generated higher estimates of the multiplier. He found the authors’ value for the growth rate reasonable, and although he shared Ramey’s concern about the authors’ real interest rate assumptions, he thought their baseline value might be reasonable as well.

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Hoisted from Six Years Ago: To Steal a Line from Leon Trotsky: "Every Man Has a Right to Be Stupid, but John Cochrane Abuses the Privilege..."

Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers All Items Less Food and Energy FRED St Louis Fed

Hoisted from the Archives: Stupidity Is a Willed Choice Files: John Cochrane: Reading Paul Krugman calls to mind that I never reacted to John Cochrane's July 2012 failure to mark his beliefs to market and, instead, doubling down on his claim that the biggest risk the U.S. economy faces is that of becoming "Argentina" "quickly".

I must say that if I had been opining stridently about issues of public policy without doing my homework five years ago, and if between then and now events had developed in directions strongly contrary to my expectations, I would not double down on what I had thought then--I would rather try hard to do my homework and to mark my beliefs to market.

And if I were going to criticize people for not citing my work, I would not claim that a sentence they wrote which comes immediately after a four-paragraph quote from me as an example, and I would have read their explanation of why they think expansionary fiscal policy right now does not raise the risks of "fiscal dominance" rather than remain in ignorance of it.

But to each his own!

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Hoisted from the Archives: John Cochrane's Claim in Late 2008 That a Recession Would Be a Good Thing Deserves Some Kind of Award...

Hoisted from the Archives: The fact is that by the end of 2007 the construction sector had rebalanced: there was no excess of people pounding nails in Nevada—even if you did believe the false theory that recessions have recessions do the "necessary work of rebalancing", there was no rebalancing work to be done after 2007. Even a quarter-competent Schumpeterian who kept even half an eye on the data should have been able to recognize that...

More than Two Decades of Macroeconomic History Through the Lens of Four Key Components of Aggregate Demand


To: @johnmlippert: If I may beg a small slice of your attention...

I am tracking down John Cochrane's claims that (i) in your December 23, 2008 article you were "only... on a hunt for embarrassing quotes", (ii) he had "spent about 10 hours patiently trying to explain some basics" to you, and (iii) you took him out of proper context when you wrote: "'We should have a recession', Cochrane said in November, speaking to students and said in November, speaking to students and investors in a conference room.... 'People who spend their lives pounding nails in Nevada need something else to do'."

Do you by chance remember the larger context of Cochrane's "pounding nails" comment, and do you have any idea why he now claims that you took him out of context? Or what he thinks the proper context would have been?

I would be grateful for any light you can shed on this.

Yours,

Brad DeLong brad.delong@gmail.com


John M. Lippert: "Hi Professor DeLong.

Thanks for your note. Professor Cochrane’s complaint is something of which I became aware several months after we published our story in 2008.... The bottom line is that Bloomberg did not respond to Cochrane’s comments. He never sent them to us, despite my request that he do so.

When we became aware of his complaint, we saw no reason to make a correction. Cochrane made the ‘pounding nails’ comment at a Chicago Booth forum at the Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago in November 2008. It was part of an ongoing lecture series, as I recall. It was kind of a big event, with a couple hundred people. So they may have a recording that you can access.

Good luck with your inquiries.

Tks,

John Lippert

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Joseph Schumpeter on "Liquidationism": Hoisted from the Archives

Il Quarto Stato

Hoisted from the Archives: Joseph Schumpeter on "Liquidationism": Hoisted from the Archives: "The problems presented by periods of depression may be grouped as follows: First, removal of extra economic injuries to the economic mechanism: Mostly impossible on political grounds. Second, relief: Not only imperative on moral and social grounds, but also an important means to keep up the current of economic life and to steady demand, although no cure for fundamental cases. Third, remedies: The chief difficulty of which lies in the fact that depressions are not simply evils, which we might attempt to suppress, but—perhaps undesirable—forms of something which has to be done, namely, adjustment to previous economic change. Most of what would be effective in remedying a depression would be equally effective in preventing this adjustment. This is especially true of inflation, which would, if pushed far enough, undoubtedly turn depression in to the sham prosperity so familiar from European postwar [i.e., World War I] experience, but which, if it be carried to that point, would, in the end, lead to a collapse worse than the one it was called in to remedy...

