Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The annual gender wage gap data drop

Every year the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases data on the gender wage gap.  This year the data are broken down by state.  As reported by Jim Gallagher in the Post-Dispatch,
(t)he wage gap between men and women yawns wider in Missouri and Illinois than elsewhere, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The average full-time woman worker in Missouri made just 75 percent of the average man's earnings in 2010. Women in Illinois did a little better at 78 percent. The national average is 81 percent.

Gallagher is too smart to fall into the trap of saying that this gap shows how much discrimination there is against women. I wrote about this a while back when the gap was bigger. The explanations remain the same, although the numbers differ a little.

Sensible energy policy is bipartisan

In terms of science and economics, the argument in favor of fossil fuels over renewable energy is an extremely lopsided contest.  Here is a video of Robert Bryce's talk to my institute about this, and here is the paper associated with the talk.  Still, there are those who insist if we just throw enough taxpayer money at wind, solar, etc., the laws of physics (not to mention supply and demand) will be repealed.

It's heartening to see that there are prominent liberals who agree with Bryce that the argument in favor of fossil fuels is a humanist one in that their use is the best way to raise the well-being of the greatest number of people.  The head of the Brookings Institution's Energy Security Initiative is calling for democrats to "get real about U.S. energy policy."

What media bias?

The NY Times sums up its ideology with one headline: "Barney Frank, Moderate"

Monday, November 28, 2011

I nominate FOIA for a Nobel Peace Prize

The scientific argument that global warming is caused by human activity makes me queasy. As I explained earlier, much of this is due to the similarities between the much-ballyhooed computer models of the world's climate and computer models of the U.S. economy. But I don't claim to know much about the underlying science. 

The more worrying part of the debate is the tendency for warmists to obfuscate, shrilly denounce opposing views, and outright misrepresent and distort evidence. The latest trove of leaked emails reinforces these worries. The emails show some of the leading climate scientists scheming revenge against critics and deliberately hiding data from public view.  James Delingpole has been on top of things and sums it up:
If the case for man-made global warming is really as strong as the so-called consensus claims it is, why do the climategate emails show scientists attempting to stamp out dissenting points of view? Why must they manipulate data, such as Mr. Jones's infamous effort (revealed in the first batch of climategate emails) to "hide the decline," deliberately concealing an inconvenient divergence, post-1960, between real-world, observed temperature data and scientists' preferred proxies derived from analyzing tree rings?
This is the real significance of the climategate emails. They show that major scientists who inform the IPCC can't be trusted to stick to the science and avoid political activism. This, in turn, has very worrying implications for the major international policy decisions adopted on the basis of their research.

Higher education vs. something useful

There's an interesting discussion over at Instapundit about the relative values of higher education and learning a trade such as plumbing.  It's a rambling discussion that starts with the decision of the Chinese government to reduce subsidies to students studying for degrees in fields not particularly valued by the private sector, and ends with practical advice on why, how, and where to become trained in a skilled trade.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Looking a gift horse in the mouth

Instead of thanking our lucky stars that our peaceful friends to the north sit on billions upon billions of barrels of oil, we shun them. Other countries have wiser leaders when it comes to energy, so Canadian oil will go elsewhere. Walter Russell Mead sums up this travesty rather neatly
This is what bad energy policy looks like: as the US dithers over Canadian tar sands oil, China is ready to buy.  Access to reliable oil from a friendly neighboring country like Canada is one of America’s greatest geopolitical blessings.  Throwing this away would be the height of folly; those seem to be heights we are eager to scale.
Perhaps America’s profoundly dysfunctional and confused green movement will come to its senses as the reality that the US cannot stop Canadian tar sands development sinks in.  The question is not whether this oil will be produced; the question is whether the US will get direct benefits from it like geopolitical security and refining jobs.  It is not only in America’s interest to have this oil ourselves; it is in our interest for China to have to scramble for oil in sketchy, unstable places while US crude comes from safe and convenient ones.

