Green Leader Open Thread

mmghosh's picture

From the inaugural address, addressed in terms of conflict and gaining supremacy, as is to be expected.

We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.

The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise.  That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks.


Maybe we can learn a thing or two.

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The House and immigration reform


The GOP is almost entirely gerrymandered into 70+% white districts. There are only 22 House Republicans in districts with populations less than 60% white. Their gerrymandered constituents don't care about immigration reform and they have much more to fear from a primary than a general election.


Accusing other posters of being deluded


adds nothing to whatever point you are making and violates the spirit of the posting rules.


Y'all know who you are. Please knock it off.

Great article on why gun ownership feels so necessary.

mmghosh's picture

There is pleasure to be had in exercising one’s rights, learning something new in midlife and mastering the operation of a complex tool, which is one thing a gun is.


Boys are simultaneously aware of their own physical powerlessness and society’s mandate that they serve as protectors of the innocent. Pretending to shoot a bad guy assuages this anxiety, which never goes away

completely. This explanation makes sense to me.


There are a lot of reasons that a gun feels right in my hand, but I also own firearms to protect my family. I hope I never have to use one for this purpose, and I doubt I ever will. But I am my family’s last line of defense. I have chosen to meet this responsibility, in part, by being armed. It wasn’t a choice I made lightly. I am aware that, statistically speaking, a gun in the home represents a far greater danger to its inhabitants than to an intruder. But not every choice we make is data-driven. A lot comes from the gut.


I suspected that much of the gunplay I’d witnessed in movies and television was completely wrong (it is) and hired an instructor for a daylong private lesson “to shoot everything in the store.” The gentleman who met me at the range was someone whom I would have called “a gun nut.” A former New Yorker, he had relocated to Texas because of its lax gun laws and claimed to keep a pistol within arm’s reach even when he showered. He was perfect, in other words, for my purpose.

Spinning Mali.

mmghosh's picture

Yes, the combined French-American offensive might be winning.

The French are also expected to move on to another large town, Kidal, with the notion of clearing the fighters from population centers and garrisoning them with allied African troops before the rainy season begins in March.

The Pentagon said over the weekend that the United States would provide aerial refueling for French warplanes and that it would transport troops from African nations, including Chad and Togo. The American military has already begun transporting a 600-member French mechanized battalion to Mali and is providing intelligence information, including satellite imagery.


In spite of general misgivings about Western intervention, perhaps we, here in the Forvm, were influenced by the somewhat bizarre US policy from 2000-2008.  Recent Western, especially US actions, shown in the restraint at the time of the Arab Spring, and then in Libya, show a new, more delicate and much more inclusive policy.  South Mali is in the midst of a peaceful democratic transition, and credit to the French-US mission in that overloaded rhetoric has been minimal.  One doesn't know what active role Mr Obama has had in foreign policy, but he must get a good deal of credit.

The reason


they need a peaceful democratic transition is to undo the undemocratic transition from last year,  which was in large part the unforeseen consequence of "delicate" French led intervention in Libya.  If I had to guess at Obama's role in Mali it was mostly telling the French they needed to get in there and fix the problem they'd caused.  As far as credit, we haven't broken even yet so there's no credit to distribute.


But it does appear that there's a chance this won't turn into France's own little Afghanistan.  Should we take bets on whether Frenchmen will be on the ground shooting 24 months from now?

"France's little Afghanistan"?

Jay C's picture

Probably not very likely: French governments in the past couple of decades, where they have seen fit to intervene militarily in their former African "sphere", seem to have been minded to keep said interventions relatively short. They seem to have been generally loath to  make long-term military commitments (a la Afghanistan). Which is probably smart, on their part.


However - the bigger problem in Mali, AFAICT, is that the regular "government" (no model of stability itself) has very few military resources of its own to maintain security throughout their large country: and, from most reports, said resources are not only scanty, but poorly-equipped, badly led, and as prone to flee as attack. Defeating the Islamist militias in the populated areas, especially with French help, is going to be the easier task: keeping them down (or at least confined to the wastes of the Sahara) long-term is another matter.    

The French intervention in Libya was delicate. Come on eeyn.

mmghosh's picture

Very few casualties for the allied forces.  A relatively mild civil war.  Stability and petroleum exports resumed.  What more do you want from Libya?  Algeria, too, latest military exercise notwithstanding.


You should be ready to give your Administration its due. France, well, there's the uranium angle and all that, so its not altruistic enough to make a libertarian happy.  But perhaps it may be worthwhile in the end to fight for nuclear energy, even for the future of the Sahel - who can really know?

What more do I want?


I'm a demanding person.  I'll call Libya a success after (a) 12 months straight w/o an embassy attack,  towns being taken over by anti-Tripoli militia, excesses by pro-Tripoli militia, or other traditional signs of a failed state;   (b) 12 months straight w/o reports of Libyan arms making it to Mali, Algeria, Syria, Gaza, etc; and (c) a democratic election in which control changes hands peacefully to the opposition party.

France Seem to be Doing a Terrific Job (Take that Freedom Fries)


...but I am curious if this is the Foreign Legion?


Got a bad life or past, join the French Foreign Legion and start anew....I think is still the case.


This aspect of the FFL interests me.



Just Excellent War Photography! Thanks so much Manish..nt.



Bjorn Lomborg at it again.

mmghosh's picture


A commenter on ClimateScienceWatch records his dismay

I found the "comments" to Lomborg's article in the WSJ to be extremely discouraging. The degree of denial is terrifying. The vast majority of the commenters were critical not of Lomborg's dismissal of the urgency of climate action but rather that anyone, including Lomborg, would actually believe in any human-induced climate change. While there were a few reasoned voices, such as that of Leslie Keller, the overwhelming opinion from our business-oriented Americans seems to still be that it's all just a colossal hoax, a conspiracy of power-crazied collectivists.

Not Sure What Lomborg is At?


He's more or less on board with the idea that CO2 is the cause and manmade sources must be curtailed. I expected he'd propose more nukes as the solution, or some capital intensive sequestration boondoggles, but we get a pretty weak "more research" plea:


Instead of pouring money into subsidies and direct production support of existing, inefficient green energy, President Obama should focus on dramatically ramping up investments into the research and development of green energy. Put another way, it is the difference between supporting an inexpensive researcher who will discover more efficient, future solar panels—and supporting a Solyndra at great expense to produce lots of inefficient, present-technology solar panels.

Assuming the worst of Mr Lomborg's motives gets me as far as supposing that his call for more pure research is just a delaying tactic. (Lomborg's cheap "pure researcher" may not have the right incentives to produce economically viable designs, nor the institutional infrastructure necessary to roll them out.)


But otherwise, Lomborg's column reads as a swipe that the President for salting some weather disaster alarmism into his comments on policy response to GCC.  


Brazil nightclub fire a huge tragedy

mmghosh's picture

it might have been an unavoidable accident, but I suspect we might see several problems in the way in which the club handled people.  Almost all the major recent club accidents have been in developing countries.  We don't seem to be able to learn from the mistakes in the West - ever since the Cocoanut Grove event.  Many fewer events in Europe shows that these events are not inevitable with large populations.

Once Bitten Twice Shy

brutusettu's picture

The fire at the Great White concert in Rhode Island injured 200+ on top of the 100 dead



In Brazil, a member of the band doesn't get that sparks can create fires:

"....the machine we use to create a luminous effect with sparks. It's harmless, we never had any trouble with it.


When the fire started, a guard passed us a fire extinguisher, the singer tried to use it but it wasn't working"

"Jazz, the music of unemployment."


Frank Zappa

Yeah, I just don't understand this

HankP's picture

it's not like flashpots haven't caused fires before. And it's not like there are pyrotechnicians on the payroll at club dates. So I never understood how this was allowed.


I blame it all on the Internet

The Santa Maria club fire

Jay C's picture

Yes, apparently all the factors for disaster were present:


- too many people in too small a space

- limited access/egress (doors locked for "security" - again)

- poorly-handled pyrotechnics in a

- poorly-constructed venue


and apparently, no thought given to what club management would have do in case of a fire.



Being a Bouncer at a Club is a Good Job...People Love You...



...often literally...(ahem).


Certainly in third world counties, the power and authority from being stern and muscle bound, is impossible to acheive in any other venue.


One of the principle responsibilities of being security/bouncer is maximizing the profit of the club promoters; central to that keep as few means of entering the club as possible...sneek-ins can be poison to a bouncer's continuing employment.


