Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, August 7, 2014 8:31 pm

“With the ACA we have placed a lot of bets.”

Berkeley economist Brad DeLong offers 10 big-picture thoughts on the Affordable Care Act’s history, politics, and performance to date. It’s smart, it’s easy to understand, and, to my eye, it’s 100 percent right — even the parts where he criticizes President Obama.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 7:37 pm

What if?, U.S. “presidents” edition

From Brad DeLong’s 10-year-old archives, a fascinating alternative history by his brother, Chris, based on the notion that instead of taking the late-18th-century British Constitution, “dry-cleaned, brushed, and patched,” and adopting it, the Framers in 1787 instead adopted the Imperial Roman practice in which each Emperor “‘adopted’ the leading military politician of the next generation as his successor.” Oddly enough, for the most part we’d’ve been OK, it seems, although we still would’ve been screwed in the mid-19th century — Lincoln certainly did better than any career military man of the time could have, and we still ended up with 600,000 dead — and might well have been screwed during the Depression and the ’80s as well. YMMV, of course.

Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:18 pm

Stressing the country out; or, Tim Geithner should have been fired about umpty-‘leven years ago

Tim Geithner, the guy President Obama inexplicably put in charge of the bank bailouts, has a new book out called “Stress Test.” (The term derives from the laughably phony “tests” endangered large banks were put through to see whether they had so many crap assets on their books that they needed to be liquidated; the fix was in, so not one large bank was broken apart of liquidated. Instead, we gave them bazillions of taxpayers’ dollars which they spent on bonuses for themselves instead of lending money to businesses to create jobs.)

The consensus seems to be — unsurprisingly, to me — that it sucks. Particularly, it’s incoherent where it’s not downright dishonest. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth rounds up some of the responses:

Glenn Hubbard:

About housing… I must say I split my side in laughter because Tim Geithner personally and actively opposed mortgage refinancing…. And now he’s claiming this would be a great idea…

David Dayen:

The guy who handed hundreds of billions of dollars over to banks with basically no strings attached [was] suddenly worried about fairness when homeowners get a break on their mortgage payments…. Even as he says in the book “I wish we had expanded our housing programs earlier,” he completely contradicts that to Andrew Ross Sorkin, saying [that his own] statement is “unicorny”…

Amir Sufi and Atif Mian:

Multiplying $700 billion by 0.18 gives us a spending boost to the economy in 2009 of $126 billion, which is 1.3% of PCE, 10 times larger than the estimate Secretary Geithner asserted in his book. So Mr. Geithner is off by an order of magnitude…

Economist Brad DeLong concludes:

In the “real world” Geithner did have full control over the GSEs and the FHA–because Paulson nationalized them in the summer of 2008.

In the “real world” Geithner submits his recommendation that Glenn Hubbard be nominated as head of the FHFA to President Obama on January 21, 2009, it is approved by the senate in February 2009, and thereafter there are no constraints on technocratic use of FHFA and the GSEs to rebalance the housing sector and aggregate demand.

Geithner should not say “I wanted the FHFA to act but I did not have the authority to get the FHFA to act” and at the same time say “having the FHFA act would have made no difference”; Geithner should to say “you cannot blame me because of the constraints” when we know that it was his own actions and inactions made those constraints.

Look: Tim Geithner did much better as a 2009-2010 finance minister than any of his peers. Look: the stress tests worked, and worked very well. (I disagree — Lex.) Look: Christina Romer and company say that if you need a bank rescued in 48 hours, Tim Geithner is your man. But the purpose of Stress Test is to explain to us what Tim Geithner thought and why he thought it, and thus why he did what he did.

And in Stress Test, on housing policy, he doesn’t.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 6:56 am

Tradition Projection, plus a footnote

Berkeley economist Brad DeLong includes in his blog a valuable daily feature, “Liveblogging World War II.” This is the installment from May 8, 1943 — two years to the day before the war in Europe ended — written by the Nazis’ propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. The level of projection is mind-boggling, as if Goebbels had consumed magic mushrooms, but it’s also a reminder that there’s a boatload of projection, differing only in scale but not in type, in today’s political dialogue, and that, no, both sides don’t do it.

