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October 21, 2011

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Latest Posts from Economist's View


Paul Krugman: Party of Pollution

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 12:33 AM PDT

As I said the other day, the GOP's jobs proposals amount to picking something that they (or the people who finance their campaigns) don't like — the EPA, Dodd-Frank, health care legislation, Sarbanes-Oxley, etc. — and then finding some way to argue that eliminating it will create jobs:

Party of Pollution, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Last month President Obama finally unveiled a serious economic stimulus plan — far short of what I'd like to see, but a step in the right direction. Republicans, predictably, have blocked it. ...
So what is the G.O.P. jobs plan? The answer, in large part, is to allow more pollution. ... Both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have ... put weakened environmental protection at the core of their economic proposals, as have Senate Republicans. Mr. Perry has put out a specific number — 1.2 million jobs — that appears to be based on a study released by the American Petroleum Institute ... claiming favorable employment effects from removing restrictions on oil and gas extraction. The same study lies behind the claims of Senate Republicans.
But does this oil-industry-backed study actually make a serious case for weaker environmental protection as a job-creation strategy? No.
Part of the problem is that the study relies heavily on an assumed "multiplier" effect, in which every new job in energy leads indirectly to the creation of 2.5 jobs elsewhere. Republicans, you may recall, were scornful of claims that government aid that helps avoid layoffs of schoolteachers also indirectly helps save jobs in the private sector. But I guess the laws of economics change when it's an oil company rather than a school district doing the hiring.
Moreover,... the big numbers in the report are projections for late this decade. The report predicts fewer than 200,000 jobs next year, and fewer than 700,000 even by 2015. You might want to compare these numbers with ... the 14 million Americans currently unemployed, and the one million to two million jobs that independent estimates suggest the Obama plan would create, not in the distant future, but in 2012. ...
More pollution, then, isn't the route to full employment. But is there a longer-term economic case for less environmental protection? No. ... The important thing to understand is that ... pollution ... does real, measurable damage, especially to human health. ...
How big are these damages? A new study by researchers at Yale and Middlebury College ... estimates ... that there are a number of industries inflicting environmental damage that's worth more than the sum of the wages they pay and the profits they earn — which means, in effect, that they destroy value rather than creating it. ...
Republicans, of course, have strong incentives to claim otherwise: the big value-destroying industries are concentrated in the energy and natural resources sector, which overwhelmingly donates to the G.O.P. But the reality is that more pollution wouldn't solve our jobs problem. All it would do is make us poorer and sicker.

Signs that the Fed Will Provide More Stimulus for the Economy

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 12:24 AM PDT

I am starting to think the Fed might do more for the economy:

The Fed Is Laying the Groundwork for Further Easing

A Ticker-Tape Parade?

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 12:15 AM PDT

This caught my eye:

Simon Johnson ... said that a current member of the Fed told him he was "disappointed there hadn't been a ticker-tape parade" for policymakers who, in the central banker's mind, had saved the economy.

Suppose the fire department fails to do adequate inspections, and a big fire breaks out because of it. If that same fire department puts it out and saves the day, do we cheer them for cleaning up their own mess? I think not.

links for 2011-10-21

Posted: 21 Oct 2011 12:06 AM PDT

How to Clean Up the Housing Mess

Posted: 20 Oct 2011 02:07 PM PDT

[Gave a talk this morning, see here, and traveling this afternoon, so just a quick drive by post from the airport for now.]

Alan Blinder:

How to Clean Up the Housing Mess, by Alan Blinder, Commentary, WSJ: About four years ago, as the housing bust worsened, our country faced an entirely predictable problem: A huge wave of foreclosures was headed our way. The issue of the day was how to stop it before it engulfed the entire economy. My suggestion then was to revive the Depression-era Home Owners' Loan Corporation, which refinanced about a tenth of all the mortgages in America and closed its books with a small profit. Never mind the details; the suggestion was ignored. Maybe there were better ideas, anyway.
Sadly, however, we did almost nothing to stop the predicted foreclosure wave, which is now drowning us. The issue at this late date is how we can mitigate the damage.
One oft-repeated answer comes from the intellectual descendants of Andrew Mellon and Herbert Spencer: liquidate, liquidate, liquidate. Let the housing market find its natural bottom, and the chips fall where they may.
I beg to differ. Some of the reasons are humanitarian. Millions of foreclosures are ruining millions of lives and devastating many communities. We can do better than Social Darwinism.
But many of the reasons are strictly economic. The seemingly-endless housing slump is dragging down our economy. By now, massive underbuilding during the slump far exceeds the overbuilding during the boom. So, by rights, a shortage of houses should be pushing up house prices, incentivizing home builders, and boosting growth in gross domestic product. Instead, actual and prospective foreclosures hang over the housing market like a wet blanket.
That we let this happen is tragic. ...

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