#equitablegrowth Feed

Sixteen Worthy Reads for August 30, 2018

Worthy Reads at Equitable Growth:

  1. IMHO, this is closely akin to William Julius Wilson's "the declining significance of race"—i.e., the rising significance of class: Robert Manduca: How rising U.S. income inequality exacerbates racial economic disparities: "In 1968... median African American family income was 57 percent of the median white American family income. In 2016, the ratio was 56 percent. The utter lack of progress is striking...

  2. How much of this correlation is causal? And how much is associational? I do not think we really know, in spite of studies of the build-out of broadband in France. The U.S. is a very different country. Nevertheless, I for one think that it is long past time to put universal broadband in the same bucket as basic sanitation and rural electrification—as something that is part of the citizens' share of being an American: Delaney Crampton: Why accessibility to broadband matters in reducing economic inequality in the United States: "A strong correlation between household income and in-home connectivity—a pattern that persists across both rural and economically depressed urban communities...

  3. Austin Clemens: Schumer and Heinrich Introduced a Bill to Create New Measures of Economic Growth: "Very excited.... @HBoushey and I have written extensively about the need to track growth not just for the economy as a whole but for Americans at every point along the income curve...

  4. Kate Bahn sends us to NPR's Planet Money: Kate Bahn: My Girl Joan Robinson: "My girl Joan Robinson is discussed in this episode of @planetmoney on underrated economists https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2018/08/22/641002632/the-underrated-economists...

  5. Newly-arrived at Equitable Growth, Will McGrew retweets Matthew Yglesias quoting Ryan Cooper: Will McGrew: Matthew Yglesias: "Ryan Cooper: 'There was no skills gap, nor an innovation shortage, nor an explosion of stay-at-home dads. There was a collapse in aggregate demand that was left to rot, while a lot of people who should have known better made things worse...'

  6. Equitable Growth alumnus Nick Bunker reminds us of this WCEG working paper from a year and a half ago: Emmanuel Saez, Thomas Piketty, and Gabriel Zucman: Economic growth in the United States: A tale of two countries: "We combine tax, survey, and national accounts data to build a new series on the distribution of national income...

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Note to Self: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: "Since the recession a decade ago, free-market economics (also known as neoliberalism) has been questioned on multiple fronts. As the dominant governing strategy for the past 40 years—including the Democratic administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—the Left today is increasingly challenging neoliberalism. Indeed, as the primaries approach, many former Clinton and Obama officials are even openly challenging the 'power of markets' belief. In his new book, A Crisis Wasted, Reed Hundt, chair of the Federal Communications Commission under Clinton and a member of Obama’s transition team, makes the argument that Obama missed an opportunity to push for a new progressive era of governance, a miscalculation that ultimately hobbled his administration. Hundt is not alone on this score. In a viral Vox article earlier this year, former Clinton administration economist Brad DeLong said that the Democratic Party has and should move past market friendly neoliberals like himself. Please join us for a very special conversation between Hundt and DeLong about the limits of, and challenges to, free-market economics with Joshua Cohen, co-editor of Boston Review. WHERE: Outdoor Art Club, One West Blithedale, Mill Valley, CA 94941. WHEN: Monday, September 9, 2019, 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm (PST)...

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Is Plutocracy Really the Biggest Problem?: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate

Is Plutocracy Really the Problem by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

Project Syndicate: Is Plutocracy Really the Biggest 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:

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A Year Ago on Equitable Growth: Fifteen Worthy Reads On and Off Equitable Growth for August 9, 2018

stacks and stacks of books

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth and Friends:

  1. J. Bradford DeLong: The Ahistorical Federal Reserve: "Economic developments over the past 20 years have taught–or ought to have taught–the US Federal Reserve four lessons. Yet the Fed’s current policy posture raises the question of whether it has internalized any of them.... The proper inflation target... should be 4% per year.... The two slope[s of] the Phillips Curve... are smaller.... Yield-curve inversion... monetary policy is too tight.... Principal shocks have not been inflationary...

  2. Mark Paul, Khaing Zaw, Darrick Hamilton, and William Darity Jr.: Returns in the labor market: A nuanced view of penalties at the intersection of race and gender - Equitable Growth: "Multiple identities cannot readily be disaggregated in an additive fashion. Instead, the penalties associated with the combination of two or more socially marginalized identities interact in multiplicative or quantitatively nuanced ways...

  3. Raymond Fisman, Keith Gladstone, Ilyana Kuziemko, and Suresh Naidu: Do Americans want to tax capital? Evidence from online surveys: "Our regression results yield roughly linear desired tax rates on income of about 14 percent... positive desired wealth taxation... three percent when the source of wealth is inheritance, far higher than the 0.8 percent rate when wealth is from savings.... These tax rates are consistent with reasonable parameterizations of recent theoretical optimal wealth tax formulae...

  4. Equitable Growth: #JOLTS: "The quit rate... historically high level.... The ratio of unemployment-to-job openings trended upward slightly in June to just under 1.0.... The Beveridge Curve continues to be at levels similar to those in the expansion of the early 2000s...

  5. Bridget Ansel and Heather Boushey (2017): Modernizing U.S. Labor Standards for 21st-Century Families: "Boosting women’s economic outcomes [via] paid family leave, fair scheduling, and combatting wage discrimination...

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Enormous Possibilities in China...


Note to Self: There are immense possibilities in China.

