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Financial skeptic

Notes on "neoliberalism enforced" cruise to Frugality Island for 401K Lemmings

News Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism Recommended Links Peak cheap Energy and Oil Price Slump Secular Stagnation under Neoliberalism Rational Fools vs. Efficient Crooks: The efficient m hypothesis Casino Capitalism
Insufficient Retirement Funds as Immanent Problem of Neoliberal Regime Neoliberal Attacks on Social Security Unemployment Inflation vs. Deflation Coming Bond Squeeze Notes on 401K plans Vanguard
401K Investing Webliography Retirement scams Stock Market as a Ponzy scheme Financial Sector Induced Systemic Instability Neoclassical Pseudo Theories The Great Stagnation Investing in Vanguard Mutual Funds and ETFs
OIL ETNs Peak Cheap Energy and Oil Price Slump Notes on 100-your age investment strategy behavior in rigged markets Chasing a trade The Possibility Of No Mean Reversion Junk Bonds For 401K Investors Tax policies
John Kenneth Galbraith The Roads We Take Economics Bookshelf Who Rules America Financial Quotes Financial Humor Etc

“When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product
of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done.”

John Maynard Keynes

"Life is a school of probabilities."

Walter Bagehot

Neoliberal economics (aka casino capitalism) function from one crash to another. Risk is pervasively underpriced under neoliberal system, resulting in bubbles small and large which hit the economy periodically. The problem are not strictly economical or political. They are ideological. Like a country which adopted a certain religion follows a certain path, The USA behaviour after adoption of neoliberalism somewhat correlate with the behaviour of alcoholic who decided to booze himself to death. The difference is that debt is used instead of booze.

Hypertrophied role of financial sector under neoliberalism introduces strong positive feedback look into the economic system making the whole system unstable. Any attempts to put some sand into the wheels in the form of increasing transaction costs or jailing some overzealous bankers or hedge fund managers are blocked by political power of financial oligarchy, which is the actual ruling class under neoliberalism for ordinary investor (who are dragged into stock market by his/her 401K) this in for a very bumpy ride. I managed to observe just two two financial crashed under liberalism (in 2000 and 2008) out of probably four (Savings and loan crisis was probably the first neoliberal crisis). The next crash is given, taking into account that hypertrophied role of financial sector did not changes neither after dot-com crisis of 200-2002 not after 2008 crisis (it is unclear when and if it ended; in any case it was long getting the name of "Great Recession").

Timing of the next crisis is anybody's guess but it might well be closer then we assume. As Mark Twain aptly observed: "A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes" ;-):

This morning that meant a stream of thoughts triggered by Paul Krugman’s most recent op-ed, particularly this:

Most of all, the vast riches being earned — or maybe that should be “earned” — in our bloated financial industry undermined our sense of reality and degraded our judgment.

Think of the way almost everyone important missed the warning signs of an impending crisis. How was that possible? How, for example, could Alan Greenspan have declared, just a few years ago, that “the financial system as a whole has become more resilient” — thanks to derivatives, no less? The answer, I believe, is that there’s an innate tendency on the part of even the elite to idolize men who are making a lot of money, and assume that they know what they’re doing.

As most 401K investors are brainwashing into being "over bullish", this page is strongly bearish in "perma-bear" fashion in order to serve as an antidote to "Barrons" style cheerleading. Funny, but this page is accessed mostly during periods of economic uncertainty. At least this was the case during the last two financial crisis(2000 and 2008). No so much during good times: the number of visits drops to below 1K a month.

Still I hope it plays a small but important role: to warn about excessive risk taking by 401K investors in neoliberal economic system. It designed to serve as a warning sign and inject a skeptical note into MSM coverage. There are not many such sites, so a warning about danger of taking excessive risk in 401K accounts under neoliberalism has definite value. The following cartoon from 2008 illustrated this point nicely

As far as I know lot of 401K investors are 100% or almost 100% invested at stocks. Including many of my friends. I came across a very relevant to this situation joke which nicely illustrated the ideas of this page:

Seven habits that help produce the anything-but-efficient markets that rule the world by Paul Krugman in Fortune.

1. Think short term.
2. Be greedy.
3. Believe in the greater fool
4. Run with the herd.
5. Overgeneralize
6. Be trendy
7. Play with other people's money

I would like to stress again that it is very difficult to "guess" when the next wave of crisis stikes us: "A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes".

But mispricing of risk in 401K accounts is systemic for "overbullish" 401 investors, who expect that they will be able to jusp of the train in time, before the crash. Usually such expectations are false. And to sell in the market that can lose 10% in one day is not easy psychologically. I remember my feelings in 2001-2002 and again 2008-2009. That's why many people who planned to "jump" stay put and can temporarily lose 30 to 50% of value of their 401k account in a very short period of time (and if you think that S&P500 can't return to 1000, think again; its all depends on FED). At this point some freak out and sell their holdings making paper losses permanent.

Even for those who weathered the storm and held to their stock holdings, it is important to understand that paper losses were eliminated mostly by Fed money printing. As such risks remains as at one point FED might find itself out of ammunition. The fact that S&P500 recovered very nicely it does not diminish the risk of such behavior. There is no guarantee that the third crisis will behave like previous two.

Next crash will have a new key determinant: the attitude toward the US government (and here I mean the current government of Barack Obama) and Wall Street after 2008 is the lack of trust. That means that you need to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Injection on so much money into financial system was a novel experiment which is not ended yet. So how it will end is anybody's guess. We are now in uncharted waters. I think when Putin called Bernanke a hooligan, he meant exactly this. Since Bernanke was printing money out of thin air to buy financial paper, his action were tantamount to shoplifting. In some way this probably is more similar to running meth labs inside Fed building. The system was injected with narcotics. Everybody felt better, but the mechanism behind it was not healthy.

The complexity of modern financial system is tremendous and how all those new financial instruments will behave under a new stress is unknown. At the same time in the Internet age we, the great unwashed masses, can't be keep in complete obscurity like in good old time. Many now know ( or at least suspect ) that the neoliberal "show must goes on" after 2008 is actually going strongly at their expense. And while open rebellion is impossible, that results in lack of trust which represents a problem for financial oligarchy which rules the country. The poor working slobs are told be grateful for Walmart's low (poverty-subsidized) prices. Middle class is told that their declining standard of living is a natural result of their lack of competitiveness in the market place. Classic "bread and circuses" policy still works but for how long it will continue to work it is unclear.

But nothing is really new under the sun. To more and more people it is now clear that today the US is trying to stave off the inevitable decline by resorting to all kinds of financial manipulations like previous empires; yesterday, it was the British Empire and if you go further back, you get the USSR, Hapsburg empire, Imperial Russia, Spanish empire, Venetian empire, Byzantium and Roman empire. The current "Secretary of Imperial Wars" (aka Secretary of Defense) Ashton Baldwin Carter is pretty open about this:

“We already see countries in the region trying to carve up these markets…forging many separate trade agreements in recent years, some based on pressure and special arrangements…. Agreements that…..leave us on the sidelines. That risks America’s access to these growing markets. We must all decide if we are going to let that happen. If we’re going to help boost our exports and our economy…and cement our influence and leadership in the fastest-growing region in the world; or if, instead, we’re going to take ourselves out of the game.”

For the US elite it might be a time to rethink its neocon stance due to which the US is exposing ourselves to the enmity of the rising economic powers, and blowing serious cash to maintain it hegemony via maintaining huge military budget, financing wars and color revolutions in distant countries. In a way the US foreign policy became a financial racket, and racket can't last forever because it incite strong opposition from other countries.

Neoliberalism (aka casino capitalism) as a social system entered the state of decline after 2008. Like communism before it stopped to be attractive to people. But unlike communism it proved to have greater staying power, surviving in zombie state as finanfial institutions preserved political power and in some cases even enhanced it. It is unclear how long it will say in this state. Much depends on the availability of "cheap oil" on which neoliberal globalization is based.

But the plausible hypothesis is that this social system like socialism in xUSSR space before entered down slope and might well be on its way to the cliff. Attempts to neo-colonize other states by the West became less successful and more costly (Compare Ukraine, Libya and Iraq with previous instances of color revolutions). Some became close to XIX century colonial conquests with a lot of bloodshed (from half million to over a million of Iraqis, by different estimates, died ). As always this is mainly the blood of locals, which is cheap.

Libya and Ukraine are two recent examples. Both countries are now destroyed (which might be the plan). In Ukraine population is thrown in object poverty with income of less that $5 a day for the majority of population. And there is no other way to expand markets but to try to "neo-colonize" new countries by putting them into ominous level of debt while exporting goods to the population on credit. That is not a long term strategy as Greece, Bulgaria, and now Spain and Portugal had shown. With shrinking markets stability of capitalism in general and neoliberalism in particular might decrease.

Several researchers points to increased importance Central banks now play in maintaining of the stability of the banking system. That's already a reversal of neoliberal dogma about free (read "unregulated") markets. Actually the tale about "free markets", as far as the USA is concerned, actually was from the very beginning mainly the product designed for export (read about Washington consensus).

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[Mar 29, 2017] The reason UK economics students revolted

Notable quotes:
"... And that's the reason UK economics students revolted: "Few mainstream economists predicted the global financial crash of 2008 and academics have been accused of acting as cheerleaders for the often labyrinthine financial models behind the crisis. Now a growing band of university students are plotting a quiet revolution against orthodox free-market teaching, arguing that alternative ways of thinking have been pushed to the margins. ..."
"... why economists failed to warn about the global financial crisis and for having too heavy a focus on training students for City jobs. ..."
"... But the answer to their question is very simple. Neoliberals are in power and they dictate what is to be taught in Economics courses. They also promote and sustain "willing charlatans" like Mankiw, who poisons and indoctrinates students with neoclassical junk. ..."
Mar 29, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
JohnH -> Peter K.... , March 27, 2017 at 06:51 PM
So true; "SWL has never addressed what is happening in the real world."

And that's the reason UK economics students revolted: "Few mainstream economists predicted the global financial crash of 2008 and academics have been accused of acting as cheerleaders for the often labyrinthine financial models behind the crisis. Now a growing band of university students are plotting a quiet revolution against orthodox free-market teaching, arguing that alternative ways of thinking have been pushed to the margins.

Economics undergraduates at the University of Manchester have formed the Post-Crash Economics Society, which they hope will be copied by universities across the country. The organisers criticise university courses for doing little to explain why economists failed to warn about the global financial crisis and for having too heavy a focus on training students for City jobs."
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/24/students-post-crash-economics

... ... ...

libezkova -> JohnH... , March 27, 2017 at 09:40 PM
"why economists failed to warn about the global financial crisis and for having too heavy a focus on training students for City jobs."

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/24/students-post-crash-economics"

That's a very good link. Thank you !

But the answer to their question is very simple. Neoliberals are in power and they dictate what is to be taught in Economics courses. They also promote and sustain "willing charlatans" like Mankiw, who poisons and indoctrinates students with neoclassical junk.

[Mar 28, 2017] Economics taught by neo-classical economics is like the Natural Sciences departments being run by creationists

Notable quotes:
"... This has echoes of a protest by students in 2011 at Harvard when a group of students walked out of the lectures by Dr Gregory Manilow. What has happened to them? ..."
"... Good for them. The economics profession has been dominated by neoliberal theoreticians for far too long. It needs bringing back to the real world. ..."
"... i went to the LSE to study maths and statistics with a sprinkling of economics (my first taste of it at the time). after a few months i was of the opinion it is based on terrible assumptions. e.g. the needs of the average consumer, which are then blown up into fantastical macroeconomical proportions which only led to flawed arguments. The subsequent financial crisis only backed this up. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
RobinS , 25 Oct 2013 5:20

What a ghastly indictment of Manchester, and other economics departments - obviously being very economic with their subject. Sounds a bit like the Natural Sciences departments being run by creationists.

ResponsibleWellbeing , 25 Oct 2013 5:23

This should be the first class for the whole students in economics.
What are the limits in ecology ecosystem? And what are the needs/capacities for human flourishing?

Adventures in New Economics 2: Donut Economics, Kate Raworth

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VieEtdcmjtI

This is an open/complex map with a compass in values that I've built trying to go through both main concepts. It's valid for personal development / companies / communities / nations / whole planet.

bit.ly/1775pbV

Jed Bland , 25 Oct 2013 5:36

This has echoes of a protest by students in 2011 at Harvard when a group of students walked out of the lectures by Dr Gregory Manilow. What has happened to them?

I personally have observed in other disciplines that teaching tends to be a generation behind current thinking, Particularly when it has more to do with ideology than science.

Some ten years ago, a movement called the Post-Autistic Ecomoncs Movement had a considerable influence in Europe but has no doubt disappeared in the face of the greed which is central supporting feature of today's neoliberalism.

SteveTen , 25 Oct 2013 5:44

Good for them. The economics profession has been dominated by neoliberal theoreticians for far too long. It needs bringing back to the real world.

skyblueravo , 25 Oct 2013 5:45

i went to the LSE to study maths and statistics with a sprinkling of economics (my first taste of it at the time). after a few months i was of the opinion it is based on terrible assumptions. e.g. the needs of the average consumer, which are then blown up into fantastical macroeconomical proportions which only led to flawed arguments. The subsequent financial crisis only backed this up.

I commend this thinking by the students but if I was one of their parents forking out 27k i would probably tell them to pass the exams they need to and get out and start earning.

LSE is a godawful uni also, unless you have given spawn to gordon gekko dont bother with it.

kongshan , 25 Oct 2013 5:46

Alternative theories and models??? Well they are currently practiced by North Korea and these students will be more than welcomed by the Kim family to ply their trade there.

UnlearningEcon -> kongshan , 25 Oct 2013 7:58

Actually, "alternative theories" were practiced by South Korea, which has been quite a success story. It's not either the status quo or state communism, you know.

[Mar 28, 2017] The robber barons and their useful idiots have certainly achieved what they set out to do.

Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
radicalchange 25 Oct 2013 6:41

For an understanding of how we came to have thrust upon us the "Dismal Science" of neo-classical economics, which took shape in the 1880's - 1890's, I recommend reading "The Corruption of Economics" by Mason Gaffney.

Here is a link to some excerpts from his book,
http://www.politicaleconomy.org/gaffney.htm

Essentially, economic thinking was hijacked by the robber barons who through building and funding universities were able to subvert the teaching of economics to suit their own agenda. Classical economics with a sound basis of three factors of production was replaced by voodhoo economics which reduced the three factors of production to only two. Whereas once "land" was a factor of production in its own right alongside "capital" and "labour", it was magicked away to be incorporated as "capital" for the purpose of the land owning robber barons.

As anyone with a few braincells would know, "land" is a distinct factor of production in its own right, and not only that, it is the primary factor since neither "capital" or "labour" would exist without it. But "land" can exist without both the other two factors which makes it unique and makes it primary and yet voodhoo economics has managed to hide this fact so well through the employment of clever mathematics to create an illusion of being a solid discipline.

http://www.henrygeorge.org/pcontents.htm

Neoclassical economics is the idiom of most economic discourse today. It is the paradigm that bends the twigs of young minds. Then it confines the florescence of older ones, like chicken-wire shaping a topiary. It took form about a hundred years ago, when Henry George and his reform proposals were a clear and present political danger and challenge to the landed and intellectual establishments of the world. Few people realize to what a degree the founders of Neoclassical economics changed the discipline for the express purpose of deflecting George, discomfiting his followers, and frustrating future students seeking to follow his arguments. The stratagem was semantic: to destroy the very words in which he expressed himself.


To most modern readers, probably George seems too minor a figure to have warranted such an extreme reaction. This impression is a measure of the neo-classicals' success: it is what they sought to make of him. It took a generation, but by 1930 they had succeeded in reducing him in the public mind. In the process of succeeding, however, they emasculated the discipline, impoverished economic thought, muddled the minds of countless students, rationalized free-riding by landowners, took dignity from labor, rationalized chronic unemployment, hobbled us with today's counterproductive tax tangle, marginalized the obvious alternative system of public finance, shattered our sense of community, subverted a rising economic democracy for the benefit of rent-takers, and led us into becoming an increasingly nasty and dangerously divided plutocracy.

Not one economics graduate have I met that has heard of Henry George but yet they have all heard of Karl Marx. The robber barons and their useful idiots have certainly achieved what they set out to do.

radicalchange -> radicalchange , 25 Oct 2013 6:45

As clarification the two paragraphs in italics are excerpts from the "Corruption of Economics" by Mason Gaffney. The link to Henry George's "Progress and Poverty" is, http://www.henrygeorge.org/pcontents.htm

[Mar 28, 2017] I taught Economics for forty years and over 30 of those to Singaporean scholars destined to Oxford, Cambridge and Ivy League universities; in all those years I was aware of the lies I had to teach in order to pass university entrance exams.

Notable quotes:
"... Then Economic History was virtually withdrawn from university Economics and other courses so that only the"lies" would be taught backed up by unquestioned (i.e. purely deductive) Mathematics. It is an academic crime ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | profile.theguardian.com
ptah , 25 Oct 2013 7:55

If a viable economic solution emerged from the universities - one which remedied the classical models and trumped the broken neo-liberal systems, how would we recognise it?

To provide some context - and I am in no way qualified to discuss this topic really but, the first machines to produce logic emerging from Bletchley park were not fully recognised for their potential - the computer revolution took place elsewhere. The UK is absolute rubbish at recognising innovation!

Good luck to the students. I hope many more get involved in this debate.

ID2322670 , 25 Oct 2013 8:24

I taught Economics for forty years and over 30 of those to Singaporean scholars destined to Oxford, Cambridge and Ivy League universities; in all those years I was aware of the lies I had to teach in order to pass university entrance exams.

I attempted to follow the thesis that every economic theory however old or new was attempting to answer a unique contemporary economic problem and therefore only Economic History was of relevance in understanding a theory be Adam Smith or Keynes or even (unacademically) Thatcherism.

My students found all such information useless to passing Economics exams but interesting for "life".

Then Economic History was virtually withdrawn from university Economics and other courses so that only the"lies" would be taught backed up by unquestioned (i.e. purely deductive) Mathematics. It is an academic crime.

[Mar 28, 2017] Zombie theories continue on their path of destruction.

Notable quotes:
"... Neoliberal economics not only led to the crash of 2007/8 it is continuing to wreak havoc. A good current example is pension schemes - something we will depend on one day. They are valued using the purest form of free market thinking: the efficient markets hypothesis - the idea that asset markets always perfectly embody all relevant information. It is akin to belief in magic. ..."
"... It is amazing to read how narrow economics education is in modern Britain. It is not only intellectually unenlightened and literally dangerous, given the power many economics graduates can wield, amplified by the extraordinary sums and resources they manage, it also does a great disservice to people who are entitled to a proper education which, clearly, they are not receiving in this monotheistic model. ..."
"... It reminds me precisely of the so-called "religious education" I received in Ireland which was nothing of the sort. All I got was instruction in Catholic doctrine and ethics; there was no instruction in the beliefs of any other Christian sects, let alone what goes on in the other major world religions such as Hinduism, Judaism, or Islam. What I know about them I taught myself in later life. ..."
"... It seems that the same shameful parochial narrowness, intellectual provincialism, and "one true religion" ethic prevails in British economic so-called "education". ..."
"... On another matter, the revelation that economists "ignore empirical evidence that contradicts mainstream theories" destroys any notion that economics is a science, a silly claim I have always opposed. All that it reveals is that economists have no idea what science is. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
harrybuttle, 26 Oct 2013 7:25

Neoliberal economics not only led to the crash of 2007/8 it is continuing to wreak havoc. A good current example is pension schemes - something we will depend on one day. They are valued using the purest form of free market thinking: the efficient markets hypothesis - the idea that asset markets always perfectly embody all relevant information. It is akin to belief in magic.

Yet many professionals who run pension schemes and the government regulator all support it's use because it suits them - it deflects responsibility from them while they continue to be paid. It's effects on society are disastrous as it leads us to believe are insolvent. The government and actuarial profession accepted all this and enshrined it in law.

A topical example is the universities pension scheme the USS which BBC Newsnight and Radio 4 have just told us has a 'black hole' of a deficit.

Many of us thought that the EMH would ditched after its spectacular failure but no. Zombie theories continue on their path of destruction.

Josifer , 27 Oct 2013 01:00
It is amazing to read how narrow economics education is in modern Britain. It is not only intellectually unenlightened and literally dangerous, given the power many economics graduates can wield, amplified by the extraordinary sums and resources they manage, it also does a great disservice to people who are entitled to a proper education which, clearly, they are not receiving in this monotheistic model.

It reminds me precisely of the so-called "religious education" I received in Ireland which was nothing of the sort. All I got was instruction in Catholic doctrine and ethics; there was no instruction in the beliefs of any other Christian sects, let alone what goes on in the other major world religions such as Hinduism, Judaism, or Islam. What I know about them I taught myself in later life.

It seems that the same shameful parochial narrowness, intellectual provincialism, and "one true religion" ethic prevails in British economic so-called "education". Intellectuals ought to be utterly ashamed to propagate such blinkered views. Anyone who has never heard of Keynes is culturally illiterate; that an economics student, in particular, has never heard of Keynes is a disgrace.