Debunking the Supercommittee spin

Charles Krauthammer debunks the nutty claim that the not-so-Supercommittee failed because of GOP intransigence over taxes.  The claim is just factually incorrect in that Sen. Toomey proposed a large tax increase that would have fallen on those with high incomes.

Krauthammer thinks that Democrats are just thick: "Let me offer a more benign explanation: thickheadedness. Democrats simply can't tell the difference between tax revenues and tax rates."

I'm sure that this explains some of the post-failure spinning, but I think there is a lot of willfull ignorance.  Many on the left just don't care about the difference between marginal and average rates because their objective is punishment, not revenue.  Quite frankly, they are happy to crush economic growth because they want the rich to have less even if it means that the rest of us have less also.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Private investors beat government investors again

Thanks to private investment in oil and gas production, some parts of the U.S. economy are booming.  Areas that have recieved government green-energy investment, not so much.
The ironies here are richer than the shale deposits in North Dakota's Bakken formation. While Washington has tried to force-feed renewable energy with tens of billions in special subsidies, oil and gas production has boomed thanks to private investment. And while renewable technology breakthroughs never seem to arrive, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have revolutionized oil and gas extraction—with no Energy Department loan guarantees needed.

Some good news for a change

Perhaps there's reason for hope for our culture and society, after all: Charlie Brown beats Lady Gaga in Thanksgiving ratings

Milton Friedman on inequality

Mark Perry at Carpe Diem has posted three great clips of Milton Friedman addressing questions of inequality. The first economics class I ever took featured episodes of Friedman's PBS series "Free to Choose" and John Kenneth Galbraith's series "Age of Uncertainty".  Friedman's clarity and logical consistency was a breath of fresh air next to Galbraith's self-satisfied bloviating.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gibson Guitar ganged up on by an unlikely alliance

According to Kim Strassel, Gibson Guitar has been caught in a web of protectionism wrapped inside a wrapper of misguided and aggressive environmentalism.

Union thugs at the NLRB

The National Labor Relations Board has become an arm of unions instead of the neutral arbiter of labor issues it is meant to be.  The two Democratic appointees have a short amount of time until their recess appointment expire, so they're cramming as much through as possible, without telling the Republican member until after actions are approved.

Corporate welfare for dairy farmers

Beware industries seeking to have their prices regulated to ensure "stability". The dairy industry is currently asking for government help to prevent swings in their profits.  Of course, they only want to smooth out down swings (having taxpayers and consumers pick up the tab) while keeping all profits from upswings for themselves.  The story is in today's WSJ

Thursday, November 24, 2011

More Climategate 2.0

The distinct odor of scam continues to emanate from the climate science community.  David Appell does a good job of sorting through the latest emails from the University of East Anglia. He's absolutely correct that even the most innocuous email can be taken out of context. As he puts it, "(e)ven trying to guess at the context and keeping it in mind, some of these excerpts are inexplicable. Some seem innocuous. Others seem just scientists being people, gabbing and gossiping and blowing off steam the way we all do."  That said, here are three that seem especially damning about the honesty and integrity of some of the leading climate scientists:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Climategate 2.0

I've always been very suspicious of the claim that there is scientific consensus about global warming being caused by human activity.  Those making the claim have become increasingly shrill in declaring it, which made me even more suspicious.  In addition, there was far too much blatant lying and misrepresentation over the years.  Underlying all of that, however, there are serious scientists working earnestly on the topic, which is good.  But the fact of the matter is that there is not a scientific consensus.  There might be a significant majority of scientists (however that group is defined) who believe it, but that's far from the same thing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's the government and we're here to help!

William McGurn has an interesting and maddening story in today's Wall Street Journal about the decision by New Jersey to classify soup kitchens as a retail restaurants. (Yes, when I say "soup kitchen" I mean a place that gives out free food and is supported by volunteers and private donations.)  As a result of this new classification, the soup kitchen in Morristown, NJ, must comply with the same regulations as restaurants, increasing its costs by $150,000 per year (how many meals would that money have provided?).  It also means a ban on donations of home-cooked food (no home-made apple pie for you!). The McGurn article is available only to subscribers, so here's a column about the Morristown soup kitchen and its travails.