On the screen earlier today we saw Chinese military politician Peng Dehuai, who did command the army that inflicted the greatest defeat on an American army ever in the retreat from the Yalu River. But during the years of the Great Leap Forward he was the Chinese politician who did most to serve the people. And we are desperately short of his like in both Beijing and Washington, both of which are facing very different but, I think, equally grave crises of governance. Sp here is a poem he wrote in 1958 on an inspection tour of the Great Leap Forward famine:

Grain scattered on the ground, potato leaves withered;
Strong young people have left to make steel;
Only children and old women reap the crops;
How can they survive the coming year?
Allow me to raise my voice for the people!

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A Year Ago on Equitable Growth: Twenty Worthy Reads On and Off Equitable Growth for August 2, 2018

stacks and stacks of books

Worthy Reads from Equitable Growth and Its Network:

  1. Anybody looking back at economic history cannot help but note that female physical autonomy and its absence has played an absolutely huge role. Kate Bahn and company are pulling together the evidence that this is not just history—that it still matters a lot in America today: Kate Bahn: Understanding the link between bodily autonomy and economic opportunity across the United States: "All of these connective threads are examined in a forthcoming paper of mine...

  2. Seattle is pursuing (a version of) social democracy in one metropolitan area. In the 2010s we learned from some of our laboratories of democracy (cough, Kansas, Wisconsin) what really not to do. Will Seattle provide a model for what we should do?: Hilary Wething: Seattle: Paid Sick Leave And Workers’ Earnings Dynamics: "Utilize administrative data from Washington state to study the impact of Seattle’s paid sick time ordinance on:...

  3. Let me welcome Will McGrew, who sends us to a very insightful study of government failure and bureaucratic blockage in the New Orleans school system. Since we economists do not have an effective grammar of government failure, there is a tendency (on my part at least) to somewhat overlook it: Will McGrew: "A timely and necessary piece from Haley Correll: quality public schools should be available to all kids in New Orleans, not just those whose parents have the time, information, and resources to navigate the complex application system..."

  4. In my opinion, Arindrajit Dube is one of the best economists around in figuring out what we should control for and why in order to achieve real econometric identification. The contrasting pole is simply to throw in a bunch of controls until you have produced the numbers you want. In my view, we do not teach what should be controlled for and how enough, so people pick it up on the fly. Arindrajit has picked it up, and is a master: Arindrajit Dube: Minimum wages and the distribution of family incomes in the United States: "I find that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage reduces poverty among the nonelderly population by 2.1 percent and 5.3 percent across the range of specifications in the long run...

  5. Lyndon Johnson said: "You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, 'You are free to compete with all the others,' and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.... It is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates.... Equal opportunity is essential, but not enough." However, one of our problems is that that does not seem to be working for even those African-Americans who can and do walk through all of our society's formal and status gates to opportunity: Khaing Zaw, Jhumpa Bhattacharya, Anne Price, Darrick Hamilton, and William Darity, Jr.: A College Degree and Marriage Fail to Yield Significant Wealth Gains for Black Women: "[In] the story of the American Dream... a college education is viewed as a key driver of upward mobility and the primary vehicle to eradicate racial differences...

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A Year Ago on Equitable Growth: Fifteen Worthy Reads On and Off Equitable Growth for July 26, 2018

stacks and stacks of books

TOP MUST REMEMBER: What I call 'Bob Rubin's End-of-Meeting Questions'. Ask them! They really work!: Annie Duke: Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts: "In fact, questioning what you see or hear can get you eaten. For survival-essential skills, type I errors (false positives) were less costly than type II errors (false negatives). In other words, better to be safe than sorry, especially when considering whether to believe that the rustling in the grass is a lion. We didn’t develop a high degree of skepticism when our beliefs were about things we directly experienced, especially when our lives were at stake...

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A Year Ago on Equitable Growth: Twenty Worthy Reads from the Past Week or so: July 19, 2018

stacks and stacks of books

TOP MUST REMEMBER: Here is the website for Zucman, Wier, and Torslavon's work on missing profits from tax avoidance and tax evasion (yes, I have decided I should spend some time occasionally listing paper authors in reverse alphabetical order): Gabriel Zucman et al.: The Missing Profits of Nations: [Working paper][1], June 2018. [Online appendix][2], June 2018. [Presentation slides][3], June 2018...

Worthy Reads on and from Equitable Growth:

  1. Here is the website for Zucman, Wier, and Torslavon's work on missing profits from tax avoidance and tax evasion (yes, I have decided I should spend some time occasionally listing paper authors in reverse alphabetical order): Gabriel Zucman et al.: The Missing Profits of Nations: [Working paper][1], June 2018. [Online appendix][2], June 2018. [Presentation slides][3], June 2018...

  2. I have not yet welcomed the extremely sharp Kate Bahn to Equitable Growth: Equitable Growth: Kate Bahn: "Her areas of research include gender, race, and ethnicity in the labor market, care work, and monopsonistic labor markets.... She was an economist at the Center for American Progress. Bahn also serves as the executive vice president and secretary for the International Association for Feminist Economics.... She received her doctorate in economics from the New School... and her Bachelor of Arts... from Hampshire...

  3. Wealth inequality measures have been grossly understating concentration because of tax evasion and tax avoidance in tax havens: Annette Alstadsæter, Niels Johannesen, and GabrielZucman: Who owns the wealth in tax havens? Macro evidence and implications for global inequality: "This paper estimates the amount of household wealth owned by each country in offshore tax havens...

