Tuesday, March 6, 2012

More Humor (Snarkiness) From the Desk of Paul Krugman (Which I Just Adore)

I just adore this man.

Especially when his wit is at large.

Paul Krugman - New York Times Blog

March 4, 2012

Schrödinger’s Tax

David Cay Johnston tells us that the usual suspects on the right are arguing that it’s OK to cut corporate tax rates, because they really fall on wages, not on profits.

But wait — weren’t we being told just a few weeks ago that Mitt Romney doesn’t really pay only 14 percent taxes, because you should include the corporate taxes paid by the companies whose stock he owns?

So, here’s the situation as I understand it: the profits tax is both a tax Romney pays and a tax he doesn’t pay, depending on what question you’re asking (with the answer always being the one that favors the 0.01%).

Also, his cat is both alive and dead (as opposed to his dog, which is in car-roof torment); and it’s a floor wax and a dessert topping.

All clear.
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March 4, 2012

They’re Baaack!

The one percent, that is. Emmanuel Saez has updated his distributional estimates (pdf), and as expected the top 1% share, which fell in the crisis, has resumed its upward march.

How many people wrote stories about how rising inequality was a thing of the past, when anyone who had looked at the data at all knew about the cyclical issue?
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March 5, 2012

Powerline At Cato

Via Brad DeLong, I see that the Kochs are trying to take over Cato, which they view as insufficiently hackish.

They must have high standards in this regard; after all, Cato is, among other things, a place that had something called the Project on Social Security Privatization, which it renamed the Project on Social Security Choice when it turned out that “privatization” polled badly — and tried to purge its records, to make it look as if they had never used the word privatization.

But what really struck me was that among the people the Kochs have tried to place on the board is John Hinderaker of Powerline. Hinderaker is best known for this:
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can’t get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
But what I remember best is his sneering dismissal of any suggestion that there might be a housing bubble, or that falling home prices would do any economic damage.

So now we know what it takes to get big support from the Kochs.
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March 5, 2012

Not Again With The Pivot

Steve Pearlstein is a good guy; that’s why the piece he posted on Ezra’s blog fills me with such despair.

What Steve says is that there are a lot of indications that the economy is getting stronger, which is true (although not everything is rosy). So, he says, no more stimulus — in fact, let’s have more cuts in state and locals spending to get things in line with long-run revenues. Also, stimulus would get in the way of needed structural adjustment.

First of all, we’ve been here before — in early 2010. Maybe this time is different, and Lucy won’t snatch away the recovery football again — but why act before we’re sure?

Second, even if recovery is solid this time, our economy is likely to stay depressed for quite a while. Use the Atlanta Fed Jobs Calculator; to reach an unemployment rate of 5.5% within four years — four years! — we would need 179,000 jobs a month. Are you sure we’ll do that well?

Third, Steve’s rhetorical question — why postpone needed fiscal adjustments? — has a very good answer: because we’re in a liquidity trap, and the Fed can’t offset the economic downside. This is a very bad time for austerity.

Fourth, there have been many calculations about the extent to which this really is a structural slump, the result of workers in the wrong places or industries. None of them support the view that this is more than a minor factor. Why does it play such a central role in conventional wisdom about what has to be done?

Finally, it just isn’t true that structural adjustment, to the extent that we do need it, proceeds faster and more easily when the economy is depressed. Workers won’t leave jobs if they aren’t reasonably sure of finding others; firms won’t invest even in useful new technologies unless there’s adequate demand. Keeping the economy weak is a way to postpone good changes, not accelerate them.

So I find this very depressing: once again, at the first hint of good news, the usual crowd, even good guys like Pearlstein, is itching to pivot away from jobs.



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