Pathetic spinning of pathetic GDP numbers

New estimates of annualized real GDP show third quarter real growth of 2%.  This is a downward revision of the advance estimate, which pegged real growth for the third quarter at 2.5%.  For reference, here are records of the Obama Recovery of 2009-11 and the Reagan Recovery of 1982-84 for the first 9 months of positive real growth.

Advice for economics graduate students

In the many years since I finished my graduate studies, I have dispensed a lot of advice to my students and others about pursuing a PhD in economics. My reflexive answer has almost always been "Don't!", usually followed with "Why on earth would you want to do that?"  This is my little way to help them to think really hard about it and to find out what it actually entails.  For example, back in 1984 I was extremely surprised to discover that an undergraduate degree in economics was practically useless for pursuing a PhD in economics.  If anything, this situation is even worse than it was then.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Congressional insider trading

Professor Bainbridge has taken a look at the STOCK Act, which is meant to ban members of Congress and their staff from profiting from inside information they obtain as part of their jobs.  Laws such as this are always tricky, but he finds this one to be unsatisfactory.  Warning: This one gets pretty lawyery.

Do economists agree on anything?

It is often said that economists have a hard time agreeing on anything.  In my experience, this is true to some extent when you get into the details of economic policy, but that there still tends to be broad agreement on a lot of issues.  The most commonly cited examples of this are the benefits of free trade and that the minimum wage harms the employment prospects of the less-skilled.  

When these agreements do occur, it is usually difficult to find out about them through the media.  This is partly because of the liberal bias of the media, partly because journalists never got past introductory economics in college, and partly because journalist are trained to write about both sides of an argument. The result is a muddle of information without a clear idea about what economists tend to think about important economic policy issues. 

There is a new web site hosted by the University of Chicago that has the potential to sort through this muddle.  An "economics experts panel" has been assembled as representative of the range of views among prominent economists.  A different question is posed to the panel each week and their responses are compiled into a nice histogram to show the distribution of views.  Panelists can also give comments for their responses, as well as express how confident they are in their view.  

Several of the questions were very poorly constructed (especially this one), which can make it difficult to agree or disagree with a statement in its entirety.  Even so, the site has the potential to become a very useful resource.

For example, on a topic of the day, tax reform, only 5% of the experts disagreed with the claim that "Eliminating tax deductions for non-investment personal interest expenses (e.g., on mortgages), with reductions in personal tax rates that are both budget neutral and keep the burden of taxes by income group the same, would lead to more efficient financing decisions by individuals."

Also, none of them thought that the Fed's Operation Twist would be very effective  Specifically, none agreed with the statement that "All else equal, the Fed's new plan to increase the maturity of its Treasury holdings will boost expected real GDP growth for calendar year 2012 by at least one percentage point."  However, the wording of this statement is such that someone who thought that the effect will be zero would provide the same answer as someone who thought the effect will be an increase of 90 basis points in growth.

Is there an echo in here?

John Steele Gordon has a piece making the same point I made in my previous post: Get rid of deductions and lower the marginal tax rates.  Decisions are made at the margin and if the next dollar earned is taxed at a higher rate, there is less incentive to earn it.  He makes the additional point that high marginal rates lead to rent-seeking and that this ends up greatly reducing the progressiveness of the tax code:
In other words, the higher the marginal rate, the more lobbying for new loopholes goes on to prevent those high rates from actually being collected. And the more tax accountants and lawyers scour the endless depths of the tax code to figure out how to structure tax avoidance schemes that will be at least arguably legal.
And the rich have much more political influence than the not-so-rich. Do you think you could get your congressman or senator on the phone in ten minutes flat? I doubt I could. Do you think Warren Buffett could? See what I mean?

It's not about the revenue, it's about the punishment

Michael Barone has an interesting outline of how to raise tax revenue from the rich (and raising their average tax rate) without destroying the economy with high marginal tax rates: limit their deductions.  Although proposals like these were made by Republicans on the Supercommittee, they were rejected because the Democrats want high marginal tax rates rather than revenue.