  4. The "optimal tax" literature in economics has always been greatly distorted by the fact that models simple enough to solve bring with them lots of baggage that leads to misleading—and usually anti-egalitarian and anti-equitable growth—conclusions that would not follow if we had better control over our theories. Here Saez and Stantcheva make significant progress in resolving this problem: Emmanuel Saez and Stefanie Stantcheva: A simpler theory of optimal capital taxation: "We first consider a simple model with utility functions linear in consumption and featuring heterogeneous utility for wealth..

  5. Very much worth reading from Equitable Growth alum Nick Bunker: Nick Bunker: Puzzling over U.S. wage growth: "Hiring has not been particularly strong during this recovery...

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It is macro: recession, weak recovery, catastrophe, and then superweak recovery...

I confess I do not get this from Paul Krugman.

Yes, the trade deficit crowds-out traditionally-male blue-collar import-substituting manufacturing jobs, but imports crowd-in traditionally-male blue-collar wholesale trade jobs, and finance traditionally-male blue-collar construction (and capital-goods manufacturing) jobs. If you look at all traditionally-male blue-collar—wholesale, construction, manufacturing, and mining)–what you get is not a story of the trade deficit, but rather a story of (a) macro shocks to aggregate demand, and (b) the long-run technology-and-preferences trend—some of which is automation.

NAFTA is nowhere.

The 2002-2007 bilateral-trade "China shock" is simply not a terribly big deal for the country as a whole: employment in traditionally-male blue-collar occupations was flat. A big deal for places that found their manufactures competing with new imports from China, yes. But not for blue-collar traditionally-male employment in the country as a whole.

For the country as a whole, it is aggregate demand—2001-3 recession, weak recovery, 2007-9 catastrophe, and then superweak recovery—with a supporting role for technology-and-preferences:

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Paul Krugman: "Yang asserts that automation destroyed lots of manufacturing in the midwest, [but] you don't have to be a protectionist to realize that the acceleration of job loss after 2000 was mainly about the surging trade deficit:

18 Paul Krugman on Twitter And while Yang asserts that automation destroyed lots of manufacturing in the midwest you don t have to be a protectionist to realize that the acceleration of job loss after 2000 was mainly about the surging

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Making it real that we live in the "second gilded age"...

I am hearing from a number of people that columns like this one and its ilk by Paul Krugman and our other compadres are bloodless, and ineffective. They do not convey any sense of what is happening.

So let me make it more concrete:

The top 0.01% of American workers—now some 15000—this year have incomes, including capital gains, of about 500 times the average. Typical incomes in America today, including capital gains and benefits, are perhaps 300 a working day. The gulf between them and average income is large: average income is about 800. Thus 15000 workers in the top 0.01% of income this year receive an average of 400,000 dollars a day.

How could one go about spending that? Suppose you decided this morning that you wanted to rent the 2000 square-foot Ritz-Carlton suite at the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco hotel for the week of next Memorial Day, and did so. That would set you back 6000 for seven nights. You would still have to spend 394,000 more today to avoid getting richer: to avoid getting richer you would have to spend 16,667 an hour, awake and asleep, day in and day out.

One way to think about the spending of these 15000 superrich is that they are, collectively, through their spending employing 7,500,000 who are dedicated to making them happier and advancing their purposes, whatever they may be. And a large proportion of them are bosses, partially constrained by their obligation to advance the purposes of the organizations they work for, but free to shape and interpret those purposes as they wish. Guess average is effectively the unconstrained boss of only 3 more: that makes 20,000,000 of us who are paid to directly and indirectly and who are thus are focused on advancing the top 0.01%'s particular and idiosyncratic purposes. Is that likely to be a healthy society?

And then there are the rest of the top 0.1%—not 15,000 but 135,000 each on average one-ninth as well-off—who must spend and reinvest not 400,000 but 45,000 a day, but who are collectively of the same economic weight as the top 0.01%, and thus have another 20,000,000 of us working for them: paid to directly and indirectly and thus focused on advancing the top 0.1%'s particular and idiosyncratic purposes as well:

Paul Krugman: Notes on Excessive Wealth Disorder: "How not to repeat the mistakes of 2011.... What’s really at issue here is the role of the 0.1 percent, or maybe the 0.01 percent—the truly wealthy, not the '400,000 a year working Wall Street stiff' memorably ridiculed in the movie Wall Street. This is a really tiny group of people, but one that exerts huge influence over policy.... Raw corruption.... Soft corruption.... Campaign contributions.... Defining the agenda... [which] I want to focus on... a particular example that for me and others was a kind of radicalizing moment, a demonstration that extreme wealth really has degraded the ability of our political system to deal with real problems... the extraordinary shift in conventional wisdom and policy priorities that took place in 2010-2011, away from placing priority on reducing the huge suffering still taking place in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, and toward action to avert the supposed risk of a debt crisis...

