Tuesday, December 27, 2011

With Liberty and Justice for Some

I was perusing Google News today and came across an interesting article that talked about how same-sex couples end up having to pay thousands of dollars more in taxes than straight couples because they cannot file jointly since they aren't able to marry in most states. Furthermore, as the federal government doesn't recognize gay marriages as a result of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), even if the couples are allowed to marry in their home states, their federal tax payments still can't be filed jointly. The continued opposition to gay marriage in the U.S. never ceases to baffle me. 

For instance, back when Obama was trying to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Department of Defense conducted an extensive study and survey across the military. They asked soldiers if serving with openly gay and lesbian soldiers and officers would negatively affect their performance and ability to perform their duties. Not surprisingly, most surveyed said that it would not. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that most people who serve in the armed forces didn't care if they were fighting beside someone who was homosexual, the passage of the bill was still opposed by all but 8 Republicans. So why, in the face of overwhelming evidence and support, would such a thing be opposed? 

Their argument that it would be difficult to undertake during wartime seems dubious at best, since the study conducted clearly showed otherwise. So it really seems like any opposition to this stems from some sort of bigotry. Why shouldn't gays and lesbians have the same rights as everybody else? Isn't that the principle that America was founded on? Liberty and equality for all people always, not just when it happens to be convenient. 

In any case, back to the issue at hand. Since the Obama administration decided to stop defending the the Defense of Marriage Act, John Boehner and congressional Republicans (most of them, there are always exceptions) have moved to try to reverse this decision. On the one hand, this is wasteful, in that it costs hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to continue defending DOMA. So spending federal dollars on this is okay, but Social Security and Medicare need to get cut down to size? On the other hand, it goes against the wishes of the people. In a recent Gallup poll, 53% of Americans believed that gay marriages should be legally recognized, versus 45% who didn't. That's a clear majority. So why this remains such a big issue is beyond me. Legalize gay marriage. The religious opposition to it flies in the face of the separation of church and state. Spain legalized it and it's a very Catholic nation. Those saying that it'll wreck American society should take a look at other countries that have legalized it. I don't see anyone bemoaning the demise of Canada at the hands of married homosexual couples.

Also, aren't Republicans supposed to be against making people pay higher taxes? 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A House Divided...

Well, here we are again, folks. The Republican House has, while not openly voting no on the Senate payroll tax cut compromise bill, effectively done so. Let's have some background on this, shall we?

The Republicans and some Democrats wanted the payroll tax cuts for middle class Americans to be paid for or offset somehow for the next year. They're set to expire on the first of January. The House wanted to include a provision that would allow the Keystone XL pipeline to begin construction, the Senate wanted to pay for it using a small millionaire's surtax. The House refused to pass a clean, one year extension of the tax cut, unemployment benefits, and Medicare "doc fix". So the Senate leaders of both parties got together and crafted a compromise bill that extended the tax cuts for two months and included the Keystone pipeline provision that the Republicans wanted. Congressional leaders would then work together on extending the cuts through the rest of the year.

Now, John Boehner goes and says that the House will not be voting on the compromise bill (despite the fact that the Senate passed it 89 to 10). Instead, he says, the House will defer the bill to a committee where the House and Senate will craft a new compromise bill. Why would they do this, you might ask? Well, they offered three reasons:

The compromise bill is too short at two months and leaves Americans uncertain of the future, the bill wasn't really a compromise, and finally, because it was politically bad for Republicans, as the two month deal would allow President Obama to "again browbeat Republicans into extending the tax cut during his State of the Union address in January." 

Okay, now wait a minute. These things don't make a whole lot of sense to me. First off, the only reason the compromise bill is only two months is because the Republicans refused to pass a one-year extension. Moreover, Senate Republicans overwhelmingly supported to bill that they helped to craft. So why the sudden opposition? As far as the bill not really being a compromise...that's just not really true at all. The Democrats got what they wanted: the bill is paid for by a millionaire's surtax, and the Republicans got what they wanted: they go-ahead on the Keystone pipeline. If that isn't a compromise, then please, enlighten me as to what is one. Finally, the whole politically unfavorable thing just sounds pretty awful to me. Playing politics on either side is bad, but really, they're putting their political maneuverings ahead of a tax cut that could help the still-ailing economy? Because they don't want Obama to brow-beat them into passing an extension in front of the whole country? Here's an idea then: pass a one-year extension!