On another matter, the revelation that economists "ignore empirical evidence that contradicts mainstream theories" destroys any notion that economics is a science, a silly claim I have always opposed. All that it reveals is that economists have no idea what science is.

[Mar 28, 2017] Priests of neoliberal economics need to recognize that they operate in a political environment in which their work will be seized upon by financial oligarchy, and will have real influnce of justifing thier often destrcutive for the majoroity of population policies

Delong is a typical neoliberal stooge, not that different from Mankiw, or Summers
Note that the terms "neoliberalism", "neo-classical economics" and "financial oligarchy" were never used...
Notable quotes:
"... "DeLong's takeaway is that economists do need to recognize that they operate in a political environment (the sewers of Romulus) in which their work will be seized upon by interested groups, with real practical outcomes. " ..."
"... UE's conclusion is that mainstream economics needs to be taken down several notches, which would open more space for alternative approaches to economics and, indeed, alternative approaches to policy that place more weight on human outcomes, broadly understood, than the formalistic criteria of efficiency, etc. ..."
"... Simon-Wren Lewis (SWL) and Chris Dillow have both recently argued that criticising economics for the 2008 financial crisis distracts from the real source of the blame, which is banks, and therefore undermines the progressive cause. While I don't disagree that the banks deserve blame, I want to push back a bit on their argument that economics as a discipline has little to do with regressive ideas. ..."
"... Consider the case of monopoly. The economics textbooks may be against monopoly, but this is largely on the grounds that it reduces consumer welfare by increasing prices. Building on this logic, the Chicago School of anti-trust regulation has shifted the focus of anti-trust law to lowering prices for consumers. As this recent article on Amazon details, this has hidden other forms of monopoly abuse such as predatory pricing, market dominance and reduced bargaining power for workers, consumers and smaller companies. ..."
"... Or consider Reinhart and Rogoff's famous '90% debt threshold', where their statistics purportedly showed that after a country reaches 90% of sovereign debt, its growth would stall. This was used by many politicians, including George Osborne, to justify austerity - until it was revealed to be based on 'statistical errors'. Sure, R & R received a fair amount of flak for this, but they have been incredibly stubborn about the result. Where was the formal, institutional denunciation of such a glaring error from the economics profession, and of the politicians who used it to justify their regressive policies? Why are R & R still allowed to comment on the matter with even an ounce of credibility? The case for austerity undoubtedly didn't hinge on this research alone, but imagine if a politician cited faulty medical research to approve their policies - would institutions like the BMA not feel a responsibility to condemn it? (Answer: yes, even when the politician was in another country). ..."
"... There are many more examples like this, such as Andrei Shleifer, who despite being prosecuted for fraud in post-Soviet Russia was awarded the John Bates Clark medal, probably the second most prestigious prize in the discipline, was subsequently allowed to publish papers in respected journals about how well privatisation went in Russia, and was eventually bailed out of the case by his incredibly wealthy university to the tune of $26 million. This is not to mention the disastrous Russian privatisation as a whole and the role of certain economists/economic ideas in it. ..."
"... Even worse were the Chicago boys, who advised Augusto Pinochet's horrific economic policies (and no, they were not just humble advisors, they were knee deep in the absolute worst excesses of the regime.) Without any substantive ethical code and without procedures for weeding out corrupt, dishonest or discredited work, the profession creates an environment where people can act like this and get away with it, all under the banner of the intellectual credibility 'economics' seems to confer on people. ..."
"... Mainstream economists have used mathematics to hide ideology. ..."
"... They have cherry-picked mathematical constructions with highly restrictive, idealized properties and then wedged-in economic parameters to fit their purposes. That is the case with the neoclassical production function and with the Arrow-Debreu general equilibrium model. The objective was to "prove" that economies free from government control were "natural" and best. They have been sophists from their first emergence. ..."
"... Science is not capable of devising a theory that adequately explains all the human elements and serendipitous effects of an economy - and may never be capable. However, humans are capable of organizing a society according to their needs and wants. They do it on a corporate scale all the time. It isn't perfect but it works pretty well. ..."
"... Mainstream economists have fought against a managed economy because it would reduce the influence of themselves and their plutocrat sponsors. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. -> pgl... March 27, 2017 at 07:25 AM
Peter Dorman:

"DeLong's takeaway is that economists do need to recognize that they operate in a political environment (the sewers of Romulus) in which their work will be seized upon by interested groups, with real practical outcomes. "

.... ... ...

Peter K. , March 27, 2017 at 07:20 AM
... ... ...

http://econospeak.blogspot.com/2017/03/economics-part-of-rot-part-of-treatment.html

SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 2017

Economics: Part of the Rot, Part of the Treatment, or Some of Each?

Is mainstream economics, with its false certitudes and ideological biases, one of the reasons for the dismal state of policy debate in countries like the UK and the US, or are its rigorous methods an important antidote to the ruling political foggery? That's being debated right now, live online.

Our starting point is a post on Unlearning Economics, dated March 5, which argues that the flaws of mainstream economics contribute to lousy policy on several fronts: downplaying the role of monopoly, cheerleading for the shareholder value imperative in the corporate world, knee-jerk support for trade agreements under the banner of comparative advantage, and regressive macroeconomic policy, among others. A particularly pointed paragraph brought up the Reinhart-Rogoff 90% affair and accused the economics profession of dereliction of duty by not taking action to rebuke the wrongdoers:

Where was the formal, institutional denunciation of such a glaring error from the economics profession, and of the politicians who used it to justify their regressive policies?

UE's conclusion is that mainstream economics needs to be taken down several notches, which would open more space for alternative approaches to economics and, indeed, alternative approaches to policy that place more weight on human outcomes, broadly understood, than the formalistic criteria of efficiency, etc.

Simon Wren-Lewis responded by arguing that UE has it exactly backwards. Restricting himself to UE's critique of macroeconomics, SWL says, yes, reactionary politicians have invoked "economics" to support austerity, but "real" economists for the most part have not gone along. True, there were a few, like Reinhart and Rogoff and those in the employ of the British financial sector ("City economists") who took a public stand against sensible Keynesian policies in the wake of the financial crisis, but they were a minority, and, in any case, what would you want to do about them? Economists, like professionals in any field, will disagree sometimes, and having a centralized agency to enforce a false consensus would ultimately work against progressives and dissenters, not for them. Let's put the blame where it really belongs, says SWL-on the politicians and pundits who have brushed aside decades of theoretical and empirical work to promulgate a reactionary, fact-free discourse on economic policy.

Yes-but, adds Brad DeLong. He largely agrees with SWL, but delves more deeply into the Reinhart-Rogoff affair. He shows that, even without the famed Excel glitch, a cursory look would reveal that R-R were trumpeting nonexistent results:

So the R-R claim that fiscal consolidation was necessary and urgent was unfounded from the get-go, and these two were both respected mainstream economists, so what can we infer? DeLong's takeaway is that economists do need to recognize that they operate in a political environment (the sewers of Romulus) in which their work will be seized upon by interested groups, with real practical outcomes. In this situation, the profession as a whole has a responsibility to assess high profile but dubious work. Although he isn't explicit, my reading is that DeLong wants some sort of professional quality control, but not institutionalized in the way UE seems to call for.

...

pgl -> Peter K.... , March 27, 2017 at 07:44 AM
Yep - try reading this portion:

"reactionary politicians have invoked "economics" to support austerity, but "real" economists for the most part have not gone along. True, there were a few, like Reinhart and Rogoff and those in the employ of the British financial sector ("City economists") who took a public stand against sensible Keynesian policies in the wake of the financial crisis, but they were a minority, and, in any case, what would you want to do about them? Economists, like professionals in any field, will disagree sometimes, and having a centralized agency to enforce a false consensus would ultimately work against progressives and dissenters, not for them. Let's put the blame where it really belongs, says SWL-on the politicians and pundits who have brushed aside decades of theoretical and empirical work to promulgate a reactionary, fact-free discourse on economic policy."

Peter K. , March 27, 2017 at 07:27 AM
https://medium.com/@UnlearningEcon/no-criticising-economics-is-not-regressive-43e114777429#.gihe5thlj

Unlearning EconomicsFollow
Mar 5

No, Criticising Economics is not Regressive

Simon-Wren Lewis (SWL) and Chris Dillow have both recently argued that criticising economics for the 2008 financial crisis distracts from the real source of the blame, which is banks, and therefore undermines the progressive cause. While I don't disagree that the banks deserve blame, I want to push back a bit on their argument that economics as a discipline has little to do with regressive ideas.

But firstly, it is my view that criticising economics needn't have an ideological motivation. Many critics, myself included, simply believe that neoclassical economics has severe shortcomings and that in order to understand the economic system properly we need better ideas. In many cases criticisms of neoclassical economics are so abstract that it's not even clear to me what the political implications of either side would be (e.g. the fact that Arrow-Debreu equilibrium might be unstable has no bearing on my view of whether capitalism itself is). I respect both SWL and Dillow immensely, but taken alone I consider this line of argument a rather feeble attempt to shut down an important scientific and philosophical debate.

Despite this, the point has some force to it: why devote so much intellectual effort to criticising economics when we could be devoting it to getting the big banks and other corporate wrongdoers? And here I think SWL and Dillow both paper over the extent to which economics has served those in power, as I will try to illustrate with a number of examples. To be clear, I'm not 'blaming' economists for all of these occurrences, but I do think the discipline seems to eschew responsibility for them, and that progressive economists have a blind spot when it comes to the practical consequences of their discipline.

Economics in Practice

I've always acknowledged that economists themselves are probably more progressive than they're usually given credit for. Nevertheless, the absence of things like power, exploitation, poverty, inequality, conflict, and disaster in most mainstream models - centred as they are around a norm of well-functioning markets, and focused on banal criteria like prices, output and efficiency - tends to anodise the subject matter. In practice, this vision of the economy detracts attention from important social issues and can even serve to conceal outright abuses. The result is that in practice, the influence of economics has often been more regressive than progressive.

Consider the case of monopoly. The economics textbooks may be against monopoly, but this is largely on the grounds that it reduces consumer welfare by increasing prices. Building on this logic, the Chicago School of anti-trust regulation has shifted the focus of anti-trust law to lowering prices for consumers. As this recent article on Amazon details, this has hidden other forms of monopoly abuse such as predatory pricing, market dominance and reduced bargaining power for workers, consumers and smaller companies.

Similarly, textbook ideas about profit maximisation and rational agents responding to incentives featured prominently in the promotion of shareholder value by Milton Friedman and other economists, which has been dominant over the past few decades and has been instrumental in increasing inequality and corporate short-termism. The potential macroeconomic impacts of corporate concentration have also been ignored by discipline until very recently - a consequence, perhaps, of the narrowing of particular subfields and the neglection of more critical systemic analysis (something similar could perhaps be said for the 2016 Prize in contract theory, though I am no expert in this area).

One type of institution which is dominated by economic ideas is central banks, yet many of their policies have had regressive elements. For instance, SWL praises economists at the Bank of England for implementing Quantitative Easing, but forgets that the Bank itself admitted that this has disproportionately benefited the wealthy. This problem goes even deeper: as J W Mason has argued, inflation targeting - a key central bank policy across the world - in practice results in workers' wages being kept down and their jobs being made more insecure in the name of combating inflation. In both cases what is painted as a relatively benign process - reducing interest rates and managing inflation, respectively - actually has quite serious social consequences, which generally aren't discussed in class or by policymakers.

In the realm of international trade, economists have been all too inclined to support trade deals - often quite vociferously - on the basis of simple ideas like comparative advantage, while ignoring (a) the actual details of the trade deals, which as Dean Baker frequently points out, tend to favour the rich and corporations and (b) their own more complex economic models, which as Dani Rodrik frequently points out, do imply that trade will harm some people while benefitting others. Uneven and unfair international trade has been a key element of the harm to workers over the past few decades, and was undoubtedly a factor in the election of Trump.

Global trade institutions like the IMF and World Bank have been dominated by economics since their inception, and using economics they inflicted massive pain through their free market 'structural adjustment' policies, which can only be described as regressive but which were fundamentally based on context-free neoclassical ideas about markets. True, these institutions may have softened somewhat in recent years, but that doesn't undo the harm they have caused. In fact, even their more recent 'bottom up' policies such as microcredit and Randomised Control Trials - both inspired by economic ideas - often seem to have benefited global and local elites at the expensive of the poorest. As Jamie Galbraith once noted in the context of the financial crisis, the discipline just has a blind spot for how ideas interact with power to produce unfair outcomes, sometimes taking the form of outright abuse and fraud. Which leads me nicely to my next argument.

Abusing Economics

Economists may complain that economic ideas have been misused by vested interests, and that this isn't their responsibility. But a huge problem with the discipline of economics is that it has virtually no institutional shields against mistakes and wrongdoing. Merton and Scholes won the biggest prize in the profession for their model of financial markets - which had become commonly adopted in options trading - in 1997. A year later those same economists required a hefty bailout when the use of their model was implicated in the collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management, where they were both partners. Was the prize revoked? No. Were they discredited? No. Actually, even the model is still widely used, despite massively underestimating fat tails and therefore being implicated in a number of other financial crises, including 2008.

Or consider Reinhart and Rogoff's famous '90% debt threshold', where their statistics purportedly showed that after a country reaches 90% of sovereign debt, its growth would stall. This was used by many politicians, including George Osborne, to justify austerity - until it was revealed to be based on 'statistical errors'. Sure, R & R received a fair amount of flak for this, but they have been incredibly stubborn about the result. Where was the formal, institutional denunciation of such a glaring error from the economics profession, and of the politicians who used it to justify their regressive policies? Why are R & R still allowed to comment on the matter with even an ounce of credibility? The case for austerity undoubtedly didn't hinge on this research alone, but imagine if a politician cited faulty medical research to approve their policies - would institutions like the BMA not feel a responsibility to condemn it? (Answer: yes, even when the politician was in another country).

There are many more examples like this, such as Andrei Shleifer, who despite being prosecuted for fraud in post-Soviet Russia was awarded the John Bates Clark medal, probably the second most prestigious prize in the discipline, was subsequently allowed to publish papers in respected journals about how well privatisation went in Russia, and was eventually bailed out of the case by his incredibly wealthy university to the tune of $26 million. This is not to mention the disastrous Russian privatisation as a whole and the role of certain economists/economic ideas in it.

Even worse were the Chicago boys, who advised Augusto Pinochet's horrific economic policies (and no, they were not just humble advisors, they were knee deep in the absolute worst excesses of the regime.) Without any substantive ethical code and without procedures for weeding out corrupt, dishonest or discredited work, the profession creates an environment where people can act like this and get away with it, all under the banner of the intellectual credibility 'economics' seems to confer on people.

And this leads me to my last point, which is the rhetorical power that invoking 'economics' has in contemporary politics. 'You don't understand economics' is - rightly or wrongly - a common refrain of those attacking progressive policies such as Ed Miliband's proposed energy price freeze, the minimum wage, or fiscal expansion. As with the above abuses of economics, those such as SWL complain (perhaps correctly) that these are inaccurate representations of the field.

But these same economists then invoke 'economics' in a similar way to justify their own policies. In my opinion, this only reinforces the dominance of economics and narrows the debate, a process which is inherently regressive. The case against austerity does not depend on whether it is 'good economics', but on its human impact. Nor does the case for combating climate change depend on the present discounted value of future costs to GDP. Reclaiming political debate from the grip of economics will make the human side of politics more central, and so can only serve a progressive purpose.

Peter K. -> Peter K.... , March 27, 2017 at 07:29 AM
Think about how Republicans use "Science" and scientists fight back against their misuse. In recent decades Republicans have left the field and now "scientist" has become a bad word for them.

Same thing needs to happen with Economics.

RGC -> Peter K.... , March 27, 2017 at 09:25 AM
Mainstream economists have used mathematics to hide ideology.

They have cherry-picked mathematical constructions with highly restrictive, idealized properties and then wedged-in economic parameters to fit their purposes. That is the case with the neoclassical production function and with the Arrow-Debreu general equilibrium model. The objective was to "prove" that economies free from government control were "natural" and best. They have been sophists from their first emergence.

RGC -> RGC... , March 27, 2017 at 09:33 AM
Consider the Arrow-Debreu model:

In the 1950s, Arrow and others proved a theorem that, many economists believe, put a rigorous mathematical foundation beneath Adam Smith's idea of the invisible hand. The theorem shows -- in a highly abstract model -- that producers and consumers can match their desires perfectly, given a particular set of prices.

In this rarified atmosphere of "general equilibrium," economic activity might take place efficiently without any central coordination, simply as a result of people pursuing their self-interest.

It's an insight that economists have used to argue for de-unionization, globalization and financial deregulation, all in the name of removing various frictions or distortions that prevent markets from achieving the elusive equilibrium.

Yet the theorem trails a dense cloud of caveats, which Arrow himself recognized could be more important than the proof itself. For one, it worked only in a perfect world, far removed from the one humans actually inhabit.

Equilibrium is merely one of many conceivable states of that world; there's no particular reason to believe that the economy would naturally tend toward it. Beautiful as the math may be, actual experience suggests that its magical efficiency is purely theoretical, and a poor guide to reality.

Remarkably, academic macroeconomists have largely ignored these limitations, and continue to teach the general equilibrium model -- and more modern variants with same fatal weaknesses -- as a decent approximation of reality.

Economists routinely use the framework to form their views on everything from taxation to global trade -- portraying it as a value-free, scientific approach, when in fact it carries a hidden ideology that casts completely free markets as the ideal.

Thus, when markets break down, the solution inevitably entails removing barriers to their proper functioning: privatize healthcare, education or social security, keep working to free up trade, or make labor markets more "flexible."

Those prescriptions have all too often failed, as the 2008 financial crisis eloquently demonstrated. The result is widespread distrust of economic experts and rejection of globalization.

In his recent book "Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality," James Kwak credits conservative think tanks funded by corporations and the wealthy for spreading the oversimplified belief in markets as wise machines for producing optimal social outcomes. He certainly has a point, yet such propaganda stemmed from an intellectual model that had been lurking at the center of economics all along -- and remains there now, still widely revered.

This perversion isn't Arrow's fault. He merely helped to prove a mathematical theorem, and was no blind advocate for markets. Indeed, he actually thought the theorem illustrated the limitations of capitalism, and he was prescient in understanding how economic inequality might come to impair the workings of democratic government.

Perhaps it would be best to use his own words: "In a system where virtually all resources are available for a price, economic power can be translated into political power by channels too obvious for mention. In a capitalist society, economic power is very unequally distributed, and hence democratic government is inevitably something of a sham."

https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-03-09/the-misunderstanding-at-the-core-of-economics

RGC -> RGC... , March 27, 2017 at 09:47 AM
Note that neo-classical(mainstream) economists did NOT do what scientists do.

They did not observe phenomena and then try to construct a theory to explain the phenomena.

Rather, they constructed a theory that supported their ideology and then tried to argue that the theory was representative of the real world.

anne -> RGC... , March 27, 2017 at 02:55 PM
I do appreciate this essay.
Egmont Kakarot-Handtke , March 27, 2017 at 07:50 AM
The non-existence of economics

Comment on Simon Wren-Lewis on 'On criticizing the existence of mainstream economics'

There is no such thing as economics, there are FOUR economixes and they are constantly played against each other. First, there is theoretical and political economics. The crucial distinction within theoretical economics is true/false, the crucial distinction within political economics good/bad. Economics exhausts itself since 200+ years in crossover discussion, that is, by NOT keeping science and politics properly apart. As a result, it got neither science nor politics right.

Heterodox economists say that orthodox economics is false and in this very general sense they are right. Heterodox economists have debunked much of Orthodoxy but this has not enabled them to work out a superior alternative. The proper task of Heterodoxy is not the repetitive critique of Orthodoxy but to fully replace it, that is, to perform a paradigm shift: "The problem is not just to say that something might be wrong, but to replace it by something ― and that is not so easy." (Feynman)

Because Heterodoxy has never developed a valid alternative it advocates pluralism, more precisely, the pluralism of false theories. The argument boils down to: if Orthodoxy is allowed to sell their rubbish in the curriculum, Heterodoxy must also be allowed to sell their rubbish. Economics is not so much a heroic struggle about scientific truth but about a better place at the academic trough.

The fact of the matter is that neither Orthodoxy nor Heterodoxy has the true theory and that, by consequence, the political arguments of BOTH sides have NO sound scientific foundation.

Traditional Heterodoxy knows quite well that it has nothing to offer in the way of progressive science and therefore argues for dumping scientific standards altogether and to focus on politics pure and simple: "The case against austerity does not depend on whether it is 'good economics', but on its human impact. Nor does the case for combating climate change depend on the present discounted value of future costs to GDP. Reclaiming political debate from the grip of economics will make the human side of politics more central, and so can only serve a progressive purpose."