There is this odd human element in ALL of these tragedies.


Best Wishes, Traveller

Top earners still stealing from lower earners


real annual wages of the top 1.0 percent of earners grew 8.2 percent from 2009 to 2011.


real annual wages of the bottom 90 percent have continued to decline in the recovery, eroding by 1.2 percent between 2009 and 2011.




In short: the top earners gobbled up all of the productivity gains in 2009 - 2011 that the lower earners made and then dipped into the lower earners' salaries as well.



Oh boy.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Institutionalized theft


money doesn't fall upward naturally. The majority of these dynamics have been deliberately engineered.

The most compelling explanations


for the growth of inequality are in order, technology, growth of the financial sector, and the Bush tax cuts.


"Deliberately engineered" doesn't apply at all to the first, somewhat to the second (because it wasn't people engineering inequality so much as people grabbing as much as they can), and fairly well to the third. To call any of that theft implies a collective ownership of resources that I'm hard-pressed believing you actually believe.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Of course the effects of technology are deliberately engineered

HankP's picture

something developed in a laboratory will just stay in the laboratory unless someone figures out how to sell it. And those who buy it will make a decision on how to use it. It may be a bottom up decision, but it's no less engineered than a top down decision.


I blame it all on the Internet

Lump the stuff the government is doing together


which wealthy interests have designed to unnaturally make sure money flows upward.


The government is of course encouraging the growth of Wall Street, which enjoys tax-payer subsidized insurance for being too big to fail or prosecute, and which shovels hundreds of billions a year to the top 1%.


Government grant ingpatent monopolies, particularly in favor of outrageous prescription drug prices, have hurt real wages. This is 10s of billions of dollars every year purposely sent upwards.


We've also got trade policies which put manufacturing and other lower wage workers in direct international competition, while protecting richer employees like doctors and lawyers, whose services workers rely on. Again, billions flowing upwards.


The outcome is that workers who produce more not only don't see any of the increased fruits of their labor, they're actually being rewarded with a pay cut while they put more in the pockets of those with higher incomes. 


You don't need an assumption of communal ownership of all property to call this institutionalized theft.


You just need the assumption that if you're producing more every year and that's making other people rich, you deserve some fraction of that new wealth instead of a pay cut.

May I agree with many


(although not all) of your examples while still objecting to your agitprop terminology?


When an ATM replaces a teller, it's not necessarily because the other tellers have become more productive.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

I missed your point re tech progress


But I think we should be thinking more about why mechanization has been happening for some time, but technological progress right now is uniquely capital-biased. What is your explanation?


Intellectual property protection is an obvious example that is biasing tech progress towards capital, and that is a deliberate policy choice, not some law of economic systems that cannot be questioned or changed.

Oh, it can be changed


But to figure out how to change it in a way that serves the public interest is a complicated issue. I buy Alex Tabarrok's case against software patents (since I made a video of it.) And I think copyright law needs reform. There are many opportunities for improvement, surely.


I don't even know what "capital-biased" means in terms of technology. I am typing this in a computer, rather than writing it to you in a typewriter and sending a CC to Traveller. Obviously, someone other than the owners of capital are benefiting here.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Thanks for reminding me of the video


I'll be showing that to my engineering students again this semester.

Hummm..This Makes Sense Also, I'm Being Whipsawed/lol/nt



You would make


a delightful and indulgent judge that I would be pleased to argue before!

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

But they have...


...because when ATM's became prevalent, human tellers stopped getting the simplest transactions.


So it is with technology in general. As it automates the simpler jobs, the remaining ones humans have to deal with are the more difficult ones, the exceptions, and so on

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

The Technology reference to Jobs is Just True...Sigh.


...things change, people...real people, real people with difficulties, with separate hopes, with distinct potentialities and equally real flaws...must try to adjust.


But is there an essential shirt in society also?


Best Wishes, Traveller

It May Sound Like Agiprop, But Those Are Well Constructed Words


...the sentences just shine with the within contained brilliance of clarity of thought yet retaining an emotional resonance. It is not smart "cold," it is smart "warm," and that is very difficult.


I think Catchy is just hitting his stride...who can say when a balance point is tripped and a man falls off the cliff from being a good writer to being....beyond the beyond and in the dangerous territory of being able to influence and change the something interesting and worthwhile?


Money doesn't fall upward naturally. The majority of these dynamics have been deliberately engineered.


I mean sentences don't get written better than this.


Of course Catchy may need some day a good Editor or Collaborator, but he seems on his way to me.


The premise being that Freud, Weber, de Tocqueville, Marx are still read because, for their insights and intellectual heft, they remain at the heart, Good Writers.


Best Wishes, Traveller

Very nice compliment, Trav


“warm,” intellectual and readable writing puts very nicely what I’m aiming for, so that’s nice to hear.


To wags, the stealing language was supposed to provoke a response.

I’m hard pressed to figure out what’s inappropriate with “institutionalized theft” given that workers’ wages, for example, bear the brunt of the downsides of globalization and few to any of its benefits.

I don't deny that it's effective


But it's writing that enters the conversation with an emotional cudgel rather than a revealing flashlight.


Patents are a complex topic. There is no doubt that pharmaceutical patents fund important medical research. But many patents are of the 'minimum patentable difference' variety. Some patents are artificially extended by buying off generic manufacturers. Differential pricing in different markets is a thorny issue. It's complicated, and solving these issues in a way that serves the public interest isn't simple.


But all of this is boiled down to "theft." The assumption is snuck in without being argued. Sorry, you can't have something stolen if it doesn't belong to you. It's a nice rabble-rousing metaphor but that's all it is.


"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

I don't think there's any doubt


that pharamceutical patents last too long, and that the US government (unlike so many other governments) refusing to bargain for prescription drugs transfers 10s of billions beyond what's needed for R&D.


It's just one case where workers aren't able to enjoy access to the international competition that is driving down their own wages.

Well, If You INSIST on Being Rational About


...I would have to agree.


I guess I've just enjoyed reading this thread.


Best Wishes, Traveller

I'm deliberately using inflammatory language of course


but I don't see that you've shown it unwarranted, certainly not by bringing up the technology example which wasn't part of my case.

Don't mistake your metaphors for fact (nt)



"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

I will watch my metaphors


if you consider:


* that the economy is still depressed

* there's a massive gap between potential and actual GDP

* closing the output gap with increased government spending is the morally and economically wise thing to do

* much better than short-term deficit reduction, especially more spending cuts


How's that for a deal?

I accept all that


Our only disagreement is on long-term political strategy to tackle the debt... why do you think deferral is the best option?

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Because the short-term deficit doesn't matter


Only the long-term one is a worry and that can only be addressed by addressing health care costs, which is not being discussed.


Moreover, it's nonsense to think a deficit deal today will stop the professional deficit scolds from trying to cut social insurance and lower taxes on the wealthy in the future in the name of deficit reduction. There's no such thin as avoiding a deferral. We'll be fighting over this in years to come whatever the budget outlook.


How many budgets do Republicans have to put forward which are sold as necessary deficit reduction but which don't cut the deficit before this gets acknowledged?


Simpson-Bowles proposed cuts to the marginal and corporate rates in their deficit reduction proposal, and cuts to SS which doesn't contribute to the deficit.


The deficit scare is fake. What's untethered from reality won't be affected by reality. There's no "grand bargain" to be had with these people and there never was.

Point by point


Only the long-term one is a worry and that can only be addressed by addressing health care costs, which is not being discussed.

You've correctly pointed out, at times, that health care costs are the driver of the deficit. That is correct, but it does not follow that the deficit can only be addressed by cutting health care costs. That's just not accurate.

Moreover, it's nonsense to think a deficit deal today will stop the professional deficit scolds from trying to cut social insurance and lower taxes on the wealthy in the future in the name of deficit reduction.

True, but this proves nothing. I'm not proposing putting the fiscal order of the US on sound footing to quiet Republicans. They will always bray for tax cuts for the rich and spending cuts for the poor. I am for righting the long-term structural deficit because it is a generational transfer of wealth from the next generation to ours, and because a debt-ridden nation cannot take on great projects, including (but not exclusively) great progressive projects. The left has forgotten how to dream.

The deficit scare is fake. What's untethered from reality won't be affected by reality.

Come now, you've already recognized that it is real elsewhere. (More rhetorical extravagance! Bet they don't let you do this when you're writing philosophy.)