Recall this telling exchange between then-Presidential candidate Obama and Charlie Gibson on ABC News: 
GIBSON: And in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased; the government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down.
So why raise it at all, especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?
OBAMA: Well, Charlie, what I've said is that I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.
We saw an article today which showed that the top 50 hedge fund managers made $29 billion last year -- $29 billion for 50 individuals. And part of what has happened is that those who are able to work the stock market and amass huge fortunes on capital gains are paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries. That's not fair.

Alternative energy vs. Keystone XL

The President has chosen wind and solar power to fuel the U.S. economy, and has worked hard to rid us of fossil fuels.  He has used uneconomic cronyism (Solyndra, etc.), regulatory subterfuge (Gulf moratorium, etc.), and cowardly electioneering (Keystone XL).

Robert Bryce has a thorough smackdown of the President's energy choices.
One pipeline — one pipeline! — would have delivered 46 percent more energy than all the solar panels and wind turbines did last year.
"But what about the future?" you might ask. "The future is wind and solar and we're about to turn the corner and become a green-energy utopia."  Not by a long shot. 
Whenever you hear that claim, recall the numbers above: In 2009, production from all geothermal, wind, and solar sources amounted to 1.25 percent of American energy while oil provided 37 percent — the exact same percentage as it did way back in 1949.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

As it turns out, we can wait

Charles Krauthammer is not impressed with the Obama Administration's economic record:
His near-$1 trillion stimulus begat a stagnant economy with 9 percent unemployment. His attempt at Wall Street reform left in place a still-too-big-to-fail financial system, as vulnerable today as when he came into office. His green-energy fantasies yielded Solyndra cronyism and a cap-and-trade regime not even a Democratic Congress would pass.
Krauthammer finds the delay of the Keystone XL pipeline as just another example of the President putting the election calendar trumping the national interest.  Despite the President's cries of "We can't wait", we are told that we must wait until after the election for him to decide on a policy that would be an economic bonanza with only ginned up environmental problems.

Tax obsession and the Supercommittee

It looks less and less likely that the Congressional Supercommittee will agree on a deficit-cutting plan.  James Pethokoukis places the blame on "tax-obsessed" Democrats:
Yet Democrats used the SuperCommittee to push a trillion-dollar tax hike and block fundamental entitlement reform. As one GOP aide told Politico, “If they were willing to go a little further on entitlements, we’d see what we can do on revenues. That was the way it would have to work. What we found was, they needed a trillion-plus in revenues, and weren’t willing to do anywhere near that on entitlements.”
As I have been saying for months, Pethokoukis concludes that
(i)f Uncle Sam does need more revenue, pro-growth tax reform is the best way to get it. A host of studies from both liberal and conservative economists have found that eliminating the tax code’s bias against investment would boost long-term GDP growth by as much as 10 percent and add perhaps a full percentage point to annual GDP growth for a number of years.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Balanced budget amendment

The country will suffer mightily if the federal  government continues to be unable (or is it unwilling?) to operate with even a modicum of fiscal sanity.  But a balanced budget amendment is not the way to go because fiscal sanity is not the same as a balanced budget.  Dave Nicklaus has an interesting take on the analogy of the family budget.

Personally, I don't believe the doomsday scenario depicted by Nicklaus because it seems based on an immediate implementation of such a budget rather than it being phased in.  But I think he's right that "(a) vote against this amendment is not a vote for profligacy, it's a vote for common sense."  I certainly agree that Congress and the President need to be reigned in, but this is too blunt and ham-fisted.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Next time use your own money

Energy Secretary Steven Chu testified before Congress and said he doesn't see anything fishy with the Solyndra loan. He also doesn't see incompetence.


The Congressional Budget Office is the official scorekeeper for fiscal policy at the Federal level.  During testimony this week, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said that the President's much-vaunted (by himself, at least) stimulus from 2009 will be a drag on the economy in the long run.  As Peter Suderman puts it,
even the mildly Keynesian congressional scorekeeper agrees that borrowing $800 billion dollars ultimately creates a drag on the economy and a net loss in economic performance relative to what otherwise might have been. And yet the administration went ahead with the legislation anyway, arguing that it would be more or less a free lunch in the long run. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Who are you calling lazy?