So anyways, their whole argument is disingenuous as you've seen here. They're claiming that the compromise merely kicks the can down the road, but they were the ones who first insisted on kicking it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Budget Advisor Who Couldn't Read Budgets

It sounds like an awful children's story or something, I know. But while I was perusing the blogosphere today, I came across something that Krugman and DeLong highlighted that gave me pause. A former Bush budget advisor, Jeff Rosen, wrote an article in the National Review about how, based on the CBO's projections in early 2008, we were set to be running a surplus in 2012. As such, he cleverly reasoned, the current deficits are all Obama's fault, period. Full stop. No questions asked. Jonathan Chait wrote an excellent piece tearing down the man's entire argument. I felt the need to see these claims for myself, so I read the articles and then turned to the CBO report. 

So I go and take a gander at the CBO report that Rosen is referencing. The report immediately explains that it makes a series of shaky assumptions right from the get-go: that the early stages of what we now know as the greatest slump since the Great Depression was going to be mild and likely not going to push the economy into a full-blown recession. Rosen does acknowledge that the recession did happen, and that that may have caused a reduction in revenues and an increase in outlays, he downplays the whole thing and doesn't acknowledge that there was a justification for policies to combat the downturn.

The report that Rosen was drawing from also is forced to make the assumption that federal spending for that year was much lower than it actually was going to be, as Congress had given it unrealistically low spending projections. Some of these projections included the abrupt end to funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (ellipses added):
"That outlays for discretionary programs (those whose spending levels are set anew each year through appropriation acts) will decline from 7.6 percent of GDP last year to 6.1 percent by 2018—a lower percentage than any recorded in the past 40 years. . .Implicit in the projection for discretionary spending is an assumption that no additional funding is provided for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008 and that future appropriations for activities related to the war on terrorism remain equivalent, in real (inflation adjusted) terms, to the $88 billion appropriated so far this year."
Unlikely, to say the least. So why would Rosen take this baseline scenario from the CBO report at face value? Especially when the report itself practically shouts to the reader in the first few pages that it had to take a number of assumptions that probably weren't true!

Take a look at what the report says:
"CBO’s baseline budget projections for the next 10 years are not a forecast of future outcomes; rather, they are based on the assumption that current laws and policies remain the same."
I feel like anybody who is competent at all in any way could and would pick up on the fact that they shouldn't do what Jeff Rosen did and use the baseline projections from any CBO report as being accurate. That's why the CBO gives alternate scenarios that are much more plausible. Since I would like to believe that Jeff Rosen is not incompetent, I'm compelled to believe, as Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong do, that Rosen is deliberately trying to deceive his readers into actually thinking that we would be running a surplus (or at least a much smaller debt) if Obama hadn't embarked upon his grandiose spending spree.

The final assumption, and this one's really the kicker--the report assumed that the Bush tax cuts were going to expire in 2010:
"That revenues will rise from 18.7 percent of GDP this year to almost 20 percent of GDP in 2012 and then remain near that historically high level through 2018. Much of the projected increase in revenues results from the growing impact of the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and, even more significantly, the expiration at the end of 2010 of various provisions originally enacted in the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA)."
So, yeah, Jeff Rosen, I guess you could say that Obama is responsible for our lack of a budget surplus. Except for the part where we got hit by a huge recession, the wars were not ended abruptly, and the Bush tax cuts did not expire. I might add, that the latter two of those things played out the way they did because of Republican opposition (in that they largely don't want the wars to end and they want to maintain the tax cuts). 

Thus ends the tale of the budget aide who couldn't read a budget report. For those of you who want a more graphic description of what part of the debt Obama and Bush actually are responsible for, take a look here

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

You're Doing it Wrong, Republican Party Edition

Before I explain why they're doing it wrong, I suppose some background information should be in order. Over the past year or two, the rise of the Tea Party during Barack Obama's first term in office has created a dangerous dynamic that has radicalized the Republican Party.  In any case, during 2011, both political parties pivoted (wrongly, I might add) towards a focus on the deficit and national debt. I've already explained why this is a bad idea, so I won't go into that. The Democrats are just now realizing that they ought to focus on more pressing issues, like unemployment, and the Republicans probably do too, but you wouldn't know it from listening to them.

