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October 19, 2012

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Paul Krugman: Snow Job on Jobs

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 01:11 AM PDT

There is no Romney jobs plan:

Snow Job on Jobs, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Mitt Romney talks a lot about jobs. ... But Mr. Romney, it turns out, doesn't have a plan; he's just ... telling lies: claiming that ... independent studies support its position when those studies do no such thing. ...
Mr. Romney's ... jobs plan ... has five points but contains no specifics. ... Mr. Romney says that the plan would create 12 million jobs over the next four years.
Where does that number come from? When pressed, the campaign cited three studies that it claimed supported its assertions. In fact, however, those studies did no such thing.
Just for the record, one study concluded that America might gain two million jobs if China stopped infringing on U.S. patents and other intellectual property..., but Mr. Romney hasn't proposed anything that would bring about that outcome. Another study suggested that growth in the energy sector might add three million jobs... — but these were predicted gains under current policy,... not as a consequence of the Romney plan.
Finally, a third study examined the effects of the Romney tax plan and argued (implausibly...) that it would lead to a large increase in the number of Americans who want to work. But how does that help cure a situation in which there are already millions more Americans seeking work than there are jobs available? It's irrelevant to Mr. Romney's claims.
So when the campaign says that these three studies support its claims about jobs, it is, to use the technical term, lying — just as it is when it says that six independent studies support its claims about taxes (they don't).
What do Mr. Romney's economic advisers actually believe? As best as I can tell, they're placing their faith in the confidence fairy, in the belief that their candidate's victory would inspire an employment boom without the need for any real change in policy. In fact, in his infamous Boca Raton "47 percent" remarks, Mr. Romney himself asserted that he would give a big boost to the economy simply by being elected, "without actually doing anything." ...
To summarize, then, the true Romney plan is to create an economic boom through the sheer power of Mr. Romney's personal awesomeness. But the campaign doesn't dare say that, for fear that voters would (rightly) consider it ridiculous. So what we're getting instead is an attempt to brazen it out with nakedly false claims. There's no jobs plan; just a plan for a snow job on the American people.

Links for 10-19-2012

Posted: 19 Oct 2012 12:06 AM PDT

Will an FTC Prize End Robocalls?

Posted: 18 Oct 2012 06:37 PM PDT

I like this too:

FTC Offers $50,000 Prize to End Robocalls, by Kevin Drum: Economists have long touted the value of prizes to motivate innovation. ... Today, the FTC announced a prize for a ... worthy cause:

After years of using traditional regulatory tools to block billions of illegal marketing calls, the FTC says, the agency is launching a public contest in search of new technical solutions.

The prize: $50,000.

....The agency will be taking entries between Oct. 25 and Jan. 17. Judges will score proposals based on workability (worth 50 percent), ease of use (worth 25 percent) and the idea's potential for a wide rollout (worth 25 percent). Applicants can submit ideas to block pre-recorded marketing calls on landlines, cellphones or both.

Hooray! Seriously. I don't know if this will work, and I don't know if $50,000 is enough, but this is a great idea. It's exactly the kind of thing that might prompt some unappreciated genius to come up with a harebrained idea that's just crazy enough to work. We should do more stuff like this.

'U.S. Labor Unions: Fewer and Bigger'

Posted: 18 Oct 2012 11:05 AM PDT

(I've been under the weather the last few days, so apologies for not doing more, particularly the lack of any comments -- even brief statements at the beginning or end of posts -- from me.)

This is from Tim Taylor:

U.S. Labor Unions: Fewer and Bigger, by Tim Taylor: John Pencavel offers an angle on the evolution of American unions that I haven't seen recently by looking at the number of unions and their size. Short story: the number of American unions has declined, but the biggest unions have many more members than their precedessors. Pencavel has a nice summary of this work in "Public-Sector Unions and the Changing Structure of U.S. Unionism," written as a "Policy Brief" for the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
As a starting point,... back in 1974, most of the biggest unions--except for the National Education Association--were private-sector unions. However, by 2007, most of the biggest unions were public-sector union. Second, both the biggest union in 2007 (the NEA) and the fifth-biggest union in 2007 (the UFCW) were substantially larger than the first- and fifth-biggest unions in 1974. ...
Pencavel compiles evidence that from 1974 to 2007, the total number of unions declined by 101, much of that due to unions consolidating with others. Unions with more than 1 million members actually had 2.7 million more total members in 2007 than back in 1974; conversely, unions with fewer than 1 million total members had 6.8 million fewer total members in 2007 than in 1974. In other words, union members are much more likely to belong to a very large unions now than a few decades ago. ...
I suppose that one response to all this is "so what"? Well, if the largest companies in the U.S. economy in any given industry gain a dramatically larger share of the U.S. economy, it gives rise to comment. When the largest unions gain a dramatically larger share of the union sector, it's worth some introspection, too.
Pencavel draws his conclusions cautiously. "[A] union movement concentrated in a smaller number of large unions implies a union movement in which much of its wealth is allocated by a smaller number of decision-makers. ...  A serious concern is that a more concentrated union movement dominated by public sector unions may politicize unionism: That is, the focus of union activity will be less on attending to grievances and to the conditions of members at their place of work and more on issues that are the province of politics. ... Unions have always been involved in politics so this would be a change of degree, not of kind, but it is an important change because, ultimately, more politicized unionism will not help the typical union worker." ...
The central question about large public sector unions, of course, is whether in their ability to act as an powerful interested group that influences the results of state and local elections and then to have their conditions of employment determined in negotiations with officials of those same state and local governments, they have exploited the freedom of association in a way that creates what Pencavel calls a "mischievous organization." Pencavel ends on a questioning note: "This is not a prediction; it is a concern." ...

Partisanship and Charitable Giving

Posted: 18 Oct 2012 09:46 AM PDT

Do conservatives give more to charity than liberals? Nope:

Who Really Gives? Partisanship and Charitable Giving in the United States, by Andrew Gelman: Michele Margolis and Michael Sances write:

Conservatives and liberals are equally generous in their donation habits. This pattern holds at both the individual and state level, and contradicts the conventional wisdom that partisans differ in their generosity.

What about the claim by Arthur Brooks that conservatives give more? Margolis and Sances write:

We are not the first to ask whether partisanship affects giving. In 2006, Arthur Brooks made headlines with a provocative finding from his book Who Really Cares: despite stereotypes of liberals caring more about the poor, conservatives were purported to be more generous when it comes to giving to charities. These results stirred the political pot by taking "bleeding heart liberals" to task for their stinginess when it comes to their own money. . . . we demonstrate that these results are not robust, and appear to be driven by a non-traditional question wording for identifying liberals and conservatives. After correcting for this problem, there is no statistical difference between conservative and liberal giving, conditional on observable characteristics. Further, when we use partisanship rather than ideology to measure liberalism, there is no statistical difference in giving, regardless of whether we adjust for observable characteristics. ...

Where do liberals and conservatives give their money?

While levels of giving are roughly equivalent, liberals are much more likely to donate to secular organizations, and conservatives are more likely to donate to religious causes, especially their own congregation. ...

I'm impressed by this work, partly because a few years ago when I saw Brooks's claim, I contacted him and asked for details on what he did, and then I threw the problem to some students to replicate it. They got tired and never did it.

P.S. Recently, Arthur Brooks has been having some trouble with the General Social Survey. Working with data can be difficult!

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