This is a good idea, economists should no longer pretend to do science but openly push their respective political agendas, after all, this is what they have actually done the past 200+ years. Neither Orthodoxy nor traditional Heterodoxy satisfies the scientific criteria of material and formal consistency. So, both, orthodox and heterodox economists have to get out of science because of incurable incompetence.

It was John Stuart Mill who told economists that they must decide themselves between science and politics: "A scientific observer or reasoner, merely as such, is not an adviser for practice. His part is only to show that certain consequences follow from certain causes, and that to obtain certain ends, certain means are the most effectual. Whether the ends themselves are such as ought to be pursued, and if so, in what cases and to how great a length, it is no part of his business as a cultivator of science to decide, and science alone will never qualify him for the decision."

Both, orthodox and heterodox economists violate the principle of the separation of science and politics on a daily basis. Economics is what Feynman famously called cargo cult science and neither right wing nor left wing economic policy guidance has a sound scientific foundation since Adam Smith/Karl Marx. It is high time that economics frees itself from the corrupting grip of politics.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

RGC -> Egmont Kakarot-Handtke ... , March 27, 2017 at 11:33 AM
Science is not capable of devising a theory that adequately explains all the human elements and serendipitous effects of an economy - and may never be capable. However, humans are capable of organizing a society according to their needs and wants. They do it on a corporate scale all the time. It isn't perfect but it works pretty well.

Mainstream economists have fought against a managed economy because it would reduce the influence of themselves and their plutocrat sponsors.

Peter K. , March 27, 2017 at 08:22 AM
I like that Thoma is linking to Campbell who has some interesting blog posts, like in today's links:

http://douglaslcampbell.blogspot.com/2017/03/corporations-in-age-of-inequality.html

"The story of inequality they tell is also one which is essentially technology based (IT and outsourcing), as they find that inequality is almost entirely driven by changes in between firm inequality. They deserve credit for presenting an interesting set of facts.

However, while intriguing, I'm not yet totally convinced this is the key to understanding inequality. Macromon [sic] also had an excellent discussion of this research awhile back...

...

I took issue with this comment "Since 1980, income inequality has risen sharply in most developed economies". As my blog readers know, income inequality has not risen dramatically in Germany, France, Japan, or Sweden according to Alvaredo et al.. Thus, this comment threw me: "This means that the rising gap in pay between firms accounts for the large majority of the increase in income inequality in the United States. It also accounts for at least a substantial part in other countries, as research conducted in the UK, Germany, and Sweden demonstrates." Right, but the increases in inequality in Germany and Sweden have been quite minor relative to the US, and are also associated with changes in top marginal tax rates. So, between firm inequality isn't actually explaining much is what I'm hearing.

..."

Peter K. , March 27, 2017 at 08:22 AM
pgl -> Peter K....
Try this single line:

"the profession as a whole has a responsibility to assess high profile but dubious work."

As in that awful paper by Gerald Friedman. Peter Dorman ripped it. I ripped. And yes the Romers ripped it.

That is what economists are suppose to do. But you have whined about this for the last 14 months.

Reply Monday, March 27, 2017 at 07:47 AM

Yes it was a priority to demonize Friedman b/c he was coming from the left and was supposedly supporting Bernie Sanders. It was a way for the center-left to discredit Bernie Sanders and call him "unPresidential" and "unserious" as Hillary did.

Meawhile PGL continuously name-drops Mankiw as if he has a man crush on him.

[Mar 28, 2017] The neoliberals also have strong views on the kind of society they would like to create, but they prefer to hide it because very few people would vote for it

Notable quotes:
"... You don't need to look very far to see the neoliberal ideal; it is all around us: everything a commodity, including human beings; massive differentials in life chances; sweat shops for producers juxtaposed with unimaginable wealth for the owners of capital; everybody on their own, the rolling back of collective provision and no such thing as society. ..."
"... Instead, the neoliberals talk of freedom and choice, but in reality it is freedom for the few to exploit the many and the choice to take whatever crumbs are offered to you or starve. ..."
"... Agree, but it's not that they don't talk about it. The use mathematics as a way to underscore what is essentially an ideological position. It gives them an aura of objectivity, impartiality and scientific truth which, given their prepositions about utility maximization and unbounded growth, they frankly don't have. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
archeeros , 25 Oct 2013 3:50

Keynes viewed economics as a branch of philosophy. At its heart are two questions - What is the nature of man? and What sort of society should we create? The focus on mathematical models, based upon free-market theories, has long been a victory for ivory towers over reality. Sure, they have an important role to play, but when they are at the centre of what is taught at universities something has gone wrong.

SteveTen -> archeeros , 25 Oct 2013 5:57

The neoliberals also have strong views on the kind of society they would like to create, but they don't talk about it often, because very few people would vote for it.

You don't need to look very far to see the neoliberal ideal; it is all around us: everything a commodity, including human beings; massive differentials in life chances; sweat shops for producers juxtaposed with unimaginable wealth for the owners of capital; everybody on their own, the rolling back of collective provision and no such thing as society.

Instead, the neoliberals talk of freedom and choice, but in reality it is freedom for the few to exploit the many and the choice to take whatever crumbs are offered to you or starve.

Usignolo -> SteveTen , 25 Oct 2013 6:18

Agree, but it's not that they don't talk about it. The use mathematics as a way to underscore what is essentially an ideological position. It gives them an aura of objectivity, impartiality and scientific truth which, given their prepositions about utility maximization and unbounded growth, they frankly don't have.

[Mar 28, 2017] Mainstream economics, with its false certitudes and ideological biases, is one of the reasons for the dismal state of policy debate in countries like the UK and the US, sustaining the ruling neoliberals political foggery?

Notable quotes:
"... Few mainstream economists predicted the global financial crash of 2008 and academics have been accused of acting as cheerleaders for the often labyrinthine financial models behind the crisis. Now a growing band of university students are plotting a quiet revolution against orthodox free-market teaching, arguing that alternative ways of thinking have been pushed to the margins. ..."
"... Our starting point is a post on Unlearning Economics, dated March 5, which argues that the flaws of mainstream economics contribute to lousy policy on several fronts: downplaying the role of monopoly, cheerleading for the shareholder value imperative in the corporate world, knee-jerk support for trade agreements under the banner of comparative advantage, and regressive macroeconomic policy, among others. A particularly pointed paragraph brought up the Reinhart-Rogoff 90% affair and accused the economics profession of dereliction of duty by not taking action to rebuke the wrongdoers: ..."
"... Simon Wren-Lewis responded by arguing that UE has it exactly backwards. Restricting himself to UE's critique of macroeconomics, SWL says, yes, reactionary politicians have invoked "economics" to support austerity, but "real" economists for the most part have not gone along. True, there were a few, like Reinhart and Rogoff and those in the employ of the British financial sector ("City economists") who took a public stand against sensible Keynesian policies in the wake of the financial crisis, but they were a minority, and, in any case, what would you want to do about them? Economists, like professionals in any field, will disagree sometimes, and having a centralized agency to enforce a false consensus would ultimately work against progressives and dissenters, not for them. Let's put the blame where it really belongs, says SWL-on the politicians and pundits who have brushed aside decades of theoretical and empirical work to promulgate a reactionary, fact-free discourse on economic policy. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
JohnH -> Peter K.... March 27, 2017 at 06:51 PM

So true; "SWL has never addressed what is happening in the real world."

And that's the reason UK economics students revolted: "Few mainstream economists predicted the global financial crash of 2008 and academics have been accused of acting as cheerleaders for the often labyrinthine financial models behind the crisis. Now a growing band of university students are plotting a quiet revolution against orthodox free-market teaching, arguing that alternative ways of thinking have been pushed to the margins.

Economics undergraduates at the University of Manchester have formed the Post-Crash Economics Society, which they hope will be copied by universities across the country. The organisers criticise university courses for doing little to explain why economists failed to warn about the global financial crisis and for having too heavy a focus on training students for City jobs."
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/oct/24/students-post-crash-economics

pgl is a classic example. He regularly preaches what theory says but is clueless to explain what's really happening.

Peter K. , March 27, 2017 at 07:20 AM
I like Peter Dorman much, much better than PGL. He always has interesting things to say. Here he stays on topic, unlike PGL.

http://econospeak.blogspot.com/2017/03/economics-part-of-rot-part-of-treatment.html

SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 2017

Economics: Part of the Rot, Part of the Treatment, or Some of Each?

Is mainstream economics, with its false certitudes and ideological biases, one of the reasons for the dismal state of policy debate in countries like the UK and the US, or are its rigorous methods an important antidote to the ruling political foggery? That's being debated right now, live online.

Our starting point is a post on Unlearning Economics, dated March 5, which argues that the flaws of mainstream economics contribute to lousy policy on several fronts: downplaying the role of monopoly, cheerleading for the shareholder value imperative in the corporate world, knee-jerk support for trade agreements under the banner of comparative advantage, and regressive macroeconomic policy, among others. A particularly pointed paragraph brought up the Reinhart-Rogoff 90% affair and accused the economics profession of dereliction of duty by not taking action to rebuke the wrongdoers:

Where was the formal, institutional denunciation of such a glaring error from the economics profession, and of the politicians who used it to justify their regressive policies?

UE's conclusion is that mainstream economics needs to be taken down several notches, which would open more space for alternative approaches to economics and, indeed, alternative approaches to policy that place more weight on human outcomes, broadly understood, than the formalistic criteria of efficiency, etc.

Simon Wren-Lewis responded by arguing that UE has it exactly backwards. Restricting himself to UE's critique of macroeconomics, SWL says, yes, reactionary politicians have invoked "economics" to support austerity, but "real" economists for the most part have not gone along. True, there were a few, like Reinhart and Rogoff and those in the employ of the British financial sector ("City economists") who took a public stand against sensible Keynesian policies in the wake of the financial crisis, but they were a minority, and, in any case, what would you want to do about them? Economists, like professionals in any field, will disagree sometimes, and having a centralized agency to enforce a false consensus would ultimately work against progressives and dissenters, not for them. Let's put the blame where it really belongs, says SWL-on the politicians and pundits who have brushed aside decades of theoretical and empirical work to promulgate a reactionary, fact-free discourse on economic policy.

Yes-but, adds Brad DeLong. He largely agrees with SWL, but delves more deeply into the Reinhart-Rogoff affair. He shows that, even without the famed Excel glitch, a cursory look would reveal that R-R were trumpeting nonexistent results:

So the R-R claim that fiscal consolidation was necessary and urgent was unfounded from the get-go, and these two were both respected mainstream economists, so what can we infer? DeLong's takeaway is that economists do need to recognize that they operate in a political environment (the sewers of Romulus) in which their work will be seized upon by interested groups, with real practical outcomes. In this situation, the profession as a whole has a responsibility to assess high profile but dubious work. Although he isn't explicit, my reading is that DeLong wants some sort of professional quality control, but not institutionalized in the way UE seems to call for.

...

[Mar 28, 2017] Economics students aim to tear up free-market syllabus

Notable quotes:
"... It was an eye opener that Universities are teaching only the neo-liberal model as the core syllabus. This is not education but indoctrination. Fair play to the group then who were passionate about the need for change and realise that it is up to them to effect that change. Good luck to them, I hope that they are successful in re-claiming education as a means of furthering understanding through questioning prevailing orthodoxy. ..."
"... Good luck. You may need it. You will be surprised at how much opposition you encounter and how remorseless and relentless it is. Look up the book "Political economy now!", about the experience at the University of Sydney. ..."
"... Economics is so discredited a subject that even students who have barley started studying realise that - with a few exceptions like Stiglitz or Schiller - it is total fabricated bullshit paid for by people with enough money to benefit from the lies it spreads. ..."
"... One of the biggest lies ever told the free market, as its never ever been a reality. ..."
"... Economists, like scientists and the rest of us, are always employed by someone and therein lies the problem: the conflict between what we believe to be the truth and what we are paid to do (or teach) to keep our job. Many economists (like investors & politicians) knew the crash would burst at some point but only those who enjoyed a seat outside the system would benefit from its prediction. ..."
Oct 24, 2013 | www.theguardian.com
Few mainstream economists predicted the global financial crash of 2008 and academics have been accused of acting as cheerleaders for the often labyrinthine financial models behind the crisis. Now a growing band of university students are plotting a quiet revolution against orthodox free-market teaching, arguing that alternative ways of thinking have been pushed to the margins.

Economics undergraduates at the University of Manchester have formed the Post-Crash Economics Society , which they hope will be copied by universities across the country. The organisers criticise university courses for doing little to explain why economists failed to warn about the global financial crisis and for having too heavy a focus on training students for City jobs.

A growing number of top economists, such as Ha-Joon Chang, who teaches economics at Cambridge University, are backing the students.

Next month the society plans to publish a manifesto proposing sweeping reforms to the University of Manchester's curriculum, with the hope that other institutions will follow suit.

Joe Earle, a spokesman for the Post-Crash Economics Society and a final-year undergraduate, said academic departments were "ignoring the crisis" and that, by neglecting global developments and critics of the free market such as Keynes and Marx, the study of economics was "in danger of losing its broader relevance".

Chang, who is a reader in the political economy of development at Cambridge, said he agreed with the society's premise. The teaching of economics was increasingly confined to arcane mathematical models, he said. "Students are not even prepared for the commercial world. Few [students] know what is going on in China and how it influences the global economic situation. Even worse, I've met American students who have never heard of Keynes."

In June a network of young economics students, thinkers and writers set up Rethinking Economics , a campaign group to challenge what they say is the predominant narrative in the subject.

Earle said students across Britain were being taught neoclassical economics "as if it was the only theory".

He said: "It is given such a dominant position in our modules that many students aren't even aware that there are other distinct theories out there that question the assumptions, methodologies and conclusions of the economics we are taught."

Multiple-choice and maths questions dominate the first two years of economics degrees, which Earle said meant most students stayed away from modules that required reading and essay-writing, such as history of economic thought. "They think they just don't have the skills required for those sorts of modules and they don't want to jeopardise their degree," he said. "As a consequence, economics students never develop the faculties necessary to critically question, evaluate and compare economic theories, and enter the working world with a false belief about what economics is and a knowledge base limited to neoclassical theory."

In the decade before the 2008 crash, many economists dismissed warnings that property and stock markets were overvalued. They argued that markets were correctly pricing shares, property and exotic derivatives in line with economic models of behaviour. It was only when the US sub-prime mortgage market unravelled that banks realised a collective failure to spot the bubble had wrecked their finances.

In his 2010 documentary Inside Job, Charles Ferguson highlighted how US academics had produced hundreds of reports in support of the types of high-risk trading and debt-fuelled consumption that triggered the crash.

Some leading economists have criticised university economics teaching, among them Paul Krugman, a Nobel prize winner and professor at Princeton university who has attacked the complacency of economics education in the US.

In an article for the New York Times in 2009, Krugman wrote : "As I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth."

Adam Posen, head of the Washington-based thinktank the Peterson Institute, said universities ignore empirical evidence that contradicts mainstream theories in favour of "overly technical nonsense".

City economists attacked Joseph Stiglitz, the former World Bank chief economist, and Olivier Blanchard, the current International Monetary Fund chief economist, when they criticised western governments for cutting investment in the wake of the crash.

A Manchester University spokeman said that, as at other university courses around the world, economics teaching at Manchester "focuses on mainstream approaches, reflecting the current state of the discipline". He added: "It is also important for students' career prospects that they have an effective grounding in the core elements of the subject.

"Many students at Manchester study economics in an interdisciplinary context alongside other social sciences, especially philosophy, politics and sociology. Such students gain knowledge of different kinds of approaches to examining social phenomena many modules taught by the department centre on the use of quantitative techniques. These could just as easily be deployed in mainstream or non-mainstream contexts." Since you're here

we've got a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever, but far fewer are paying for it. Advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can . So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian's independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.

If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure.

SmashtheGates , 25 Oct 2013 00:07

Good luck to this group. They are on the right lines.

Post-Autistic Economics has been around for quite a while, now, and has developed into the World Economics Association. Take a look ...........

http://www.worldeconomicsassociation.org/ Reply Share

GreatGrandDad SmashtheGates , 25 Oct 2013 04:02
Good luck to this group. They are on the right lines.
Post-Autistic Economics has been around for quite a while....

and so has CASSE.

I hope these students can insist on For the Common Good (Daly and Cobb 1992) becoming a central text for their course.

The quotations from the 'grand-daddy' of Heterodox (as opposed to Orthodox) Economics, Kenneth Goulding,
will give them plenty of ammunition.

I particularly like: Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist. and
Economists are like computers. They need to have facts punched into them.

But my favourite is Mathematics brought rigor to Economics. Unfortunately, it also brought mortis.

littlepump SmashtheGates , 25 Oct 2013 09:42
@ SmashtheGates 25 October 2013 12:07am . Get cifFix for Firefox .

Good luck to this group. They are on the right lines.

Agreed, but they are fighting an uphill battle. Just look at how few (accademic) heterodox economists actually work in economics departments. I think almost every heterdox economist I know works in an non-economics school/faculty (i.e. schools/facultues of the environment, sustainability, sociology, land use etc).
GreatGrandDad Conrad33 , 25 Oct 2013 04:33
Again the Economists have their heads buried in stats rather than in the trenches.

Nice one, and a neat summary of what the economists had to tell the Queen in answer to her question as to why there was not forewarning of the crash.

Chrisk79 , 25 Oct 2013 00:36
I spoke with some of the Post Crash group at a Peoples Assembly meeting recently. It was an eye opener that Universities are teaching only the neo-liberal model as the core syllabus. This is not education but indoctrination. Fair play to the group then who were passionate about the need for change and realise that it is up to them to effect that change. Good luck to them, I hope that they are successful in re-claiming education as a means of furthering understanding through questioning prevailing orthodoxy.
hamstrung Chrisk79 , 25 Oct 2013 01:53
Well said that man. Very well said. Unquestioning indoctrination has led us (all countries in the world be they active participants or 'victims) to this sorry pass.

Basic economics should include the very basic idea that money is no more and no less than a tool. If you strip money / the tool away from folk then they will either try and take your tool from you or, if life becomes savage enough, they will fall by the wayside.

Does this generation and successive ones really want to walk over the bodies of others?

Without a profound readjustment and realignment of economic thinking, that is precisely what is in store. Indeed, it is what has been set in motion already. Time for an urgent re-think before more bodies litter the highways.

GreatGrandDad hamstrung , 25 Oct 2013 04:40
Time for an urgent re-think...

I heard recently about one man who had had such a re-think.

He was an American financial executive who was asked why he was taking early retirement and going off to live in a little valley in the hills.

He replied: "Well, it is a lovely property with great scenery, fertile land and its own microhydroelectricity-----but the really big attraction is that it puts 300 miles of armed hillbillies between me and the nearest city"!!.

callaspodeaspode GreatGrandDad , 25 Oct 2013 11:28
I do hope the chap in question doesn't end up regretting that he has deliberately placed himself into a situation where there are 300 miles of armed hillbillies between himself and the nearest city.

These things can cut both ways. Reply Share

GazInOz , 25 Oct 2013 02:27
Good luck. You may need it. You will be surprised at how much opposition you encounter and how remorseless and relentless it is. Look up the book "Political economy now!", about the experience at the University of Sydney.

http://purl.library.usyd.edu.au/sup/9781921364051

marukun GazInOz , 25 Oct 2013 05:22
Exactly - the clue is in this statement from the University authorities...

It is also important for students' career prospects that they have an effective grounding in the core elements of the subject.

Or in other words...

Students should be familar with the free market fair tales thrown up by rich, greedy bankers and the right wing in order to earn money pandering the "correct" line

Economics is so discredited a subject that even students who have barley started studying realise that - with a few exceptions like Stiglitz or Schiller - it is total fabricated bullshit paid for by people with enough money to benefit from the lies it spreads.

Paul Flanagan , 25 Oct 2013 02:34
One of the biggest lies ever told the free market, as its never ever been a reality.

Restrictions or prejudices ensure this, so such a philosophy deserves tearing up just like their supporters who believe community and care are bad ideals. They call it socialism but it is far from being a dirty word as it is about looking after all people on a more equal level, so as to ensure the most vulnerable people in society are not left in a helpless and hopeless position.

GreatGrandDad hamstrung , 25 Oct 2013 04:40
Time for an urgent re-think...

I heard recently about one man who had had such a re-think.
He was an American financial executive who was asked why he was taking early retirement and going off to live in a little valley in the hills.
He replied: "Well, it is a lovely property with great scenery, fertile land and its own microhydroelectricity-----but the really big attraction is that it puts 300 miles of armed hillbillies between me and the nearest city"!!.

Squiff811 , 25 Oct 2013 07:28
Thatcherist 'Reaganomics' was their response to the hissy fit Maggie threw at the 'grubby little terrorist' Nelson Mandela when he started to put the kibosh on the elites cash cow of South African apartheid, 4 decades of 'starving the beast' and media complicity in pushing the benefits of supply side while pruning demand to the core by cutting back public investment which is the only source of high velocity currency in a debt based economy where cash is simply printed to commission public gods, services and infrastructure for a civilised society and withdrawn through tax to mitigate inflation.