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Robo-Apocalypse? Not in Your Lifetime: No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate

Robo Apocalypse Not in Your Lifetime by J Bradford DeLong Project Syndicate

No Longer Fresh at Project Syndicate: Robo-Apocalypse? Not in Your Lifetime: "Will the imminent “rise of the robots” threaten all future human employment? The most thoughtful discussion of that question can be found in MIT economist David H. Autor’s 2015 paper, “Why Are There Still so Many Jobs?”, which considers the problem in the context of Polanyi’s Paradox. Given that “we can know more than we can tell,” the twentieth-century philosopher Michael Polanyi observed, we shouldn’t assume that technology can replicate the function of human knowledge itself. Just because a computer can know everything there is to know about a car doesn’t mean it can drive it. This distinction between tacit knowledge and information bears directly on the question of what humans will be doing to produce economic value in the future... Read MOAR at Project Syndicate

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Refinding the Path Toward Utopia: An Intake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century 1870-2016"

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Recall the pre-1913 post-1800 progress of humanity in the direction of a utopia of material abundance.

The classic Industrial Revolution period—1800 to 1870—had seen material productivity and living standards rise by perhaps one-quarter worldwide, with an average growth rate of perhaps one-third of a percent per year. Growth had been faster—greater than one-half percent per year—in the countries that were to become the G-7, even though two of its future members, Italy and Japan, as of yet showed few signs of significant industrial-era growth. Then 1870-1913 the modern corporation, the industrial research lab, the manufacturing value chain, plus globalization—the land and submarine telegraph cable, the iron-hulled screw-propellered ocean-going steamship and the railroad, and global migration—pulled the world forward with a large jerk: a more than tripling of growth, with a more than doubling of growth rates in the industrial core that was to become the G-7 and substantial participation elsewhere even where factories were not build. A Mexico, for example, saw its productivity levels double between 1870 and 1913. An Argentina, for example, saw its productivity levels triple. And growth in Italy and Japan for the first time kept pace with that in their future G-7 partners.

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John Maynard Keynes (1926): The End of His ""The End of Laissez-Faire": Weekend Reading

Il Quarto Stato

Weekend Reading: John Maynard Keynes (1926): The end of his "The End of Laissez-Faire": "These reflections have been directed towards possible improvements in the technique of modern capitalism.... There is nothing in them which is seriously incompatible with... the essential characteristic... the dependence upon an intense appeal to... money-making and money-loving instincts.... I may do well to remind you... that the fiercest contests and the most deeply felt divisions of opinion are likely to be waged in the coming years... round... questions... psychological or, perhaps, moral...

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Yes, Societal Well-Being Depends on a Very Strong Distributional Bias Along the Lines of "To Each According to Their Need". Why Do You Ask?

Il Quarto Stato

At least half of our wealth comes from the ideas and investments of those who are now dead. And as we grow richer, that proportion grows as well. None of the living have any just exclusive claim on any portion of this cornucopian storehouse of technologies. The dead have no just claim on it either: respect for their legacy does not entail honoring their wishes as to its use, if that honoring upsets the principle of equal opportunity. Thus the most bedrock moral-philosophical principal is that more than half of our wealth is held in common for the human community to distribute as it decides is good.

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Raymond Aron (1955): Nations and Ideologies: Weekend Reading

This is the best expression of the end-of-ideology "managerialism" theses of the Great Post-WWII Keynesian Boom—Les Trente Glorieuses. It is remarkably early: 1955. And it is 100% correct that those who tried to apply a pre-WWI socialist or a Leninist frame to the state of the world after World War II were hopelessly wrong, and would up naked on the moon. And that is if they were lucky. Aron, of course, took the defeat of fascism as the Red Army turned Hitler's Berlin into rubble in 1945 as permanent. And Aron mistook the Eisenhower wing of the Republican Party for the beast. And maybe he would have been right if not for Goldwater:

Il Quarto Stato

Raymond Aron (1955): Nations and Ideologies: "WE are becoming ever more aware that the political categories of the last century—Left and Right, liberal and socialist, traditionalist and revolutionary-have lost their relevance. They imply the existence of conflicts which experience has since reconciled, and they lump together ideas and men whom the course of history has drawn into opposing camps. How can one describe as "extreme Left" the Soviet regime which identifies society with the state? Is it possible to see it as a continuation of the struggle against arbitrary rule, or as favouring individual freedom and the control of government by the governed? Or again, when a parliament of "Pashas" is dissolved by a group of army officers sincerely concerned for national independence and economic progress, who then establish a military dictatorship, what is the correct word to describe their regime?...

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Modern Assembly Line

Note to Self: Comment on Richard Baldwin: The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work: Start from the observation the the human brain is a massively-parallel supercomputer that fits inside a breadbox and draws 50 watts of power.

For 6,000 years, since the domestication of the horse, human backs, human thighs, and human fingers have becoming less powerful as sources of economic value, as animals and machines have increasingly competed with and substituted for them. Up until recently, however, every domesticated animal every machine had required a microprocessor. And the highly-productive decentralized societal division of labor of enormous extent created huge and increasing amounts of need for white-collar information processing: the accounting, control, transmission of information, and purveyance of misinformation jobs that are most of what people like us here do. Thus while human backs and thighs and fingers became less powerful as sources of economic value as time passed, human brains become more valuable. But now we have robots which contain their own microprocessors, and software 'bots that handle huge amounts of the white-collar information processing. So the job-creating aspects of technological creative destruction are now open to question

From this standpoint, we can worry along either of two dimensions:

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Cosma Shalizi (2011): Dives, Lazarus, and Alice: Weekend Reading

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Weekend Reading: Cosma Shalizi (2011): "They've traded more for cigarettes / than I've managed to express"; or, Dives, Lazarus, and Alice: "Let us consider a simple economy with three individuals. Alice is a restaurateur; she has fed herself, and has just prepared a delicious turkey dinner, at some cost in materials, fuel, and her time. Dives is a wealthy conceptual artist1, who has eaten and is not hungry, but would like to buy the turkey dinner so he can "feed" it to the transparent machine he has built, and film it being "digested" and eventually excreted2. To achieve this, he is willing and able to spend up to $5000. Dives does not care, at all, about what happens to anyone else; indeed, as an exponent of art for art's sake, he does not even care whether his film will have an audience. Huddled miserably in a corner of the gate of Dives's condo is Lazarus, who is starving, on the brink of death, but could be kept alive for another day by eating the turkey...