There's no "grand bargain" to be had with these people and there never was.

There you might be right, I have to admit. But I think Obama has won points with the swing electorate because of his sincerity in seeking a compromise. That's why poll respondents are so much more prone to blame Republicans for an impasse than Obama. You probably don't trust Obama to come to the table even. I'm sure I trust Obama more than you do, but to be frank, I don't completely trust him either. But I think it's worth the risk.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

I register a protest.

mmghosh's picture

Money doesn't rise downwards naturally either.


In a democracy, the cake is divided as the stakeholders wish it to. 

In my case...


...I've noticed it rather consistently flows away from me.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

The site is loading slowly for me


slowest of almost all the site's I visit. Don't know if that's anyone else's experience.

It varies

HankP's picture

right now, for me, it's fast. Sometimes it takes 30 sec for a page to load. Kind of beyond our control on a shared host.


I blame it all on the Internet

It Varies for Me Also, Never More than a Few Seconds Though/nt



Not exactly...

(#299529) simply appears to be more stable than the worst case models, not than the consensus.


Also, the work says that Greenland was responsible for less of the four meter sea level rise 125,000 years ago, and that means that something else, almost certainly West Antarctica, contributed the balance and is thus less stable than previously thought.


Then again, this is all from a few cores in a single site in Greenland, hardly definitive.


I have little doubt that climate change will play out in unexpected ways at the local level. But globally, I think the picture is fairly predictable, and not good.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

Does anyone have any experience with


Powerline homeplug? I'm looking at 200Mb/s product to connect a wed tv box to the rest of the network. I've used wifi in the past but the network invariably drops out for a split second after an hour or so. Movie playback nixed and start again required. 


Are these things stable in terms of connection?



So, I got the netgear xavt1601 set of 3 units. So far I am very happy. Peak data rates are not so different from wifi but latency is much lower. Connection seems to be very reliable too. I haven't gone so far as to watch a full movie over it but no problems streaming shorter videos and music. All in all a success. 


Thanks to all for your comments.

Their performance depends on your house wiring

HankP's picture

if it's modern, well grounded and properly partitioned, it tends to work well. Older wiring, major appliances on the same line as the homeplug devices, etc. and you'll have problems.


I always string ethernet cable. Long term, it's just so much more reliable than anything else.


I blame it all on the Internet

No experience...


...but I am sure they drop packets whenever there is a line spike (your refrigerator starts or whatever).


Still, that should not affect playback, nor should drops in a WiFi connection, since playback is highly buffered. You must be losing WiFi for more than a split second.


I have everything wired. At home, only the mobile devices use WiFi. Anything that stays put gets a wire.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.



Yes, from what I see, wifi drops out - complete disconnect and then all the preamble to decide which network to connect to, estabilish connection and so on, easily a 1/2 second. 


I used to see it with the older laptops in the house but not at all with my new laptop, just the web tv box. There's a bunch of things I could do to troubleshoot, but I'm a lot more comfortable on a wired setup so I'm thinking of spending the 50 bucks or so needed to get the powerline boxes. Running cat5 would be ideal but I would have to either go outside the house or pull it through the existing electrical conduits. Smells too much like my day job :)


I'll let you all know if it works.

If you do go outside...


Remember to get exterior grade cat 5 cable. It's tougher and resists UV.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

I saw that too

HankP's picture

and the storage densities are amazing (2 petabytes - 1015 bytes - or a million gigabytes per gram). But I have to wonder how well wetware will integrate with our current solid state technologies.


I blame it all on the Internet

John Kerry, Very Serious Person


takes the opportunity of his confirmation hearings in the Senate to be America's face to the world to ... push for domestic right wing economic policy:


WASHINGTON — Sen. John Kerry, President Barack Obama’s nominee for secretary of state, said Thursday that the United States must get its fiscal house in order to lead worldwide, as lawmakers signaled his confirmation was a foregone conclusion.

“More than ever, foreign policy is economic policy,” Kerry said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

It's alarming


How the left has morphed in the last month or two, under Krugmans lead, from stimulus now, discipline later to stimulus now, discipline never.


it's politically stupid because it squanders the fiscal credibility that Clinton earned. The electorate won't trust spendthrifts. And it's stupid because it cramps the progressive project. A country with 100% debt-to-GDP won't be able to make the investment it needs to.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Krugman's been clear that in theory


he's not someone who thinks debt and the deficit don't matter (there are a lot of reputable economists who disagree with this) and that we should be having surpluses when the economy isn't depressed.


I read him as adjusting to the political realities of a bi-partisan, professional permanent deficit scold crowd that doesn't care about the long term deficit, but just wants to cut taxes for the wealthy and cut spending for poor people. He's certainly resisting the movement to slash entitlements now to avoid reductions later.


Hank made the point below about the D and R dynamic. Krugman approvingly quoted his post by atrios which also expresses Hank's point:



But They Will Always Smash It On The Floor



Remember the context: Mankiw loved the Bush-era fiscal policies to create long-run structural budget deficits, and worked hard to implement them--the unfunded war and unfunded tax cut and unfunded entitlement policies that did so much to create our structural deficit. Mankiw did his best to join in the process of taking the work that we in the Clinton administration had done in the 1990s to restore America's fiscal balance--work that was very well done, very important, and work that we were and are very proud of--and casually smashing it on the floor.



But Republicans will inevitably see a balanced budget as an opportunity to give money to rich people (tax cuts and crony capitalism). The reward for liberals for this well done very important work? Tax cuts for rich people and unpaid for disastrous wars.

Liberals should spend their time in office figuring out how to implement a sticky liberal agenda, one which is hard to dislodge, not figuring out how to create a pot of money for Republicans to steal when it is their turn.

by Atrios at 17:50

That only makes sense

HankP's picture

if you don't realize that Obama has already made 2+ trillion in cuts.


I blame it all on the Internet

No, he hasn't

Bird Dog's picture

One, these claimed cuts are cuts in future spending growth. No spending cuts have been made to date. A majority of that was from the 2011 debt ceiling deal, led by Boehner. Obama would not have agreed to it without his feet getting put to that fire. $848 billion of defense cuts are phantom savings because the baselines assume Afghanistan continues ad infinitum (link). Every picture tells a story.



Through 2017, from Obama's own OMB, federal spending never goes below 22.2% of GDP. Obama has never been serious about cutting spending. He is a tax-and-spend Democrat, just one more of a long line of tax-and-spend Democrats.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Of course


spending goes up as a % of GDP when a recession hits, GDP tanks, unemployment skyrockets, automatic spending for the unemployed kicks in, etc.


Even so, the chart shows lower spending as a % of GDP after Bush's 2008, and would show more significant reduction if it didn't stop at 2011. 


i.e., Obama is presiding over falling spending as a % of GDP at the federal level, even though this measure isn't very meaningful.

Your chart proves I'm right

HankP's picture

Obama inherited that massive spike, and you'll notice the line has dropped since then.


BTW, your opinions are seriously out of date and resemble folk tales from the last century. Democrats have been far more conservative about spending and deficits than Republicans have for the past 30 years.


I blame it all on the Internet


Bird Dog's picture takes to support the delusion. Carry on.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I'm afraid the facts are not on your side

HankP's picture

Republicans increase spending and deficits and Democrats reduce them. It's been that way for over 30 years.


I blame it all on the Internet


Bird Dog's picture

This is about Obama and the fact that federal spending under his administration, according to his own OMB, will never go under 22.2% of GDP. Those are the facts that display your delusion.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

It's down from what Bush left him

HankP's picture

including structural deficits that Bush built in that would last forever. The fact is that Obama has presided over cuts in spending, Bush never did. Obama put in place policies to recover from a financial crisis that Bush and the Republicans were ineffective at dealing with- ineffective because they don't understand how economies work. They never have, they only have ideology which is a poor substitute for reason.


You should look at your own delusions before pointing the finger at others.


I blame it all on the Internet


Bird Dog's picture

If you don't understand the concept of charts re spending as % of GDP, then this conversation is completely pointless. Seriously, dude. Get a clue. This is about spending through 2017, which includes all eight years of Obama where spending as a % of GDP is higher than any of Bush's years. Those are the facts.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Sorry, you're completely wrong

HankP's picture

from this site, we get the following US Federal government spending as a percent of GDP:



every year is down from 2009 which is what Obama inherited. If growth accelerates that number will drop even further.


So once again, wrong, wrong, wrong.