Only as we approach their ideology of fiscal apartheid do the courtiers perceive that without demand a bleak future awaits everyone but the very few already excessively wealthy.

Nicoise , 25 Oct 2013 07:41
Economists, like scientists and the rest of us, are always employed by someone and therein lies the problem: the conflict between what we believe to be the truth and what we are paid to do (or teach) to keep our job. Many economists (like investors & politicians) knew the crash would burst at some point but only those who enjoyed a seat outside the system would benefit from its prediction.

[Mar 28, 2017] Brodsky A Socialized Market With Guaranteed Positive Returns For All Must Fail

Mar 28, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com
Submitted by Paul Brodsky via Macro-Allocation.com

"Selfishness is a virtue."

- Ayn Rand

"Selfishness is profitable, but for institutionalized investors it takes courage to be selfish."

- Paul Brodsky

Self-Serve

In Passive Aggressive , we made the case that ETFs can be useful vehicles for thoughtful active investors. A few people agreed with our self-assessment in the piece that we were being self-serving because we are launching a modestly priced pro-volatility fund that actively manages ETFs. To some this might raise the issue of whether the report was truly objective. It was, and in fact we would argue that opening a fund using the approach endorsed in Passive Aggressive shows our high level of conviction towards it. It would be unconscionable were we not to not share an opportunity we see as worthy of opening a business.

Objective analysis is objective because the ideas and conclusions are free of bias, not because the analyst is free of a potential conflict of interest. Full-disclosure separates self-interest from self-dealing. We have argued recently that US and global output growth are declining fast, Trump's economic initiatives would have little impact (best case), long-duration Treasuries should be bought and high yield credit sold, gold should be owned, US housing and retail sectors should be shorted, as well as other macro trends and applications. Most of our suggestions have been counter-consensus and would benefit from a general increase in economic and market volatility. By discussing the ETF approach within the context of MAI, it is our hope that subscribers value the overall strategy enough to consider acting on it in some measure, whether it is with us, with someone else, or on their own. But enough about that...

Who pursues which investment strategies and why got us thinking about a broader question: can an alternative-investment style without widespread acceptance have merit, or should it be avoided by practical investors? The crux of the issue is when should an investor consider an unconventional approach she has not considered before? Our answer: now, at least for a portion of the portfolio.

A Precarious Setup

On one level, it is satisfying to watch investors migrate to lower-cost passive investment vehicles because higher-cost active management has consistently under-performed. One might say the market for investment intermediation is rational. One might also argue passive investing is not rational at all because it is not forward looking . Rising markets, an unwillingness to acknowledge fat tails (unlikely knowns), and the inability to model Black Swans (unknown unknowns) have concentrated popular wealth into a narrowly distributed range of highly vulnerable assets and investment strategies .

The trend towards passive investing implies the preponderance of a type of investment behavior called reflexivity - basically, an established trend begets the continuance of it. This mindset is typically embraced by traders, but less prevalent among investors who generally regard themselves as fundamental long-termers. The irony is that for long-term investors, the broad migration to passive investment vehicles is occurring in full revolt against longer term macroeconomic and commercial fundamentals.

When we step back and look at the broad macroeconomic setup, characterized by aging populations in the world's largest economies, declining overall birth rates among the world's wealth holders, record sovereign and household leverage, the continued economic emphasis of finance over production, the reliance on over-accommodating central banks (even during the Fed's current rate hike phase), historically high equity, bond and real estate prices and record low asset and liability values (in real terms); we cannot help but conclude that asset prices are generally rising due mostly to inertia, in spite of unreason, and that the most likely outcome will be something unexpected and disappointing.

Even though it is a rejection of the established secular bull market in assets and the social, economic, political and financial cultures established and tweaked over the span of our career (almost to the day), our heart and mind (not to mention the vast sweep of investment and economic history) tell us structural change is coming. We can use our experience to forecast specific events and new trends that might occur, and we have, but we cannot know exactly what form structural change will take or when it might begin.

Into the Breach

A socialized market framework with implicitly guaranteed perpetual positive returns for all must fail. The best approach is to confront the point of criticality head-on, where "wealth" seems to be permanent but is not. Turning popular passive instruments on themselves to take advantage of great market distortions promises to be an aggressive hedge against misguided inertia - an effective portfolio offset that strikes at the belly of the beast. ETFs are here to stay, but their market prices and liquidity profiles are not.

Serve yourself. All investors and trustworthy market professionals should be expected to act selfishly by seeking to identify and profit from unsustainable distortions. If investors must put that in a more virtuous context to satisfy their consciences (or fiduciary charters), then they can make themselves feel better by knowing that helping to close unsustainable distortions is the only way capitalism can survive. Capitalism without failure is like Catholicism without hell. In this case, investors can do well by doing good if/when market hell arrives.

Selfishness is profitable, but for institutionalized investors it takes courage to be selfish.

hedgeless_horseman , Mar 28, 2017 9:54 PM

SHEEPFUKKER -> hedgeless_horseman , Mar 28, 2017 9:54 PM

The funny thing is, if markets only went up forever there would be no need for Wall Street and it's associated leeches.

hedgeless_horseman -> SHEEPFUKKER , Mar 28, 2017 9:57 PM

Which came first? Leechor or leechee?

bamawatson -> hedgeless_horseman , Mar 28, 2017 10:00 PM

ruby begonia

Slingsby -> hedgeless_horseman , Mar 28, 2017 9:59 PM

Damn you don't try and confuse us with simple mathematics!

BandGap -> hedgeless_horseman , Mar 28, 2017 10:12 PM

Using the word "inertia" sounds so much smarter than using, say, "mother fucking money printing greed". Economically word wise, too.

[Mar 28, 2017] normal use of resources = Normal rate of wage growth suppression

Mar 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

Paine -> Peter K.... , March 28, 2017 at 12:04 PM

"normal use of resources "

Translation

Normal rate of wage growth suppression

"Volatility" here means an asset market contraction

Yes the capitalist class needs to be protected from excessive policy induced capital loses !

Would that the fed were as concerned about lost potential wage gains

[Mar 28, 2017] Outragious speaker fees at US universities events are a sign of corruption

Notable quotes:
"... $32K to hear Snooki speak at the Rutgers commencement? Are the administrators nuts? ..."
"... the Post and the legislator have certain attitudes, ideological biases if you will, towards public universities in general, and college students and the terms of their crushing college debt. ..."
"... And there was some thought that some elements in the legislature were perturbed that Rutgers did invite author Toni Morrison to speak at commencement, and did pay her $30,000 for it. And God knows what they payed Mr. Obama. ..."
"... Thank God they did not invite Hillary. ..."
"... For my son's Rutgers graduating class of 2014, the University had engaged Miss Condoleezza Rice, of Bush Administration State Department fame, to speak at that their commencement. For a $35,000 by the way. ..."
"... The professional class tends to defend the prerogatives of their own, sticking to their 'no consequences' principle for themselves and the acts of their peers, including the financiers. ..."
"... In the case of Secretary Rice, the students and faculty thought that it was hypocrisy to award an honorary law degree to someone who had consciously worked to circumvent the law, encouraged an aggressive war on contrived evidence, and helped permit the use of torture in violation of our nation's long standing principles. ..."
"... Rice signed off to give the CIA authority to conduct their torture tactics for gathering information from detainees as well. These are clearly human rights issues. By inviting her to speak and awarding her an honorary degree, we are encouraging and perpetuating a world that justifies torture and debases humanity ..."
"... I found it highly hypocritical of the Republican legislator and the arch-conservative Post to phrase their own stand against high commencement fees in such an incorrect manner, and dare I say false news . The Post and the politician knew better. They just did not give a damn in making their point. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com
From Jeri-Lynn Scofield over at Naked Capitalism who picked up this piece in the NY post:
Snooki inspires legislation to limit state university speaker fees NY Post. Moi: Speaking as a born and bred Jersey girl, I applaud the state legislature's action. Nice to see the state of my birth lead the way in something other than corruption or toxic waste. And about time– $32K to hear Snooki speak at the Rutgers commencement? Are the administrators nuts? And the proposed $10k cap is too high. Why should any speaker receive more than expenses and a modest honorarium, e.g., $1K– which incidentally, anyone with any class would immediately donate back to the university.
I don't normally read the Post, except perhaps for financial pieces by John Crudele, so I was glad to see this at a site where I do read on occasion.

This is no knock on Jeri-Lynn whose major point remains intact, that commencement fees may be far too generous.

And as an old fogey, it seems to me to be a correct sentiment about paying far too much money and attention to these reality tv stars, our current President notwithstanding.

Except that this even with Snooki never happened, at least not in the way that the NY Post and the state legislator Republican Assemblyman John DiMaio portray.

And I suspect strongly that they carelessly framed the story the way in which they did, because the Post and the legislator have certain attitudes, ideological biases if you will, towards public universities in general, and college students and the terms of their crushing college debt.

Miss Nicole Snooki Polizzi, of Jersey Shore fame, never spoke at the Rutgers commencement, or any commencement that I could find. And she was not paid any money by the University administration for anything. Period.

She was paid $32,000 for two evening's 'performances' of a reality show nature for student audiences by the student run entertainment committee, which is an autonomous organization controlled by students. They book over 140 events per year. While the University does collect the money which in this case amounted to roughly 90 cents per student from a pool of general fees at the very large New Brunswick campus.

In other words, Snooki, who back in 2011 apparently had a following amongst the younger set, was a hired entertainer engaged by the students themselves without active involvement of University officials. And unless we wish to try and legislate the entertainment which college students may employ with their own money, and not allow it to be an issue for student government, I don't think that the esteemed GOP legislator's and the Post's points apply.

Here is a contemperaneous article , in which the University set the record straight.

Rutgers University officials made no apologies today for Snooki's $32,000 appearance at a pair of student-run events on the Piscataway campus. The "Jersey Shore" reality TV star was invited and paid by students, who are allowed to select their own entertainment, a campus spokesman said.

"The students use funds designated for student programming. The university does not censor the speakers students choose to invite to campus," said E.J. Miranda, a Rutgers spokesman.

I remembered this incident quite well, because my number one son was a student there at the time, and I kidded him about it. He pretty much shrugged it off to the liberal arts and music school crowd over the other side of the river, himself being ensconced at the Livingston and Bush campuses for engineering, business and medical/pharmaceutical students.

And there was some thought that some elements in the legislature were perturbed that Rutgers did invite author Toni Morrison to speak at commencement, and did pay her $30,000 for it. And God knows what they payed Mr. Obama.

But it seemed snarky to attack that indirectly by throwing Snooki in, albeit falsely, thinking it played better with those who think that all public projects are foolish wastes of money, and students deserved all the bad fortune they may incur.

Thank God they did not invite Hillary. Those sort of stratospheric speaking fees are the domain of private enterprise, like the boys on Wall Street, who exercise their private judgement more precisely to get the most for their hard earned dollars. And as I recall they are also paid by the for-profit private education institutions, which have been generous with fees and sinecures for certain politicians, for example.

Let's face it. A certain amount of foolishness is a part and parcel of the coming of age rite that is a college education, or the period between high school and family life, for most participants Sowing a few wild oat when one is young is hardly an alien concept.

As I recall, I spent a huge sum on foolishness in my college career. I was a commuting student who worked as an auto mechanic three or four days a week throughout. But I hate to see what my total beer tab amounted to during that four year period.

I seem to recall consuming rather heroic volumes of beer at the school student 'mixers, and local college beer dives, with quaint names like The Downunder, Agora, and Rathskeller while in pursuit of good times and companionship of the female persuasion.

For my son's Rutgers graduating class of 2014, the University had engaged Miss Condoleezza Rice, of Bush Administration State Department fame, to speak at that their commencement. For a $35,000 by the way.

But I was grateful to be spared sitting through that on a hot day because of widespread objections to her honorarium from the University community, both faculty and students. And the faculty involvement in this was notable. And it angered our NJ Republican politicians, very much.

It also disappointed Barack Obama , by the way, who in his own subsequent commencement address to take the students to task at a later commencement address but that is another story. The professional class tends to defend the prerogatives of their own, sticking to their 'no consequences' principle for themselves and the acts of their peers, including the financiers.

And granting our betters public venues where the common people are forced to listen, but not allowed to answer back, is hardly an open sharing of ideas. I think the political parities had a close and personal organizational experience that in the recent elections.

A one-way commencement address is one thing, a debate with various viewpoints is quite another. And so the University community did what people in a weaker position always tend to do when confronted with the unspeakable- they protested against it. And far too often, protests against what the public views as outrages are crushed. That is what happened to Occupy Wall Street.

And now the out of power liberal establishment asks, why are so few protesting? Duh.

In the case of Secretary Rice, the students and faculty thought that it was hypocrisy to award an honorary law degree to someone who had consciously worked to circumvent the law, encouraged an aggressive war on contrived evidence, and helped permit the use of torture in violation of our nation's long standing principles. Condoleezza Rice Declines to Speak at Rutgers after Student Protests.

" Rice signed off to give the CIA authority to conduct their torture tactics for gathering information from detainees as well. These are clearly human rights issues. By inviting her to speak and awarding her an honorary degree, we are encouraging and perpetuating a world that justifies torture and debases humanity ."
I found it highly hypocritical of the Republican legislator and the arch-conservative Post to phrase their own stand against high commencement fees in such an incorrect manner, and dare I say false news . The Post and the politician knew better. They just did not give a damn in making their point.

And it also fits their own political bias against public works, like Universities, and any thought of relief for students who are being crushed by debt at rates significantly higher than their parents just provided to Wall Street to bail those contemptible jokers out.

[Mar 28, 2017] This corrupt neoliberal stooge Brad DeLong and conversion of university economics departments into neoliberal propaganda departments

Notable quotes:
"... Lately certain unrepentant members of that disgraced profession, some of whom claim to be the consciences of the liberal establishment, have been expressing concern about the disrepute of the 'experts' and the need to allow the technocrats to take control of policy and the economy. ..."
"... Brad DeLong, by the way, banned me from his site comments noting, 'Alan Greenspan never made a decision with which I disagreed.' Since then even Alan Greenspan has admitted he does not agree with some of his decisions, in a sniveling and sneaky kind of a non-apologetic way. ..."
"... But the specific factual point from Brad's piece that got me going was this: ..."
"... "Merton and Scholes's financial math was correct, and the crash of their hedge fund did not require any public-money bailout" ..."
"... I think it is less than trivial to know where and how the B-S risk model fails as math, as illustrated so well by Benoit Mandelbrot in his book The Misbehaviour of Markets. The math fails in its selection choice of variables and assumptions. Naseem Taleb has made a cottage industry and a personal fortune understanding this error. ..."
jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com
Moving along, 'liberal' economist Brad DeLong of the University of California at Berkeley history of economics penned a recent column cited over at the excellent Economist's View run by Mark Thoma. The title of Brad's column is The Need for a Reformation of Authority and Hierarchy Among Economists in the Public Sphere.

Ok I have to admit that the title alone got me into a cranky mood. Lately certain unrepentant members of that disgraced profession, some of whom claim to be the consciences of the liberal establishment, have been expressing concern about the disrepute of the 'experts' and the need to allow the technocrats to take control of policy and the economy.

Granted, they may look like the lesser of two evils in some cases, as in the current nascent administration, and in their own minds. But their policy consensus and economic recommendations of the past thirty years or so, starting with the Fed chairmanship of Alan Greenspan at least, only look good in their own selective memories. Brad DeLong, by the way, banned me from his site comments noting, 'Alan Greenspan never made a decision with which I disagreed.' Since then even Alan Greenspan has admitted he does not agree with some of his decisions, in a sniveling and sneaky kind of a non-apologetic way.

For everyone else this cycle of growing inequality, policy skews to the wealthy few, and asset bubbles and bust that serve as wealth transfer mechanisms has been particularly trying.

But the specific factual point from Brad's piece that got me going was this:

"Merton and Scholes's financial math was correct, and the crash of their hedge fund did not require any public-money bailout"
Yeah, right. Let's put aside the nicety of a Fed brokered bailout of LTCM by Wall Street money as technically not requiring public bailout money, in order to save the financial system from an epic overleveraged mispricing of risk based on that correct math.

I think it is less than trivial to know where and how the B-S risk model fails as math, as illustrated so well by Benoit Mandelbrot in his book The Misbehaviour of Markets. The math fails in its selection choice of variables and assumptions. Naseem Taleb has made a cottage industry and a personal fortune understanding this error.

And what makes it most egregious is that the error hs been known among those with mathematical minds for some time. I myself read Mandelbrot's book in 2001 and said, 'holy shit.'

Let's be clear. This was not some dumb error on the part of these fellows, or some sneaky trick. They could not resolve their math without making a certain assumption, and they did it openly and consciously. And as the write of the essay below notes, there has not been anything better produced yet to his knowledge.

It is not the theory itself that is 'bad.' It is the use and misuse to which it is put by opportunists and financial predators in misrepresenting it.

But the people who use the assumptions on risk contained in the model don't care. Like the efficient market hypothesis, it is an intellectual fig leaf that covers an epic era of looting and plundering bases on what is essentially a con game. If you assume that risk is a rare event, you can persuade the regulators and the very important people to let you run on leverage at extreme levels, especially if you can use other people's money.

Like some of the other accepted truths from the turn of the century greed is good crowd, it is a meme with which to silence the protests and permit the widespread mispricing of risk in order to reap enormous short term profits for a very few wealthy insiders. This had been going on for so long that it is almost accepted as a normal way of doing business.

Here is what an essay in Criticality had to say about the Merton-Scholes math. I suppose that the sophist would say that the math was indeed right. It was just the assumptions they used to construct the model was wrong. So 3+5 does equal 8. Its just that in the real world case there were three more factors that were tossed aside and ignored because they messed up the path to the more easily determined and reassuring result.

"This implies that rather than extreme market moves being so unlikely that they make little contribution to the overall evolution, they instead come to have a very significant contribution. In a normally distributed market, crashes and booms are vanishingly rare, in a pareto-levy one crashes occur and are a significant component of the final outcome.

It has taken years for this to be taken seriously, and in the mean time financial theory has gone on using the assumption of normally distributed returns to derive such results as the Black-Scholes option pricing equation, ultimately winning an Nobel Prize in Economics for the discoverers Scholes and Merton (Black having already died), not to mention Modern Portfolio theory (also winning Nobels). That modern finance ignored Mandelbrot's discovery and went onto honor those working under assumptions shown to be false has clearly annoyed Mandelbrot immensely and as mentioned previously he spends much of the book telling us of his prior discoveries and how he was ignored.

It is like allowing tobacco companies to widely distribute their products while a bevy of hired gun experts and media pundits and PR organizations promote the theory that tobacco is not a highly addictive substance that causes a wide range of debilitating diseases, including cancer. They know damn well that it is and it does, but they do not give a damn as long as the money is rolling in. And pity the fool who tries to stand up and tell the truth.

And so to has it been with the Banks. Indeed, the PR campaign and political donations they handled through their intermediaries during the 1990s to deregulate and overturn Glass-Steagal has to be one of the great propaganda accomplishments of the twentieth century. And the follow on campaign for the US to invade Iraq in retribution for 9/11 is not far behind it for the twenty first.

The greater point is not that the B-S model is based on faulty assumptions that greatly diminish the potential risks. Rather it is how such 'laws' of economics are so often of a dodgy, optionated and theoretical nature such that taking them as a given in forming public policy is a huge mistake in judgement.

Why? Because they may embody assumptions about what is true, and what is a priority, and what our principles and objectives may be, and propagate those assumptions (biases) into a general policy of our society that ends up causing great harm to many innocent participants. Indeed, as Obama said, there is a great need to discussion and understanding. It is just that it cannot be monopolized by a particular group of insiders who adhere to certain assumptions and professional courtesies of their own, dare I say it, class.

So there are my two corrections to the mainstream media and their writing of the public record- to suit themselves and their wealthy patrons. It seems like modern America spends an enormous amount of its intellectual capital and time on finding ways to scam the public. If we could somehow reorder the paybacks on financial corruption to even a third of what it is today we could probably cure cancer in five years or less. That is what it would take to 'make America great again,' for real and not just in the funny papers.

I would like to again stress that I am not finding fault with either of the two bloggers involved, both of whom I enjoy and admire for what they do. Mark Thoma is a class act, and even when he disagrees is very fair and open minded about it. And he keeps this site in his blogroll despite some special interests who have argued for its removal. That is more than I can say for some others.

Rather, I am trying to correct a couple of things from the broader media that seem to be factually wrong, purposely, and further, to help caution the reader that things that appear in the mainstream media written by bona fide members of the certified and qualified professional establishment cannot always be taken at face value.

The deterioration of the quality of the news is startling. I think it has a lot to do with the takeover of the media by a relatively few number of large corporations (thank you Slick Willy) Yeah, there is a lot of nutty stuff on the internet and in blogs. I spend a lot of time assessing it and avoiding it where I can. But to say that the mainstream is somehow authoritative, objective and pure is self-serving baloney at best, and a thin veneer for official propaganda when it serves the purpose at worst.