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Robert Heilbroner (1996): The Embarrassment of Economics: Weekend Reading

Anybody who has spent any time looking at the data knows that it is in the boom, not in the depression, that the work of sectoral readjustment is done. Indeed, that work cannot be done in the depression. In the depression nothing is profitable. So how could entrepreneurs possibly judge then what will be profitable when the depression is past? They must wait for the boom to see:

Joseph schumpeter business cycle graph Google Search

Robert Heilbroner (1996): The Embarrassment of Economics: Schumpeter arrived in his famous riding habit and great cloak, of which he divested himself in a grand gesture. He greeted us in a typically Schumpeterian way: "Gentlemen, a depression is for capitalism like a good, cold douche." The remark shocked us...

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James Buchanan (1997): Has Economics Lost Its Way?: Hoisted from the Archives

Hoisted from the Archives: This serves as a good index of how much Milton Friedman's redefinition of "neutral monetary policy" to mean "whatever monetary policy keeps nominal GDP on its trend growth path" led people prone to motivated reasoning in a laissez-faire direction completely and horribly astray. It also serves as an example of an astonishing failure to mark one's beliefs to market. Never mind that the rough constant of M2 velocity before 1980 had been an obvious example of Goodhart's Law, and never mind that even before 1980 forecasts of the state of the economy one and two years out based on M2 were inferior to other forecasts, by 1997 James Buchanan had just seen a remarkable five-year 30% runup in M2 velocity. and the complete ditching of monetary aggregates not just as targets but even as indicators by Alan Greenspan in favor of a neo-Wicksellian "neutral interest rate" approach that had nothing whatsoever to do with an "effective monetary constitution" of any type:

FRED Graph FRED St Louis Fed

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The ε-Stigler and the Other Components of Stigler: On George Stigler's 1962 Denunciation of the "Insolence" of Demonstrating Negroes, and Other Topics

School of Athens

Twitter Thread: Daniel Kuehn wrote: "We say something intelligent and on-point about Buchanan or Friedman or Tullock or Stigler and then we try to extrapolate a history of conservatism from it. Generally we're not equipped to do that (I'm certainly not), and should be wary of it. Wary doesn’t mean don’t cross-pollinate. I think the interaction between the two communities is great. Just something to be aware of..."

Let's take the George Stigler vector and project it onto a complete intellectual basis made up of the unit vectors ε, σ, π, β, γ:

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Weekend Reading: George Stigler in 1962 on "The Problem of the Negro"

Civil rights demonstrations dog attack Google Search

Over on the Twitter machine, Calvin TerBeek has eaten his wheaties this morning, and presents us with George Stigler in 1962 writing for New Guard, the publication of the conservatives Young Americans for Freedom. Stigler denounces the "Negro leaders" and the "political, intellectual, and religious leaders of the nation" for protesting and approving of protests: the "stream of demonstrations, growing in size and in insolence". Stigler writes: "How much easier to march on the mayor than to teach industry to a boy: how much simpler to keep the children home to coerce the school board than to instill in them a love of art and literature and science". He also slags decolonization, and approves of American Jews in "the rapid process of losing their identity".

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"Attempts to Make Sense Out of Right Wing Austrian Economics Can Never Amount to Anything"—rootless_e: Hoisted From the Archives

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rootless_e is correct: Ludwig von Miese is not: Hoisted from the Archives: Quote of the Day: November 12, 2011: "Attempts to carry out economic reforms from the monetary side can never amount to anything but an artificial stimulation of economic activity by an expansion of the circulation, and this, as must constantly be emphasized, must necessarily lead to crisis and depression. Recurring economic crises are nothing but the consequence of attempts, despite all the teachings of experience and all the warnings of the economists, to stimulate economic activity by means of additional credit"—Ludwig von Mises, The Theory of Money and Credit...

"Attempts to make sense out of right wing Austrian economics can never amount to anything."—rootless_e...

"Fictitious" Wealth and Ludwig von Mises: Nevertheless, like a moth to a flame—or like a dog to vomit, or like a dog to something worse—I find myself under a mysterious but inexorable and irresistible compulsion to waste what would otherwise be productive work time trying to make some kind of sense of it—to at least understand wherein lies the error, and how somebody trying very hard to understand the economy (never mind that he is a big fan of the political leadership of Benito Mussolini) can go so pathetically wrong. It is, of course, not the case that every expansion of the circulation is an "artificial" (and unnatural) "stimulation of economic activity" that must "necessarily lead to crisis and depression". So why does Ludwig von Mises think that it must? Here is my current guess as to where von Mises is coming from:

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Writing Bulls--- for the WSJ Op-Ed Page as a Career Strategy: The Nine Unprofessional Republican Economists

The extra quarter's worth of data from the new BEA NIPA release raises this, once again, to the top of the pile: Note the contrast between the path of investment, on the one hand, implicit in the growth forecast of the effects of the Trump-Ryan-McConnell tax cut that Robert J. Barro, Michael J. Boskin, John Cogan, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Glenn Hubbard, Lawrence B. Lindsey, Harvey S. Rosen, George P. Shultz and John. B. Taylor, and, on the other hand, reality:

Real Gross Private Domestic Investment Real Potential Gross Domestic Product 1 06 FRED St Louis Fed

If you are even 10% in the explain-the-world business—if you are even 1% in the explain-the-world business—such a sharp disjunction between what you had predicted and the outcome calls forth curiosity, interest, and explanations of why you think you went wrong and what your future research projects will be to figure it out.