I blame it all on the Internet

Your comment is a seamless blend of ridiculous and stupid

Bird Dog's picture

All you did was regurgitate the same data I already put forward. The fact is that spending under Obama as a % of GDP in any year is higher than in any year of the previous administration. This is based on data from Obama's own Office of Management and Budget. Except for TARP carryforwards, Obama owns all spending in 2009. In all their wisdom, the Democrat-controlled House and Senate and White House did not approve an FYE September 2009 budget until March 2009. I say again. Seriously, dude. Learn how to read a chart. Or understand what I said. Either way.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

How wrong can one person be?

HankP's picture

The United States federal budget for fiscal year 2009 began as a spending request submitted by President George W. Bush to the 110th Congress. The final resolution was approved by the House on June 5, 2008.


Yes, Obama is completely responsible for a budget that was passed over 5 months before he was elected. I suggest a new term for claims like this: clownsmanship.


And I don't get what's so magic about the 22% of GDP number. Reagan's budget exceeded 22% for most of his term in office, at least of the budgets that were actually approved during his term of office.


I blame it all on the Internet

A person can be quite a lot wrong

Bird Dog's picture

And you are as wrong as its gets. The Democratic-controlled House passed a budget but it was never signed into law. Please, either read your own links, or do better research, or remember historical events. It would reduce the content of the clownsmanship in your own comments. This is what happened: There were a couple or three continuing resolutions in 2008 that enabled spending to continue. The last CR Bush signed was in October 2008, which established baseline spending through March 2009. Obama passed his $864 billion spending bill in February 2009. Obama was inaugurated in January 2009 and he signed the FYE September 2009 budget in March 2009 (link). 2009 spending is pretty much all Obama's, thanks to a Democrat-controlled Congress that kicked the spending can down the road until after the election. Your defense of Obama in this regard borders on mindless.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Clownsmanship squared

HankP's picture

Read the facts, and try to get the Republican lies out of your system - they're clouding your thinking. The charts at the link show who's responsible for what, and the main cause of the problem is the Bush tax cuts - which you supported, right? - and the higher baseline spending that Bush and the Republican congress put in place.


If you believe the lies that Republicans keep repeating, you'll never be able to figure this stuff out.


I blame it all on the Internet

The facts...

Bird Dog's picture

...have been read, and what I'm saying and what Romney said are not the same thing.

Obama embraced TARP (to his credit) and Obama embraced the auto bailouts, and the spending that went with it. After March 2009, Bush had nothing to do with spending. Those are also the facts. The fact remains that, under Obama, spending won't go below 22.2% of GDP through his entire tenure. I don't see why you're so resistant to this fact, a fact comes from his own OMB.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Projections are not facts

HankP's picture

they're predictions. No one knows what the economy will be like in 4 years. Things could get better or worse, so wait until the fiuture has actually happened before you try blaming Obama for them.


I blame it all on the Internet


Bird Dog's picture

Whatever it takes to keep the left-wing house of cards propped up.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

wasting your time


you're arguing with someone that is confusing absolutes with percentages.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
-George Bernard Shaw

Mindless Shmindless


Obama had few policy options at the start of 2009. AIG had been rescued, Bear Stearns had been backed. TARP was a done deal, GM and Chrysler were going under, the stock market was in free fall.


Call it "Obama's budget" is the purest form of Chutzpah. It's like complaining to the firemen that your formerly burning house is now flooded. What were his policy options? His realistic, not Tea Party Fantasy, policy options?

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

This is ridiculous

Bird Dog's picture

Obama had a cleaner slate spendingwise, coming into office, than any other president in history.

Obama was in a Democratic majority Senate that helped formulate this budget.

Obama had a choice on TARP, and he chose to continue the TARP plan, so he owns that, to his credit.

The budget that Obama signed is his, conveniently delayed by fellow party members in the House and Senate, because he signed it.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

What's ridiculous is your claim that Obama owns 100% of TARP


a bill signed into law by George Bush in October 2008, in which hundreds of billions of TARP funds were out the door before Obama was ever sworn in. By the time Geithner was confirmed, there was $300 billion remaining out of the original $700 billion. 


It doesn't matter whether Obama "approved" of the TARP purchases. Bush II also approved. Since Bush II signed the spending into law, he own it.


Anyone who says otherwise is twisting the facts b/c it pleases them to assert that Obama is a bigger spender than he is. 


Bird Dog's picture

I didn't say that Obama owns 100% of TARP. I said he embraced it. He also supported TARP as a candidate. I suggest that you comment on things that I actually say.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

You just said he owns it three comments up nt

HankP's picture


I blame it all on the Internet

My mistake

Bird Dog's picture

He co-owns it. When I said that doesn't own 100% of it, that's called a clarification.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

How much of the increase "accredited" to Obama

brutusettu's picture

is higher spending to pay the debt or spending finally put on the books after others tried to hide some trillions of dollars in future outlays?

"Jazz, the music of unemployment."


Frank Zappa

I am seeing one stupid comment here.


And it is yours.


Deficit is a function the result of revenue - spending. Obama did not just inherit the TARP carryover. He inherited the great recession, which greatly lowered revenue, and hence raised the deficit. It would have raised the deficit by hundreds of billions without spending a single additional dime. TARP is just one, relatively minor, item in that. The significant bit, as Steve Jobs would say, is the recession, and that was inherited wholesale by Obama, courtesy of bush.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

Who knew that...

Bird Dog's picture

...this recession lasted in every year of Obama's term, all the way through 2017, thus forcing him spend no less than 22.2% of GDP in any of his years in office. Hank, your comment is a seamless blend of non-factual and incoherent.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

It's called a "business cycle".

Bernard Guerrero's picture

And Bush had no more to do with it than he did with the one that showed up just as Clinton left.  (Also the result of a bursting bubble, as it happens.)


The amount of faith you guys put in Presidents, whether you love or hate them, kind of amazes me.  They don't drive jack.



I'm picturing this conversation in  sept 2008:


advisor: president guerrero, lehman brothers has collapsed, other wal street banks are poised to do the same. the stock market has just gone down trillions in value. capital markets are frozen. we must act!


pres (rolls eyes): it's called a "business cycle." derrr. relax! we shouldn't do jack. i mean what power do we have? hahaha!

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
-George Bernard Shaw

What's even funnier

HankP's picture

is recalling the reactions at the time. As I recall, Timmy and Bernard were saying "no big deal" while laughing at the liberals for saying that it was a crisis or anything other than a minor event. But of course in Bernard's case if it doesn't affect Bernard it doesn't matter.


I blame it all on the Internet



timmy had a business interest in CDOs. He seemed to know an awful lot about them. why he basically disappeared after the collapse of those markets may or may not be related.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
-George Bernard Shaw

Is there a standard term for non-business cycle recessions?


depressions? financial crises recessions? asset bubble recessions? I've seen "credit cycle" and "liquidity cycle" recessions a couple of times.


Just curious if I'm missing something.



Presidents can drive quite a bit. Bush drove a gigantic expansion of military spending, measured in trillions.

I hope you are not suggesting that trillion dollar expenditures have no macroeconomic impact. It's not a tenable position.


Yet in some ways I agree with you. The great recession was a perfect storm of bad decisions under both Clinton and bush. Bird Dog is blaming Obama for mistakes made during the decade before he took power, which is rather incorrect, but I am far from defending Democrats on this one.


The 2008 crisis was not the capstone to a normal business cycle, by the way. The capital markets were going to freeze without strong government intervention. How many "business cycles" have had the capacity to take down Fannie, Freddie, Goldman, and Citibank, all at the same time?

I hope you are not suggesting that such a crisis was independent of the regulatory environment. It's not a tenable position either.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

"It's not a tenable position"

Bernard Guerrero's picture

Sure it is.  Take a look at military spending, including the off-budget special expenditures, as a % of GDP.  Chump change even at the height of Iraq and Afghanistan, and fairly stable on top of it.  Cash outlays are the only thing that matters in this context, of course; liabilities for extra medical coverage or pensions 20 years from now have no immediate impact, particularly with the lender of last resort still buying debt like mad.

No, it's not...


I have taken a look, and it's not chump change.


But if you want to base your argument on the notion that war spending was chump change, knock yourself out.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

Well, what do the numbers say?

mmghosh's picture

Was war spending chump change, or not?