[Mar 28, 2017] Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard

Notable quotes:
"... What's more, the overall numbers hide serious declines in most areas of manufacturing. A 2013 paper by Susan Houseman, Timothy Bartik and Timothy Sturgeon found that strong growth in computer-related manufacturing obscured a decline in almost all other areas. "In most of manufacturing," they write, "real GDP growth has been weak or negative and productivity growth modest." ..."
"... And, more troubling, the U.S. is now losing computer manufacturing. Houseman et al. show that U.S. computer production began to fall during the Great Recession. In semiconductors, output has grown slightly, but has been far outpaced by most East Asian countries. Meanwhile, trade deficits in these areas have been climbing. ..."
"... He cites Sematech, a government-led consortium that tried to help the U.S. retain its lead in semiconductor manufacturing in the 1980s and 1990s, as a successful example of high-tech industrial policy. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Peter K. , March 28, 2017 at 10:23 AM
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-03-28/staying-rich-without-manufacturing-will-be-hard

ECONOMICS

Staying Rich Without Manufacturing Will Be Hard
MARCH 28, 2017 8:00 AM EDT

Discussions about manufacturing tend to get very contentious. Many economists and commentators believe that there's nothing inherently special about making things and that efforts to restore U.S. manufacturing to its former glory reek of industrial policy, protectionism, mercantilism and antiquated thinking.

But in their eagerness to guard against the return of these ideas, manufacturing's detractors often overstate their case. Manufacturing is in bigger trouble than the conventional wisdom would have you believe.

One common assertion is that while manufacturing jobs have declined, output has actually risen. But this piece of conventional wisdom is now outdated. U.S. manufacturing output is almost exactly the same as it was just before the financial crisis of 2008:

[chart]

In the 1990s, it really was true that manufacturing production was booming even though employment in the sector was falling. During that decade, output rose by almost half. That's almost a 4 percent annualized growth rate. The expansion of the early 2000s, in contrast, saw manufacturing increase by only about 15 percent peak-to-peak over eight years -- less than a 2 percent annual growth rate. And in the eight years between 2008 and 2016, the growth rate has averaged zero.

But even this may overstate U.S. manufacturing's performance. An alternative measure, called industrial production, shows an outright decrease from a decade ago:

[chart]

So it isn't just manufacturing employment and the sector's share of gross domestic product that are hurting in the U.S. It's total output. The U.S. doesn't really make more stuff than it used to.

What's more, the overall numbers hide serious declines in most areas of manufacturing. A 2013 paper by Susan Houseman, Timothy Bartik and Timothy Sturgeon found that strong growth in computer-related manufacturing obscured a decline in almost all other areas. "In most of manufacturing," they write, "real GDP growth has been weak or negative and productivity growth modest."

And, more troubling, the U.S. is now losing computer manufacturing. Houseman et al. show that U.S. computer production began to fall during the Great Recession. In semiconductors, output has grown slightly, but has been far outpaced by most East Asian countries. Meanwhile, trade deficits in these areas have been climbing.

In other words, Asia is still solidifying its place as the workshop of the world, while the U.S. de-industrializes. The 1990s provided a brief respite from this trend, as new industries arose to replace the ones that had been lost. But the years since the turn of the century have reversed this short renaissance, and manufacturing is once more migrating overseas.

Manufacturing skeptics often draw parallels to what happened to agriculture in the Industrial Revolution. But the two situations aren't analogous. In the 20th century, U.S. agricultural output soared even as it shed jobs and shrank as a percent of GDP. Machines replaced most human farmers, but the total value of U.S. crops kept climbing.

Meanwhile, the U.S. to this day runs a trade surplus in agriculture even as it runs a huge deficit in manufactured products. America pays for computers and cars and phones with soybeans and corn and beef.

So U.S. manufacturing is hurting in ways that U.S. agriculture never did. The common refrain that the modern shift to services parallels the earlier shift to industry might turn out to be true, but the parallels are not encouraging.

Faced with this evidence, many skeptics will question why the sector is important at all. Why should a country specialize in making things, when it can instead specialize in designing, marketing and financing the making of things?

This is a legitimate question, but there are reasons to think a successful developed nation still needs a healthy manufacturing sector. Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government economist Ricardo Hausmann believes that a country's economic development depends crucially on where it lies in the so-called product space. If a country makes complex products that are linked to many other industries -- such as computers, cars and chemicals -- it will be rich. But if it makes simple products that don't have much of a supply chain -- soybeans or oil -- it will stay poor. In the past, the U.S. was very successful at positioning itself at the top of the global value chain. But with manufacturing's decline, the rise of finance, real estate and other orphaned service industries may not be enough to keep the country rich in the long run.

More top economists are starting to come around to the view that manufacturing is important. Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist David Autor, in a recent phone conversation, told me he now believes that the U.S. should focus more on industrial policy designed to keep cutting-edge manufacturing industries in the country. He cites Sematech, a government-led consortium that tried to help the U.S. retain its lead in semiconductor manufacturing in the 1980s and 1990s, as a successful example of high-tech industrial policy.

The stellar performance of semiconductor manufacturing in the 1990s and 2000s relative to other industries in the sector, as reported by Houseman et al., seems like something the U.S. should aim to emulate with next-generation industries.

So U.S. leaders should listen to manufacturing skeptics a little bit less, and pay more attention to those who say the sector is crucial. It's worth noting that President Donald Trump, who was elected on a promise to restore American manufacturing, has shown more interest in cutting government programs designed to give industry a helping hand. If there's going to be a U.S. industrial policy renaissance, it might not be his administration that leads it.

Paine -> Peter K.... , March 28, 2017 at 01:17 PM
The Larry summers fantasy

Large creative and scientific communities located here in the global hub. Can provide vast IP income

And there's lays good old fashion capital

Not to mention direct Yankee expropriating gainful investment in comparatively cheap foreign resources and labor


Not to mention direct Yankee expropriatingly gainful investment
in comparatively cheap
foreign resources and labor

[Mar 28, 2017] Somebody did well with the Obama health plan:

Mar 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Tom aka Rusty, March 27, 2017 at 10:28 AM
Somebody did well with the Obama health plan:

http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/healthcare-information-technology/epic-systems-judy-faulkner-makes-forbes-billionaires-list-2017.html

Faulkner was appointed to the committee that wrote the EMR standards, and not surprisingly EPIC was the template for the standards.

Much cost and misery inflicted on providers.

[Mar 28, 2017] Its hardly surprising were such an unproductive - fiancialised and individualised nation is it? Nor is it surprising that London generally flourishes as one of the most financialised and individualised cities in the world

Mar 28, 2017 | discussion.theguardian.com
NottinghamFlorist , 25 Oct 2013 5:10 The 'free' market is as follows...

UK lending by financial institutions, 1997-2012:

36%-40% going to "financial institutions"
51%-52% going to "individuals", i.e. mostly "rich individuals"
5%-9% going to "manufacturing/productive industry".

It's hardly surprising we're such an unproductive - fiancialised and individualised nation is it? Nor is it surprising that London generally "flourishes" as one of the most financialised and individualised cities in the world.

This isn't 'freedom'. It's reaping what we have sowed for the last thirty plus years of neoliberal politics and economics. It's as centrally planned as anything under the Soviet Union, only with capitalist distribution, i.e. it is pure state capitalism, or engineered capitalism, and yet they tell us society cannot be 'engineered', or 'structured', and that this is utopian dreaming. They are the utopian dreamers.

London is the financial arm of the Washington consensus - a part of the EU, and a part of the UK, but barely so - or semi-detached. The City of London from which all financial capital flows is effectively a tax haven, no different to the Channel Islands. It's all a huge political and social mess - exactly what the economic elite want.

[Mar 28, 2017] The fact is that the mainstream economists, and most mainstream economists who were heard in the public sphere were not against austerity, but rather split, with, if anything, louder and larger voices on the pro-austerity side

Brad DeJong is staunch despicable neoliberal, but something he has the courage to admit obvious things...
Notable quotes:
"... Simon needs to face that fact squarely, rather than to dodge it. The fact is that the "mainstream economists, and most mainstream economists" who were heard in the public sphere were not against austerity, but rather split, with, if anything, louder and larger voices on the pro-austerity side. ..."
"... When Unlearning Economics seeks the destruction of "mainstream economics", he seeks the end of an intellectual hegemony that gives Reinhart and Rogoff's very shaky arguments a much more powerful institutional intellectual voice by virtue of their authors' tenured posts at Harvard than the arguments in fact deserve. ..."
Mar 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne, March 27, 2017 at 11:08 AM

http://www.bradford-delong.com/2017/03/the-need-for-a-reformation-of-authority-and-hierarchy-among-economists-in-the-public-sphere.html

March 27, 2017

... ... ...

and then there is Reinhart and Rogoff, where I think Unlearning Economics is right.

So Unlearning Economics is batting 0.170 in their examples of "mainstream economics considered harmful". But there is that one case. And I do not think that Simon Wren-Lewis handles that one case well. And he needs to--I need to. And, since neither he nor I have, this is a big problem.

Let me put it this way: Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff are mainstream economists.

The fact is that Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff were wrong in 2009-2013. Yet they had much more influence on economic policy in 2009-2013 than did Simon Wren-Lewis and me. They had influence. And their influence was aggressively pro-austerity. And their influence almost entirely destructive.

Simon needs to face that fact squarely, rather than to dodge it. The fact is that the "mainstream economists, and most mainstream economists" who were heard in the public sphere were not against austerity, but rather split, with, if anything, louder and larger voices on the pro-austerity side. (In my humble opinion, Simon Wren-Lewis half admits this with his denunciations of "City economists".)

When Unlearning Economics seeks the destruction of "mainstream economics", he seeks the end of an intellectual hegemony that gives Reinhart and Rogoff's very shaky arguments a much more powerful institutional intellectual voice by virtue of their authors' tenured posts at Harvard than the arguments in fact deserve.

Simon Wren-Lewis, in response, wants to claim that strengthening the "mainstream" would somehow diminish the influence of future Reinharts and Rogoffs in analogous situations. But the arguments for austerity that turned out to be powerful and persuasive in the public sphere came from inside the house!

* https://mainly macro.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/on-criticising-existence-of-mainstream.html

** https://medium.com/@UnlearningEcon/no-criticising-economics-is-not-regressive-43e114777429#.ptzhjr87b

-- Brad DeLong

There are no gains from trade liberalization - just ask the people of Youngstown , March 27, 2017 at 03:31 PM
American economists bear much of the blame for the collapse of US living standards.

After fifty years of real economic decline, they prattle on about the benefits of trade liberalization.

[Mar 28, 2017] Trumpism is faux populism that appeals to white identity but actually serves plutocrats. That fundamental contradiction is now out in the open

Mar 28, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
DeDude , March 27, 2017 at 08:35 AM
This is an excellent discussion of populism and where Trump support comes from.

http://www.vox.com/conversations/2017/3/27/15037232/trump-populist-appeal-culture-economy

Peter K. -> DeDude... , March 27, 2017 at 08:39 AM
"Why Trump's populist appeal is about culture, not the economy"

Nope. Vox and the center-left are really pushing this propaganda for obvious reasons.

It's funny that even Sanjait and PGL disagree. Even funnier still that they refuse to talk about it!

Don't want to give the hippies ammunition when your job is to punch the hippies. Here's the blog post from Krugman on the same subject which they didn't want to talk about:

"This ties in with an important recent piece by Zack Beauchamp on the striking degree to which left-wing economics fails, in practice, to counter right-wing populism; basically, Sandersism has failed everywhere it has been tried. Why?

The answer, presumably, is that what we call populism is really in large degree white identity politics, which can't be addressed by promising universal benefits. Among other things, these "populist" voters now live in a media bubble, getting their news from sources that play to their identity-politics desires, which means that even if you offer them a better deal, they won't hear about it or believe it if told. For sure many if not most of those who gained health coverage thanks to Obamacare have no idea that's what happened.

That said, taking the benefits away would probably get their attention, and maybe even open their eyes to the extent to which they are suffering to provide tax cuts to the rich.

In Europe, right-wing parties probably don't face the same dilemma; they're preaching herrenvolk social democracy, a welfare state but only for people who look like you. In America, however, Trumpism is faux populism that appeals to white identity but actually serves plutocrats. That fundamental contradiction is now out in the open."

Populism and the Politics of Health by Krugman

https://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/03/14/populism-and-the-politics-of-health/

[Mar 27, 2017] As soon as any intelligence agency becomes a political player this means effective end of any, even traditional the USA form of façade-based , two party oligarchical rule called democracy

Notable quotes:
"... Actually "after 9/11" national security state is already a huge step forward in this direction, so we are almost arrived at the point when the USA democratic "façade" became Potemkin village for tourists. ..."
"... That's essentially the difference between "surface state" and the "deep state" that is now actively discussed in the USA due to attempt of color revolution against Trump with intelligence agencies and FBI coming out as political players. ..."
"... And as soon as any intelligence agency becomes a political player this means effective end of any, even traditional the USA form of "façade-based", two party oligarchical rule called "democracy." ..."
Mar 27, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

libezkova -> im1dc... March 26, 2017 at 07:58 PM

"That's European History not ours"

Hardly so.

Legitimacy of the US "democratic" governance can survive only as long as:

  1. 1. People of America had an expectation that if they work hard they can gain a better life. This is not true now for the majority (say, lower 80%) of population.
  2. 2. Or at least that their children could gain that better life, if they get some college degree and work hard. This is also not true now for majority of graduates. Only those, who graduates at the top of the class, or from Ivy League universities can expect to get decent positions. Most graduation are happy to land at helpdesk, doing job that does not require any college education, because it is better then being a waiter.

IMHO, if neither (1) not (2) are applicable the legitimacy of the democratic government evaporates.

And that creates favorable condition for the transition to the dictatorship in some form.

Actually "after 9/11" national security state is already a huge step forward in this direction, so we are almost arrived at the point when the USA democratic "façade" became Potemkin village for tourists.

That's essentially the difference between "surface state" and the "deep state" that is now actively discussed in the USA due to attempt of color revolution against Trump with intelligence agencies and FBI coming out as political players.

And as soon as any intelligence agency becomes a political player this means effective end of any, even traditional the USA form of "façade-based", two party oligarchical rule called "democracy."

That's a dictatorship: a form of government where a country is ruled by one person or by one or several non-elected political agencies (like the Communist Party, or STASI). And were the power is exercised through mechanisms that are completely outside the control of electorate.

If somebody here tells that Comey, or in the past Clapper and Michael Morell, were not a political players in this presidential cycle, the danger is that half of Mexico and Canada readers of this blog can die laughing.

[Mar 26, 2017] Next AEA meeting should be held in Youngstown so economists can admire the fruit of their labors

Mar 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
xxx , March 26, 2017 at 07:58 AM
Next American Economics Association meeting should be held in Youngstown so economists can admire the fruit of their labors. See all the destroyed buildings, the raging heroin epidemic and mass poverty your support of de-industrialization and free trade brought to America.

Every regional meeting should be held in any number of America's thousands of destroyed dilapidated cities - E. St. Louis, Rochester, Cleveland, Greensboro NC, San Bernadino - there are so many de-industrialized ghettoes from which to choose!

Tom aka Rusty -> Next AEA meeting should be held in Youngstown so economists can admire the fruit of their labors... , March 26, 2017 at 09:41 AM
I've been recommending Detroit for years.

libezkova -> Tom aka Rusty ... March 26, 2017 at 03:34 PM

That might not help. Those guy have no morals. Simply none. Nothing is left from 10 commandment in their brains. They have only "Greed is good" etched in it.

Just look at Mankiw. Noting can stop him from cashing in on all this neoclassical crap.

Or, for a change, Krugman's behavior during elections. What a despicable neoliberal stooge he proved to be. His dirty attacks on Sanders should probably be re-printed as a leaflet and distributed nationwide -- as a warning.

It is so difficult to understand that "when nothing left on the left, working class and lower middle class turns to far right." ?

What a despicable stooge of financial oligarchy. Another Rubin's boy, much like Summers...

And now he has the audacity to criticize Trump, the person he was working to put in power for more then a decade. I do not defend Trump, but it is important to ask a simple question: Are the members of the criminal Clinton gang (who essentially practiced racketeering via Clinton Foundation) and "over-connected" to intelligence services Obama paragons of virtue?

Are they conceptually any different from Trump ?

In the past they practices the same dirty neoliberal tricks as Trump tying to squeeze the majority of population in favor of financial oligarchy (Obama "non-prosecution" after 2008 is a telling example, and shows who he really is), but probably with more polish and better PR. That's the only difference.

http://www.salon.com/2013/03/09/the_world_according_to_milton_friedman_partner/

== quote ==

Discussions of neoliberalism, on both the left and the right, suffer from what Paul Krugman and others have called "zombie" ideas. These are economic concepts that have been long discredited, but continue to shamble on. On the right, a central zombie idea is that reduced state regulation of markets leads to sustainable economic growth. If you believe this, then the rise of neoliberalism is a no-brainer.

Neoliberalism is simply the economic philosophy that works. But why should anyone believe this?

The idea that unleashing free markets then leads to good economic times should never have survived the Great Depression, and should surely be killed for good by the Great Recession and its aftermath.

[Mar 26, 2017] There is no such thing as a "natural rate of interest"

Mar 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RGC, March 26, 2017 at 07:06 AM
In short, there is no such thing as a "natural rate of interest".

........................

What then? It is difficult to say, exactly, whether the prevalent confusions are the result of sloppy thinking, an incoherent textbook pedagogy, or a deliberate desire to cover for the Federal Reserve and to obstruct potential criticism of the independent central bank. As a next step, let us ask: is there a better theory of interest rates out there, somewhere in the great work of the economists?

In the CEA paper, as in most of this so-called literature, the 20th century British economist John Maynard Keynes is not cited. Yet it is a fact that Keynes did write an influential book with the word "Interest" in the title. It was called The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, published in 1936. In which Keynes states, of the classical theory of interest – that theory of loanable funds overlying a natural rate – that his own analysis "will have made it plain that this account of the matter must be erroneous" (p. 177). Perhaps it is worthwhile to seek Keynes's counsel at this point?

Keynes's theory of interest does not rest on the capital stock. And in Keynes as in the real world, there is no "capital market" that equates household saving with business investment.

Instead, Keynes's theory of interest is about the market for money – a market that definitely does exist in the real world. He wrote: "The rate of interest is not the 'price' which brings into equilibrium the demand for resources to invest with the readiness to abstain from consumption. It is the 'price' which equilibrates the desire to hold wealth in the form of cash with the available quantity of cash" (p. 167). In other words, interest rates are a portfolio issue. They are determined in the money markets, by how – in what form – people with wealth choose, at any given time, to hold that wealth. You pay interest, in order to get people to hold their wealth in less-liquid forms, such as bonds – and this is what provides firms with a secure source of financing, which then permits them to invest.

Keynes's theory of interest is the pure common sense of how financial markets work. So why is it treated, by our leading liberal economists, as though it didn't exist? Why all this confusing folderol about natural and neutral rates? The apparent answer is damning. In the theories our economists like, a technical theory of interest creates a technical theory of income distribution, since interest rates govern the incomes of creditors against debtors, of the rich against the poor, of profits against wages. Thomas Piketty's recent book is a nice instance of this point, with its argument that the great inequalities of capitalism are due to interest rates higher than the rate of economic growth. If interest somehow reflects the physical productivity of the capital stock, then the consequences may be unfortunate – but they are inevitable and not something of which it is proper to complain.

http://www.paecon.net/PAEReview/issue78/Galbraith78.pdf

RGC -> RGC... , March 26, 2017 at 07:39 AM
"Why all this confusing folderol about natural and neutral rates? The apparent answer is damning. In the theories our economists like, a technical theory of interest creates a technical theory of income distribution, since interest rates govern the incomes of creditors against debtors, of the rich against the poor, of profits against wages..........If interest somehow reflects the physical productivity of the capital stock, then the consequences may be unfortunate – but they are inevitable and not something of which it is proper to complain."

[Is that clear enough?......Galbraith is accusing mainstream economists of acting as apologists for rentiers.]

[Mar 26, 2017] They are an American Taliban: I have never read such a vitriolic comments section. Lots of Americans a seething mad.

Notable quotes:
"... The GOP and this administration are overwhelmingly self-avowed Christians yet they try to deny the poor to benefit the rich. This is not Christian but evil pure and simple. ..."
"... They are an American Taliban, just going about their subversion in a less overtly violent way. ..."
"... Much like Russian people viewed the country under Bolshevism, outside of brief WWII period. That's probably why we have Anti-Russian witch hunt now. To stem this trend. But it is the US neoliberal elite, not Russians, who drive the country to this state of affairs. By spending God knows how many trillions of dollar of wars of neoliberal empire expansion and by drastic redistribution of wealth up. And now the majority of citizens is facing substandard medical care, sliding standard of living and uncertain job prospects. ..."
"... US elections have been influenced by anyone with huge money or oil since the Cold War made an excuse for the US' trade empire enforced by half the world's war spending. ..."
"... The fake 'incidental' surveillance of other political opponents is a gross violation of human rights and the US' Bill of Rights. ..."
"... The disloyal opposition and its propagandists are running Stalin like show trails in their media... ..."
Mar 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
reason , March 25, 2017 at 03:01 PM
I just read this:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/03/25/why-republicans-were-in-such-a-hurry-on-health-care/?utm_term=.590e103e2761

I have never read such a vitriolic comments section. Lots of Americans a seething mad.

reason -> reason... , March 25, 2017 at 03:03 PM
By mad - I mean angry. And at the Republican party more than Trump.
libezkova -> reason... , March 25, 2017 at 05:10 PM
I like the following comment:

Farang Chiang Mai, 7:39 PM EDT

The GOP and this administration are overwhelmingly self-avowed Christians yet they try to deny the poor to benefit the rich. This is not Christian but evil pure and simple.

