Well, the tabs are really starting to add up in my little world. Right now I have 56 tabs open in Chrome alone. That can only mean one thing: I need to do another installment of Odds and Ends. There is some very important stuff today. That’s generally the case with these posts. If there is something that hangs around on my tabs for a long time, it usually means it is something interesting. Often I don’t get around to writing about it because I don’t feel I can do justice to it. But here, I just dump it without adding too much. And away we go…
- Let’s start with Paul Krugman who wrote a great rant over on his blog, Fighting the Last Macro War? Noah Smith wrote an article claiming that economists are always working on the last crisis, Is Macro Doomed to Always Fight the Last War? Krugman defends the Keynesians very well and you can read the post if you want to know. What I thought was more interesting was how he attacked the freshwater economists. These are basically the University of Chicago gang, with their real business cycle (RBC) models, who think that the government is evil and everything will be great if the government gets out of the way. Krugman thinks Smith is being way too easy on them:
First there was stagflation—and that did indeed knock Keynesians back for a while, even as it gave freshwater macro some credibility. As I’ve already indicated, the freshwater guys then stopped there. And I mean really, really stopped there: in many ways they seem to be forever living in 1979.
In particular, they never reacted at all to the second macro war, the disinflation of the 1980s. The point there was that disinflation was very costly, with protracted high unemployment—which shouldn’t have happened if freshwater macro were at all right. This reality, as much as clever new models, drove the Keynesian revival; the RBC guys paid no attention, and learned nothing…
Now, you might ask why, in that case, we haven’t solved the problem [of our persistent economic slump]. But the answer there has nothing to do with lack of economic understanding; it has to do with ideologues who made up new doctrines on the fly (like expansionary austerity or doom by 90 percent debt) to justify policies that made no sense in the standard models. If politicians turn to climate deniers, that’s not a reflection on climate science; if they turn to crank macroeconomics, that’s not a reflection on Keynesianism.
Ouch! I’m sure some of the freshwater guys will swat back—impotently, of course.
- A bit over a year ago, I wrote, Rich Kids for the Rich. It was about The Can Kicks Back, an astroturf group of young people concerned about government debt. As I wrote then, it was “founded by seniors at Phillips Academy, a $40K per year prep school for the kids of the wealthy. And just like their parents, they are concerned about the debt—and for the same reasons.” Well, Byron Tau at Politico reported that The Can Kicks Back is in debt. In November, their communications director wrote in an email, “Without someone/something else covering staff costs and without fundraising miracles like Stan or near-Stan happening consistently, I don’t know how we both sustain [an] organization and do meaningful things…” The “Stan” mentioned is billionaire hedge fund manager Stan Druckenmiller. He gave them a check for a quarter million dollars last year—roughly 40% of their fundraising for the whole year. Of course, I’m sure that The Can Kicks Back will not go bankrupt. Having a youthful face is important for the billionaires’ campaign to starve granny.
- Dylan Scott at Talking Points Memo provided the following graph of Obamacare enrollment by state:
The redder a state is, the higher the enrollment. The highest is Vermont with 52.4% of eligible people enrolled. The lowest is surprisingly Hawaii with just 3.2%. If you click over, they have a very cool interactive map where you can see what the enrollment is in any given state. But you can see the general shape of things: in conservative states, fewer people are getting enrolled. Part of that is the deep south where it seems they are determined to continue fighting the Civil War by other means. It’s all disgraceful. Poor people are suffering all over the nation because Republicans want to register their disapproval of President Obama. We Democrats weren’t thrilled with Medicare Part D, but we weren’t spiteful about it. There is really something wrong with those people.
- Alec MacGillis wrote a great long piece over at The New Republic, Chris Christie’s Entire Career Reeks. If you are at all interested in Christie, you should read it. I want to draw your attention, however, to a much less prominent article. Right after the story broke, Joe Patrice over at Above the Law wrote, Governor Chris Christie Did What We All Should Have Expected From an Old Prosecutor. Patrice is a defense attorney and he argues that the way Christie appears to have done business as governor is exactly the way prosecutors do business everywhere in the United States. The whole idea is to apply maximum leverage at all times. This is why your average junkie caught with a bag of dope ends up facing 16 charges instead of just one. If you are at all interested in Christie or our horrible “justice” system, you should really read Patrice’s article.
- David Sirota has a great piece over at Pando Daily, The Wolf of Sesame Street: Revealing the Secret Corruption Inside PBS’s News Division. It is mostly about how former Enron trader John Arnold gave $3.5 million to PBS affiliate WNET to produce a series on public pensions called Pension Peril. The problem is that Arnold is simultaneously lobbying to have public pensions slashed. There is nothing surprising about this. As conservatives have painted PBS and NPR as liberal outlets, they have also managed to push them far to the right through funding mechanisms. It is extremely sad. The good news is that Sirota’s article had a big impact. After much jockeying, PBS announced that it would be returning the money to Arnold. Of course, several of the shows have already been made, but hopefully PBS will be more careful in the future. I’m not hopeful, though. For every case like this that gets noticed, there are dozens that don’t. Just look at the ridiculously skewed The McLaughlin Group that has been on PBS for 32 years.
- I thought it would be nice to end this Odds and Ends with a performance of one of my very favorite songs, Fields & Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight.” That turned out to be really hard! Maybe it is just because I know the song so well and have lived with it for such a long time that I’ve gotten intolerant of other interpretations. But I don’t think so. For example, I found a version by Eliane Elias that isn’t what I’m looking for right now, but I see completely that it is brilliant. The worst of what I found was Tony Bennett. Now, I’ll admit: I think Bennett is about as overrated as anyone has ever been in any field whatsoever. But his “talk” version is worse than embarrassing; it is the waste of a great song. I did find this nice version by Catherine Brozena. But the only thing that really did it for me was this great version by Carla Cook:
Wow. I’m gonna have to spend more time listening to her!
That’s it for this digest. I’ll see you around the internet!