The President, who seems to find us unworthy of his governance, recently told Asian leaders that the United States has been lazy when it comes to attracting foreign investment.  The statement is factually incorrect in that the country has been very successful in attracting foreign capital.  How else could we finance our twin deficits?  More to the point, it is the Obama administration that has been openly hostile to foreign investment, as well as practically any private-sector investment.  The IBD calls the President on this one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Public policymaking and personal profiteering

I suspect that this will fail, as have previous attempts, but "Sens. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., today are introducing the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act of 2011, which would prohibit members or employees of Congress, as well as executive branch employees, from using nonpublic information obtained through their public service for investing or any attempt at personal financial gain."

You might be surprised to find out that Congress has conveniently exempted its members from insider-trading rules that would prevent them from profiting financially from the information they obtain as part of their jobs.  Recent studies coauthored by my Lindenwood colleague Jim Boyd (here and here) have shown that Senators and members of the House of Representatives are surpisingly adept at personal financial matters.  Hmmm.  Might there be a connection?

Good enough for government work

Firing Incompetent Employees 'Would Harm The Agency’s Work,’ SEC Chief Says

Chicago Teachers Union President Mocks Arne Duncan, Jokes About Smoking Pot -- With Kids in the Audience.  She also made fun of his lisp.

If politicians run a business,

it will be run for political purposes. According to emails, the Dept. of Energy interfered with the timing of layoff announcements at Solyndra. According to one email:
They did push very hard for us to hold our announcement of the consolidation to employees and vendors to Nov. 3rd – oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.
By complete coincidence, November 2, 2010 was the date of the mid-term elections.

Government as entrepreneur

Solyndra is only the most recent in a long line of white elephants and failed energy ventures that the private sector would not have touched with a ten foot pole, but which the Federal government was willing to jump in feet first.  President Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu should be forced to put some of their own money into any venture that they think is deserving of taxpayer money.

"My dog ate the recovery"

As the Obama recovery continues along its pathetic way, you will continue to hear various excuses.  Tom Blumer has a handy reference for three of them.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More supercommittee supershenanigans

The Democrats on the supercommittee just can't keep their hands out of our pockets.

Robert Bryce to the rescue

I had the misfortune to read Paul Krugman's recent column about solar energy and hydraulic fracturing.  I had been hoping that this would be one of those times that Krugman the sane economist would reappear, but my hopes were dashed.  Yes, this is two posts in a row about my naive and stupid hopes being dashed.  At any rate, as I was reading Krugman's column, I thought of Robert Bryce, who visited my institute last month and gave a great talk about the future of energy.  I was hoping that he would give Krugman a well-deserved intellectual thrashing.  This time, my hopes were realized:  Bryce wrote yesterday that Krugman "displays an astounding disinterest in numbers and woeful ignorance of the facts."  Needless to say, Bryce, who spends a lot of time thinking deeply about these things, can actually speak intelligently about solar energy and hydraulic fracturing. Read the whole thing.


Initially, I had relatively high hopes that the Congressional supercommittee would be able to overcome political hurdles and come up with a worthwhile tax-reform plan.  (I was hoping for it because I don't see any other way to escape from the Obama recovery.)  Such a plan would lower marginal rates while eliminating deductions and has significant bipartisan support (intellectually if not politically).  Yesterday, such a plan was put on the table by Republican members of the supercommittee and was rejected out of hand by Democrats because it didn't raise marginal tax rates on the rich.  This is despite the fact that the plan would have added billions in coveted tax revenue (mostly from the rich), even under static scoring, which doesn't account for the higher growth that would result from such a plan.  Apparently, success in the supercommittee would mean the death of the President's contrived meme about Republican obstructionism, on which he is basing his entire campaign.

I think it's become pretty clear that everything that happens in the Administration and in Congress is about the 2012 election, regardless of the effect that it has on the country as a whole.  How's that Hope and Change going now?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On the subject of Lindenwood....