I would love to see this lying, cheating, selfish, crazy devil (yeah, I know I sound a bit OTT but the description is fact based) of a president and his enablers challenged on their Christian values.

They are an American Taliban, just going about their subversion in a less overtly violent way.

libezkova -> libezkova... , March 25, 2017 at 05:31 PM
An interesting question arise:

Are the people who consider our current rulers to be "American Taliban" inclined to become "leakers" of government activities against the citizens, because they definitely stop to consider the country as their own and view it as occupied by dangerous and violent religious cult?

Much like Russian people viewed the country under Bolshevism, outside of brief WWII period. That's probably why we have Anti-Russian witch hunt now. To stem this trend. But it is the US neoliberal elite, not Russians, who drive the country to this state of affairs. By spending God knows how many trillions of dollar of wars of neoliberal empire expansion and by drastic redistribution of wealth up. And now the majority of citizens is facing substandard medical care, sliding standard of living and uncertain job prospects.

ilsm -> libezkova... March 26, 2017 at 05:42 AM

I see the angst over Sessions talking to a Russia diplomat twice as a red herring.

US elections have been influenced by anyone with huge money or oil since the Cold War made an excuse for the US' trade empire enforced by half the world's war spending.

The fake 'incidental' surveillance of other political opponents is a gross violation of human rights and the US' Bill of Rights.

The disloyal opposition and its propagandists are running Stalin like show trails in their media.....

[Mar 26, 2017] The story of working class and lower middle class turning to the far right for help after financial oligarchy provoke a nationwide crisis and destroy their way of life and standards of living is not new

Mar 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
libezkova , March 26, 2017 at 04:03 PM
Trump victory was almost 30 years in the making, and I think all presidents starting from Carter contributed to it.

Even if Hillary became president this time, that would be just one term postponement on the inevitable outcome of neoliberal domination for the last 30 years.

I think anybody with dictatorial inclinations and promise to "drain the swamp" in Washington, DC now has serious changes on victory in the US Presidential elections. So after Trump I, we might see Trump II.

So it people find that Trump betrays his election promised they will turn to democratic Party. They will turn father right, to some Trump II.

Due to economic instability and loss of jobs, people are ready to trade (fake) two party "democracy" (which ensures the rule of financial oligarchy by forcing to select between two equally unpalatable candidates) that we have for economic security, even if the latter means the slide to the dictatorship.

That's very sad, but I think this is a valid observation. What we experience is a new variation of the theme first played in 1930th, after the crash of 1928.

The story of working class and lower middle class turning to the far right for help after financial oligarchy provoke a nationwide crisis and destroy their "way of life" and standards of living is not new. In 1930th the US ruling class proved to be ready to accept the New Deal as the alternative. In Germany it was not.

Please read

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Program

to understand that.

Now the neoliberal oligarchy wants to go off the cliff with all of us, as long as they can cling to their power.

[Mar 26, 2017] In addition to the public option and age 55+ Medicare buy-in, one thing that might work is abollishing the mandate and penalty and replaciing them with automatic enrollment. Call it Youre employed, youre covered!

Mar 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
New Deal democrat -> Lee A. Arnold ...

One issue going forward is whether the Dems should offer their own plan. I think they should.

As a few others have pointed out, Trump is not wedded to the GOP establishment. If he thinks he can "WIN bigly!" by allying with Dems, he will do so. I happen to think that he is mainly against "Obamacare" because Obama humiliated him at the White House Correspondents' Dinner once upon a time, and he is nothing if not vengeful. He wants to obliterate Obama's legacy.

So Dems need to make a big stink any time Trump administrativley undercuts Obamacare provisions to try to make it fail. But also they should give him the chance to do something he can call Trumpcare that actually works.

Obamacare does have some major problems (the individual mandate is hated, and the penalty isn't big enough. More young people need to buy in. Some of the Exchanges and health care provider networks are too narrow.

In addition to the "public option" and age 55+ Medicare buy-in, one thing that might work is abollishing the mandate and penalty and replaciing them with automatic enrollment. Call it "You're employed, you're covered!"

Just like SS, Medicare, unemployment and disability deductions to paychecks, establish a Health Care automatic deductible. If your employer offers healthcare, the deductible is reduced by the amount of the premium, all the way to zero if applicable.
If your employer doesn't offer healthcare, if you are under age 40, you are automatically enrolled in the least expensive Bronze plan in your state. If you are 40 or older, you are automatically enrolled in the least expensive Silver plan in your state.

The deductible would also include a small contribution towards Medicaid. Then, if you are unemployed, you are automatically enrolled in Medicaid, but can continue with the silver or bronze plan as above if you choose.

Dems could turmpet such a plan to "Reform and Improve" Obamacare, and campaign on pushing for it if they get a Congressional majority. Call it Trumpcare and President Caligula might sign on.

Reply Saturday, March 25, 2017 at 07:35 AM Lee A. Arnold , March 25, 2017 at 04:48 AM
"Medicare for all" may be the best battle cry. 65-70% of the U.S. people want a single-payer. Bernie Sanders has effectively destroyed the old Democratic Party and sits in a commanding position as spokesman, he gets 6 TV cameras with an hour's notice and he is probably the most popular politician in the U.S. The Democrats don't have to push it for now, they can wait for news to develop. This is all on the Republicans. Let the managerial disaster of Trump and the utter immorality of the "Freedom Caucus" sink in a little more, this story has "legs" as they say in show biz.
mulp -> Lee A. Arnold ... , March 25, 2017 at 04:48 AM
Name the Senators, representatives, and governors Bernie Bros have delivered?

Where are the Bernie Bros Newts, Cruz, Marcos, ...?

I'm in my 70th year. Conservatives attacked liberals in the 60s, my youth, as promising free lunches to gain power. But what they really hated was liberals convinced voters to tax all voters to pay for the things most voters wanted everyone to have, BASED ON SOUND ECONOMICS TO MAXIMIZE EFFICIENCY AND WELFARE.

Friedman led the effort to distort theory to eliminate the broad meaning of general welfare in economics. He did it by eliminating the hard connection between labor cost and gdp. He argued that labor costs and consumption can be cut to increase profits, and that contrary to theory, higher profits is more efficient.

Laffer applied operations theory to taxes, as if government was taxing to maximize profits.

Thus supply side theory of profit maximization. The result delivered was the imperative to cut taxes. To cut labor costs. Thus they argued that every economic measure improves if taxes and wages are cut.

Reaganomics would deliver more stuff at lower cost, higher profut, and that makes everyone better off, especially those in poverty. Friedman saw consumption as a bad thing. He wanted higher gdp, less consumption. In other words, he rewrote Adam Smith attack on mercantile economics into a justification of returning to mercantile economic policy.

So, who do Bernie Bros offer as the Milton Friedman and Laffer to create an intellectual foundation to refute Adam Smith, FDR, Keynes, Galbraith, are return to hunter gatherer economics? Who is the economist who can convince us that Marxist economic theory will work, as long as it's not captured by right wing capitalists like Fidel Castro, Chavez, Stalin, Lenin, the founders of Israel, ....

Bernie certainly must be influenced by the same economic theory that created Israel. It grew from the same Marxist roots in Germany that powered Stalin and Lenin. Bernie is a pre-WWII Zionist as best I can tell.

Why wouldn't Bernie deliver Israel governance to the US? How would he prevent the greedy from joining the Movement?

And Israel has the social welfare state system Bernie wants. Hundreds of thousands of men do not work so they can study supported by welfare. Universal health care. Women are very equal in status.

I grew up heating the Zionist Dream, theory, much like Bernie did, but from conservative Indiana. Seemed very idealist virtue becoming reality in the 50s and 60s. I have often used Israel as the example of a good universal health care system, of education, of welfare. Never heard Bernie say, "I want the US to be like Israel." Why not? Why Sweden?

jonny bakho , March 25, 2017 at 04:54 AM
Frank is wrong. What the GOP establishment dislikes most about Obamacare is the taxes on the wealthy. Medicare for all would have to be paid for by taxes on the wealthy or substantial payroll tax increases on the working class.
This does not meet GOP or Trump objectives for tax cuts on the wealthy.
The TV and radio talk uses Obamacare bashing to sell ads. They can easily change the subject to some other click bait.
Medicare for all? NaGonnaHappN
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> jonny bakho... , March 25, 2017 at 05:14 AM
Frank was not suggesting that the GOP establishment would support Medicare for all. Frank was suggesting that Trump would essentially change parties to become a Democrat. As dubious as that notion is, more importantly it is premature. If Democrats win back both chambers of Congress, then it would at least be mechanically possible if still extraordinarily dubious. Mostly though Frank was just reaching for something worth saying. Now is a tuff time for commentary on the political economy.
Lee A. Arnold -> jonny bakho... , March 25, 2017 at 06:10 AM
Jonny Bakho: "Medicare for all would have to be paid for by taxes"

Theoretically you don't have to raises taxes if you get private insurers out of the game. They are a big expense, and give no value-added.

Doesn't mean that is politically possible, with Trump and a GOP Congress. But Trump and a Democratic Congress? I couldn't predict. Keep in mind that this man is almost an ideological vacuum, no managerial skills, has no constant concerns for anything except keeping himself in the spotlights, to be loved. And he just learned that the Freedom Caucus is implacably nuts.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Lee A. Arnold ... , March 25, 2017 at 07:30 AM
"They are a big expense, and give no value-added."

[Someone has to do claims processing. The resistance against growing the federal payroll is an unnecessary hurdle for Medicare for all (MFA) to jump. Better administer it more like Medicaid. Let insurance companies handle the operations for a fee. Federal claim payments are handled on a pass thru. Then let the operational administration default to the MFA supplemental plan carrier if the insured has one, else the lowest cost carrier in the insured's state. For MFA clients then there could be a single claims process for providers even for patients with both MFA and MFA supplemental policies. That lowers the hurdle for MFA to leap over the insurance company lobby as well.]

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Lee A. Arnold ... , March 25, 2017 at 11:29 AM
Most of health insurance claims processing has been automated for a long time. Still it takes a lot of worker-hours to reconcile the errors.

Imagine how many worker hours it will take to reconcile liabilities for the first multi-car multi-fatality pile up of robot cars on the LA freeway. It will not matter that in total there have been less collisions and less fatalities when the big one hits. Computers are incapable of intuitive judgement which leads to blunders of potentially a colossal scale occurring that could have easily been foreseen by a human. To err is human but it takes a computer to really screw things up beyond all recognition. It is just a matter of time and time is always on Murphy's (that which can go wrong will go wrong) side. I know that myths about computers that never make mistakes and never need to be programmed again abound and I am sure that they will still be with us 20,000 years from now, when we are not even in any memory banks. I spent my entire career about to be replaced by software, but I was finally laid off because of administrative concerns with regards to legacy managed employees in context of the re-compete of the NG/VITA outsourcing contract (which is far less catchy). Computers have the potential to speed transit and reduce fatalities, but that potential will not be permanently realized as long as people are intent upon removing all human control and intervention. Computers can be capable copilots under almost all circumstances, but their owners cannot weather the fallout from their inability to conceive a response on their own when confronted with conditions that they were not programmed for. Such dramatic consequences will eventually raise a great furor, horror, deep sorrow, and extensive liability concerns. Even if you could sue a computer it is unlikely that they could demonstrate the means to pay. Incarceration of a computer for criminal negligence seems a bit ludicrous as well. The owner of the offending property better have their insurance premiums all paid up, but what then? Who will insure the next owner? Advocates of computer driven cars are planning on no fault insurance being mandated in each and every state. Good luck with that.

My wife works for Anthem although not in claims processing. She used to work in membership which is also automated. Software developers for health insurance mostly use Agile methods. One facet of that is that they only expect automation to handle roughly 90% (ideally more) of the workload because they have learned that there will never be a no defects computer system and they are saving expensive labor time in development by allowing lower paid workers to pick up a lot of the more complicated cases manually. That reduces time spent in the iterative process of testing and correcting defects. I am sure that you remember the problems with the ACA's automated insurance membership market. Stuff happens all the time in IT.

It is not that I had to work in IT for 47 years to understand the limitations. Merely my childhood education on the mathematical system of logic that underlies their circuitry and programming would have been sufficient, but a bit of empirical confirmation never hurts. Understanding reality is unfortunately a pre-requisite, but once that is accomplished then there are great opportunities to achieve improved results. Computers are not the problem, but can often be an essential part of the solution rather than a faceless soulless panacea. Does not compute can happen anywhere, but worse though when it happens at 75 MPH.

Lee A. Arnold -> mulp... , March 25, 2017 at 11:27 AM
Every serious study that looks at current costs in the multipayer healthcare insurance concludes that moving to single-payer will save 15-20% of total spending. Here is yet another one:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4283267/
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> Lee A. Arnold ... , March 25, 2017 at 11:40 AM
There is nothing about that paper that would not hold true or even truer of a two tiered system of Medicare for all with administrative processing collocated with the supplemental insurer whenever there is one. Just do a work flow model and note how many steps are cut out at each the provider and insurer if primary and secondary coverage administrative processing for membership, claims, and policy holder services are collocated.
RGC -> jonny bakho... , March 25, 2017 at 11:40 AM
Government Funds 60% of U.S. Healthcare Costs - Far Higher than Previously Believed

"We Pay for National Health Insurance but Don't Get It"

"Universal coverage is affordable - without a big tax increase," continued Dr. Himmelstein. "Because taxes already fund 60% of health care costs, a shift about the size of the recent tax cut ($130 billion a year) from private funding to public funding would allow us to cover all the uninsured and improve benefits for everyone else. Insurers/HMOs and drug companies buy-off our politicians with huge campaign contributions and hordes of lobbyists."


http://www.pnhp.org/news/2002/july/government_funds_60.php

RGC -> Chris G ... , March 25, 2017 at 08:04 AM
Beyond the Affordable Care Act: A Physicians' Proposal for Single-Payer Health Care Reform

During a transition period, all public funds currently spent on health care – including Medicare, Medicaid, and state and local health care programs – would be redirected to the unified NHP budget. Such public spending – together with tax subsidies for employer-paid insurance and government expenditures for public workers' health benefits – already accounts for 60% of total U.S. health expenditures.28 Additional funds would be raised through taxes, though importantly these would be fully offset by a decrease in out-of-pocket spending and premiums.

http://www.pnhp.org/nhi

RGC -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , March 25, 2017 at 08:04 AM
Is Donald Trump still 'for single-payer' health care?


"Perry said Trump is "for single-payer health care."


Fifteen years ago, Trump was decidedly for a universal healthcare system that resembled Canada's system, in which the government pays for care for all citizens.

Recently, he's said he admires Scotland's single-payer system and disses the Affordable Care Act as incompetently implemented.

However, a Trump spokesman denied that the candidate supported "socialized medicine" and suggested Trump prefers a "free-market" solution. Other than that, though, the Trump campaign has been silent about what his specific health care policies are; perhaps Trump will be pressed on this point during the Aug. 6 debate.

Given the current evidence, Perry's attack is partially accurate, but leaves out details. We rate the statement Half True.

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/aug/02/rick-perry/donald-trump-still-single-payer-health-care/

[Mar 26, 2017] The good news is they now own health care. They now own Obamacare said Trump

Mar 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
Fred C. Dobbs , March 25, 2017 at 07:35 AM
In a Call to The Times, Trump Blames Democrats for the
Failure of the Health Bill https://nyti.ms/2nNPHD9
NYT - MAGGIE HABERMAN - MARCH 24, 2017

WASHINGTON - Just moments after the Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act was declared dead, President Trump sought to paint the defeat of his first legislative effort as an early-term blip.

The House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, was preparing to tell the public that the health care bill was being withdrawn - a byproduct, Mr. Trump said, of Democratic partisanship. The president predicted that Democrats would return to him to make a deal in roughly a year.

"Look, we got no Democratic votes. We got none, zero," Mr. Trump said in a telephone interview he initiated with The New York Times.

"The good news is they now own health care. They now own Obamacare."

Mr. Trump insisted that the Affordable Care Act would collapse in the next year, which would then force Democrats to come to the bargaining table for a new bill.

"The best thing that can happen is that we let the Democrats, that we let Obamacare continue, they'll have increases from 50 to 100 percent," he said. "And when it explodes, they'll come to me to make a deal. And I'm open to that."

Although enrollment in the Affordable Care Act declined slightly in the past year, there is no sign that it is collapsing. Its expansion of Medicaid continues to grow.

In a later phone interview with The Times, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, ridiculed Mr. Trump's remarks about Democrats being at fault.

"Whenever the president gets in trouble, he points fingers of blame," Mr. Schumer said. "It's about time he stopped doing that and started to lead. The Republicans were totally committed to repeal from the get-go, never talked to us once. But now that they realize that repeal can't work, if they back off repeal, of course we'll work with them to make it even better."

Mr. Trump said that "when they come to make a deal," he would be open and receptive. He singled out the Tuesday Group moderates for praise, calling them "terrific," an implicit jab at the House Freedom Caucus, which his aides had expressed frustration with during negotiations. ...

Fred C. Dobbs -> Fred C. Dobbs... , March 25, 2017 at 08:02 AM
On health-care, as on so much else,
President Trump passes the buck, reports
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/the-buck-doesnt-stop-here-anymore/520839/
The Atlantic - David A. Graham - March 24, 2017

Speaking in the Oval Office Friday afternoon, President Trump surveyed the wreckage of the Obamacare repeal effort and issued a crisp, definitive verdict: I didn't do it.

The president said he didn't blame Speaker Paul Ryan, though he had plenty of implied criticism for the speaker. "I like Speaker Ryan. He worked very hard," Trump said, but he added: "I'm not going to speak badly about anybody within the Republican Party. Certainly there's a big history. I really think Paul worked hard." He added ruefully that the GOP could have taken up tax-reform first, instead of Obamacare-the reverse of Ryan's desired sequence. "Now we're going to go for tax reform, which I've always liked," he said.

As for the House Freedom Caucus, the bloc of conservatives from which many of the apparent "no" votes on the Republican plan were to come, Trump said, "I'm not betrayed. They're friends of mine. I'm disappointed because we could've had it. So I'm disappointed. I'm a little surprised, I could tell you."

The greatest blame for the bill's failure fell on Democrats, Trump said.

"This really would've worked out better if we could've had Democrat support. Remember we had no Democrat support," Trump said. Later, he added, "But when you get no votes from the other side, meaning the Democrats, it's really a difficult situation."

He said Democrats should come up with their own bill. "I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, because they own Obamacare," he said, referring to the House and Senate Democratic leaders. "They 100 percent own it."

Trump was very clear about who was not to blame: himself. "I worked as a team player," the president of the United States said, demoting himself to bit-player status. He wanted to do tax reform first, after all, and it was still early. "I've been in office, what, 64 days? I've never said repeal and replace Obamacare within 64 days. I have a long time. I want to have a great health-care bill and plan and we will."

Strictly speaking, it is true that Trump didn't promise to repeal Obamacare on day 64 of his administration. What he told voters, over and over during the campaign, was that he'd do it immediately. On some occasions he or top allies even promised to do it on day 1. Now he and his allies are planning to drop the bill for the foreseeable future.

It is surely not wrong that there is lots of blame to go around. Congressional Republicans had years to devise a plan, and couldn't come up with one that would win a majority in the House, despite a 44-seat advantage. The House bill was an unpopular one, disliked by conservatives and moderates in that chamber; almost certainly dead on arrival in the Senate; and deeply unpopular with voters. Even before the vote was canceled, unnamed White House officials were telling reporters that the plan was to pin the blame on Ryan. ...

The Republicans fold and
withdraw their health-care bill https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/03/trump-republicans-failure-obamacare/520788/
The Atlantic - Russell Berman - March 24, 2017

... Defeat on the floor dealt Trump a major blow early in his presidency, but its implications were far more serious for the Republican Party as a whole. Handed unified control of the federal government for only the third time since World War II, the modern GOP was unable to overcome its internecine fights to enact a key part of its policy agenda. The president now wants to move on to a comprehensive overhaul of the tax code, but insiders on Capitol Hill have long believed that project will be an even heavier lift than health care.

As the prospect of a loss became more real on Friday, the frustrations of GOP lawmakers loyal to the leadership began to boil over. "I've been in this job eight years, and I'm wracking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that's been something positive, that's been something other than stopping something else from happening," Representative Tom Rooney of Florida said in an interview. "We need to start having victories as a party. And if we can't, then it's hard to justify why we should be back here."