The Congressional Research Service has put the Operation Iraqi Freedom pricetag at $806 billion. President Obama said that the Iraq War would cost over $1 trillion, all told. Either way, compared to past U.S. conflicts, spending on the Iraq war has been relatively small—at its height, spending on WWII helped drive government spending to 42 percent of GDP, according to the Congressional Budget Office. At its height, operations in Iraq cost around 1 percent of GDP.

Those are funny numbers...


The Pentagon budget increased drastically through the 2000's, so there are some accounting choices that can change that value.


But, let's take them at face value for the sake of argument. 1% of the GDP of the United States is not chump change. It's a huge number increased by various amplifiers depending on how and where the money was spent. It is a number than can certainly move the needle on growth while it is being spent.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.



govt spending != a war appropriation, so 42% vs 1% is meaningless.


i would compare defense spending overall. it may also be relevant to compare the ecoonomies of the war's oppositing parties. Taliban also != Nazi germany (and friends) in terms of economic size.


A bazooka and a fly comes to mind.


but if the question at hand is "is war spending a sizable part of teh US economy" i would say... umm, yes.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
-George Bernard Shaw

Ahh, But the Real Benifit is That Republican's Cannot,....

(#299684) surly they would, claim credit for this up turn in the "Business Cycle," and it being a result of their foresighted and farsighted policies...that instantly dissolved in the body politic and produced an S&P that hit 5 year highs yesterday.


Not having to hear Republicans blubber on about their sound economic worth the price of admission to anywhere!


BTW, for Catcy and you also Bernard, the Negative GDP figures from today were largely a function of reduced Government Spending and, God help us, if we slide back into recession, Catchy will have won this terrible bet...though I am sure he will wish that he had been wrong.


Best Wishes, Traveller

Clinton-Gore was such a successful team, its mystifying why

mmghosh's picture

Mr Gore wasn't elected.  That graph shows that 2000 had got to be one of the most difficult elections to have lost, however non-charismatic Mr Gore might have been.  What a missed opportunity. 


I had no idea the Clinton years managed to cut spending by that enormous amount.  A very smart and effective politician, and deservedly popular, that Mr Clinton.  On the other hand, Mr Carter appears to have cut spending and yet is not more popular than Mr Reagan who raised spending.  Mystifying.

No mystery why Gore lost, Manish....

Jay C's picture

Fundamentally, the Republicans cheated GW Bush's way into the White House through partisan pressure and a partisan Supreme Court. Though I'm sure M. Scott will be along shortly to sneeringly mock this thesis, him being (apparently) the last person on the Internet to take the 2000 Florida election results as an unambiguous and unquestionable victory for the GOP....


And on a more mundane level: Al Gore was also pretty much a victim of the Lewinsky Factor: having to distance himself, and publicly tsk-tsk over Bill Clinton's extracurricular blowjobs,  while realizing that as a political  move, most of the public regarded the Republicans' impeachment ploy as the rank nonsense (and I'm being polite in describing as such) as it was. That, and a somewhat stiff public persona - and of course, media bias - was just enough to doom his  chances. And with the Presidency hinging on a dubious "majority" of just 537 votes, it really gave new meaning to the term "just enough".


Jimmy Carter is another story, though: whatever his actual accomplishments/failures may/may not have been, that will have to be up to future historians to ascertain. Modern-day Republicans have invested too much psychic capital in the mythologizing of Ronald Reagan as the Great Stainless Hero-President: said myth needs a foil, and since 1981, that role has fallen to Jimmy Carter: any rational analysis of his Administration being subsumed into the stock GOP narrative of Carter The Feckless Fool, righteously defeated by Saint Ronald the Great Political Savior. History, I think will be harsher on Reagan, and look more kindly on Carter, that today's ideologues would be happy with, but that's for another generation to deal with.... 

I beg to differ...


Gore didn't have to distance himself from Clinton due to Lewinsky. Clinton enjoyed huge approval ratings through the entire period and through the elections.


The problem was that Mr. Divinity School -the man was going to be pastor at one point- was too much of a prude himself to cut Clinton some slack. Instead, he cut Clinton off. He was angry, and probably felt betrayed (though for all intents and purposes he wasn't, and Clinton gave him an easy ticket to the White House), so he went full metal Puritan on Bubba.


That was the dumbest political move I had seen since Dukakis rode around in that tank. It also showed a nasty willingness to distance himself from humanity as it is actually found, a characteristic I noted more recently in Romney's total lack of alcohol consumption.


While it is true that the GOP stole the election, Gore has only himself to blame for letting it be so close in the first place.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

You never know

HankP's picture

Gore could have gone to Clinton and had Clinton lie to his face, which is pretty difficult for most people to get over. Gore also might have felt that he couldn't trust Clinton at all about anything, which makes it kind of difficult to hitch your political future to Clinton. So while it may have been good politics to associate closely with Clinton, Gore may not have felt comfortable doing that for very good reasons.


I blame it all on the Internet



Gore was a big boy. If having a professional politician of any party lie to his face was a shock to him, maybe he was seeking the wrong line of work.


Sorry, that could be a problem in some other professions, but not in that one, not in the major leagues. No, Gore simply had the kind of upbringing and character where he probably felt outrage and anger that Clinton, also a man shall we say of inferior station, would behave the way he did. Remember how exasperated he was in the bush debate. I mean he could not believe he had to go through with it and pay any attention to bush, his intellectual inferior by a country mile.


Bush was his inferior by a country mile. But Gore was the inferior politician (and blissfully unaware of it) for being unable to understand the effect of his open contempt.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

Not so sure about that

HankP's picture

I'm not talking about Gore being personally affronted that Clinton lied to him, but that it made him feel that the risk of trusting Clinton or tying his future to Clinton was too great. Hindsight is 20/20, but I don't think that it was necessarily stupid for politicians to be leery of associating closely with Clinton in 1999 and 2000. At the time the odds were in favor of thinking that there were other scandals waiting to be uncovered - real scandals, not the Republican fever dreams.


I blame it all on the Internet

I agree, MA...

Jay C's picture

...sloppy writing on my part, I meant to convey the idea that Al Gore felt he had to distance himself from Bill Clinton - or rather Clinton's personal peccadilloes: unfortunately, this also distanced him from popular Administration policies whose continuation he should have stressed as a campaign theme. And yes, he had only himself to blame.

I think the point


Manish has is that it shouldn't have been that close.  The whole partisan pressure and Supreme Court thing wouldn't have mattered if Gore had won the state by (say) 1%.

We are much closer to


A sustainable deficit level than we were 2 years ago. That's true. But we're not there yet.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

The Budget Deficit is Simply The Wrong Problem


Growth is the key, not spending, and growth can be crimped, even reversed, by austerity.


Worse yet, long term growth is threatened by lack of infrastructure and spending in basic science research and education.


This is simply the wrong debate to have if you are concerned about the country 20 years from now. Obsession over it shows a lack of understanding for the underlying economic problems the country actually has.


The right debate is to talk about this question: In the context of outsourcing gone wild, what does the United States sell to the world in 2030, that the world actually needs or wants, in sufficient quantity?


Or, if you need to care about deficits, focus on the current account deficit, our real deficit with the world, not the budget deficit. Unlike the budget deficit, the current account deficit is a new feature in the US economy, starting with the later Clinton years and ballooning with bush. We've had huge budget deficits and debt load before, but we have never had a long term current account problem before.


I argue that a narrow focus on the budget will not only dampen growth today, but will also take away from the very research and infrastructure we will need to have anything of value to sell during the next few decades.



I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

For goodness sake


Read the thread. Nowhere do I advocate austerity now.


It used to be that Krugman was for long-term fiscal discipline. That's certainly what Keynes was for... run up the debt in depressions and run it down in the good times. Now the pretense is that the ballooning debt is nothing to worry about at all.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs



...the debt is no longer ballooning. It is projected to be flat for the next several years.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

Lessee how next quarter's growth looks....

Bernard Guerrero's picture

.....before we count those particular chickens, eh, sir?  We're getting the benefit of a wholly anticipated (and fairly anemic) rebound after a recession that formally ended years ago.

The Q4 Number Was An Unpleasant Surprise


So, point taken.


Still, 1Q does not a trend make. House prices are going up, and that should trigger activity.


If anything the negative Q4 number should make democrats think twice about further front loaded cuts in spending, or tax increases for the consuming classes.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

Exactly, Marcus, Can I Call you Marcus? Queuing Catchy...