In any case, the fundamental paradox I've noticed in the GOP right now is that on the one hand, lawmakers in the House are dragging their feet over whether they ought to pass a payroll tax cut for the middle class that will cost somewhere on the order of a few hundred billion. They argue that it has to be offset by cuts or concessions somewhere else in order to pay for it. Obama and the Democrats have proposed a small surtax on millionaires to pay for it, and while this is popular with the broad public, Republicans see this as taxing small business owners that are the chief job creators. Never mind the fact that less than 3% of the top tax bracket are actually small business owners (let alone millionaires, who bring in four times the $250,000 taxable limit for the top bracket). So on the one hand, you have lawmakers in D.C. arguing over how to pay for a temporary payroll tax cut for the middle class (even though the point of fiscal stimulus is that it is not paid for). On the other hand, you have Republican primary candidates touting hugely expensive and unpaid for tax plans that disproportionately benefit top earners while doing relatively little for the middle class.

For example, Newt Gingrich released his tax plan, which is essentially to create a 15% flat tax that people can choose to use over the current bracketed system. The Tax Policy Center (a nonpartisan think tank, before you ask) released its findings on what the effect would be on the budget and incomes. It isn't pretty, to say the least. I watched a video where Gingrich said it was revenue-neutral, so it wouldn't increase the deficit. The Tax Policy Center's results show that it would increase the annual budget deficit by $1.3 trillion compared to current law. That is to say, last year our budget deficit was $1.3 trillion. So our deficit would be $2.6 trillion. How are you going to solve that fiscal problem? You would have to cut literally ALL of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, AND defense spending to balance the budget. Sure, it might spur businesses to come to the U.S. but I doubt that the broadening of the tax base would offset the lost revenue. If you don't believe me, look at this chart of federal spending and do the math for yourself. 

Also, here's a graph of the tax rates under Gingrich's plan:

So the paradox that I'm seeing is that the GOP is arguing over how to pay for comparatively cheap (and temporary) payroll tax cut for the middle class and frustrating any attempt by Obama to pass additional fiscal stimulus by using the justification that it would add to our already considerable mountain of debt. At the same time touting permanent huge tax cuts largely benefiting the wealthy and giving little to no indication of how these programs will be paid for. And if they do say how they'd be paid for, it would involve cutting popular programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Not to mention that these permanent tax cuts are far more expensive than any temporary stimulus Obama has put forth. 

Bad arithmetic, meet bad economics. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

The New EU Fiscal Pact

The Economist has a picture that just about sums up this new attempt at a fiscal policy union by EU policymakers.

Yes, that is horribly macabre, but if the leaders of the EU are going to commit themselves to a one-sided deflationary solution to this crisis, they're going to have to accept the result. Unfortunately, so are we. Thanks for nothing, guys.

They Fiddled While the Eurozone Burned

It seems that everywhere you look, there's a crisis. The unemployment crisis in the United States, the debt crisis (that still isn't one, but the talking heads would have you believe otherwise), and much more troubling for a number of reasons, the Eurozone debt crisis. As some of you may have heard, last week EU leaders came together and passed a fiscal pact that failed to restore confidence in the Eurozone. They then proceeded to pat themselves on the back as their nations crumbled. If that's not a "nailed it!" moment, then I don't know what is. Now, I'm hardly an expert on this topic, so I'm probably going to be heavily outsourcing to Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong for some of this post, seeing as how they're actual economists and all.

Anyways, here's a quick recap of the Eurozone woes by Krugman:
"In the years leading up to the 2008 crisis, Europe, like America, had a runaway banking system and a rapid buildup of debt. In Europe’s case, however, much of the lending was across borders, as funds from Germany flowed into southern Europe. This lending was perceived as low risk. Hey, the recipients were all on the euro, so what could go wrong?
For the most part, by the way, this lending went to the private sector, not to governments. Only Greece ran large budget deficits during the good years; Spain actually had a surplus on the eve of the crisis.
Then the bubble burst. Private spending in the debtor nations fell sharply. And the question European leaders should have been asking was how to keep those spending cuts from causing a Europe-wide downturn.
Wait, there’s more. During the years of easy money, wages and prices in southern Europe rose substantially faster than in northern Europe. This divergence now needs to be reversed, either through falling prices in the south or through rising prices in the north. And it matters which: If southern Europe is forced to deflate its way to competitiveness, it will both pay a heavy price in employment and worsen its debt problems. The chances of success would be much greater if the gap were closed via rising prices in the north.
But to close the gap through rising prices in the north, policy makers would have to accept temporarily higher inflation for the euro area as a whole. And they’ve made it clear that they won’t. Last April, in fact, the European Central Bank began raising interest rates, even though it was obvious to most observers that underlying inflation was, if anything, too low."
So right there at the end, Krugman is calling for the European Central Bank (ECB from now on) to do a number of things. First, he's calling for them to embark upon a bond-buying spree on a much larger scale so as to raise inflation expectations. Now, some of you may, as I once did, think that inflation is always a bad thing no matter what. That's not actually true. Inflation can be useful, especially in combating depressions in that it reduces the real value of debt burdens, while deflation does the opposite. Right now in Europe, the expected inflation rate in Germany, the strongest of the zone's economies is about 1 percent for the next five years. Inflation increases when a nation's economy is pushing at or above its potential GDP, so generally speaking, the weaker the economy, the lower inflation is likely to be. 