The War and the Jews

The naivete, not to mention ignorance, with which certain European circles see the Jewish Question in the fourth year of this gigantic struggle is astonishing. They cannot or will not see that this war is a war of the Jewish race and its subject people against Western culture and civilization. Everything that we Germans and Europeans, defenders of the principle of a moral world order, hold dear is at risk. The above-mentioned circles are too inclined to see the Jewish Question as a humanitarian issue. They make their judgments on the feelings of the moment rather than on the knowledge and insight resulting from clear and calm reason.

It is clear that if during this war we show the least weakening of our determination to resolve the Jewish Question, the result will be the gravest danger to our people and Reich and all of Europe.

Jewry wanted this war. Whether one looks to the plutocratic or the bolshevist side of the enemy camp, one sees Jews standing in the foreground as instigators, rabble-rousers and slave drivers. They organize the enemy’s war economy and encourage plans to exterminate and destroy the Axis powers. England and the USA recruit from among them bloodthirsty and vengeful agitators and political lunatics, and they are the source of the terror commissars of the GPU. They are the mortar that holds the enemy coalition together.

In the National Socialist Reich, they see a power that resists their drive for world domination both militarily and intellectually. That explains their rage and deep hatred. Do not think that the Old Testament tirades of their newspapers and radio are merely political propaganda. They would carry it all out to the letter, should they have the opportunity.

Our state’s security requires that we take whatever measures seem necessary to protect the German community from their threat. That leads to some difficult decisions, but they are unavoidable if we are to deal with the threat. This war is a racial war. The Jews started it and they direct it. Their goal to destroy and exterminate our people. We are the only force standing between Jewry and world domination. If the Axis powers lose the war in Europe, no power on earth could save Europe from the Jewish-Bolshevist flood.

It may seem surprising that such a small minority possesses such great power and is such a deadly danger. But it is so. International Jewry uses certain criminal methods to gain world domination that are not evident to uneducated nations. The same is true in private life. The Jews do not enjoy economic success because they are more intelligent than non-Jews, but rather because they follow a different moral code. They attempt to conceal their methods for as long as possible, until it is too late for the affected nation to defend itself. Then it takes a revolution to dislodge them. We know how difficult and tiresome that is.

We constantly hear news that anti-Semitism is increasing in enemy nations. The charges being made against the Jews are the same ones that were made here. Anti-Semitism in enemy nations is not the result of anti-Semitic propaganda, since Jewry fights that strongly. In the Soviet Union, it receives the death penalty. Jewry does all it can to oppose anti-Semitism. The word Jew itself, for example, is hardly to be found in the otherwise so talkative English and USA newspapers, not to mention the Bolshevist press. Still, anti-Jewish attitudes are growing among the enemy public. This is an entirely natural reaction to the Jewish danger on the part of the affected peoples. In the long run, it does the Jews no good to plead in parliament and the newspapers for tougher laws against anti-Semitism, or to haul out the highest secular and spiritual dignitaries, among them naturally the Archbishop of Canterbury, to say a good word for the poor innocent persecuted Jews. They did that in Germany before 1933 too, but the National Socialist revolution took place nonetheless.

None of the Führer’s prophetic words has come so inevitably true as his prediction that if Jewry succeeded in provoking a second world war, the result would be not the destruction of the Aryan race, but rather the wiping out of the Jewish race. This process is of vast importance, and will have unforeseeable consequences that will require time. But it can no longer be halted. It must only be guided in the right direction. One must also be sure to strike the weapon of public deception from Jewry’s hands, which it is desperately using to save its skin. One can already see that in the face of approaching catastrophe the Jews are shrinking into the background. They send their pet Goy to the fore. It will not be long before they will not want to do it any longer, and wash their hands in innocence.

