Krugman on what to do

In a nice New York Review of Books essay, Paul Krugman makes a good case that we know what to do about the current economic situation, but just aren’t doing it.  And even that’s it is actually politically possible.   As, I believe Ezra has suggested (and Krugman addresses), I actually think it us possible that Romney might actually have it easier accomplishing this in the “only Nixon could go to China” vein.  Here’s the intro:

The depression we’re in is essentially gratuitous: we don’t need to be suffering so much pain and destroying so many lives. We could end it both more easily and more quickly than anyone imagines—anyone, that is, except those who have actually studied the economics of depressed economies and the historical evidence on how policies work in such economies.

The truth is that recovery would be almost ridiculously easy to achieve: all we need is to reverse the austerity policies of the past couple of years and temporarily boost spending. Never mind all the talk of how we have a long-run problem that can’t have a short-run solution—this may sound sophisticated, but it isn’t. With a boost in spending, we could be back to more or less full employment faster than anyone imagines.

But don’t we have to worry about long-run budget deficits? Keynes wrote that “the boom, not the slump, is the time for austerity.” Now, as I argue in my forthcoming book*—and show later in the data discussed in this article—is the time for the government to spend more until the private sector is ready to carry the economy forward again. At that point, the US would be in a far better position to deal with deficits, entitlements, and the costs of financing them.

Naturally, he also brings the empirical evidence throughout.  I found this bit quite compelling:

Fortunately, researchers at the International Monetary Fund have done the legwork, identifying no fewer than 173 cases of fiscal austerity in advanced countries over the period between 1978 and 2009. And what they found was that austerity policies were followed by economic contraction and higher unemployment.

Good stuff.  If you care about the economy, read it.


One of the most surreal things of today is just scrolling through my FB feed and seeing links to story after story about the horrible murders in Colorado (Adam Gopnik: “it dignifies them to call them a ‘tragedy'”) while there’s other posts about kids earning blue belts, boycotting Chik-Fil-A for lunch, and dogs sleeping in laundry baskets (I don’t begrudge these standard posts the tiniest bit, it’s just a very surreal juxtaposition of horror a mundane existence).  I’ve already read a fair amount of commentary on the Colorado shootings and so far I really love Adam Gopnik’s which really just comes out and calls our gun culture to task:

The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country—Canada, Norway, Britain—has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do—as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue. Does anyone even remember any longer last July’s gun massacre, those birthday-party killings in Texas, when an estranged husband murdered his wife and most of her family, leaving six dead?

But nothing changes: the blood lobby still blares out its certainties, including the pretense that the Second Amendment—despite the clear grammar of its first sentence—is designed not to protect citizen militias but to make sure that no lunatic goes unarmed. (Jill Lepore wrote about the history of the Second Amendment in The New Yorker recently.) Make sure that guns designed for no reason save to kill people are freely available to anyone who wants one—and that is, and remains, the essential American condition—and then be shocked when children are killed…

Only in America. Every country has, along with its core civilities and traditions, some kind of inner madness, a belief so irrational that even death and destruction cannot alter it. In Europe not long ago it was the belief that “honor” of the nation was so important that any insult to it had to be avenged by millions of lives. In America, it has been, for so long now, the belief that guns designed to kill people indifferently and in great numbers can be widely available and not have it end with people being killed, indifferently and in great numbers. The argument has gotten dully repetitive: How does one argue with someone convinced that the routine massacre of our children is the price we must pay for our freedom to have guns, or rather to have guns that make us feel free? [emphasis mine]

Also, a nice post from Weigel on the politics.  I don’t hold out much hope for any of this changing in my lifetime or the next.  Guns are such an ingrained part of America’s culture.  And short of a genuine changing of our culture anything we do policy-wise is likely only playing at the margins.  And more innocent people are going to die.  And that’s a damn shame.

Photo of the day

Compelling series of drought photos (with a little bit of rain thrown in) from the Big Picture.  Things are not good out there:

Sunflowers droop in the Oklahoma heat near Woodward, Okla., July 18, 2012. The nation’s widest drought in decades is spreading, with more than half of the continental United States now in some stage of drought and most of the rest enduring abnormally dry conditions. (Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press)


Elizabeth Warren on Libor

Definitely worth a read:

But the heart of accountability lies deeper. It rests on acknowledging that we cannot trust Wall Street to regulate itself — not in New York, London or anywhere else. The club is corrupt. When Mitt Romney says he will move to repeal all of the new financial regulations, he supports a corrupt system. When members of Congress grill regulators for being too tough on Wall Street and slash the budgets of the regulators charged with overseeing Wall Street, they prop up a corrupt system.

Financial services are critical to the economy. That’s why everyone — every family and every business — has a stake in an honest system. The fantasy that reducing oversight of the biggest banks will make us safer is just that — a dangerous fantasy. The Libor fraud exposes rot at the core. Now, who will stand up to fix it?

