Monday, December 14, 2009

The Real Deal on Cap and Trade

In New Deal for U.S. Climate Policy? at The Baseline Scenario, Jim Boyce outlines the Cantwell-Collins CLEAR (Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal) Act, a superior alternative to the cap and trade portion of the Waxman-Markey (ACES) act that passed the House earlier this year.

See this post for more.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Royal Society publishes classic papers online

The Royal Society's Trailblazing website has classic papers from its history, dating back to 1666. You can read scanned pdfs of the originals. I just read Newton's "Theory on Lights and Colours" from 1672. Amazing!

(h/t BoingBoing)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New LIMEW Report

Has Progress Been Made in Alleviating Racial Economic Inequality? Long story short: very little since the 1960s, and if you look at the experiences of African and Hispanic Americans separately from that of Asian Americans, things have gotten worse in the last twenty years.

CBO Brief on Costs of Cap and Trade

In an Economic and Budget Issue Brief released today, the Congressional Budget Office reviews various aspects of the costs of achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Here's a take-away from the conclusion:
CBO concluded that under H.R. 2454 the loss of aggregate purchasing power would increase from about 0.1 percent in 2012 to 0.8 percent in 2050. Those losses would be distributed in ways that tend to benefit lower-income households. In 2020, households in the highest income quintile would see a loss in purchasing power of 0.1 percent of after-tax income, and households in the middle quintile would experience a loss equivalent to 0.6 percent. Households in the lowest quintile, by contrast, would see an average gain of 0.7 percent. By 2050, households in the highest quintile would see a loss in purchasing power of 0.7 percent of after-tax income, and households in the middle quintile would see a loss of 1.1 percent. Those in the lowest quintile would see a 2.1 percent increase.

H.R. 2454 is the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, also known as Waxman-Markey (it's nowhere near as good as H.R. 1862, the Cap and Dividend Act of 2009 introduced by Rep. Van Hollen, which is considerably shorter, clearer, auctions all permits, and distributes all of the proceeds minus administrative costs to every legal resident on a monthly basis). Good to remember the next time some know-nothing congressperson emotes about the huge cost of cap and trade legislation to the people that he or she claims to care so deeply about.
(thanks to Jim Boyce for the tip about the Van Hollen bill)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why can't Republicans support health-care reform?

Ezra Klein asks Is this why Republicans can't support health-care reform? This being that health care premiums will go up because we'll be insuring all those high-cost folks we don't insure now. We've been down this road before. The comment I left:
Under our current system, the $10 folks are not necessarily uninsured. In fact, they're quite likely already on Medicare. The un-insured include a whole lot of people in the $2 range (young adults, for example). So, I think the whole argument that it's the cost side that will drive up premiums is bogus. It makes me crazy when I hear people talking about how much more expensive it will be to cover everybody when many of the most expensive to insure (the elderly) are already covered.
That being said, I do think premiums will go up, because without some kind of regulation of premiums, the individual mandate will allow insurers to raise prices, especially if there's no public option and so, no competition in a lot of places.

So it's still a big mystery why Republicans won't support health care reform. Here's my list of suspects:
- Must oppose Obama, no matter what he does! Obama's for puppies? We're against 'em. Never liked them in fact! Puppies are known socialists! {translation: Republicans have painted themselves into a corner by continually feeding their far-right base red meat; now that's all that's left, and they must be fed, or the Republicans will get zero votes in the mid-terms}
- Health insurance campaign donations. {not that the congressional Democrats don't also get this money; you may note their somewhat tepid enthusiasm for reforming health-care; but the topic is the Republicans}

I think that's a fine list and I vote for all of the above! For the record, I support single payer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Bank on indiscretion

The Economist writes a good summary of opinion on the banks profits and bonuses, in the wake of huge taxpayer bailouts. I'd say that the last paragraph is a bit off, though:
One doesn't want to get in the habit of seizing profits wholesale. On the other hand, the banks clearly feel no obligation to help pay for the bail-out that kept them afloat, no obligation toward the economy as a whole, and no need to mask their behaviour with even the barest of public relations fig leaves. It is in the interest of everyone involved for policymakers to do something to rein the banks in and publicly rebuke them for their disregard, lest populist rage grow out of hand, leading to ill-considered measures that may ultimately impair the important economic functions financial markets are supposed to serve. If things continue on as they are now, the situation will not end well.

Banks are acting just as if they own the government. It's not in everyone's interest to rein the banks in, though. At least not in the short term. Those who receive large donations from the financial industry do not have a good incentive to rein that industry in. The question is, will legislators be able to convince their wealthy funders that they need to make a show of making them behave to stave off real reform?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mainstream Economics (Partial) Smackdown

Krugman answers the question "How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?" Well-written, but he does do what he accuses 'freshwater economists' of doing to 'saltwater economists'. The rest of us, who are in neither camp, are left out entirely. Amazingly, in an essay explaining how economists missed the real estate bubble and financial crisis, he doesn't mention Minsky once. Let alone Marxists, who were arguing that capitalism is inherently unstable long before Keynes. Ah, well. Et tu, Paul?

h/t Mankiw

Thursday, September 3, 2009

David Frum is a genius . . . oh, wait

In Four simple steps to health care reform, heard on Marketplace last night, David Frum makes the case that what we really need to do is reform individuals, not health care. He makes some good points, and also an excellent point he did not, I think intend. First the good points. Individual actions matter. He is a genius. That must be why he gets paid the big bucks. If people smoked less, ate less, exercised more, etc. blah-blah-blah. You already know all this, right? He does add some useful numbers about savings we could realize if people acted as if they really cared about their health, which I'm too lazy to fact check. Let's concede the point. All right?
Then we can move on to the excellent point:
Our infant morality statistics are awful, worse than Cuba's. It's these infant deaths that pull down American life expectancy overall. Once Americans reach 65, American life expectancy ranks a respectable 9th in the world.