As one has to grant, we have some experience in these matters, and are taking action to be sure they do not succeed. The Jews will have to answer for their countless crimes against the happiness and peace of mankind, and one day the whole world will give them the penalty that they are suffering today in Germany. We speak without resentment. The time is too grave to spin naive plans of revenge. This is a world problem of the first order that can be solved by the present generation, and must be solved by them. Sentimental considerations have no part here. We see Jewry as the embodiment of a general world decline. Either we will break this danger, or the peoples of the world will break under it.

No one should say that winners are boastful. At present, we are the victors only in our own nation. Our victory at home, however, drew upon us the diabolic hatred of World Jewry, whose advance members the Jews still with us see themselves as. They want to see the Axis powers defeated, for that is the only way for them to regain their old privileges. It makes sense for us to secure our rear so that we can continue the battle before us with full energy and enthusiasm.

When dealing with the Jews there are only two choices: to surrender to them or to fight them. We have chosen the latter. As our enemy attacks without mercy, so do we. The future will prove who is right. Developments to far, however, seem to be more in our favor than the enemy’s. Opposition to the Jews, not friendship with them, is growing around the world. We are convinced that at the end of the war, Jewry will face a humanity that fully understands the Jewish Question.

Recently a leading London newspaper, which is wholly under Jewish control, printed an article that wondered at the alarming increase in anti-Semitism. It received many letters in response, and had to admit that only a tiny percentage took the Jewish side. The pro-Semitic letters, though the newspaper did not say this, probably were written by the Jews themselves. The others made the strongest attacks on Jewry, and the readership forced the paper to print some of them. They included all the insults one could hope for. This anti-Semitism is not racially grounded, and its roots are not at all clear, but one may still establish with some satisfaction that healthy popular instincts are beginning to manifest themselves even in enemy nations, Things are not much different in the United States. One of the letters encouraged the newspaper to send reporters to streetcars and trains. There they would hear numerous opinions about the Jews that deserved more than ironic dismissal.

That is the way it normally begins. The Jews in England are reacting in the usual ways. First they look injured and unjustly persecuted. In the synagogues, the rabbis encourage people to be more careful in public, and to avoid provocative behavior. Then they rent a few respected, but buyable leaders from society, business or religious life to make their case. Their well-paid job is to condemn anti-Semitism as a cultural disgrace that is the result of enemy propaganda. They call for stronger laws against it. The poor Jews whine in public about everything they have done for the country, what wonderful and patriotic citizens they have always been and will continue to be, the important offices they hold, etc. The innocent citizen is persuaded by a flood of words that he must have been mistaken in always seeing Jews behind all major political or economic crimes. Soon they find some high church leader who is ready to condemn anti-Semitism as anti-Christian. By the end, not the Jews, but their enemies are responsible for every national misfortune. Then the game starts all over again.

One has to grant that extraordinarily clever tactics are being used, and that it takes some intelligence or sound instincts to see behind the Jewish facade. But here, too, the jug carries water until it breaks. International Jewry’s attack on the culture and moral order of the world is cleverly concealed, but not cleverly enough so that it cannot be seen through. One must keep at their heels, and give them no rest when they begin to tire. They are virtuosos at the art of transformation. They can appear in a thousand forms, yet are always the same. If one has caught them, they claim injured innocence and send their guard of pity on ahead to beg for mercy. But if one extends them even a finger of pity, they chop the whole hand off. They must therefore be kept in the fear of the Lord.

We know that they hate us from the depths of their souls. We take pleasure in their hatred. There is nothing that they would not do to us if they had the power. We cannot therefore give them even the slightest bit of power. More than that, it is our duty to tell the world of their nature and their depravity. We must again and again prove their sick role in beginning and carry on this war. We must attack them incessantly, accuse them without pity of the crimes of which they are guilty, until the nations begin to wake up. That may take a long time, but it is worth it. We are dealing with the most dangerous enemy that ever threatened the life, freedom, and dignity of humanity. There can be no mercy. We have pity only for the countless millions of our own people and those of other European nations who will be given over to the hate and destructive will of this devilish race if we become weak and give up the battle. Those Philistines who today are so eager to protect the Jews would be their first victims.