Nothing has exemplified the party's governing challenge quite like health care. For years, Republican leaders resisted pressure from Democrats and rank-and-file lawmakers to coalesce around a detailed legislative alternative to Obamacare. That failure didn't prevent them from attaining power, but it forced them to start nearly from scratch after Trump's surprising victory in November. At Ryan's urging, the party had compiled a plan as part of the speaker's "A Better Way" campaign agenda. Translating that into legislation, however, proved a much stiffer challenge; committee leaders needed to navigate a razor's edge to satisfy conservatives demanding a full repeal of Obamacare and satisfy moderates who preferred to keep in place its more popular consumer protections and Medicaid expansion. They were further limited by the procedural rules of the Senate, which circumscribed how far Republicans could go while still avoiding a Democratic filibuster. ...

[Mar 26, 2017] Our constitutional dollar democracy with its gerrymandering, limitless congressional revolving doors, SCOTUS unanswerable to the electorate, and first past the post voting provides loads of punch lines, not the least of which is the de facto two party system itself. Two competitors is merely duopoly

Mar 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> ilsm... , March 25, 2017 at 07:09 AM
There is more than one joke. Our constitutional dollar democracy with its gerrymandering, limitless congressional revolving doors, SCOTUS unanswerable to the electorate, and first past the post voting provides loads of punch lines, not the least of which is the de facto two party system itself. Two competitors is merely duopoly. It takes a minimum of three viable choices to have any returns from competition that are significant to the consumers' preferences. Two competitors merely play off each other in predictable and increasingly ossified patterns.
New Deal democrat -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , March 25, 2017 at 07:17 AM
One very big quibble: >>SCOTUS unanswerable to the electorate<<

As bad as the SCOTUS can be, it would be unimaginably worse if it were subject to elections.

The big problem is that the Founders did not imagine life expectancies into the 80s. Throughout the 19th Century, the median time on the bench was about 14 years, and about 1/3 of all Justices served less than 10 years -- they got sick or died. Now the median time on the bench is 25 years, which is totally unacceptable.

If SCOTUS terms were set at 18 years, with a new Justice appointed every 2 years, independence would be preserved without the imposition of the "dead hands." Emeritus Justices could continue to serve on the appellate courts, and provisions would have to be made for deaths or retirements during the 18 year terms, but you get the idea.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> New Deal democrat... , March 25, 2017 at 07:36 AM
I did not mean elections. One of my favorite planks of the 1912 Bull Moose Party was the right for popular petition and referendum to overturn an unpopular SCOTUS decision. Roe V. Wade could not be overturned by referendum (which some fear but votes are measured by heat count rather than audible volume). Citizen United would be overturned by referendum. I trust democracy more than most, but still I don't get silly about it.

OTOH, SCOTUS term limits are also a good idea.

RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , March 25, 2017 at 07:38 AM
"...heat count..."

[No, HEAD count. If votes were measured by heat count then Bernie Sanders would be POTUS now.]

[Mar 26, 2017] Democrats are a joke for refusing to sack a sclerotic, corrupt, and inept congressional leadership that had lost three straight elections

Mar 26, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
ilsm -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , March 25, 2017 at 09:06 AM
cnn resembles deep red tea party fox news..... and the run of the mill dems should fit their tri-corn hats
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> ilsm... , March 25, 2017 at 09:37 AM
I will take your word for it. We don't watch either CNN nor Fox News at my house. Mostly we watch local (same news and weather crew here appears on each the WWBT/WRLH local NBC/Fox affiliates) news with some sampling of MSNBC and Sunday morning ABC and CBS shows along with the daily half hour of NBC network following the evening local. Cable news is sort of an oxymoron given the prevailing editorial slants. The now retired local TV news anchor Gene Cox laid the groundwork for the best news team in central VA by setting a high bar at his station. Gene laid it all out southern fried with satirical humor and honesty unusual in TV news.
RC AKA Darryl, Ron -> RC AKA Darryl, Ron... , March 25, 2017 at 09:38 AM
Maybe more sarcasm than satire, but the point is the same - wit and honesty.
JohnH -> Chris G ... , March 25, 2017 at 07:52 AM
Apparently we have two jokes alternating to lead America: the Republican jokes vs. the Democratic jokes.

But Democrats are right to expect that, when two jokes vie for power, their turn as joke in power will eventually come.

JohnH -> mulp... , March 25, 2017 at 07:52 AM
Maybe a post mortem would simply reveal that Democrats should have had a coherent economic message and pursued a strategy of standing up for working America for the past 8 years. For example, having Pelosi demand votes on increasing the minimum wage as often as Ryan demanded votes on killing Obamacare...

Any honest post mortem would have revealed that standing with billionaires and the Wall Street banking cartel--and not prosecuting a single Wall Street banker--is not a winning strategy...

Chris G -> JohnH... , March 25, 2017 at 12:33 PM
That Pelosi did not resign immediately following the 2016 election or, not having offered her resignation, that Congressional Democrats did not demand it is an indication that the party still has deep-rooted problems. (Pelosi may not be the cause of those problems but given how badly they've fared since 2010 she's clearly not the solution. She has no business remaining as minority leader.) I'm fine with Perez as DNC chair but Ellison should be minority leader.

[Mar 26, 2017] Staggering cost of Finance Sector under neoliberalism

Notable quotes:
"... Originally published at the Tax Justice Network ..."
"... US finance sector is a net drag on their economy ..."
"... It is a cleverly worked out system for wealth transfer. Complex laws, political backing and protection even if you break the law. At least in the old days when you got robbed you had the signal of having a pistol pointed at you. The modern version, with all the insider media psyops, leaves those who are preyed upon feeling that they are the ones to blame. ..."
"... The business model is straight out of the Cosa Nostra playbook – except there is media, political and legal backing. ..."
"... As an Italian friend of mine (who rarely goes north of 14th Street) once remarked, "The difference between the Mafia and bankers is that the Mafia always leaves a few crumbs on the table." ..."
"... Did I hear that right – the private finance sector will have cost us (in the US) 23Tr$ by 2020. And from 1990 to 2005 big finance cost us (already) 14Tr in fees, pay, fraud, misallocation and lost productivity. Yet we continue to deregulate even though all governments know how destructive deregulated finance is. ..."
"... yes, the EU does seem to be hungry to grab up all that finance for itself I keep thinking about Schaeuble coming to NYC c2012 and holding an impromptu news conference wherein he said it was fine with him if some banks went down because "we are overbanked." But we do have to admit that "overbanked" is an understatement since there are no productive investments and it's just self-defeating. I mean, how long can this go on? ..."
"... I don't know, how much money do you have left? ..."
"... It pays to remember that prior to 2008, hot (sovereign state backed) money flowed unimpeded like water across all EU borders, regardless of regulation, in search of quick handsome and easy returns, and much of it from subsequently bailed out by the ECB backdoor major lenders in France and Germany lending recklessly to poorer EZ members. ..."
"... The lasting results of this and its hasty, damaging retreat and the inequitable socialisation of the debt across the EZ are, of course, still being felt today. ..."
"... One of the major causes of the financial crisis was lax global regulation period. So let's not kid ourselves that by removing the UK from the European Union equation it is suddenly going to render it a bastion of sound prudential banking practice, particularly given various members recent comments that they intend to do anything in their power to tempt a post Brexit UK's financial services at the earliest opportunity. ..."
"... I do subscribe to the belief that the UK financial services sector has been and still is toxic to its economy and long-term future, and without a doubt this informed the Brexit vote, albeit in some cases on a subconscious level. ..."
Mar 26, 2017 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on March 25, 2017 by Yves Smith Originally published at the Tax Justice Network

In our March 2017 Taxcast: the high price we're paying for our finance sectors – we look at staggering statistics showing how the US finance sector is a net drag on their economy .

Also, as the British government initiates Brexit divorce negotiations to leave the EU, we discuss something they ought to know, but obviously don't – they're actually in a very weak position. Could it mean the beginning of the end of the finance curse gripping the UK economy?

Featuring: John Christensen and Alex Cobham of the Tax Justice Network, and Professor of Economics Gerald Epstein of the University of Masachusetts Amhurst , author of Overcharged: The High Cost of High Finance . Produced and presented by Naomi Fowler for the Tax Justice Network.

Professor Gerald Epstein:

If you look at particular finance centres, say London and New York, the problem is that the net cost of this system is quite significant, it imposes a cost not only on people who use finance but for the whole economy. So, what we need to think about is what are the more productive activities that ought to be substituted for these excessive aspects of finance?

John Christensen, Tax Justice Network on Britain's weak position in Brexit negotiations:

We might be seeing the start of the end of Britain's grip by the Finance Curse

https://www.youtube.com/embed/E7oOiJl1n1I

Download the mp3 to listen offline anytime on your computer, mobile/cell phone or handheld device by right clicking here and selecting 'save link as'.

Want more Taxcasts? The full playlist is here .

Want to subscribe? Subscribe via email by contacting the Taxcast producer on naomi [at] taxjustice.net OR subscribe to the Taxcast RSS feed here OR subscribe to our youtube channel, Tax Justice TV OR find us on iTunes

skippy , March 25, 2017 at 3:01 am

Drag = Rentier = bottle neck economics which in the end becomes a death spiral due to lack of demand and jobs quality .

Si , March 25, 2017 at 3:45 am

It is a cleverly worked out system for wealth transfer. Complex laws, political backing and protection even if you break the law. At least in the old days when you got robbed you had the signal of having a pistol pointed at you. The modern version, with all the insider media psyops, leaves those who are preyed upon feeling that they are the ones to blame.

The business model is straight out of the Cosa Nostra playbook – except there is media, political and legal backing.

Genius.

Hayek's Heelbiter , March 25, 2017 at 6:14 am

As an Italian friend of mine (who rarely goes north of 14th Street) once remarked, "The difference between the Mafia and bankers is that the Mafia always leaves a few crumbs on the table."

Watt4Bob , March 25, 2017 at 11:00 am

"Wouldn't you rather give me my money, that you have in your pocket, rather than force me to take the pistol out of my pocket, and point it at you, and rob you, and become a criminal?"

As you can clearly see, the logic is flawless, we are all much better off acquiescing to the reasonable demands of the FIRE sector, the only alternative being an admission that we're in the clutches of a deeply organized criminal element.

susan the other , March 25, 2017 at 11:44 am

thanks for this Taxcast, very to the point.

Did I hear that right – the private finance sector will have cost us (in the US) 23Tr$ by 2020. And from 1990 to 2005 big finance cost us (already) 14Tr in fees, pay, fraud, misallocation and lost productivity. Yet we continue to deregulate even though all governments know how destructive deregulated finance is.

And we know that the US is the biggest and most secret tax haven of them all

The first part of Taxcast speculated that Brexit will actually free the UK from the stranglehold of big finance and the country will be able to move on to more productive economic activity. So let us hope the US comes to its senses – just as the EU has finally isolated the rot of UK finance, maybe the rest of the world will isolate us.

Regulation seems to be hand-in-glove with national sovereignty. Whereas globalized finance might have escaped national regulation bec. there was always a safe haven for banksters, now with a backlash of indignant people all over the world there will be re-regulation at national levels. Since there is no global authority that can do that yet. Anyway, now that economies are trashed, there is way too much hot money to find good investments. It has already become absurd.

Colonel Smithers , March 25, 2017 at 11:51 am

Thank you, Susan.

I would not be so hasty thinking that the EU(27) has finally isolated the rot of UK finance. Much of that finance was not UK, but using the UK. The EU(27) is no less corrupt than the UK and as susceptible to big finance's charms.

I worked as a lobbyist in Brussels (and Basel and DC) for years.

susan the other , March 25, 2017 at 12:31 pm

yes, the EU does seem to be hungry to grab up all that finance for itself I keep thinking about Schaeuble coming to NYC c2012 and holding an impromptu news conference wherein he said it was fine with him if some banks went down because "we are overbanked." But we do have to admit that "overbanked" is an understatement since there are no productive investments and it's just self-defeating. I mean, how long can this go on?

Watt4Bob , March 25, 2017 at 3:21 pm

I mean, how long can this go on?

I don't know, how much money do you have left?

Gman , March 25, 2017 at 6:25 pm

Great piece. Thank you.

I'm not sure I get the 'rules on financial services are different than other goods and services' line being peddled here though. Maybe in theory, but it's pretty much a moot point.

It pays to remember that prior to 2008, hot (sovereign state backed) money flowed unimpeded like water across all EU borders, regardless of regulation, in search of quick handsome and easy returns, and much of it from subsequently bailed out by the ECB backdoor major lenders in France and Germany lending recklessly to poorer EZ members.

The lasting results of this and its hasty, damaging retreat and the inequitable socialisation of the debt across the EZ are, of course, still being felt today.

One of the major causes of the financial crisis was lax global regulation period. So let's not kid ourselves that by removing the UK from the European Union equation it is suddenly going to render it a bastion of sound prudential banking practice, particularly given various members recent comments that they intend to do anything in their power to tempt a post Brexit UK's financial services at the earliest opportunity.

I do subscribe to the belief that the UK financial services sector has been and still is toxic to its economy and long-term future, and without a doubt this informed the Brexit vote, albeit in some cases on a subconscious level.

[Mar 25, 2017] stock, bond and commodities historical returns

Mar 25, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
im1dc :, March 25, 2017 at 10:40 AM
FYI

For those who may be interested in quality data at your fingertips for free

Some you know, some you may not

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ben-carlson-my-12-favorite-and-free-websites-for-investing-information-and-tools-2017-03-24

"Ben Carlson: My 12 favorite (and free) websites for investing information and tools"

By Ben Carlson...Mar 25, 2017...9:39 a.m. ET

..."I get a lot of questions from readers asking what data sources or models I use. I've been building my own Excel models and formulas for a while and have access to a handful of professional subscription-based offerings. But you don't have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on historical data providers to access useful financial data in the internet age. There are plenty of useful free websites that have historical market data, back-testing tools, risk statistics and scenario analysis capabilities.

Here are some that I have found helpful over the years:

NYU's stock, bond and cash historical returns

NYU professor Aswath Damodaran uses this site to update the performance numbers for stocks (S&P 500 SPX, -0.08% ), bonds (10-year Treasuries) and cash (three-month T-bills) once a year. It shows the annual returns for these three asset classes going back to 1928. You can download an Excel file that contains historical interest rates, bond yields and dividend yields. I use these numbers frequently.

Portfolio Visualizer

This site has one of the best free asset allocation back-testing programs I've come across. There are probably 20-30 different asset classes and sub-asset classes you can back-test to the 1970s with historical returns, drawdowns, real (after-inflation) returns, and growth of your initial investment. This site enables you to perform Monte Carlo simulations on withdrawal strategies, correlation matrixes between different assets, risk factor analysis and back-test real world portfolios using actual mutual funds and ETFs. That this website is free is pretty remarkable.

Robert Shiller's online data

Shiller has one of the longest-running data sets I've seen. His famous CAPE spreadsheet has the monthly stock price, interest rate, earnings and dividend data from 1871. This site has his comprehensive real estate data on home prices from 100 years ago.

Twitter

People on social media love to complain about social media, but I find a ton of value in the information I receive from Twitter TWTR, +1.41% I'm constantly finding helpful research, graphs, data and analysis that I wouldn't be exposed to otherwise. Twitter is my go-to source for what's going on in the world of finance and the markets, along with under-the-radar research.

Fama-French

Ken French updates this site using much of the research he's done over the years with Eugene Fama. This one is a factor investing nerd's dream, although the site does take some time to figure out how to use efficiently (at least in my experience). French updates his data regularly with historical returns on factors such as small-cap stocks, value stocks, quality stocks and momentum stocks dating to the 1920s. This site has great data on sector and industry historical returns. All of the data are easily exportable to Excel.

Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook

Researchers Elroy Dimson, Paul March and Mike Staunton update this report once a year with numbers on stocks, bonds and inflation going back to 1900 for a number of countries. It's worth going through the entire report at least once.

MSCI

MSCI provides the most comprehensive free source of historical market data on foreign stock markets. It has performance numbers dating to 1970 for different countries, regions and markets, both developed and emerging.

Abnormal Returns

The best curated content each and every day on investing, personal finance, research and anything else in the world of finance. If you miss anything worth reading, you can be sure it will be here.

Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED)

Econ geeks love this site because the Federal Reserve has data on almost anything related to economics you can think of. There's also plenty of good market data on stocks, bonds and interest rates as well. And the site enables you to personalize the graphs and data sets.

Morningstar

I find that Morningstar MORN, -0.36% has the best data on mutual funds and ETFs for performance purposes. You can see annual returns going back 10 years, and monthly and quarterly returns going back five years. The company provides after-tax returns and fund behavior gaps, which I find really useful for seeing what investors are actually earning in these funds. You can find breakdowns of fund holdings, investment styles, geographic allocations and more.

Yahoo Finance

I like Yahoo YHOO, -0.43% Finance for daily historical data on stocks, interest rates and indexes. It has annual and quarterly performance numbers for mutual funds from inception, many of which give you decades of returns.

Portfolio Charts

This is another great asset allocation back-testing tool that enables you to see how a number of well-known portfolios have performed over the years. This site has the best visuals of any I've played around with. You can also stress-test a large number of asset classes and strategies.

And here are a few more I've used over the years:

[Mar 25, 2017] Is productivity metric as problematic as GDP?

Mar 24, 2017 | cepr.net

anne: March 24, 2017 at 05:21 AM

Marketplace Radio Has Not Heard About the Productivity Slowdown

Marketplace radio had a peculiar piece * asking what the world would have looked like if the North American Free Trade Agreement never had been signed. The piece is odd because it dismisses job concerns associated with NAFTA by telling readers that automation (i.e. productivity growth) has been far more important in costing jobs.

"As in, ATMs replacing bankers, robots displacing welders. Automation is a very old story that goes back 250 years, but it has really picked up in the last couple decades.

"'We economic developers have an old joke,' said Charles Hayes of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership in an interview with Marketplace in 2010. 'The manufacturing facility of the future will employ two people: one will be a man, and one will be a dog. And the man will be there to feed the dog. And the dog will be there to make sure the man doesn't touch the equipment.'

"Ouch. But it turns out technology replaced workers in the course of reporting this very story."

Actually, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us the opposite. Productivity growth did pick up from 1995 to 2005, rising back to its 1947 to 1973 Golden Age pace (a period of low unemployment and rapidly rising wages), but has slowed sharply in the last dozen years.

[Graph]

While more rapid productivity growth would allow for faster wage and overall economic growth, no one has a very clear path for raising the rate of productivity growth. It is strange that Marketplace thinks our problem is a too rapid pace of productivity growth.

The piece is right in saying that the jobs impact of NAFTA was relatively limited. Certainly trade with China displaced many more workers. NAFTA may nonetheless have had a negative impact on the wages of many manufacturing workers. It made the threat to move operations to Mexico far more credible and many employers took advantage of this opportunity ** to discourage workers from joining unions and to make wage concessions. It's surprising that the piece did not discuss this effect of NAFTA.

* https://www.marketplace.org/2017/03/23/economy/what-if-nafta-were-never-born

** http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=cbpubs

-- Dean Baker

anne said in reply to anne...

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=d6jh

November 1, 2014

Total Factor Productivity for United States, 1952-2014

(Percent Change)


https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=d7LU

November 1, 2014

Total Factor Productivity for United States, 1952-2014

(Indexed to 1952)

pgl said in reply to anne... March 24, 2017 at 06:01 AM

Thanks for the data. It confirms what Dean wrote here:

"the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us the opposite. Productivity growth did pick up from 1995 to 2005, rising back to its 1947 to 1973 Golden Age pace (a period of low unemployment and rapidly rising wages), but has slowed sharply in the last dozen years.

anne said in reply to pgl... March 24, 2017 at 06:10 AM

Looking internationally, I consider the evidence conclusive that productivity growth has slowed significantly since 2005 in countries that have had limited infrastructure development, regardless of the emphasis in those countries on information technology advance and application.

libezkova -> anne... March 25, 2017 at 09:33 AM

And what is productivity ?

== quote ==

The OECD defines it as "the ratio of a volume measure of output to a volume measure of input".] Volume measures of output are normally gross domestic product (GDP) or gross value added (GVA), expressed at constant prices i.e. adjusted for inflation.

== end of quote ==

If you use GDP the result is suspect for the reasons GDP is suspect. If not, then it is sector/industry based metric.

In this sense growth of GDP in 1990th is not only the result of technological changes (Internet, PCs, cell phones) but also looting of the xUSSR economies

And as looting slowed down after 2000 growth of productivity also allowed down.

libezkova -> libezkova... March 25, 2017 at 10:32 AM

Steve Keen pointed out that all production is driven by energy (mostly oil and electricity). And the energy comes ultimately from the sun.

Either it is turned into production via feeding workers, or by fueling machinery (by burning hydrocarbons or indirectly via electricity supply).