Listened to a really good Diane Rehm show the other day on this topic.  I came away with the conclusion that until some of these corrupt, greedy bankers and financial wheeler-dealers start going to jail, nothing’s really going to change.  Those acting this way know there’s very little consequence for their horrible (and very illegal) behavior.  Until that changes, forget about anything getting better.


Journalists or Stenographers?

This is one of those stories that its sad to see is only really getting attention in the blogosphere.  Of course, it’s pretty understandable that journalists would not want to report on such piss-poor and shameful practice among journalists.  Greenwald:

confession in yesterday’s New York Times reveals that even the stenography produced by our nation’s most esteemed media outlets is anything but accurate: rather, it’s contrived and distorted by the very people whom these media outlets purport to cover adversarially. The article describes how many American media outlets, including the NYT, give veto power to the Obama campaign (and, less so, to the Romney campaign), as well as political offices generally, over the quotes of its officials that are allowed to be published:

The quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly provocative.

They are sent by e-mail from the Obama headquarters in Chicago to reporters who have interviewed campaign officials under one major condition: the press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name.

Most reporters, desperate to pick the brains of the president’s top strategists, grudgingly agree. After the interviews, they review their notes, check their tape recorders and send in the juiciest sound bites for review.

The verdict from the campaign — an operation that prides itself on staying consistently on script — is often no, Barack Obama does not approve this message. . . .

Quote approval is standard practice for the Obama campaign, used by many top strategists and almost all midlevel aides in Chicago and at the White House — almost anyone other than spokesmen who are paid to be quoted. (And sometimes it applies even to them.) It is also commonplace throughout Washington and on the campaign trail.

The Romney campaign insists that journalists interviewing any of Mitt Romney’s five sons agree to use only quotations that are approved by the press office. And Romney advisers almost always require that reporters ask them for the green light on anything from a conversation that they would like to include in an article.

From Capitol Hill to the Treasury Department, interviews granted only with quote approval have become the default position.

I genuinely do not understand how any self-respecting journalist could even consider agreeing to this. But they do, so much so that it is now widespread custom…

This excuse constantly given by journalists — we have to agree to our government source’s demands or else they won’t talk to us — is patently fictitious and, independently, irrelevant. In response to the NYT story yesterday, numerous commentators condemned this practice. Journalism Professor Christopher Daly denounced these quote-approval agreements as “pernicious” censorship and argues that “the journalists should never have agreed to it.” Both Daly andJeff Jarvis argue that it should never be done, but if it is, at the very least it must be clearly disclosed in each article.

I agree with all of that, but want to make one other point that has long bothered me about this excuse. It is simply absurd to claim that Obama officials will refuse to speak to, say, The New York Times if its reporters do not agree to these demands. Is the Obama campaign really willing to have one story after the next written about the presidential campaign by The Paper of Record without any input from it, without its side, its messaging, being included? I seriously doubt that. The same is true of the Obama White House.

Yep, yep, yep.  Truly scandalous.

Defend it redux

What with taxes and Obama supposedly hating small business we haven’t heard a lot about health care this week.  That said, I want to come back to the point that Obama and Democrats really ought to do more to defend the ACA, rather than pretend it doesn’t exist.  First Tomasky:

Romney still carrying on about repeal on day one–is increasingly going to become a base-only strategy and risks turning off swing voters. In other words, they’re going to start sounding like whiners who are stuck in the past.

Of course, as usual, I hasten to note that for this to happen, Democrats have to stand behind the damn thing and not be afraid of defending it. All they have to say now, at a minimum, and this ought to be really easy, is: Republicans want people with illnesses to lose guaranteed coverage, and people will die. That’s all. If they can somehow manage to say that over and over and over, people will start to associate this idea with the law more than a mandate or tax, and this is a popular and likeable idea.

Maybe.  I still think it needs to be more about themselves rather than other people and health insurance.  Personally, I think most people who are not tenured professors recognize just how tenuous their health insurance status really is and Democrats should really emphasize how this law removes that uncertainty.

And Bill Keller, from his really nice “Obamacare myths piece earlier this week:

There’s no reason except cowardice for failing to mount a full-throated defense of the law. It is not perfect, but it is humane, it is (thanks to the Supreme Court) fiscally viable, and it comes with some reasonable hopes of reforming the cockeyed way we pay health care providers.

Even before the law takes full effect, it has a natural constituency, starting with every cancer victim, every H.I.V. sufferer, everyone with a condition that now would keep them from getting affordable coverage. Any family that has passed through the purgatory of cancer — as mine did this year, with decent insurance — can imagine the hell of doing it without insurance.

Against this, Mitt Romney offers some vague free-market principles and one unambiguous promise: to dash the hopes of 30 million uninsured, and add a few million to their ranks by slashing Medicaid.

If the Obama campaign needs a snappy one-liner, it could borrow this one from David Cutler: “Never before in history has a candidate run for president with the idea that too many people have insurance coverage.”

Indeed.  I think the biggest reason the ACA has become a political loser for the Democrats is because they’ve let it become a political loser for them as they’ve given Republicans free reign to define the debate (i.e., lie).

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