Since all of the zone economies are operating under the same monetary policies, that means that the countries that have much weaker economies are going to be experiencing deflation in the next few years. This means that debtor countries like Italy, Greece, Ireland, and Spain are going to have the real value of their national and private debts go up. If anyone's studied the Great Depression, you ought to know that this is very, very bad. Moreover, increasing the real value of national debts for these countries while at the same time savagely cutting government spending to try and reduce their debt is a recipe for a much deeper depression. You're doing it wrong, policymakers.

So what's the recipe for growth that the Germans have in mind for the indebted countries? They'll trade their way out of it, don't worry! This would only work if the more successful economies in Europe increase their overall spending and embark on expansionary policies. But what are they doing? Cutting spending. You're already seeing this in slowdowns across northern Euro countries. So their plan is that the debtor countries will trade their way out of this with northern countries who are also adopting austerity measures and likely pushing the whole of Europe into recession? Who's going to want to buy these debtor countries' goods? The unemployed people in the north? Or perhaps the Germans who are running giant trade surpluses? I'm dubious.

On a slightly different note, the ECB certainly isn't doing anything to foster confidence either. Mario Draghi, the new kid on the block, has taken a hard stance against additional bond-buying or allowing the ECB to become a lender of last resort. Instead, it has taken a hard line against any kind of inflation, raising rates this past year which probably sent this debt crisis into its most severe phase. So far, the unified monetary policy set by the ECB in Frankfurt serves to cater only to what Germany wants, rather than what would be best for the union as a whole. Furthermore, the bank's bond-buying that it has embarked upon was done with about as much enthusiasm as this guy and a whole lot of, "I GUESS I'll buy your bonds, if I really HAVE to..." Real confidence booster, that one. I think Paul de Grauwe puts it best:
"There is no sillier way to implement a bond purchase programme than the ECB way. By making it clear from the beginning that it does not trust its own programme, the ECB guaranteed its failure. By signalling that it distrusted the bonds it was buying, it also signalled to investors that they should distrust these too."
I hope I didn't lose too many of you in that diatribe. If I did, feel free to leave questions and I'll do my best to address them. I think the most frustrating thing about the crises we face today, not just the Eurozone crisis, but the problems with the economy in the U.S. are really not that hard to solve.

Also, as an addendum, a friend of mine just finished covering the woes of the Eurozone in a much more in-depth multi-post blogging spree, which can be found here for those interested.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stimulate THIS!

Over the past year and a half or so, the Obama Administration, Democrats, and most obviously, Republicans, have pivoted to what they see as the most pressing issue of the day--the current debt of the US. I won't say crisis because honestly, it isn't a crisis right now. Any country that can borrow at negative real interest rates (i.e. with inflation taken into account, pays zero to negative interest) isn't facing a debt crisis. Greece has a debt crisis. Italy has a debt crisis. The United States of America does not have a debt crisis. Yes, we have a lot of debt. Yes, it ought to be addressed. But just about the worst thing you could be doing during a recession (and yes, I still say we're in a recession, no matter what anyone says) is cutting government spending. A quick lesson in economics for those of you who don't know this sort of thing:

Total GDP, let's say is represented by Y, and the components of it are C (consumption), I (Investment) by businesses and whatnot, G (Government spending), and NX, which is Net Exports (Exports - Imports). When a recession hits, consumption and investment decline, and if it's worldwide, then NX is bound to take a hit as well because of depressed demand for goods elsewhere in the world. Because of automatic stabilizers like unemployment insurance and medicaid, government outlays go up while tax receipts plummet due to higher unemployment and a smaller tax base. That's largely the reason why our debt ballooned so much post-2008. So when people cry, "Obama's runaway spending!" they're probably not taking this into account. 