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Economics, Identity, and the Democratic Recession: Talking Points

Event: Tu 2019-04-09 10-11am CFR: 58 E. 68th St., New York, NY:

Untitled 7 pages

The Data

  • 1970s a bad decade for real incomes—oil shocks, environmental cleanup, baby boom entry into the labor market
  • End of 1970s sees shift to "neoliberalism" to fix the "excesses of social democracy"
  • Since 1980: males and those with low education have seen their expectations of what their lives would be like bitterly disappointed
    • Male high school graduates down by 17%
    • Males with advanced degrees up by 25%
    • Whites have not been disappointed more economically—what William Juilius Wilson called the "declining significance of race"
      • Save, perhaps, for Black women with BAs...
    • Sociological disappointment in addition?
    • Within-household economic disappointment?
    • Other aspects of the economic besides income?
      • Occupation and occupational stability
      • Employment stability

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On MSNBC Right Now... As Always, Much More to Say than I Could...

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2019-04-05 12:30 PM PST: Ali Velshi: MSNBC Live



I bring you greetings from Laura Tyson, whose office I was hanging out here for an hour or so this morning.

The background is a green-screened one:

  • That is not what it looks like here right now.
  • It is a very grey, rainy, foggy day—the latest in more than a month of storms that have come down on us from the north.
  • This is the first time in my life Berkeley has had this early-spring weather pattern
  • Global warming is going to be much more than just the-climate-marches-north-by-three-miles-a-year and we need stronger air conditioners.

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Still Haunted by the Shadow of the Greater Recession...

key: https://www.icloud.com/keynote/0UtILjGfChXSFFUBSCJ3PTf1g
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#highlighted #presentations #greatrecession #macro #economicgrowth #economichistory #economics #finance #monetaryeconomicss

Barry Ritholtz (2016): The Counterfactual: "States, those so-called laboratories of democracy, have been engaging in a variety of different policy experiments.... Consider the following... "fourteen states begin the new year with higher minimum wages"... and, during the next few years, minimum wage increases are scheduled to take place in California, New York, Oregon and elsewhere. Regardless of your views... we will get a huge run of data in the coming years. Whatever your beliefs may be, you should pay attention to this data to learn if they are well-supported or not. We also see similar experiments taking place in tax policy.... During the past few years, we saw big tax cuts in Kansas, Louisiana and New Jersey, with big tax increases in others...

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Note to Self: _A Comment on Development Engineering: With respect to "doing good versus doing well"...

From an economist's point of view, the economy is a decentralized societal calculating machine. It looks at everybody, and tries, in a utilitarian way, to increase social welfare—which it roughly defines as summing everybody's well-being, with each person's well-being weighted by their lifetime wealth. This produces a system in which incentives are, and "doing well" achieved by, increasing resources that produce things for which rich people have a serious Jones.

Serving the global poor is not going to do that. Som making a living serving the poor requires focusing on one of two things:

  1. Finding an organization—a government or an NGO—that is willing to some degree to commit resources to bend this market logic of "to those who have, more shall be given"

  2. Find some people who have skills and resources and industry that are somehow blocked from the sight of the world market, and figure out a narrow strategic intervention that will makes those resources visible—and hence valuable.

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

3 Month Treasury Bill Secondary Market Rate FRED St Louis Fed

Forecasting: Because of the shutdown, we are flying much more blind than we would like to be. We are not getting the normal data flow. Thus there is more than the usual level of uncertainty. Given that:

  • I believe there is something like an 80 percent probability that Europe is now in a small recession.
  • The Chinese government continues to say that all is well.
  • But somehow six percent fewer cars were bought in China in late 2018 than in late 2017.
  • Over the past half century the reliable recession signal has been yield-curve inversion—since 1965 eight inversion signals: one false (1998), one near-recession (1966), and six recessions.
  • There have been no recessions not signaled by a yield-curve inversion.
  • The Federal Reserve currently plans are to invert the yield curve in June.
  • Neither Steve Moore nor I understand why the Fed thinks that this is a good thing to do.

In the last yield-curve inversion, in 2006, they were worried about an inflationary spiral breaking out because of rising oil prices—they should not have been worrying about it, but they were. In the yield-curve inversion before that, in 2000, they were worried about the dot-com bubble. There is nothing like either of those going on now.

Some people think the Federal Reserve is about to back off. Some people think that this time really is different—that the bond market is spooking at shadows this time. Give each of these a 25% chance of being right, and you have to say that there is a 50% chance the U.S. will be in recession in a year and a half. We hope the recession, if it comes, will be a small one. We hope we will, somehow, dodge the bullet and not have a recession.

But, at least as I see it, that is the forecast: a 50% chance of 1.5%-2.5% growth over the next year and a half, and a 50% chance of negative growth.