Why so many infant deaths? The shockingly high American incidence of premature birth: about one baby in eight. And the most important causes of premature birth are controllable: smoking during pregnancy, drinking, drugs, maternal overweight, and sexually transmitted diseases.

We all want wider health access and a more rational health-care system. But a big obstacle to a better system is our expectation that doctors, hospitals, and machines will save us from the harms we do to ourselves.

Hmm, if we're so crappy at taking care of our health when we're younger, why do we do so well once we reach that magical age of 65? "Say, isn't that the age at which that socialized health system called Medicare kicks in?" I hear you ask (it's a fair question: not everyone gets this point). The answer of course, is yes, yes it is. Coincidence? Hah-ha. Maybe.

Naturally, correlation does not mean causation, and the fact that seniors do so well in the US, comparatively, could be due in part to other factors. Also, this isn't to say that taking better care of ourselves is a bad idea. I'm just sayin'. Medicare works.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Patrick J. Buchanan Hearts Hitler - it's official

Oh. My. God. Pat Buchanan says Hitler didn't want war. He just wanted to be friends with his neighbors. Poor Adolf. Pushed into a massive mobilization on the Polish border. Pushed (somehow) into making deals with Stalin over who would get what part of Poland “In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state." Whocouldanode that such a "rearrangement" might come from a German invasion nine days later? Please.
If you want to be fair to Buchanan's argument, go read Did Hitler Want War? Bring your own barfbag.

h/t Volokh Conspiracy

Monday, August 31, 2009

Russian economic catastrophe

Six million Russians fall into poverty in the first three months of 2009.

The Guardian

Saturday, August 29, 2009

No kicks on rt 66 these days

Excellent series (so far) at the Guardian: The Grapes of Wrath revisited: "From Oklahoma to California, Chris McGreal re-traces the route of Steinbeck's epic depression era novel." After the first two installments, I can say this is an exceleent piece detailing the impacts of the Great Recession on people, wrapping in health care, deindustrialization and strange politics.

Chef has recipe for economic disaster

Michelle, at Thursday Night Smackdown, has as interesting an economic prediction as I've seen on the Hobo Mondays page. Scroll down and you'll see the following:

The Rules: Since we’re all poor now and our economy is going to keep heading down the shitter until it somehow finds an even bigger shitter down which to hurl itself*, Cheap Ass Mondays (now Tuesdays) seemed like a much better idea for an event.

Then the footnote:
*My prediction: this will continue to happen, with the economy throwing itself down progressively more and more enormous shitters, until we discover a black hole at the center of the universe that is actually a giant toilet. Take that, Hawking.

Brilliant. Why are you not reading this blog?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

House Prices Won't Be Rising for Long

James Hamilton, at Econbrowser, notes that he's surprised by the 0.75% increase in average house prices (as measured by the S&P/Case-Shiller Index of twenty cities). He also says he's skeptical because of the backlog of unsold homes, likely increases in foreclosures, and high, rising unemployment, especially since Calculated Risk is, too. I agree that there's reason to be skeptical, especially since this rise in prices is likely to be a surge of people cashing in on the Obama stimulus package's $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, which expires this fall. If prices continue to rise beyond that critical point, I'd say my skepticism (and CR's and Hamilton's) are wrong.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No one is rational

Chris Dillow on Keynes & irrationality. Quite good and clear.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stiglitz argues for a second round of stimulus

Joe Stiglitz, writing on Project Syndicate, argues that the first round of stimulus was too small and poorly designed, (designed to address political, not economic, concerns). More stimulus would be a great idea, especially transfers to states, almost all of which are having to implement disastrous spending cuts and/or tax increases to balance their budgets, as Stiglitz also points out. Whether or not you think state government budgets are bloated, now is not a good time to fix this 'problem.'

Friday, August 14, 2009

Industrial Production Up, But Not By Much

The Fed released its Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization report today, showing the first increase in production since December 2007 (other than a hurricane-related bump last October). Probable sign of a turnaround, yes, but overall production is down over 13 percent since last July. Consumer goods is least worst with a mere 7.2% drop. And capacity utilization (roughly: actual production divided by potential production), at 68.5%, is still just above its lowest level in the 45 years reported in the accompanying charts. We're in a deep hole, which will take some time to climb out of.

Updated Inequality Numbers from Saez

Via Paul Krugman:

With everything else going on, the latest inequality numbers from Emmanuel Saez, now updated to 2007, didn’t get much attention. But they’re truly amazing.

click through for graph.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

EPI says Stimulus Plan is working

In a new report "The recovery package in action", EPI researchers John Irons and Ethan Pollack lay out the details of what they see the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's impacts have been so far. Long story short, despite the fact that only 14% of the spending has happened so far, the Stimulus plan has helped to decrease the pace of job losses.
Of course, ahem, others have pointed out that although the employment effects will be large (6-8 million jobs over three years), the impact on income distribution will probably be small and come nowhere near offsetting the increases in inequality we've seen in the last two decades.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

That book

Well, It's been a year now that the book has been out. The title is Rural Poverty in Paraguay: Gender, Land Markets, and Productivity. Here it is. Enjoy!

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