Here's a video tour of campus that I put together from pictures my kids and I took. It's pretty slick.

Lindenwood to receive an award

I often have taken the opportunity to brag about my employer, Lindenwood University, as being a great place to work and for its forward-looking business school.  Although such bragging looks a lot like blatant sucking up, anyone I have worked for can confirm that sucking up is not exactly my style.  So, I will again take the opportunity to brag about Lindenwood and an award it's receiving for its "meaningful business contributions and positive impact the community."  The criteria for the award fit the university to a tee:
Criteria for the award included organizational stability and progress, fiscal solvency, community investment, leadership in industry, and sustainable efforts. Other areas included commitment to corporate citizenship and economic impact.

Advice from Lord Keynes to the President

I have often complained that, regardless of the merits of health-care reform, environmental regulations, and the myriad of "reforms" put in place by the Obama administration, doing so while the economy is recovering from a massive recession is simply a bad idea.  It turns out that I'm more of a Keynesian than I thought and that the President isn't enough of one.  Greg Mankiw has a post describing a letter by John Maynard Keynes to FDR in 1933.  Here is the key quote:
(E)ven wise and necessary Reform may, in some respects, impede and complicate Recovery. For it will upset the confidence of the business world and weaken their existing motives to action, before you have had time to put other motives in their place.

"We screwed up the U.S. economy"

Well, he's not the only one, but this NLRB lawyer seems pretty proud of it

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"Now is the time to put country before party"

On many occasions, the President has urged Republicans to put their country before their party, and he did so once again yesterday.  On an entirely unrelated topic, the President has delayed the decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the election so as to avoid alienating organized labor or environmentalists, who are on opposite sides of the issue.  Because of the delay, the Chinese might step in and build a pipeline to the west coast of Canada so that oil can be exported across the Pacific instead of to the United States.

Reality check for the President

It's a sure sign of desperation is when you have to campaign on what didn't happen, especially when you had nothing to do with it not happening and it might not have happened anyway.  The President said yesterday that his adminstration was "able to prevent America from going into a Great Depression."  A more-accurate statement is that he enacted his stimulus plan after the Fed had already put into place the policies to halt the downward slide.  As I outlined in a post about a month ago, he doesn't own the recession or the halting of the slide, but he does own the recovery.

He also took credit for "health insurance reform, Wall Street reform, end(ing) 'don't ask, don't tell,' end(ing) the war in Iraq -- the list goes on."  The first two of these are behind the dismal state of the Obama recovery, while the last one was in no way the result of anything the current President did.  The rest of the list is more like the first two items. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Supercommittee supershenanigans

Stephen Moore has peak inside the goings on of the deficit-reduction committee.  According to Moore, the Democrats on the committee are being less than serious in the pursuit of deficit reduction by far offering tricks and shenanigans instead of actual spending cuts.  For one, "Democrats want to count the $900 billion of discretionary spending cuts already agreed to in the debt bill and $1 trillion in troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and Iraq."  Nonetheless, Moore also reports possible common ground on some sort of personal income tax reform that will lower rates (or make the Bush tax rates permanent) in exchange for eliminating some deductions, and changes to corporate taxes which would do something similar.

Common ground on Wall Street

It turns out that the hippies of Occupy Wall Street have something in common with the editors of the Wall Street Journal.  One of the demands of OWS (keeping in mind the difficulty in nailing down the substance of the protests) is an end to corporate welfare.  I suspect that the protesters would be surprised to know that, on this point at least, they are aligned with free-market economists and the WSJ editors.  Many people equate free-market economics with policies to help corporations, and business in general.  This is a grossly mistaken view because a free marketeer does not necessarily favor business interests, although he or she is certainly not anti-business, or, for that matter, not anti any economic category. 

Green protectionism and unmitigated gall

Add this to the long list of green-economy absurdities:  A group of subsidized U.S. solar equipment manufacturers has filed a petition with the International Trade Commision claiming damages from subsidized foreign competitors. Of course, President Obama has expressed his support.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Anarchists for statism

Mark Steyn sums up the OWS protesters (with particular attention to those in Oakland):
They’re anarchists for statism, wild free-spirited youth demanding more and more total government control of every aspect of life — just so long as it respects the fundamental human right to sloth.