Only if you are 100% in the I-am-engaging-in-vice-signalling-by-writing-bulls----to-please-my-political-masters business are you left doing <crickets> in response to such a very sharp disjunction between your predictions and reality.

Yet as I listen to each and very one of the Nine Unprofessional Republican Economists, all that I hear is: <crickets>...

Come to think of it, none of the nine has dared to see that Steve Moore is unqualified to serve on the Federal Reserve, either—and two of the nine, Taylor and Lindsey, are, I am assured, in his corner...

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So Far, Only Three Professional Republicans Are Willing to Say that Stephen Moore Is Not Qualified to Be a Fed Governor

Clowns (ICP)

So far, only three professional Republicans are willing to say that Stephen Moore is not qualified to be a fed governor. A lot are saying it in private. But only three are saying it in public. They are:

  • Greg Mankiw
  • Ross Douthat
  • Steve Moore

#economicsgonewrong #orangehairedbaboons

Yes, Of Course Larry Kudlow Is For QE Now and Was Against It When Obama Was President. Why Would You Think Otherwise?

Clowns (ICP)

A question: Benedict Trump: @ProtectronArmy: "I wonder if Kudlow was pro or con QE when Obama was President...

I answer: He was against QE when Obama was President. Why would you think otherwise?:

Brad DeLong: @delong: Kudlow was against QE under Obama: The zero-interest-rate target will unfortunately remain in place much longer—until unemployment goes to 6.5 percent or less. Given rising tax and regulatory threats from Washington, and the job-stopping Obamacare regulations and mandates, unemployment may be sticky on the downside. But the big news is that the Fed may stop growing its balance sheet sooner than most market people expect. As someone who is totally uncomfortable with the Fed’s $4 trillion balance sheet and reserve-creation process, I welcome

Larry Kudlow (2013): https://t.co/U85MOHlB73: The zero-interest-rate target will unfortunately remain in place much longer—until unemployment goes to 6.5 percent or less. Given rising tax and regulatory threats from Washington, and the job-stopping Obamacare regulations and mandates, unemployment may be sticky on the downside. But the big news is that the Fed may stop growing its balance sheet sooner than most market people expect. As someone who is totally uncomfortable with the Fed’s $4 trillion balance sheet and reserve-creation process, I welcome the news. The central bank is listening to its critics, both inside and out...

They have no morals and no shame.

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A Perfect Post for April Fools' Day: Larry Lindsey and John Taylor, and Now Kevin Hassett Editio

Clowns (ICP)

Larry Lindsey and John Taylor: "PLEASE APPOINT US TO SOMETHING!! WE ARE LOYAL!!!! WE ARE NPOSTLTE PEOPLE!!!!!! PLEASE!!!!!!!!"

At some level, this is hilarious: HA HA HA!!!

Greg Mankiw has said the obvious: that Stephen Moore is not qualified to be a Fed Governor. Kevin Hassett—Kevin Hassett!—appears to are frantically trying to organize internal opposition to the nomination of a grotesquely-unqualified governor who admits he is grotesquely-unqualified. Kevin:

As the process moves forward, if Steve ends up being the nominee, he'll have good explanations for his positions. You're right that he's gone through his career being a pundit and having really interesting things to a whole range of topics, but as a nominee you have to be more careful about every little word that he says. I'm sure that he's going to be pulling back his op-eds and preparing for confirmation, should that [nomination in fact] arise..."

And so John Taylor and Larry Lindsey decide that now is the time for them to demonstrate that they are NO PLATE OF SHIT TOO LARGE TO EAT people, as far as a Republican White House is concerned. note that they do this even though they may well in so doing alienate Banking-Committee Republican senators with likely long future tenures who this it kinda important that the Fed be, you know, a functional institution. Or are all the Repubilcan senators on the Banking Committee NPOSTLTE people too?

David Patten: Trump Fed Nominee Stephen Moore Targeted by Liberal Resistance: "Moore's roster of big-name advocates include... Bush economic adviser Larry Lindsey... two-time runner-up to serve as Fed Chairman John Taylor...