If you want a more precise forecast, my advice is to consult your Magic-8 Ball.

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

The Embarcadero Google Maps

The Shutdown: Let's review the bidding: Pelosi, Ryan, McCarthy, Schumer, McConnell, Trump reached a deal. Deal passes Senate unanimously. Trump watches "Fox and Friends". Trump announces he won't sign the deal. Paul Ryan—desperate not to embarrass Trump more—won't let the House vote on the deal. Ryan goes out and Pelosi gets in on January 4, and Pelosi passes the deal through the House. But because it is a new congressional session, the Senate's approval has expired. And McConnell—desperate not to embarrass Trump more—is now holding things up in the Senate.

From Pelosi and Schumer's standpoint, the big problem is this: they reach a new deal with Trump, Fox and Friends finds some reason to slag it, Trump backs out again.

The right, rational response to this situation is for Pelosi, McCarthy, Schumer, and McConnell to strike deals and then pass them with veto-proof majorities. But McCarthy and McConnell are too scared of Trump and not concerned enough about the well-being of the country to do that.

2.5 million people aren't getting their paychecks and 800,000 are getting very little work done. That's about a 0.5%—10 billion over the past month—hit to the economy. We won't see that because of oddities in the how the public sector is folded into official statistics, but it is there. Will there be a multiplier applied to it? In a year I will have the data so that then I will be able to look back and tell you. I cannot tell you now...

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Robert Waldmann (2016): Dynamic Inefficiency: "Is public debt a burden?... It is possible in theory that the answer is no and that higher [initial] public debt causes permanently higher [balanced-growth path] consumption and welfare.... This is called dynamic inefficiency. The standard result from simple models is that an economy is dynamically inefficient if r is less than g where r is the real interest rate and g is the rate of GDP growth...

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Three Papers and Four Graphs and Tables: The Top Marginal Tax Rate

If Arindrajit Dube and I do start our Economic Home podcast, I think that each 30 minute segment should concentrate on two or three (or four) papers and two or three (or four) graphs and tables. Our first proposed topic is the top marginal tax rate. Are these the right papers? Are these the right graphs and tables?

Www ucl ac uk uctp39a PikettySaezStantcheva pdf

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Be the Podcast You Want to See in the World!

We are going to need more monkeys Google Search

The very sharp Arindrajit Dube was, as one does, procrastinating on twitter:

Arindrajit Dube: Somehow I find the econ podcast space is mostly occupied by ideological right wingers, as opposed to people interested in an open minded, evidence informed economics. Who am I missing?

And my instantaneous reaction was: BE THE PODCAST YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD!

Brad DeLong: Let's start a podcast!

Arindrajit Dube: Wait Brad, is this a serious offer? :-)...

And the public chimed in:

Suresh Naidu: Do it!
Matthew Yglesias: You guys should do this for real
Robert Waldmann: You really do have to do the podcast (or block me). I will tweet complaints until you do it.
Aaron Sojourner: It would be incredibly valuable service.
Erik: Do it!
Dr. A. Duus Pape: I'd subscribe in a heartbeat.

Arindrajit Dube: God damn it Brad now Matt Y is on board and I am seriously screwed...

So it looks like we may be doing this for real—once a week, half-hour chunks, starting out as amateur hour only. First topic: thinking about what marginal tax rates on the rich should be.

What say you all?

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If you have not already read all of the WCEG's top 12 of 2018, go read them now: Equitable Growth: Top 12 of 2018: "The effects of wealth taxation on wealth accumulation and wealth inequality.... Why macroeconomics should further embrace distributional economics.... The links between stagnating wages and buyer power in U.S. supply chains.... U.S. income growth has been stagnant. To what degree depends on how you measure it.... Income inequality and aggregate demand in the United States.... Presentation: U.S. Inequality and Recent Tax Changes.... The latest research on the efficacy of raising the minimum wage above $10 in six U.S. cities.... Competitive Edge: There is a lot to fix in U.S. antitrust enforcement today.... Labor Day is a time to reflect on reviving workers’ power in the U.S. economy.... Kaldor and Piketty’s facts: The rise of monopoly power in the United States.... How the rise of market power in the United States may explain some macroeconomic puzzles.... Puzzling over U.S. wage growth...

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Stephanie Victoria: "I'm a say this lil story then I'm gon' let'chall get back to tweeting...: Recently, I discovered a grocery story even bougie-er than Whole Foods in my new 'hood. My addition to the list of 'approved negroes after 6PM' recently went through so my neighbors have stopped staring at me & the resident coons only give disapproving looks on trash day instead of their usual 'don't start no trouble' slave talks in the hallway...

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Noah Smith: Unions Did Great Things for the American Working Class: "Politically and economically, unions are sort of an odd duck. They aren’t part of the apparatus of the state, yet they depend crucially on state protections in order to wield their power. They’re stakeholders in corporations, but often have adversarial relationships with management. Historically, unions are a big reason that the working class won many of the protections and rights it now enjoys...

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Paul Krugman: The Economics of Soaking the Rich: "Diminishing marginal utility is the common-sense notion that an extra dollar is worth a lot less in satisfaction to people with very high incomes than to those with low incomes. Give a family with an annual income of $20,000 an extra $1,000 and it will make a big difference to their lives. Give a guy who makes $1 million an extra thousand and he’ll barely notice it. What this implies for economic policy is that we shouldn’t care what a policy does to the incomes of the very rich. A policy that makes the rich a bit poorer will affect only a handful of people, and will barely affect their life satisfaction, since they will still be able to buy whatever they want...

