Saturday, August 25, 2012

If this won't do it, what will?

People, I believe that if we could somehow get this video seen by everyone in North Korea, it would be game over.

This video is totally made of fabulous! I can't recommend it highly enough (hat tip to Mrs. A).

collateral damage

So a disgruntled ex-employee waylays his former boss, puts 5 in his head and takes off. He's followed by two cops. The killer turns on the cops with gun drawn and the cops kill him.

Good work, right?

Well, what if I told you that 9 people were wounded in the second shooting, all of them by shots fired from the police, who squeezed off 16 shots in around 8 seconds?


Should we be congratulating them or castigating them? My view is in the labels, tell me yours in the comments.

Friday, August 24, 2012

One way or the other

Readers of this blog know that I've been a big fan of gridlock. It's kept my taxes from rising for quite a while now. But I'm starting to think that it's not a good long term strategy.

I'm starting to think the country needs to go one way or the other. All out or all in.

We either need to embrace big government and try to make it work, or get to a more minimal state.

America is now the Laodicea of modern democracies, and it's not working. I believe we'd get better overall economic performance if either party could put through their agenda and keep it in place.

Many on the left play down the importance of policy uncertainty, but I think it's real and important. The last 3 years have shown that.  I also think both parties contribute to this uncertainty. It can't just be pinned on Obama.

The big government path is pretty clear. A bit more re-distribution, a LOT more regulation, maintaining and expanding at the margin existing social programs. More and more areas of life become areas where people have a right to consume in excess of what their private incomes can afford.

The small government path is not so obvious. Axing Homeland Security, Amtrak, and the Post Office is not going to shrink Federal spending very much. The amount of cutting to entitlements needed to get spending to say 15% is a tough sell when you consider our demographics and the values of the median voter. There has to be a strong case made for why after the transition, America will be a better place with a smaller Federal Government.

Just invoking the mantra of "entrepreneurship" isn't going to get the job done.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Linkulus maximus

1. Great long-read about the mystery monkey of Tampa and how (s)he stirred up the inner anarchist of the locals.

2. Calming the student debt crisis hype.

3. College grads face hard times.... IN CHINA!

4. Romney is as an alpha male chick magnet (funniest thing I've read this week).

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tomato / Tomahto

It's being reported that an old lady "ruined" an Italian fresco by trying to restore it.

I can only assume that by "ruined" they mean "made awesome".

Here's the before and after:

From a tired old Jesus to a towel-armed manimal, just like that.

A star is born!

Podcastration: Parasites

Got to talk to some of my favorite people:  Zach Wiener, of SMBC fame, and Kelly (Wiener)Smith, a really cool biologista and general science nerd-punk.

The theme, as Kelly put it, is this:  "how people parasitize economies and how parasites economize people."

The podcast.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

All aboard Obama Motors

Obama General Motors, is not doing too well. When it went public again in November 2010, the stock price was $33.00. It's around $20 today. The Dow has risen significantly over this same time period (almost 30%), so the stock is a real dog.

GM is also still losing market share. They had a US market share of 20% in 2011, so far this year it's running at 18%.

How you like them Volts, 'Merica?

If the President is re-elected we may well be able to refer to GM as "the company so nice, Obama bought it twice!

All this and much more at this link.

Hat tip to Chris L.

Sergio loses even when he wins

Yesterday, Sergio Garcia won his first PGA tour event in 4 years along with $936,000 in prize money. Sergio won with a local guy as his caddie having separated from his regular caddy the week before.

Here, let Jon Wall tell you about it:

Garcia came into the week without a caddie on his bag, after parting ways with Gary Matthews following the PGA Championship. Looking for someone with local course knowledge, Garcia decided to give Faircloth a try for the week. The move turned out to be a blessing in disguise for both player and caddie, as Garcia went on to win his first PGA Tour event in four years, and Faircloth walked away with the flag on the 18th green -- the winning caddie usually takes the flag as a tournament keepsake -- and a once-in-a-lifetime story he'll be able to tell his grandkids one day. Oh, and another thing: a five-figure payday. Garcia earned $960,000 for his win, and considering caddies usually receive 10 percent of the paycheck for a win, the substitute loop could stand to make $96,000 for four days of work. There's a good chance Faircloth couldn't make anywhere close to that much on the local circuit. Ever. While Garcia wouldn't divulge how much he'd get for the win, he did say, "he's not going to get what a normal caddy would get because his job was fairly easy."

Wow. "his job was fairly easy". Dude you haven't won in 4 years. His job was Herculean!

So the cup-spitter finally gets a win and celebrates by stiffing his caddy.

There's a word for that, and I'm pretty sure it's "douchebag"!

What went so wrong?

Ezra Klein wrote a nice piece yesterday arguing that the big problem in the recession was housing debt and the central failure of Obama's economic policy was ignoring this big problem.

