Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dean Baker, Yog-Sothoth Professor of Political Economy at Miskatonic University, on the Washington Post and the Stimulus

Beat the Press Archive | The American Prospect: Given the quality of the economics reporting, parents would be well-advised to prohibit their children from reading the Washington Post so that they don't get confused on basic arithmetic concepts. The Post doesn't want more stimulus and is willing to say anything to push its case.

The lead editorial tells readers that: "government has managed to blunt the recession, but at a cost -- a higher national debt burden, which future Americans must pay off by working harder and saving more than they otherwise would have." Actually, future Americans will own the debt that will be paid off. This is not a generational issue, it can be a distributional one.

There is a point that some of the debt is held by foreigners. This will be a burden on the country, but the issue here is the trade deficit, not the budget deficit. If we had no government debt, but foreigners bought up $4 trillion of private capital in the United States, it would pose the same burden on future generations as if foreigners bought up $4 trillion of government debt. Remarkably, the Post is not concerned about the trade deficit and the burden it poses on future generations and actually does not want the cause of the deficit -- the over-valued dollar-- to be fixed.

The Post also gives the bizarre argument that:we should wait on further stimulus because "the government still hasn't run through half of the $787 billion in tax cuts and spending increases enacted this year." Of course, for those of us who passed our third grade arithmetic class this argument is just plain silly.

The stimulus is already being disbursed at its maximum rate and therefore having its full impact on the economy. The additional spending will provide no further boost.

To see this point, imagine my rich uncle promises to give me $2,400 over two years in installments of $100 a month. I may originally be slow to change my consumption, but after 3 or 4 months I will likely have fully adjusted my spending in accordance with this monthly gift of $100. Once I have reached the 8th month, I will almost certainly be at my maximum spending rate, even though two thirds of the gift is yet to come.

This is where we stand right now. We have spent close to 40 percent of the stimulus with more than 60 percent yet to come, however the rate of spending will not be increasing from this point forward. Therefore, it will provide no further net boost to the economy. People who write editorials for major newspapers should understand this fact.

It is worth noting that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections showing a 10.2 percent unemployment rate for 2010 and a 9.1 percent rate for 2011 include the impact of the stimulus. Perhaps the Post's editors know something that CBO doesn't, in which case they should share this information with their readers.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Miskatonic University Bulletin: Fall 2009

The leaves are turning here in Arkham, Massachusetts, as we welcome to his padded cell our new Dread Cthulhu Professor Health Policy, Thomas Levenson. Watch his mad ululations beneath the uncaring stars:

It’s not that McArdle can’t read... it’s that she can’t (won’t) think: part four (and last, thank FSM). « The Inverse Square Blog: OK, by now it’s clear that this is overkill.  One post by Megan McArdle does not need this kind of rant; it’s like using a howitzer to plink a tin can off a fence.  [For grotesque demonstration of my logorrhea problem, check out parts one, two, and three of this series]

But in some sense, all I’m doing is channelling my inner John Foster Dulles:  McArdle, and her ilk are not going away.  Sadly, no amount of day-by-day debunking seems able to evoke the kind of respect for their claimed craft that would produce even a smidgeon more care and honor in their ongoing attempt to write into reality their unexamined assumptions.  So, after Dulles, consider this a kind of blogospheric massive retaliation, an attempt to shock and awe the recalcitrant into the virtues of intellectual honesty.

Which brings us to one more thing that McArdle did not do in her attempt to recruit what she claims as the gold-standard of authority, the academic literature, to bolster her assertion that any attempt to control drug expenditures in the US medical system is tantamount to a pact to kill nice old people...

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Levenson R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!!