When C and I are still depressed, because they definitely still are, there's obviously going to be slack in aggregate demand. With depressed demand, manufacturers and service providers don't need to produce as much, so they hoard cash and keep around just enough workers to do what they're currently doing. With job growth not even close to keeping up with population growth, fewer people are able to go out and purchase things or buy new houses, etc. As such, consumption and investment are still well below what they ought to be. This creates an output gap in our GDP, where we're producing a set amount less than we have the potential to. So far the total is somewhere around $3 trillion. That's something we can never get back. That's one of the serious costs of this persistently high unemployment. The point of government stimulus is to help fill the output gap. But with a gap as big as it is, a $787 billion package will help, but it won't be big enough, let alone the fact that much of it was made up of tax cuts that probably won't help as much as direct government employment programs.

Okay, so now that that tangent is over, where do we stand now? Well, we're at 8.6% unemployment, job growth is still pretty awful, and only now are some policymakers coming to the realization that we need additional stimulus. Republicans have already pretty much made this impossible with their unbreakable focus on our deficits and regulation as being the original sin that looms over our job growth woes. As I said before, people are confident in the US's ability to pay its debts. They wouldn't be willing to buy up our debt for such low interest rates otherwise. As far as regulation goes, take a look at this graph:

Okay, so through all of the fancy jargon that the Fed likes to use in its database, the blue line is basically how much businesses are investing in new equipment and software, and the red line is how much investment there is in the housing construction sector. As you can see, businesses aren't being held back by regulation and uncertainty--they're investing at a faster pace than they were pre-crisis. To the extent that they're nervous about things its about the crisis in the Eurozone, the legal challenges to the health care law, and Republican brinkmanship. Moreover, that information about uncertainty is from a conservative economist. 

What's really holding our recovery back is a combination of two things: a huge household debt overhang, which could be remedied somewhat by allowing homeowners to refinance their mortgages to take advantages of these low interest rates. The other is a large slack in aggregate demand. So I ask you, all of you, what's the issue with passing even a modest stimulus, like Obama's American Jobs Act, when we're going to lose nearly $900 billion next year in output that we can never regain? Doesn't a one-time increase in spending seem justified in the face of such colossal losses? But it seems that Republicans, and to a much lesser degree, even Democrats, have this fixation on the debt crisis that doesn't exist yet (we do have to deal with it, but not during a recession, are we trying to emulate Herbert Hoover?) Just pass the American Jobs Act, get some of those unemployed construction workers back to work, increase the tax base, and that'll in and of itself reduce the amount the government has to pay out in unemployment insurance and Medicaid. You'd be trading much longer-term government payouts for a one-time burst in spending. But no, it seems that we're doomed to listen to Republicans lecture the nation about the debt while simultaneously crying foul when anyone tries to cut the defense budget because it'll kill jobs.

The irony is almost painful.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Obama's Osawatomie Speech

I know I'm a bit late posting this, since the speech was on the 6th, but I just finished watching this speech. I have to say, this is arguably the best speech Obama's ever given. I think if he drives these points home during the next year then he'll win the election in 2012. Here are the links:

Part 1 of 4
Part 2 of 4
Part 3 of 4
Part 4 of 4

He does an excellent job of putting everything into its historical perspective. Mitt Romney can cry "communism" until the cows come home, but Mitt Romney has proven that he's willing to say anything to appease anyone.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

Ever since its passage in Spring of 2010, the Affordable Care Act, dubbed "Obamacare," has been under a veritable onslaught from the right. Now, more than ever, Republican candidates seem to be embroiled in a pissing contest over who can best demonstrate their distaste for the bill to the American public. Never mind the fact that Rick Perry is harping on about how government mandates will kill everyone and their mother, or how Mitt Romney seems to change his mind (and views) like an indecisive shoe-shopper, let's do what many in the Republican field have failed to do--look at the facts.