...actually the numbers aren't that bad, I was just surprised to see how directly and how much government spending contributes to the National GDP.


Infrastructure, calling for Infrastructure & repair...


Best Wishes, Traveller


I'd suggest calling him Sven


The use of first names is often considered unprofessional but if it isn't his first name then it's ok. Now if MA's real name is Sven there might be an issue but it would be an honest mistake on your part, not an act of malice.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Easy for you to say, Fridtjof.... nt

Jay C's picture


I'd rather M or MA.


Not sure why. Arbitrary, as names usually are... Hope you don't mind.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.



We need just a little more than a trillion in revenues or cuts over the next decade to stabilize the debt as a % of GDP.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Your comment is too loose to be accurate


The difference between the multipliers associated with tax increases and spending cuts means you can't just take a trillion of either.


The IMF recently estimated spending cuts have a fiscal multiplier of around 1.5 as opposed to the .5 they were initially assuming. Tax cuts, however, typically have around a .5 multiplier. (Of course this all depends on what type of spending cuts and tax increases, but this is an average).


What does that mean?


If the multiplier is 0.5, then an initial public expenditure reduction of 1 per cent of GDP reduces real output by 0.5 per cent. Using normal rules of thumb, this drop in output would in turn reduce taxation or increase public transfers by about 0.2 per cent of GDP, leaving the budget deficit improving by 0.8 per cent of GDP. This ratio of budget improvement to reduced growth might be just about acceptable to democratic governments.



If, however, the multiplier is 1.7, then the same initial public spending cut of 1 per cent of GDP would reduce real output by 1.7 per cent. The second round effects of this reduction in output would reduce tax or raise transfers by 0.68 per cent. The net overall improvement in the budget deficit would therefore be only 0.32 per cent. The economy would be in recession, and the budget deficit would hardly improve at all. Even if this were acceptable to governments, it would not be acceptable for very long to their electorates.


You're not going to cut your way to prosperity or a stable GDP to debt ratio.

And so is yours


The study is from a period when the Western democracies were stuck in zero-bound trap. From your link:


The opposite is also true. Now that interest rates are stuck at the zero lower bound, central banks cannot reduce policy rates when fiscal policy is tightened, and the multiplier is correspondingly increased.



Kudos to the Keynesians for predicting this in advance, but in many ways this is a fairly standard result from dozens of econometric simulations and it should not really have come as a total surprise to policy makers.

Do not misread Keynes or Krugman to say that government spending is a perpetual motion machine. If we have a structural deficit problem, stimulus will not fix that. In fact it will temporarily make it worse. Austerity, of course, might make it worse too, and it won't improve growth like stimulus would.


The proper prescription is not hard. As much stimulus and as little austerity as we can politically muster over the next two or so years, and tax hikes/spending cuts beyond that horizon, in the most progressive mix we can muster.


And once again, I have to point you to the economic effects of the Clinton/Rubin tax hikes in '93... instead of depressing the economy as the Republicans predicted, they boosted it because interest rates, as a direct consequence, plunged. People were having the equivalent of tax cuts because they were re-financing their homes and getting thousands of dollars more in their pockets each year. The problems we have now are not the problems we always will have.


"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

The piece that's missing for you


is that aggregate demand is still depressed, we still have an unprecedented output gap, and we're still at the zero lower bound.


No one's talking about the effects of fiscal policy in any other circumstance.

Do you really believe that I am missing that?


I don't think you do, or we are talking past each other even worse than I expected. You say:

No one's talking about the effects of fiscal policy in any other circumstance.

That's the trouble. You're not talking about fiscal policy beyond the zero-lower-bound at all.


You're betting that some future administration and Congress will get a better deal that Obama can. That is the reasoning I wish you would draw out for me. Do you believe the Republican decline is permanent and ongoing? Do you think finding some kind of health care savings is likely?


Look, it could be that Obama can't get a deal that he ought to pull the trigger on, but he should try.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

"but he should try"


No, he shouldn't, a million times over. 


Only on multiple false suppositions would one think so.


* No one should be addressing the short-term deficit now except to increase it and close the output gap. 


* A deficit deal today won't preclude future attempts by conservatives and "centrists" to slash social insurance under the guise of deficit scare-mongering.


* You can't address budget-busting health care costs by striking a budget deal that doesn't address budget-busting health care costs.


Obama's economic policy is terrible and designed to push the US back into recession a la the UK. Its best feature is that it is taking a back seat to immigration reform. 

Or we could grow our way out of that projected deficit


The choice is yours, deficit hawks.

Oh, you have the secret of growth!


Do share.


Here I was, thinking that with our demographic crunch and the low-hanging fruits of industrialization gone we were likely to have 2% growth as the new normal.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Actual output is 7% below potential output


mostly because of depressed aggregate demand, which is mostly due currently to government cutbacks, especially at the state and local levels.


There's no real mystery to achieving higher growth over the time period you're discussing.



So you mean we should be having 9% GDP growth per year? I've never heard of an economist floating that as the figure of potential U.S. growth. Where do you get that from?


As you know, I agree with you on the need for stimulus. But government stimulus is not a perpetual motion machine, it's a temporary measure to fill in a fall in private sector demand. Once we're out of the zero-bound and closer to full employment, which is probably around 5-6% unemployed, then stimulus displaces private activity, and thus doesn't add to growth in the same way.


So what happens then? We still have a structural deficit that is growing our total debt faster than GDP.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

The output gap is over 900 billion dollars


in a 15 trillion economy. If we made it all up in one year, we should have 9% growth for that year, trend growth thereafter (I don't believe trend growth is now all the way down to 2.0%, but it might be lower than 3%).


No one in the past 4 yrs. has been discussing stimulus for any other purpose than to close the output gap, so I don't know why you're bringing up crowding out, etc. 


For greater than 2% growth, just look at a GDP growth chart sometime. We dove off a cliff and then never significantly rebounded, unlike every other recession since WWII. Even if you think trend growth is now 2%, there's no reason to believe we can't have significantly above trend growth while we close the output gap.


Wags, there is no structural deficit in the short term. It's ALL the economic downturn until ballooning health care costs stick us into the red longterm.


I'm concerned you don't know these basics about the deficit, which nearly every economist I read regularly stresses, and which if I recall correctly we just went over about a month ago.

I don't disagree with much


Well, except perhaps that closing the output gap in one year is a wild fantasy.


I just don't understand why you don't want to address the long-term structural deficit while we have a recently re-elected President and a Democratic senate. President Rubio isn't a such a wild notion, you know. Certainly more likely than 9% growth.


People instinctively understand that failing to control the deficit is living off their children's credit card. To surrender that credibility to Republicans by choosing to ignore the problem is politically perilous... it brings back all the fears people have about liberals not paying their way that Clinton did so much to reverse.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

I gave it as an example


so you knew it wasn't 9% every year going forward. 


but honestly, it should've been the goal. 


After the '81-82 recession we had 7-8% growth. 


We've never had government cutbacks like this after a recession before, and the US has always bounced back quicker than this. 


I'm tripping over your 2% growth expectation. Any lower and you'd have to start digging.

I debated


about writing 2-3%, but chose to be less fussy. CBO is forecasting 2.4% after the output gap is closed, some private forecasters less. I don't think we're in major disagreement there.


The state government cutbacks were worse because this recession was worse, but they have always been pro-cyclical.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Or we could invest in infrastructure

HankP's picture

since bond rates are at a 70 year low and actually negative in real terms.


I blame it all on the Internet



But just as importantly, the labor force is underutilized.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Infrastructure investment is pro-growth


I think we're having one of our excellent agreement moments.

Yup, kill two birds with one stone

HankP's picture

but it won't happen because the elites want low inflation no matter what the cost. They don't care about growth.


I blame it all on the Internet

Krugman's written w/in the past two months


that it's economically wise to pay down the debt in periods of high growth and to run a deficit in recessions. It was on his blog, IRRC. 


I think you're confusing his political criticisms of the faux deficit fetishists with having reversed this position.


By the way, the view that the debt and deficit don't matter very much even in the long-term has more to recommend it than you're giving it credit for.


It's another sign of our right wing economic discourse that that view is considered off the charts ridiculous, but austerity more or less enjoys a consensus. 


In a saner world we'd be having a debate over whether to (a) run a high deficit until unemployment comes way down and then reduce the deficit later vs. (b) run a high deficit until unemployment comes way down and then forget about the reduction later.