That means that growth of productivity is inversely correlated with the price of oil. As the period of cheap hydrocarbons ended (remember $.99 per gallon of gas in 90th) the period of rapid productivity growth ended as well.

One of the aspects od the idea of "secular stagnation" is that high oil prices hit neoliberal economies like a hammer and the period of high oil prices started to undermine neoliberal globalization by making shipping more expensive.

That also means that without continuation of low oil prices the next debt crisis (aka Minsky moment) is eminent for the USA economy.

BTW none of US shale companies is profitable. They are all up to the neck in debt, and their method of extracting oil includes generating a flow of junk bonds. If financing stops most of them will be bankrupt in one year period.

Obama clever game with Iran helped to produce "Obama recovery" due to the period of "normal" oil prices which started in mid 2015.

It probably can be extended for another year or two. What happens next is completely unknown territory. It is clear that the US shale is a card that was already played. It can't be played again as output probably can be substantially raised (say 2 Mbd/day) only with high or very high oil prices (as in above $70 or higher).

After "Obama recovery" (which depends on continuing low oil prices created by clever political maneuvering in Arab world -- Hail Mary pass that worked) we might well face the period of "elevated oil prices" and increased stagnation of the US economy with noticeably higher level of unemployment.

Much depends on Trump playing his trump card of "détente" with Russia which theoretically could extend this period (Russia has the same level of oil production as Saudis and more reserves), but there were to much sand thrown by neocons and DemoRats for this scenario to work. I thing Russia now is no longer interested in partnership with the USA on the basis of maintaining low oil prices -- like KSA today, and might cut output further to get higher oil prices which are vital for their economy. Of course Russia has strong neoliberal fifth column (including pro-western directors of oil companies and oligarchs who have their wealth transferred to Western banks) but even they are pissed off by the USA now.

DemoRats wiped up Anti-Russian hysteria to the level when even contact with Russian official can be a "career limiting move" in the USA.

This hysteria now has its own self-propagating dynamics and is difficult to stop. It might last for the same period of time as McCarthyism hysteria (roughly from 1947 to 1956).

"... "The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies - just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected - that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. ..."

It put the Democrats and Republicans in sync as two equally warmongering parties, but what good that would bring for the American people and the world is hard to fathom.

The USA lost the possibility of switching personal car fleet to more economical hybrid models by adopting some drastic measures and now is less prepared for a new period of high oil prices. People are still buying SUV which became the most popular type of personal transportation in the USA, and small tracks.

On the electricity front there are some problems too. The looting of Russia and the flow of cheap uranium stopped. Building of high voltage East -West line necessary for substantial wind and solar production is still on the drawing board.

[Mar 25, 2017] Like most integral metrics (and, especially, like GDP) productivity growth is very suspect. Its importance was artificially amplified under neoliberalism to the sacred cow status

Notable quotes:
"... The long term absence of convergence in productivity growth between developed and developing countries should be of considerable concern, but seems overlooked even in settings such as trade negotiations in which such concerns especially need to be addressed. ..."
"... You need to understand that like most "integral" metrics (and, especially, like GDP) productivity growth is very suspect. Its importance was artificially amplified under neoliberalism to the "sacred cow" status. ..."
"... While the strong earnings growth of US-based corporations might, at least partially, be real and not all accounting tricks, the question arise what part of those gains are coming from improvements in domestic productivity and what part from offshoring. ..."
"... Productivity growth is an important part of the system of neoliberal myths (along with "cult of GDP" ) and this mythology is directed at deceiving the public that it is indirectly benefitting from the neoliberal transformation of the society, while in reality we observe impoverishment of the majority of population. As in " The USA is the country with fastest productivity grown." Rejoice. ..."
Mar 25, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

anne -> anne... March 25, 2017 at 10:31 AM

The long term absence of convergence in productivity growth between developed and developing countries should be of considerable concern, but seems overlooked even in settings such as trade negotiations in which such concerns especially need to be addressed.

libezkova -> anne..., March 25, 2017 at 04:42 PM

Anne,

You need to understand that like most "integral" metrics (and, especially, like GDP) productivity growth is very suspect. Its importance was artificially amplified under neoliberalism to the "sacred cow" status.

Government bureaucrats also are afraid to tell the truth. Richard Benson , a well-known critic of government labor statistics, who wrote several insightful papers on the subject, noted "The BLS is mindful of how politically sensitive any reported job data is to the White House, so there is a strong bias for the government bureaucrats to publish a favorable jobs report."

One hidden fact is that it is offshoring that is the driver of corporate profits and it distorts "productivity" statistics.

While the strong earnings growth of US-based corporations might, at least partially, be real and not all accounting tricks, the question arise what part of those gains are coming from improvements in domestic productivity and what part from offshoring.

Rising stratification of the society also affects this metric (via the ratio of "have more" vs "have not")

Productivity growth is an important part of the system of neoliberal myths (along with "cult of GDP" ) and this mythology is directed at deceiving the public that it is indirectly benefitting from the neoliberal transformation of the society, while in reality we observe impoverishment of the majority of population. As in " The USA is the country with fastest productivity grown." Rejoice.

It is also simplifies the adoption of pro financial oligarchy policies masked with technocratic jargon -- policies that destroyed New Deal and hurt the majority of the population ("rising labor costs" is one such usage).

Adopting technocratic posture (economics like Boeing there by using certain controls you can change flight course) serves like anesthetic. Rephrasing Marx we can say "neoliberal economics is the opium for the people". And it is by design. which confirms the iron law of oligarchy in a very interesting, unexpected way.

That's why jargon use by priests of neo-classical economics is almost in-penetrable for an ordinary person. The well known neoliberal stooge Greenspan was a real master of it.

So the importance assigned to such measures as GDP and productivity is, to a certain extent, politically motivated.

For example, in the denominator we have all those hedge funds managers and other members of financial oligarchy bonuses, and top managers exorbitant remuneration within all kinds of firms (which definitely drives productivity growth down ;-)

In the numerator are military expenses and income of financial sector (and now another somewhat parasitic sector close to banking -- medical insurance industry).

Both are essentially money stolen from people and, to a certain extent, from "real" economy.

Of cause, not all money are wasted as military spending in addition to war for neoliberal empire expansion (and related loot) also employs a lot of people and fund fundamental research; the myth about innovation of Silicon Valley is partially a myth; in reality in many cases this is a direct transfer of technology from the military sector.

Among the examples are integrated circuits, laser, wireless, Internet, multiprocessing, etc; even some algorithmic languages :-).

So when you have such fuzzy numerator and denominator, the result is also fuzzy and all conclusions based on them might be not worth electrons with which they are depicted on our screens.

As I mentioned before, productivity should be somewhat inversely correlated with the oil price, as "amount of energy per worker" is what defines at the end worker's productivity (via the level of automation, mechanization of his work). That's were the USA strong (or week, if you wish) point is -- it has the largest consumption of energy per capita in the world. If we normalize productivity via per capita energy consumption we will get a more interesting picture.

[Mar 25, 2017] Is productivity metric as problemtic as GDP?

Notable quotes:
"... The OECD defines it as "the ratio of a volume measure of output to a volume measure of input".] Volume measures of output are normally gross domestic product (GDP) or gross value added (GVA), expressed at constant prices i.e. adjusted for inflation. ..."
"... If you use GDP the result is suspect for the reasons GDP is suspect. If not, then it is sector/industry based metric. ..."
"... In this sense growth of GDP in 1990th is not only the result of technological changes (Internet, PCs, cell phones) but also looting of the xUSSR economies ..."
"... And as looting slowed down after 2000 growth of productivity also allowed down. ..."
"... One of the aspects of the idea of "secular stagnation" is that high oil prices hit neoliberal economies like a hammer and the period of high oil prices started to undermine neoliberal globalization by making shipping more expensive. ..."
"... BTW none of US shale companies is profitable. They are all up to the neck in debt, and their method of extracting oil includes generating a flow of junk bonds. If financing stops most of them will be bankrupt in one year period. ..."
Mar 24, 2017 | cepr.net

anne: March 24, 2017 at 05:21 AM

Marketplace Radio Has Not Heard About the Productivity Slowdown

Marketplace radio had a peculiar piece * asking what the world would have looked like if the North American Free Trade Agreement never had been signed. The piece is odd because it dismisses job concerns associated with NAFTA by telling readers that automation (i.e. productivity growth) has been far more important in costing jobs.

"As in, ATMs replacing bankers, robots displacing welders. Automation is a very old story that goes back 250 years, but it has really picked up in the last couple decades.

"'We economic developers have an old joke,' said Charles Hayes of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership in an interview with Marketplace in 2010. 'The manufacturing facility of the future will employ two people: one will be a man, and one will be a dog. And the man will be there to feed the dog. And the dog will be there to make sure the man doesn't touch the equipment.'

"Ouch. But it turns out technology replaced workers in the course of reporting this very story."

Actually, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us the opposite. Productivity growth did pick up from 1995 to 2005, rising back to its 1947 to 1973 Golden Age pace (a period of low unemployment and rapidly rising wages), but has slowed sharply in the last dozen years.

[Graph]

While more rapid productivity growth would allow for faster wage and overall economic growth, no one has a very clear path for raising the rate of productivity growth. It is strange that Marketplace thinks our problem is a too rapid pace of productivity growth.

The piece is right in saying that the jobs impact of NAFTA was relatively limited. Certainly trade with China displaced many more workers. NAFTA may nonetheless have had a negative impact on the wages of many manufacturing workers. It made the threat to move operations to Mexico far more credible and many employers took advantage of this opportunity ** to discourage workers from joining unions and to make wage concessions. It's surprising that the piece did not discuss this effect of NAFTA.

* https://www.marketplace.org/2017/03/23/economy/what-if-nafta-were-never-born

** http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=cbpubs

-- Dean Baker

anne said in reply to anne...

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=d6jh

November 1, 2014

Total Factor Productivity for United States, 1952-2014

(Percent Change)


https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=d7LU

November 1, 2014

Total Factor Productivity for United States, 1952-2014

(Indexed to 1952)

pgl said in reply to anne... March 24, 2017 at 06:01 AM

Thanks for the data. It confirms what Dean wrote here:

"the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us the opposite. Productivity growth did pick up from 1995 to 2005, rising back to its 1947 to 1973 Golden Age pace (a period of low unemployment and rapidly rising wages), but has slowed sharply in the last dozen years.

anne said in reply to pgl... March 24, 2017 at 06:10 AM

Looking internationally, I consider the evidence conclusive that productivity growth has slowed significantly since 2005 in countries that have had limited infrastructure development, regardless of the emphasis in those countries on information technology advance and application.

libezkova -> anne... March 25, 2017 at 09:33 AM

And what is productivity ?

== quote ==

The OECD defines it as "the ratio of a volume measure of output to a volume measure of input".] Volume measures of output are normally gross domestic product (GDP) or gross value added (GVA), expressed at constant prices i.e. adjusted for inflation.

== end of quote ==

If you use GDP the result is suspect for the reasons GDP is suspect. If not, then it is sector/industry based metric.

In this sense growth of GDP in 1990th is not only the result of technological changes (Internet, PCs, cell phones) but also looting of the xUSSR economies

And as looting slowed down after 2000 growth of productivity also allowed down.

libezkova -> libezkova... March 25, 2017 at 10:32 AM

Steve Keen pointed out that all production is driven by energy (mostly oil and electricity). And the energy comes ultimately from the sun.

Either it is turned into production via feeding workers, or by fueling machinery (by burning hydrocarbons or indirectly via electricity supply).

That means that growth of productivity is inversely correlated with the price of oil. As the period of cheap hydrocarbons ended (remember $.99 per gallon of gas in 90th) the period of rapid productivity growth ended as well.

One of the aspects of the idea of "secular stagnation" is that high oil prices hit neoliberal economies like a hammer and the period of high oil prices started to undermine neoliberal globalization by making shipping more expensive.

That also means that without continuation of low oil prices the next debt crisis (aka Minsky moment) is eminent for the USA economy.

BTW none of US shale companies is profitable. They are all up to the neck in debt, and their method of extracting oil includes generating a flow of junk bonds. If financing stops most of them will be bankrupt in one year period.

Obama clever game with Iran helped to produce "Obama recovery" due to the period of "normal" oil prices which started in mid 2015.

It probably can be extended for another year or two. What happens next is completely unknown territory. It is clear that the US shale is a card that was already played. It can't be played again as output probably can be substantially raised (say 2 Mbd/day) only with high or very high oil prices (as in above $70 or higher).

After "Obama recovery" (which depends on continuing low oil prices created by clever political maneuvering in Arab world -- Hail Mary pass that worked) we might well face the period of "elevated oil prices" and increased stagnation of the US economy with noticeably higher level of unemployment.

Much depends on Trump playing his trump card of "détente" with Russia which theoretically could extend this period (Russia has the same level of oil production as Saudis and more reserves), but there were to much sand thrown by neocons and DemoRats for this scenario to work. I thing Russia now is no longer interested in partnership with the USA on the basis of maintaining low oil prices -- like KSA today, and might cut output further to get higher oil prices which are vital for their economy. Of course Russia has strong neoliberal fifth column (including pro-western directors of oil companies and oligarchs who have their wealth transferred to Western banks) but even they are pissed off by the USA now.

DemoRats wiped up Anti-Russian hysteria to the level when even contact with Russian official can be a "career limiting move" in the USA.

This hysteria now has its own self-propagating dynamics and is difficult to stop. It might last for the same period of time as McCarthyism hysteria (roughly from 1947 to 1956).

"... "The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies - just as right-wing media polemicists did after both Bill Clinton and Obama were elected - that there are now millions of partisan soldiers absolutely convinced of a Trump/Russia conspiracy for which, at least as of now, there is no evidence. ..."

It put the Democrats and Republicans in sync as two equally warmongering parties, but what good that would bring for the American people and the world is hard to fathom.

The USA lost the possibility of switching personal car fleet to more economical hybrid models by adopting some drastic measures and now is less prepared for a new period of high oil prices. People are still buying SUV which became the most popular type of personal transportation in the USA, and small tracks.

On the electricity front there are some problems too. The looting of Russia and the flow of cheap uranium stopped. Building of high voltage East -West line necessary for substantial wind and solar production is still on the drawing board.

[Mar 25, 2017] Its Not Just Unfair: Inequality Is a Threat to Our Governance

Notable quotes:
"... As recognized since ancient times, the coexistence of very rich and very poor leads to two possibilities, neither a happy one. The rich can rule alone, disenfranchising or even enslaving the poor, or the poor can rise up and confiscate the wealth of the rich. The rich tend to see themselves as better than the poor, a proclivity that is enhanced and even socially sanctioned in modern meritocracies. The poor, with little prospect of economic improvement and no access to political power, "might turn to a demagogue who would overthrow the government - only to become a tyrant. Oligarchy or tyranny, economic inequality meant the end of the republic." ..."
"... Some constitutions were written to contain inequalities. In Rome, the patricians ruled, but could be overruled by plebeian tribunes whose role was to protect the poor. There are constitutions with lords and commoners in separate chambers, each with well-defined powers. Sitaraman calls these "class warfare constitutions," and argues that the founding fathers of the United States found another way, a republic of equals. The middle classes, who according to David Hume were obsessed neither with pleasure-seeking, as were the rich, nor with meeting basic necessities, as were the poor, and were thus amenable to reason, could be a firm basis for a republic run in the public interest. There is some sketchy evidence that income and wealth inequality was indeed low in the 18th century, but the crucial point is that early America was an agrarian society of cultivators with an open frontier. No one needed to be poor when land was available in the West. ..."
"... Jefferson was proud of his achievement in abolishing the entail and primogeniture in Virginia, writing the laws that "laid the ax to the root of Pseudoaristocracy." He called for progressive taxation and, like the other founders, feared that the inheritance of wealth would lead to the establishment of an aristocracy. ..."
"... Madison tried to calculate how long the frontier would last, and understood the threat to the Constitution that industrialization would bring; many of the founders thought of wage labor as little better than slavery and hoped that America could remain an agrarian society. ..."
"... In perhaps the most original part of his book, Sitaraman, an associate professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School, highlights the achievements of the Progressive movement, one of whose aims was taming inequality, and which successfully modified the Constitution. There were four constitutional amendments in seven years - the direct election of senators, the franchise for women, the prohibition of alcohol and the income tax. To which I would add another reform, the establishment of the Federal Reserve, which provided a mechanism for handling financial crises without the need for the government to be bailed out by rich bankers, as well as the reduction in the tariff, which favored ordinary people by bringing down the cost of manufactures. Politics can respond to inequality, and the Constitution is not set in stone. ..."
"... It's interesting that the language of inequality is the language of technocrats, however worthy. It's a way to talk about the politics without referring to Marxist or populist/labor traditions which often involve social movements. ..."
Mar 25, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com
anne : March 25, 2017 at 11:26 AM
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/books/review/crisis-of-the-middle-class-constitution-ganesh-sitaraman-.html

March 20, 2017

It's Not Just Unfair: Inequality Is a Threat to Our Governance
By ANGUS DEATON

THE CRISIS OF THE MIDDLE-CLASS CONSTITUTION
Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic
By Ganesh Sitaraman

President Obama labeled income inequality "the defining challenge of our time." But why exactly? And why "our time" especially? In part because we now know just how much goes to the very top of the income distribution, and beyond that, we know that recent economic growth, which has been anemic in any case, has accrued mostly to those who were already well-heeled, leaving stagnation or worse for many Americans. But why is this a problem?

Why am I hurt if Mark Zuckerberg develops Facebook, and gets rich on the proceeds? Some care about the unfairness of income inequality itself, some care about the loss of upward mobility and declining opportunities for our kids and some care about how people get rich - hard work and innovation are O.K., but theft, legal or otherwise, is not. Yet there is one threat of inequality that is widely feared, and that has been debated for thousands of years, which is that inequality can undermine governance. In his fine book, both history and call to arms, Ganesh Sitaraman argues that the contemporary explosion of inequality will destroy the American Constitution, which is and was premised on the existence of a large and thriving middle class. He has done us all a great service, taking an issue of overwhelming public importance, delving into its history, helping understand how our forebears handled it and building a platform to think about it today.

As recognized since ancient times, the coexistence of very rich and very poor leads to two possibilities, neither a happy one. The rich can rule alone, disenfranchising or even enslaving the poor, or the poor can rise up and confiscate the wealth of the rich. The rich tend to see themselves as better than the poor, a proclivity that is enhanced and even socially sanctioned in modern meritocracies. The poor, with little prospect of economic improvement and no access to political power, "might turn to a demagogue who would overthrow the government - only to become a tyrant. Oligarchy or tyranny, economic inequality meant the end of the republic."

Some constitutions were written to contain inequalities. In Rome, the patricians ruled, but could be overruled by plebeian tribunes whose role was to protect the poor. There are constitutions with lords and commoners in separate chambers, each with well-defined powers. Sitaraman calls these "class warfare constitutions," and argues that the founding fathers of the United States found another way, a republic of equals. The middle classes, who according to David Hume were obsessed neither with pleasure-seeking, as were the rich, nor with meeting basic necessities, as were the poor, and were thus amenable to reason, could be a firm basis for a republic run in the public interest. There is some sketchy evidence that income and wealth inequality was indeed low in the 18th century, but the crucial point is that early America was an agrarian society of cultivators with an open frontier. No one needed to be poor when land was available in the West.

The founders worried a good deal about people getting too rich. Jefferson was proud of his achievement in abolishing the entail and primogeniture in Virginia, writing the laws that "laid the ax to the root of Pseudoaristocracy." He called for progressive taxation and, like the other founders, feared that the inheritance of wealth would lead to the establishment of an aristocracy. (Contrast this with those today who simultaneously advocate both equality of opportunity and the abolition of estate taxes.) Madison tried to calculate how long the frontier would last, and understood the threat to the Constitution that industrialization would bring; many of the founders thought of wage labor as little better than slavery and hoped that America could remain an agrarian society.

Of course, the fears about industrialization were realized, and by the late 19th century, in the Gilded Age, income inequality had reached levels comparable to those we see today. In perhaps the most original part of his book, Sitaraman, an associate professor of law at Vanderbilt Law School, highlights the achievements of the Progressive movement, one of whose aims was taming inequality, and which successfully modified the Constitution. There were four constitutional amendments in seven years - the direct election of senators, the franchise for women, the prohibition of alcohol and the income tax. To which I would add another reform, the establishment of the Federal Reserve, which provided a mechanism for handling financial crises without the need for the government to be bailed out by rich bankers, as well as the reduction in the tariff, which favored ordinary people by bringing down the cost of manufactures. Politics can respond to inequality, and the Constitution is not set in stone.

What of today, when inequality is back in full force? ...

Angus Deaton, a professor emeritus at Princeton, was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2015.

anne -> anne... , March 25, 2017 at 11:26 AM
https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/6_casedeaton.pdf

March 17, 2017

Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century
By Anne Case and Angus Deaton

Summary

We build on and extend the findings in Case and Deaton (2015 * ) on increases in mortality and morbidity among white non-Hispanic Americans in midlife since the turn of the century.