We must all keep alert. We must be on guard against the insidious cleverness of the international world enemy. In the depths of his soul, he realizes that this war that he so frivolously began, expecting it to be the last step to world domination, has instead become a war for his racial existence. He desperately seeks to stop the inevitable march of events. It will do him no good. We will keep at him. In the end, the Führer’s prophecy about World Jewry in 1939, which they laughed at then, will come true.

The Jews laughed in Germany too when they first saw us. They are not laughing any longer. They chose to wage war against us. But that war is turning against them. When they planned a war to totally destroy the German nation, they signed their own death warrant.

Here, too, world history will be the world court.

A footnote: My Uncle Frank, who, as a 19-year-old Army lieutenant in Germany, witnessed some of the camps and attended some of the Nuremberg trials, lies in hospital this morning after removal yesterday of what the pathologist called a “big, ugly” Stage III tumor. He’s an atheist — probably not the only one who experienced what he did — but I’m sure his family would appreciate your prayers.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 8:07 pm

How to lose a re-election campaign

Filed under: We're so screwed — Lex @ 8:07 pm
Tags: ,

Brad DeLong demonstrates:

Friday, May 14, 2010 8:58 pm

Unemployment: still high, rising again. So?

Economist Brad DeLong:

The most astonishing and surprising thing I find about Washington DC today is the contrast in mood between DC today and what DC was thinking a generation ago, in 1983, the last time the unemployment rate was kissing 10%. Back then it was a genuine national emergency that unemployment was so high–real policies like massive monetary ease and the eruption of the Reagan deficits were put in place to reduce unemployment quickly, and everybody whose policies wouldn’t have much of an effect on jobs was nevertheless claiming that their projects were the magic unemployment-reducing bullet.

Today…. nobody much in DC seems to care.

Including the president of the United States.

Commenter Jim Harrison cites one possible reason:

The difference between then and now is that in the early 80s the problem was how to maximize the profits of the people who counted subject to the constraint that unemployment not be allowed to be too high whereas the problem is now the reverse: High employment and other measures of popular welfare are still desirable to the powers that be, but maintaining or increasing the disparity of wealth and income is an absolute constraint in this exercise in linear programming. The reversal of perspective is very obvious in discussions of the fate of entitlements like social security where any change that would redistribute income from the top to the middle is ruled out in advance or never considered at all. The rulers of the Universe don’t necessarily take any pleasure in the suffering of people; but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

And an anonymous commenter adds:

No reporter is noticing the lack of real policies to reduce unemployment because NO REPORTER BELIEVES SUCH POLICIES ARE POSSIBLE. Republican think tanks, economists, and hangers-on have spent 30 years arguing that government can’t create jobs, only the free market can. It’s just common sense now. Forces “beyond the President’s control” are things like the economy, jobs, etc. There’s NOTHING he can do on those that’s better than the alternative, which is simply letting the free market correct itself.

It’s not just that the chattering class has no connection to middle America–it’s that a 30 year campaign to roll back the New Deal that began by targeting this chattering class is finally hitting its stride.

We’re literally on the verge of returning to a dark age when it comes to economics. We have forgotten EVERY lesson of the great depression except for the bailouts. Theories prove themselves wrong…and aren’t abandoned. The University of Chicago Econ department has not been razed and salted.

We are now tolerating unemployment the way we used to tolerate cholera epidemics. People simply suffer, believing there’s nothing to be done. Nobody listens to the people who point out that we don’t have to suffer–such people are obviously cranks.

In order for rich people to be as wealthy as they were before the New Deal, we needed to forget everything we’d learned from the Great Depression. The danger of concentrated wealth. The dangers of unregulated markets. The inefficiency of an uneducated mass of exploited workers. The role of government as a bulwark against the powerful.

That’s what the past 30 years has been about. One of the effects is that we react to mass unemployment as we did in 1920, with a resigned shrug, instead of as we did in 1980, with a clear demand to fix it using proven policy techniques.

Congratulations, hyperwealthy folks. The Class War is over. You win.

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