To use a phrase you're fond of


When you write this:

It's another sign of our right wing economic discourse that that view is considered off the charts ridiculous

It seems to me you're accepting the other side's framing. Fiscal discipline is not liberal or conservative.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

It depends what you mean


To me, fiscal discipline means a few things:


  • Actively avoid wasteful spending, especially objectively wasteful spending, such as paying above market price for products or services.
  • Work the debt markets in a way to pay the lowest interest possible. Many economies have gotten into trouble by being overly compliant to bondholder demands. I already wrote about what a bad idea variable interest paper would be for the current situation.
  • Value finite government resources at market rates. Today, mining companies pay no royalties on the minerals they extract from Federal land.
  • Avoid or eliminate parasitic contractor relationships (these have greatly expanded since the 1990's), because they create an incentive structure that will lead to lobbying for more contracts for whatever the product or service is.
  • Audit and prosecute. People need to go to jail when hammers cost $4,000.

It also means following some reasonable gross guidelines. Should total debt exceed yearly GDP? Probably not, except in a bona fide national emergency, like World War II (over 120% of GDP). It should be closer to 50% to 70%. But, importantly, it should always be thought of as a % of GDP and not as an amount of money measured in trillions or whatever.


This means that GDP growth factors in the equation. The reduction in debt as a % of GDP from the World War II peak was mostly due to economic growth, not government cuts, and the period saw marked infrastructure, science, and technology spending from the Cold War, the Interstate Highway System, and NASA.


What I am saying is that it is far more important to think in terms of the economy globally than to focus on the government ledgers in a vacuum. Government spending is a key economic driver with short and long term multipliers.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

Audit and prosecute who?


People need to go to jail when hammers cost $4,000.


(1) When something is overpriced, the correct response is to not buy it.  It would be cool if I could go into an overpriced restaurant,  order the lobster stuffed with flamingo tongues, enjoy eating it, and then have the police arrest the owner for setting the price too high.   Now sure,  if there is some collusion between the govt purchaser and the vendor to agree to a jacked up price, I have no problem going after both.


(2) Personally my minimum price for doing any govt contract would be around $4K.  I'm sure there is plenty of goldplating and fraud going on,  and an incremental price of $4K for a hammer of an existing known type already meeting MilSpec would be unreasonable,  if that's what it was.   The place I work at has grown and we now have people that do the paperwork part,  but the first DoD contract I did part of the paperwork myself.  There was this thing called a Section K Certification (among others) and at least $2K worth of my time went into that single document alone,  and that's cause we had a VP with guts who was willing to let me do it without lawyers.  Call in the lawyers and you're at $4K right there.


(3) It's not just the paperwork,  it's the standards.   I'll offer you my standard hammer contract.  You sell me a hammer for $4K.  I will call out published ASTM and DoD standards that the hammer must meet,  with you providing certification from third party laboratories that the particular individual hammer has been tested and meets the standards. Because I'm a nice guy, there will be an escape clause allowing you out of the contract with no hammer delivered if you pay me the $4K and it appears you made a good faith effort.

Of Course There is Collusion


I agree that government certifications are Byzantine, and that's one area right there that needs some chopping. At a company I was at we were a team of five documenting a software application. One person was full time dedicated to documenting compliance with some Federal or DOD requirement I forget the name of now, and he was actually an expert on that kind of documentation. He spent a year on this thing which, to normal readers, was basically unintelligible or pointless.


So, I am aware of this problem.


But my $4,000 hammer reference was a way of mentioning corruption or, at the very least, criminal negligence, that costs millions.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

You're overlooking the big problem

HankP's picture

which has happened repeatedly over the past thirty years. Democrats negotiate, compromise, and finally get the deficit down. As soon as a Republican gets elected, they immediately cut taxes and increase spending (on things like wars) and blow out the budget again - which Democrats have to fix because they're the responsible ones. Rinse, repeat. That's why it doesn't pay for the Dems to fix the problem completely. Get it good enough because if they do the responsible thing and get us to 0 or surplus the GOP will just f(*k it up again.


I blame it all on the Internet

I think that's defensive


The deficit can cramp both tax cuts and spending. If we've got the upper hand politically, and I think we do, we should act like it.


The Bush tax cuts happened when we were on a path to eliminating the debt all together. It's a safe bet we won't get back there. Right now we're just trying to stabilize the debt as a % of GDP, that's all.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Hey Darth

HankP's picture

looks like Mrs. Gen. Cuddly is now cleared for combat. From what you've told us those poor SOBs in the Taliban don't stand a chance.


BTW, is it now OK to say "Your Mother wears combat boots"?


I blame it all on the Internet

Biggest mistake we'll ever make


Nothing like trying to call for artillery or MEDEVAC and the freq is tied up with "....And then she said....and so I was like....whatevs...what WAS she wearing....does this machine gun make me look fat..."


In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

You're so unimaginitive

HankP's picture

just go into your COs office and say "Is that the prettiest little colonel I've ever seen or what? That uniform is so slimming." How could any woman resist the (sober) Darth Cuddly?


I blame it all on the Internet

No woman can resist, so I go old school.


I push them down and put bubble gum in their hair.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Reuters right wing watch


They lead off an article on public debt in Europe with: "Public debt levels in the euro zone neared their projected peak last year after more than a decade of huge borrowing ... "


More than a decade of "huge" borrowing? Many of the countries with the highest deficits currently were running surpluses or had miniscule deficits five years ago. Spain and Ireland, for example, were running surpluses in 2007.


Right wing propaganda masquerading as mainstream economics reporting = why we can't have nice things. 

I wonder why I've been offered 3 jobs in foreign countries


but no academic positions so far in the US:





the state university I teach at is in the system in one of the states at the top of the list...


Which is why we have our online and non-traditional program, the tuition from which generally helps make up for the shortfall from the legislature.

I like foreign countries


except for evil, evil China.

Only 38 states on that list


and that's counting "Tennesseed" as a state when it's really the past tense of a verb.   You ought to be looking at the other 12.

Here's the 12 with increases, not adjusted for inflation



So basically 2 states of any size worth discussing have increased their education budgets - NC and IL. Unfortunately both have been dwarfed by the cuts in the other 38 states and not everyone can get jobs in those states. For academics in the humanities and many in STEM areas as well it's ugly out there with little relief in sight.



Antonin Scalia wore a conspicuous hat to Obama's inauguration that was fashioned after the hat Saint Thomas More wore:



Saint Thomas More coined the term "Utopia" with a novel by the same name. According to wiki: 

The country of Utopia tolerates different religious practices but does not tolerate atheists. Hythlodeaus theorises that if a man did not believe in a god or in an afterlife he could never be trusted, because he would not acknowledge any authority or principle outside himself.


Maybe there's more here than style


Remember Thomas More was defender of the True Faith against a rapacious King. Maybe Scalia sees himself the same way.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Bored Post-Hipster Scalia

brutusettu's picture

or bored Scalia be Troll?' 

"Jazz, the music of unemployment."


Frank Zappa

Are diaries disappearing?



In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

My fault

HankP's picture

when we were getting slammed with tons of spam I set the detection and cleanup settings quite high. Unfortunately the Schwarz diary got flagged and deleted before I noticed. I've relaxed the settings now so it shouldn't happen anymore. Diaries may still get flagged but they won't be deleted until I've had a chance to look at them.




I blame it all on the Internet

No worries, Hank


Mistakes happen. 


I would just like to note for the record that I won about eleventy-billion arguments in that diary.

Mistakes Happen?


I toiled for days on that diary. Hundreds of hours of blood, sweat, and tears, all gone like a digital mirage. Ruthlessly crushed by a robot who clearly despised hackers like Swartz.


And who placed that evil robot amongst our ranks? Hank! Oh, the treachery, the betrayal!


Mistakes happen? That's the third person response of a politician, a CEO, or a general. A defective product kills people: mistakes were made. A village is taken out by a drone: a targeting error occurred. My diary disappears: mistakes happen.

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

But I didn't say "mistakes happen"

HankP's picture

I said "my fault". catchy is the skeevy political operator you want to take on, not some poor humble country sysadmin who's just trying to make his way through this cold, cruel world.


I blame it all on the Internet

I've twiddled my Administrator tool handles


and the administerial 8 ball doesn't notice any missing or in the spam qeueu. Which ones are you referring to?