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We May Well Not Be at Full Employment Yet...

FRED Graph FRED St Louis Fed

In the context of overall labor-market utilization trends, the rise in the household-survey estimate of the unemployment rate in December relative to November is worth a note:

  • First, the rise in the unemployment rate is due predominately to yet another increase in labor force participation. It's not that people found it harder to find and keep jobs—it's that people who had thought it would be hard concluding that it will be easier, and so starting to look.

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Trade and Distribution: A Multisector Stolper-Samuelson Finger Exercise: Hoisted from 2008

Il Quarto Stato

Hoisted from 2008: Trade and Distribution: A Multisector Stolper-Samuelson Finger Exercise: This argument of an inconsistency between free trade and the well-being of the majority of potential voters rests substantially on the two-factor example of the Stolper-Samuelson result. It does not fare too well when we generalize to a situation in which there are a number of different factors—even if the ownership of the abundant factors of production is very concentrated indeed... https://delong.typepad.com/stolper-samuelson_finger_exercise-1.pdf

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Not Only No Wage But Minimal Investment Boosts from Trump-McConnell-Ryan...

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The so brilliant as to be goddess-like Chye-Ching Huang gets this one, I think, wrong: In response to: Jared Bernstein: "For the [Trump-McConnell-Ryan tax] cuts to have more than near-term growth impacts, they’d have to boost biz investment a lot more than we’ve seen so far, though these are early days. Both WSJ and Slate show “muted” investment results..." She writes: Chye-Ching Huang: "My concern is the frame that "growth' is what we should be focused on. If what we care about is how workers are doing—and GOP lawmakers claimed the 2017 tax law would help workers—we should focus on the metric that directly shows how they're doing! If the claimed point of tax cuts for corporations was to raise wages, we should first and foremost look at real wage rates to assess the results...

But those economists shilling for Trump-McConnell-Ryan committed not just to wage increases, but to a particular mechanism for wage increases: (1) U.S. a small open economy -> (2) tax cuts produce a huge jump in investment -> (3) faster growth -> (4) factor shares revert -> (5) higher wages.

To see whether this argument makes sense we can—and should—look at this causal mechanism at every one of its five steps.

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Would Small Minimum Wage Increases Raise or Have No Effect on Employment?

Il Quarto Stato

That is the current question—would (small) minimum wage increases have no effect on employment because labor-supply curves are steep, or would they boost employment by curbing employers with monopsony power from pushing both wages and employment below their competitive equilibirum values? Yet you would not know it from the very sharp and good-hearted ex-New York Times labor beat reporter Steven Greenhouse. What is he doing? He is, I think, reflexively saying "both sides!": Steven Greenhouse: "Some argue that it's foolish to support a higher minimum because it could reduce employment. But there's a huge debate among economists on this. One school—see David Neumark—finds that a higher minimum reduces employment. The other—see Arin Dube—finds little effect on employment...

Now this is simply wrong. The majority of economists believe that raising the minimum wage from its current level would significantly boost the incomes of the working poor and have little adverse effect on employment. A large minority of economists believe that raising the minimum wage would actually increase employment—that employers currently use their monopsony power to push wages and employment below their competitive equilibrium values, and that a higher minimum wage would reduce their ability to do this and so boost both. The majority and the large minority all, however, agree that there is uncertainty here. It is only a small minority of economists who follow David Neumark on this—who are confident that a higher minimum wage now would have a noticeable negative effect on employment. Thus Steve gets it wrong.

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The Federal Reserve Is Raising Interest Rates Again for Probably All The Wrong Reasons: Last Month Over at Equitable Growth

The Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates again for probably all the wrong reasons Equitable Growth

Last Month Over at Equitable Growth: The Federal Reserve Is Set to Raise Interest Rates Again for Probably All The Wrong Reasons: The meeting [last month] of the Federal Open Market Committee—the principal policymaking body of the U.S. Federal Reserve system—[was] overwhelmingly likely to raise the benchmark interest rate it controls, the Federal Funds rate. The rate, which governs short-term safe nominal bonds, is likely to go up by one-quarter of a percentage point, from the range of 1.75 percent to 2 percent per year to the range of 2 percent to 2.25 percent per year. That would make it a little more expensive to borrow and spend and a little more attractive to cut spending and save. Thus, there would be a little less spending in the economy, and so a few fewer jobs. Economic growth would be a little slower. The U.S. economy would be a little less resilient in the face of adverse shocks to resources or confidence that might generate a recession. These are all minuses—small minuses from a 25-basis-point increase in the Federal Funds rate, but minuses nonetheless.

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Development and Security

Battle of crecy froissart 58bf04d43df78c353c2c2e0f jpg 768×650 pixels

Not what I said at the Blum Center Development Lunch today: more what I wish I had said—albeit it is still incoherent and disorganized:

Let me begin with three direct responses to points Michael Nacht made. Let me then try to—briefly—propose a framework, perhaps a framework for analysis, perhaps merely a framework for convincing people in the national security community that they should take issues of economic development seriously, and so give large grants so that the Berkeley development community can do more things—things closely related to what we would be doing anyway.