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James Montier will soon have an answer to his question why people hate MMT. MMT is about to hate James Montier too: James Montier: Why Does Everyone Hate MMT?: "Many of the negative articles I’ve read about MMT use the tried and tested method of setting up a straw man purely for the purposes of knocking him down. So, to avoid confusion, I will lay out a simple and straightforward description of what MMT is.... (4) Functional finance, not sound finance. Fiscal policy is much more potent than monetary policy. Fiscal policy should be aimed at generating full employment while maintaining low inflation...

Continue reading " " »


Professional Republicans, Not Professional Economists: How Low can They Go?

How to Be an Unprofessional Republican Economist in Four Easy StepsAmong the professional Republicans, Ross Douthat joins Greg Mankiw in opposition to Steve Moore. So far, they are the only two I have seen—and Greg Mankiw is the only economist:

Ross Douthat: Why are people up in arms over Steve Moore for the Fed?: "The consensus in conservative academic think tank land is that Moore is an enormous hack, and this was true long before his Trump boosterism. Trump wants to nominate him because he's against Fed tightening, which is probably correct policy, but Moore pretty clearly is only taking that view because it's Trump's view and he likes Trump...

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Lying Liar Kevin Hassett Lies Again...

Unnamed

I have here a transcript from a week or so ago of Kevin Hassett on Fox Business telling transparent lies. Seriously: why does he bother? What does he gain? Is it really the case that AEI will have him back after things like this? WILL banks like JPM Chase will pay him to speak to conferences?

If so, they have really really really really bad judgment:

7:38:49 BARTIROMO: The Atlanta Federal Reserve on Friday issued its GDP forecast for the first quarter, it’s three-tenths of a percent. What was your reaction to this? I know that this changes a lot, by the way...

7:38:59 HASSETT: Sure it does, yeah...

7:39:00 BARTIROMO: You’ll probably revise it umpteen times, but 0.3%, obviously not great for the first quarter...

7:39:05 HASSETT: Right, well there are two things going on. The first is that we started the quarter out with a 300,000 jobs number, north of 300,000. And most of the time when you do that, you end up with a 3% quarter. And so we’re gonna get jobs again this week, and if we get another really big number, and I think we’ll have a lot of confidence that something as low as three-tenths isn’t gonna happen. But there is this weird pattern in the data all the way back to 2010, that the first quarter tends to be about 1% below the average for the year. So if we think as we do at the White House that we’re gonna have about a 3% year, then right now, if you wanted me to put a number on the table, I’d say it’s probably gonna be about a 2% first quarter.

7:39:38 BARTIROMO: Okay, so is that largely because of the shutdown, or what happened in the first quarter...

7:39:41 HASSETT: No, it’s because of the seasonality thing, they don’t seasonally adjust the data correctly in Q1, it’s a weird technical thing. And you know, we could go to the blackboard, I know you’d love it, but your viewers would probably never get me invited back again...

These are lies.

2019 03 08 First Quarter GDP Seasonals numbers

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That the Bernanke Fed responded to hitting the zero lower bound by lowering its inflation target always struck me as not sane. Yet that is what it did. It went from a 2.5%-per-year core PCE chain inflation target to an asymmetric 2%-or-less-per-year core PCE chain inflation target:

Personal Consumption Expenditures Chain type Price Index FRED St Louis Fed

Paul Krugman back in 1999 demonstrated that a flexible-price economy in which Say's Law holds reacts to hitting the zero lower bound on interest rates with an immediate and discontinuous drop in the price level in order to generate the inflation it needs for the zero nominal interest rate to generate the right neutral real interest rate so that full employment can be maintained. A central bank has one major job: to make Say's Law true in practice even though it is false in theory by pushing the real interest rate to the neutral rate.

Thus there are two not-wrong ways to deal with the zero lower bound problem:

  1. Keep your inflation target high enough that you do not hit the zero lower bound.
  2. If you do hit the zero lower bound, immediately do everything you can to push the inflation rate up until the zero nominal interest rate you have generates the neutral rate interest rate you need.

The Federal Reserve did not do either of the two not-wrong things in the early 2010s. The Federal Reserve's forthcoming "fundamental rethink" will not include an acknowledgement that the Bernanke Fed did a wrong thing in the early 2010s. And according to Gavyn Davies it has already taken the possibility of adopting a policy of doing the right thing—doing either of the right things—off the table. This is not good:

Gavyn Davies: Federal Reserve’s Fundamental Rethink About Inflation: "One idea for avoiding the Japanese deflationary trap is simply to raise the existing inflation target... Clarida has specifically ruled this out.... When prices fall below the long-run 2 per cent target during a recession, the Fed would credibly commit to compensating for this error during the subsequent recovery... the short run inflation rate may exceed 2 per cent while the catch-up to the long-term path occurs...