Well, the Swartz diary is the first I've noticed


there may be more and we've just been conditioned not to notice.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Oh, they're disappearing


but it doesn't have much to do with the software.   My diary proving the Goldbach conjecture disappeared due to some poor choices made back in the early 80's.  Some more mundane ones disappeared recently due to overindulgence at the dinner table.

I learned about the demise of the Shore Bank in Chicago

mmghosh's picture

Anyone who says humanities professors can't make money

mmghosh's picture

aren't up to date.

The retirement package for John Sperling, the recently retired founder of the Apollo Group (parent company of the University of Phoenix) "likely won’t do the company any favors on the PR front," The Wall Street Journal reported. Sperling will receive $5 million in a "special retirement bonus," an annuity of $70,833.33 a month, ownership of two Apollo vehicles he used while he was chairman and "reasonable out-of-pocket” medical- and dental-care coverage.


Here, too. 

But Apollo Group doesn't have full-time professors


Pretty much all of their teaching is done by poorly-paid part-timers and way too many of their students are those who wouldn't be able to get into regular university or should have just gone to a community college but were fast-talked into an over-priced degree that most won't finish. AG's profits are so huge because their methods are so unethical.

I almost applied to a for-profit college position recently


I wrote a cover letter, but then investigated more closely and found out it was a spawn of satan institution that I would rather slit my wrists than work at.


I wrote and complained to the people who maintain the advertisement website where I saw the ad. They assured me it was a mistake that slipped by.

I briefly attended a spawn of satan school


University of Notre Damned.  I only took one night course and dropped out in the first week.  I don't even remember what the course was, it just involved listening to my wife talk about her day, followed by a test.  I got my name right.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

I know people who've adjuncted for Phoenix, Strayer,


and Kaplan. And the stories that a lot of them have are... terrifying.

Part of the war on education


which iz way more realer than the war on chrissmas.


I don't want to move to a country that isn't waging war on education, but I might be forced to.


... the thing about Kaplan is that you can start there but then steal their test-prep students, have them pay you under the table at 1/2 the rate they pay Kaplan, and still come out way ahead of what Kaplan pays its instructors. 


I know this b/c a friend told me about it.

Many (most?) rich people are unethical.

mmghosh's picture

The point is to be rich, not ethical.  Do humanities professors have a special need to be ethical?

Probably not


but they wouldn't be humanities professors if they had a special need to be rich

well, yeah, mr. Ghosh...


Obama Inc. has figured out the rather obvious point that the way to sell idiotic policies to the "American people" is to repackage them as "patriotic," or some such thing.

It is the poisoned cup. It is too late.



A politician using patriotism to sell policy choices?


My God! What has the World come to? Won't be able to sleep tonight over this one, the horror!


Shocked, shocked I tell you!

I am not a pessimist. I am an incompetent optimist.

Do you even remember the Bush years? nt

HankP's picture


I blame it all on the Internet

Mr Reagan dedicated a space shuttle flight to Afghan mujahideen

mmghosh's picture

the actual quote has a soaring quality - the people of Afghanistan resisting the Russian invasion represented the "highest aspirations of mankind".  I believe the current opinion of patriotic Americans about patriotic Afghans is a little different.





You would find it hard to find politicians making policy not linked to patriotism of some kind. Mr Obama can hardly be different.

Vint, do you mean...

Jay C's picture

the way to sell idiotic policies to the "American people" is to repackage them as "patriotic," or some such thing.

Do you mean like GW Bush did with the "War On Terror" and the invasion of Iraq...?

Saying that no one really died


in Fukushima is inaccurate. A number of people died for a variety of reasons during the evacuations who probably would have lived otherwise. Long term there will be additional cancer cases and deaths due to radiation exposure. That's not meant to downplay the risks of coal just to correct the record about Fukushima.  

There was the tsunami at Fukushima too, so deaths

mmghosh's picture

from evacuations could reasonably be ascribed to that as well as the nuclear accident.  Or so the wiki says.


I should have been clearer - no deaths from direct radiation as a result of the accident.  Only about 30 workers have had the 100mSv exposure at the upper end of the safety margin.   Long term radiation exposure induced cancers following Fukushima seem to be unlikely.  This JAMA article (official calculations) is frustratingly paywalled (any JAMA subscribers here?).

In April, 2011, the United States Department of Energy published projections of the radiation risks over the next year (that is, for the future) for people living in the neighborhood of the plant. Potential exposure could exceed 20 mSv/year (2 rems/year) in some areas up to 50 kilometers from the plant. That is the level at which relocation would be considered in the USA, and it is a level that could cause roughly one extra cancer case in 500 young adults.[citation needed] However, natural radiation levels are higher in some parts of the world than the projected level mentioned above, and about 4 people out of 10 can be expected to develop cancer without exposure to radiation.

George Monbiot (who can be as often right as he is wrong) points out

A fortnight ago, the Guardian examined the work of a Dr Chris Busby. We found that he has been promoting anti-radiation pills and tests to the people of Japan that scientists have described as useless and baseless. We also revealed that people were being asked to send donations, ostensibly to help the children of Fukushima, to Busby's business account in Aberystwyth. We found that scientists at the NHS had examined his claims to have detected a leukaemia cluster in north Wales and discovered that they arose from a series of shocking statistical mistakes. Worse still, the scientists say, "the dataset has been systematically trawled". Yet Busby, until our report was published, advised the Green party on radiation. His "findings" are widely used by anti-nuclear activists.


Last week in the New York Times, the anti-nuclear campaigner Helen Caldicott repeated a claim which already has been comprehensively discredited: that "close to 1 million people have died of causes linked to the Chernobyl disaster". The "study" on which it is based added up the excess deaths from a vast range of conditions, many of which have no known connection to radiation, in the countries affected by Chernobyl – and attributed them to the accident. Among these conditions was cirrhosis of the liver. Could it have any other possible cause in eastern Europe? Earlier this year, when I asked Caldicott to provide scientific sources for the main claims she was making, she was unable to do so. None of this has stopped her from repeating them, or has prevented greens from spreading them.

In my dottage I try to save time by using a more heuristic


analysis when reading. This:


However, natural radiation levels are higher in some parts of the world than the projected level mentioned above, and about 4 people out of 10 can be expected to develop cancer without exposure to radiation.


sets off all my "industry funded propaganda" alarms right away. 


Notice that above is a claim that areas up to 50km from the site should be (permanently?) evacuated - this is not the Sahara desert here how many people would need to move? Notice also that the cancer estimates was for additional cancers in young adults.


4 out of 10 people will deelop cancer without exposure to radiation. Come on Manish. We all die in the end you know? Why worry about anything? 

A lot more people will die if CO2 isn't brought down,

mmghosh's picture

and that relatively quickly.


Nuclear is the only mature tech that can scale up in the decadal time period required.  There's nuclear reactors inside aircraft carriers, icebreakers and submarines - and been around for decades.

And the arctic is littered with


hot detritus from the Soviets as a result.

 is a case in point but there are plenty others. And these are whjat we know about from organisations with a lot more commitment to secrecy than environmental health. Who knows how many incidents were unreported - I'd say just about every single one they could get away without reporting.


Look, you might be right. Nuclear might be a hope for the future. All the more reason to shine a hard light on its faults now. Nothing good grows in the dark - speak now or any nuclear spring we see will be made up of off the shelf designs from the usual suspects.

1 out of 1 people die

brutusettu's picture

The "4 out of 10" seems unnecessary with regards to judging the risk.


The "citation needed" "stat" on 1 more cancer out of 500 "adults" seems more important.  And that looks like it was just for areas in the outer limits of the 25 km radius.



And what parts of the world have higher "radiation" levels.  Is the population density anywhere near what the Fukushima?  And what type of "radiation".

"Jazz, the music of unemployment."


Frank Zappa

Minnesota GOP - harming the party's national viability?


From a recent PPP poll:


(Asked of 275 Republican primary voters) Given the choices of Michele Bachmann, Laura Brod, Chip Cravaack, John Kline, Erik Paulsen, and Rich Stanek, who would you most like to see as the Republican candidate for Senate next year?


45% ...... Michele Bachmann
11% ......  Erik Paulsen
4% ........ Laura Brod
6% ........ Someone else/Not sure
13% ...... Chip Cravaack
19% ...... John Kline
2%  ......  Rich Stanek 


But despite being the primary voters' clear favorite, Bachmann is not popular generally:


Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Michele Bachmann?


Favorable ........................................................ 35%
Unfavorable .................................................... 59%
Not sure............................................................ 6%