Friday, November 4, 2011

More unrelated posts

Word of the day: Incompetent

The President keeps flogging his dead mule of a jobs program, despite its utter and bipartisan political failure and its certainty of economic failure.

Payrolls rose by 80,000 in October and the unemployment rate was 9% for the month. 

Dithering over the Keystone XL pipeline while China stands ready to accept Canadian oil.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

20 years of gadgets

Walter Mossberg, the excellent personal technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal, takes a trip down memory lane, looking at the devices and services he's reviewed the past 20 years.  Here's the video version:

Computing power and cost over time

Here's a cool chart at Popular Science that compares the computing power and prices for various types of devices since the 1930s.  For example,
  • your new smartphone is roughly as fast as a minicomputer or server of 1990, and costs $200 rather than hundred of thousands or millions of dollars.
  • at a cost of $499, your iPad2 is faster than anything that existed prior to 1994.
  • a Dell Latitude PC priced at about $2,000 today is faster than anything made prior to 2002, including a Compaq Wildfire server priced at $1.25 million.

Dealing with the ineptocracy

Under a system of ineptocracy, measures like the Honest Budget Act become necessary. Because there is no sense of shame in government (and little oversight from the fourth estate), we need laws to prevent budget gimmicks such as counting ten years of revenue and only five years of cost to claim a deficit reduction, counting spending that was never going to occur as a spending reduction, or declaring regular spending to be emergency spending.

Three unrelated posts

A new word, "ineptocracy".

"Forget hope and change. President Obama’s reelection campaign is going to be based on fear and loathing: fear of what a Republican takeover would mean, and loathing of whomever the Republican nominee turns out to be."

Inequality booms under President Obama.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Price ceilings can kill

I've read a few articles in the press about the growing number of drug shortages in the U.S.  What these articles lacked were basic attempts at explaining the causes of the shortages.  Being an economist, I couldn't help but suspect that they were due to government meddling in the prescription drug market, but I didn't know any details.  Today's Wall Street Journal finally provides the explanation: price ceilings.  True to form, the New York Times thinks the problem is too little meddling.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

State tax credits don't work as intended

The Show-Me Institute has published a paper of mine that surveys the academic evidence on the effects of state tax credits. The paper, "Tax Credits as a Tool of State Economic Development Policy," finds that

The fierce urgency of climate change

Whatever happened to the promise to cool the planet and lower the rising seas?  Victor David Hanson thinks that the global warming craze has jumped the shark largely because of the actions of those who were crazed. 

It's not the environment or the economy, it's both

Here's my colleague (and the founder of the ISEE) Ken Chilton talking about the links between energy, the environment, and the economy. There's also some nice footage of the Lindenwood campus.

The long and the short of it

Richard Epstein on the shortsightedness of Keynesianism.  He criticizes those who think we should worry about long-term growth only once we overcome our short run difficulties. 
The only way to fix the short-term unemployment problem is by fixing the long-term issues that have fallen into treacherous disrepair over the past decade. Several long-term issues that must be fixed include, for starters, minimum wage legislation, unionization, and employer health-care mandates. Then, once we get an improved business environment, investors and employers will come off the sidelines and start investing and hiring. But without that change, prudent investors will shy away from productive ventures, preferring to hoard their money in treasury bills. The longer we wait to implement these overdue reforms, the more delayed the recovery will be. Here are four reasons why the left’s two-part strategy of stimulus now, and (maybe) reform later is doomed to fail.

The damage that has been wrought

John Taylor runs down the decline of American economic leadership, particularly in the wake of the failed fiscal madness of the last few years. 
As the U.S. has moved away from the principles of economic freedom—instead promoting short-term fiscal and monetary interventionism with more federal government regulations—its leadership has declined. Some, even in the U.S., may cheer the decline, but it is not good for the world or for the U.S.