Continue reading " " »


Debt-Derangement Syndrome: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate—Long Version

Debt Derangement Syndrome by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

Debt-Derangement Syndrome: Standard policy economics dictates that the public sector needs to fill the gap in aggregate demand when the private sector is not spending enough. After a decade of denial, the Global North may finally be returning to economic basics.


For the past decade the public sphere of the Global North has been in a fit of high madness with respect to its excessive fear of government debts and deficits. But this affliction may be breaking. In the past two weeks I have noted two straws in the wind.

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Debt Derangement Syndrome: Fresh at Project Syndicate

Debt Derangement Syndrome by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

Project Syndicate: Debt Derangement Syndrome: Standard policy economics dictates that the public sector needs to fill the gap in aggregate demand when the private sector is not spending enough. After a decade of denial, the Global North may finally be returning to economic basics: For the past decade, politics in the Global North has been in a state of high madness owing to excessive fear of government debts and deficits. But two recent straws in the wind suggest that this may at long last be changing.... Ken Rogoff.... Brendan Greeley... reported... “a panicked email” from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB)... Olivier Blanchard.... What Rogoff and Blanchard are saying today is standard policy economics. In fact, I always found it hard to believe–and still do–that anybody can take exception to it. Whenever the private sector stops spending enough to keep unemployment low and jobs easy to find, the public sector needs to fill the gap in aggregate demand... Read MOAR at Project Syndicate

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Commonwealth Club: Annual Economic Forecast Event (January 25, 2019): Relevant Files

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Commonwealth Club: Annual Economic Forecast

Short-Run Economic Forecast: The Economic Forecast: Commonwealth Club Non-Public Event Opening Statement

Talking Points and Snippets from Commonwealth Club January 25, 2019 Forecast Event

General Talking Points: Commonwealth Club Talking Points (January 25, 2019): Forecasting and Steve Moore Edition

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Yes, There Are Individual Economists Worth Paying Respect to. But Is Economics Worth Paying Respect to?

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Blush. To be one of fifteen good economists name-checked by Larry Summers genuinely makes my day—nay, makes my week.

But this gets into a topic I have been worrying at for a long time now. And so let me try once again to say what needs to be said, for I do have to admit that, contrary to what Larry maintains, Fareed Zakaria does have a point when he says that "events have hammered... nails into the coffin of traditional economics" and that, while the question mark at the end is important, it is time to speak of "the end of economics?". Yes, there are very many good economists worth listening to. But does economics as a whole have any claim to authority, or is it better for outsiders' first reaction to be to dismiss its claims as some combination of ideology on the one hand and obsequious toadying to political masters on the other?

Open right now on my virtual desktop, as has been true about 5% of the time over the past fourteen months, is an article forecasting the economic effects of the 2017 Trump-McConnell-Ryan tax cut by nine academic economists: Robert J. Barro, Michael J. Boskin, John Cogan, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Glenn Hubbard, Lawrence B. Lindsey, Harvey S. Rosen, George P. Shultz and John. B. Taylor: How Tax Reform Will Lift the Economy: We believe the Republican bills could boost GDP 3% to 4% long term by reducing the cost of capital. It is, bluntly, unprofessional.

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Larry Summers: Has economics failed us? Hardly: "My friend Fareed Zakaria... writing... “The End of Economics?,” doubting the relevance and utility of economics and economists. Because Fareed is so thoughtful and echoes arguments that are frequently made, he deserves a considered response. Fareed ignores large bodies of economic thought, fails to recognize that economists have been the sources of most critiques of previous economic thinking, tilts at straw men and offers little alternative to economic approaches to public policy...

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Brad DeLong (2007): On Robert Barro's (2005) "Rare Events and the Equity Premium" and T.A. Rietz's (1988) "The Equity Risk Premium: A Solution": Our habit of using the Lucas-tree model of Lucas (1978), "Asset Prices in an Exchange Economy" as a workhorse has turned out to be a trap. The Lucas-tree model has neither production nor accumulation. This makes it easy to solve. But this makes its responses perverse. There are no scarce resources to be allocated among alternative uses. There are only asset prices which must move so as to make agents unwilling to try to reallocate resources. It is, I think, not surprising that an economic model in which resource allocation plays no role is a dangerous tool to use in trying to understand the world...

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