Kaiser Family Foundation releases monthly data about the American public's views on healthcare reform, and Kevin Drum at Mother Jones has put together what he thinks are the most interesting and most telling statistics in the data. I'm not going to go through the whole article, but I'll pull two of what I thought were the most interesting bits from it.
"Only 37% of the public feels favorably toward Obamacare, but 50% want to keep or expand it. It turns out that many of the unfavorable/don't know opinions aren't from people who dislike healthcare reform, they're from people who don't think Obamacare went far enough."
That quote right there ought to tell you a lot about the problems with polling just one variable of a public issue. In any case, I happen to be among those people who didn't think that Obamacare went far enough, but I suppose this Rube-Goldberg device of a health-care law is the best we can hope for in the U.S. right now. Anyways, here's the second blurb:
"Among those who don't like Obamacare, nearly half admit that their dislike has nothing much to do with the law itself.They're just mad at Obama and/or Washington DC."
This quote doesn't really surprise me, I mean, who wouldn't be pissed at DC right now? Even I was pissed at Obama for awhile, mainly because he was bending over backwards to appease the Republicans in a show of bipartisanship that was time and time again thrown in his face. But before I go off on a tangent about the folly of bipartisanship with a Republican party that's become as radicalized as it has, I should continue on about health care.

I'm convinced that a significant proportion of people who dislike the Affordable Care Act do so for reasons that don't actually exist. I say this because the big Republican win in 2010 was largely fueled by an obvious mischaracterization of the ACA. Remember that infamous picture of the "Keep Government Out of My Medicare" sign? Yeah. That. I mean, the ACA isn't an ideal setup, but it certainly is better than what we've got right now. The CBO estimates it'll reduce the deficit by $210 billion over the next 9 years or so, not a huge amount in the long run, but hardly chump change. Republicans often cite that it will kill 650,000 jobs, pointing to a CBO report. What they left out, however, was the fact that that same report also says that these people will voluntarily quit their jobs because they wouldn't need the health insurance provided by the job. So really, the ACA will just make it easier for people to retire without fear of not having insurance. A fate worse than death, I'm sure. 

Anyways, the biggest sticking point of the law, as I'm sure many of you know, is the individual mandate, that says that you must buy health care if you can afford it. If you can't afford it, you'll get a subsidy. If you still refuse to buy it, you have to pay a fee to opt out. This, many argue, is unconstitutional because it makes you purchase something you don't want to. But look at the alternative, which we have today: if an uninsured person goes to a hospital in an emergency and they perform surgery on him, who pays for it? You guessed it, you and every other Tom, Dick, and Harry have to pick up the tab. So really, what the law does is try to prevent the infamous free-rider problem that we see in economics. 

Overall, though, this law ought to be a dream to Republicans. They should be fawning over the thing because it provides nearly (give or take) universal coverage while maintaining as much in the way of free-market principles as it can. You know why? Because it's a Republican idea.  Newt Gingrich knows it, Mitt Romney knows it, his advisers know it, (Hell, one of them came out and said they're the "same fucking laws" last month!) I suspect that their opposition to the law largely stems from one of two areas: they either don't like it because it was Obama's achievement, or they are caught up in the same seemingly mindless Tea Party Express freedom mania that's serving to radicalize one of America's two major political parties (one that used to be reasonable) to the point of being truly frightening.

Friday, December 9, 2011

This post is decidedly unrelated to economics or politics for today, but I thought I'd give my viewers a change of pace every once in awhile. I've recently delved into listening to cello music in part to keep me sane when I read the inane things on my google news feed. Since sharing is caring, here's a taste to keep you sane as well.

A Blog by any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

Well, here it is then, my first venture into the blogosphere. I figure I ought to start out by explaining the name behind this blog before I delve into other, seemingly more important topics. The title is drawn from a quote from John Maynard Keynes' A Tract on Monetary Reform. The quote is as follows:
"The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead. Economists set themselves too easy, too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons they can only tell us that when the storm is past the ocean is flat again."
This quote seems to be particularly poignant, at least in my mind, when looking at the current political climate, especially with regard to the economy. Policymakers, especially Republicans, are focusing on precisely the wrong problems right now. Their justification being, of course, that solving America's long-run debt problems will in turn help solve the short-run (and looking more and more like long-run now) unemployment crisis. Yes, the United States has a lot of debt, yes, it will be a problem. But it is not what ought to be at the forefront of policymaking and solving it right now will in fact exacerbate both the unemployment and the debt crises.

This is probably the chief topic I'll be focusing on in this blog, so that's why I haven't completely elaborated my thoughts yet. Feel free to post comments and questions. I'll do my best to address them.