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Note to Self: Books for Econ 210a: Introduction to Economic History (Spring 2019)

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Blum Hall B100: Plaza Level: 2 PM: Bill Janeway: The Digital Revolution and the State: The Great Reversal


Bill Janeway: Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy 2.0 https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1108471277: "The innovation economy begins with discovery and culminates in speculation. Over some 250 years, economic growth has been driven by successive processes of trial and error: upstream exercises in research and invention and downstream experiments in exploiting the new economic space opened by innovation...

...Drawing on his professional experiences, William H. Janeway provides an accessible pathway for readers to appreciate the dynamics of the innovation economy. He combines personal reflections from a career spanning forty years in venture capital, with the development of an original theory of the role of asset bubbles in financing technological innovation and of the role of the state in playing an enabling role in the innovation process. Today, with the state frozen as an economic actor and access to the public equity markets only open to a minority, the innovation economy is stalled; learning the lessons from this book will contribute to its renewal...

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The first write-up of the Prisoner's (or is it Prisoners'?) Dilemma: Merrill Flood (1958): Some Experimental Games: "Summary: Two players non-cooperatively choose rows and columns of their payoff matrices in a series of 100 plays of a non-constant sum game. The purpose of this experimental game is to determine which of several theories best describes their behavior. The players, being familiar with zero-sum game theory, happen to choose a poor solution for their non-constant-sum game...

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Prisoner's Dilemma, or Prisoners' Dilemma?: Hoisted from the Archives

Game Theory

Hoisted from the Archives: Prisoner's Dilemma: An extended passage from William Poundstone's (1992) marvelous book Prisoner's Dilemma (New York: Doubleday: 038541580X) https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0307763781. Economists will find it hilarious and thought-provoking. Others will probably find it bizarre and weird. It comes from pp.106-118.

Flood and Dresher devised a simple game where [the Nash equilibrium wasn't such a good outcome for the players].... The researchers wondered if real people playing the game--especially, people who had never heard of Nash or equilibrium points--would be drawn mysteriously to the equilibrium strategy. Flood and Dresher doubted it.

The two researchers ran an experiment that very afternoon. They recruited two friends as guinea pigs, Armen Alchian of UCLA ("AA" below), and RAND's John D. Williams ("JW"). The game was presented purely as a payoff table. The payoffs were:

(AA's payoff, JW's payoff) JW's Strategy 1 [Defect] JW's Strategy 2 [Cooperate]
AA's Strategy 1 [Cooperate] (-1, 2) (1/2, 1)
AA's Strategy 2 [Defect] (0, 1/2) (1, -1)

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The Appalachian and Other Trails


Let's consider the United States in the time of major westward expansion and "Amerindian removal": the century 1760 to 1860 before the Civil War. We have U.S. output-per-worker growth then at about 1.0% per year, in contrast to British output-per-worker growth at about 0.5% per year. We have the U.S. population and labor force growing at 2.5% per year, from 2.5 to 30 million. Our conclusion:

An America penned behind the Appalachians would probably have seen its living standards and productivity levels not growing at 1% per year from 1760 to 1860 but shrinking. For the $ \gamma = 3.0 $ benchmark case, living standards and productivity levels would have shrunk at a pace of -0.325% per year had population growth been the historical 3% per year.

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Over on EconSpark, I think this is wrong: Ben Bernanke: How Important Was The Financial Panic As A Cause Of The Great Recession?: "The collapse of the housing bubble was certainly a primary cause of the Great Recession.  The unwinding of the bubble (1) depressed aggregate demand through its adverse effects on consumer wealth and residential construction, and (2) triggered a financial panic...

The unwinding of the bubble set the table for the financial panic, but it did not trigger it. The bubble had already been unwound before the panic. The triggers of the panic lay elsewhere: in the events in financial markets that produced a sudden, discontinuous boost in the demand for safe assets. One picture I have always found very illuminating is this one:

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Is There Any Reason to Fear Low Interest Rates?

Il Quarto Stato

Paul Krugman tells us: Paul Krugman: @paulkrugman: "The American Economic Association has a new discussion forum set up by Olivier Blanchard. First up is the question of whether low interest rates are leading to excessive risk-taking https://www.aeaweb.org/forum/311/have-low-interest-rates-led-to-excessive-risk-taking..." So I mossed on over and left three comments: one on the forum, one on secular stagnation, and one on whether there is any reason to fear low interest rates:

Is There Any Reason to Fear Low Interest Rates?: Have low interest rates led to excessive risk taking?: I suspect that the right way to make the accurate point that this line of discussion is hunting for is to focus not on the amount of risk but on, rather, who is bearing the risk...

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Larry Summers: The Five Best Books on Globalization: "The Economic Consequences of the Peace https://books.google.com/books?id=AX1EAAAAIAAJ, by John Maynard Keynes; Manias, Panics, and Crashes https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0230365353, by Charles Kindleberger; Globalization and Its Discontents https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0393071073, by Joseph E Stiglitz; Why Globalization Works https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0300102526, by Martin Wolf; and _The Great Convergence https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0674972686, by Richard Baldwin...

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This line of work has become popular, and is very interesting. But I always find myself having a hard time evaluating it, and am puzzled as to how to think about it: Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Debora Revoltella, Jan Svejnar, Christoph Weiss: Dispersion in productivity among European firms: "This column uses firm-level data from all EU countries to explore how the dispersion of resources affects macroeconomic performance...

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