Here's his synopsis:

The precise nature of the administration’s misunderstanding was that the key problem was household debt, and until that problem was solved the economy couldn’t recover. But while it had a clear strategy for attacking bad debt in the banking system, and a clear strategy for attacking the fall in consumer spending, it never had a clear strategy for reducing housing debt.

He then points out that there are really no politically viable solutions to "bad" housing debt.

And indeed, what occurred was the bursting of a massive bubble in housing that left us much poorer than we thought we were. And since houses are relatively non-liquid assets, and often the main savings vehicle for many households, that bursting has long lasting ill effects on the economy.

I agree that ex-post, it's a very hard problem to solve and stay in office. Ezra talks about the massive forgiveness paid by the taxpayer approach. The other extreme is the get tough, foreclose like crazy, put it all behind us ASAP approach. We muddled through somewhere in between, though closer to option II than option I.

The best policies here are ex-ante and preventative. Looking back, perhaps the Fed should not have kept rates so low for so long, setting off a desperate search for yield that engendered a massive demand on Wall St. for mortgages to repackage. Perhaps the rating agencies should not have granted AAA status to synthetic instruments that they did not understand. Perhaps regulators should not have turned a blind eye to the blatant level of fraud that was occurring in the mortgage market. When a whole category of loans is referred to as "liar loans", that might be a problem down the road.

And of course, none of these policy failures can be reasonably laid at President Obama's door, but as Ezra points out, they are a factor in this pitiful recovery which undoubtably will hurt Obama in November (I don't agree with Ezra that Obama has no other significant economic policy failures, but I'll save that for another post).

It was often said that the role of the Fed was to take away the punch bowl just as the party was getting started. That clearly did not happen, nor did any of the other regulatory agencies or politicians show any inclination to get the country to drink responsibly.

So here we are. What do we do?

Krugman and Eggertsson have a new paper arguing that in our current predicament (which they, like Ezra attribute to excessive private debt) more government borrowing and spending is a very effective policy tool.

As I see it, this path seems unlikely to be taken without a Democratic sweep of the election.

So here we are. What do we do, or stop doing? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Matt Yglesias: Amnesiac

In an otherwise sensible post explaining how capacity utilization is back to normal while industrial output lags behind trend, Matt says something truly remarkable:

"This highlights the very real and very high costs of achieving economic recovery by simply letting things run their course."

Wait, what?

Maybe Matt and I are subjects in different simulations, but I don't think that's what happened at all.

What about the nearly $800 billion stimulus?

What about bailing out GM?

What about "cash for clunkers"?

What about cutting the payroll tax for two years?

What about extending the Bush tax cuts?

What about the repeated extension of unemployment benefits?

"Simply letting things run their course" is about the last thing that's actually happened in the past 4 years.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Is Political Science Crumbling?

There's a great word you likely know, but don't use very often.  It's metonymy.  Synechdoche is similar, but it literally means a part for the whole, or the whole for a part.  So "boots on the ground" is synedoche (boots meaning an infantryman, the part standing for the whole), and "US beats China in the finals!" is synedoche (two teams were playing, not the countries, so the whole is standing for the parts).

Anyway, metonymy is a little different, where a symbol or feature stands for something else.  "The Oval Office said today...."  means that the President issued a statement.  The Oval Office is not part of the President, but rather is associated with the President, and can be used to symbolize him.

This picture suggests the metonymy we find in the title for this post:
 APSA headquarters at Dupont Circle:  The apocalypse?  No!  Not now, not if my main man John Aldrich is the new President!  It's morning again in APSA.

With a nod to Anonyman...

Markets in Everything / The Culture that is Japan

Non-price competition in the Japanese fast food market has lead to some interesting menu items at American based chains.

Here's the $16 foie gras burger from Wendy's:

and Pizza Hut's "pigs in a blanket crust" pizza:

many more exotic entrees can be seen at the link above.

I wonder if good old price competition (4 whoppers for a nickel!!!) is outlawed/discouraged in Japan, or if the Japanese consumer somehow finds price competition unseemly? My money is on the former.

Hat tip to Mrs. Angus!

Get thee to a university

On average, there has pretty much never been a better time to hold a college or advanced degree.  Here's some amazing graphs from the Georgetown Public Policy Institute.

The first deals with the recent recession and current "recovery" (clic the pics for more glorious images):

College and Advanced degree holders suffered no net job loss in the recession and have gained 2 million jobs in the recovery. Those with some college suffered moderate job loss in the recession and have just about returned to square one during the recovery. Those with High school diplomas or less lost almost 6 million jobs during the recession and have not regained any of those in the course of the recovery.

The next graph shows that the recession just exacerbated what is a longer run process:

Since 1989 we've seen negative job growth for those with HS or less, and since 1995 a de-coupling of job growth between the some college and college grad or more.

The report also claims that the wage premium for a college or advance degree has held steady in the face of these trends.

So a whether it's just signaling, or whether it's gaining human capital, higher education is more important than ever for economic success in modern America!

Oh and by the way, yes I know that I'm a university professor and stuff like this is very good for me and the future of my profession.