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February 14, 2014

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Paul Krugman: Inequality, Dignity and Freedom

Posted: 14 Feb 2014 12:24 AM PST

Dignity:

Inequality, Dignity and Freedom, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Now that the Congressional Budget Office has explicitly denied saying that Obamacare destroys jobs, some (though by no means all) Republicans have stopped lying about that issue and turned to a different argument... — it's still a bad thing because, as Representative Paul Ryan puts it, they'll lose "the dignity of work." ...
It's all very well to talk in the abstract about the dignity of work, but to suggest that workers can have equal dignity despite huge inequality in pay is just silly. ...
In fact, the people who seem least inclined to respect the efforts of ordinary workers are the winners of the wealth lottery. ... And ... Republican politicians. ...
So what would give working Americans more dignity ... despite huge income disparities? How about assuring them that the essentials — health care, opportunity for their children, a minimal income — will be there even if their boss fires them or their jobs are shipped overseas?
Think about it: Has anything done as much to enhance the dignity of American seniors, to rescue them from the penury and dependence that were once so common among the elderly, as Social Security and Medicare? Inside the Beltway, fiscal scolds have turned "entitlements" into a bad word, but it's precisely the fact that Americans are entitled to collect Social Security and ... Medicare, no questions asked, that makes these programs so empowering and liberating.
Conversely, the drive by conservatives to dismantle much of the social safety net, to replace it with minimal programs and private charity, is, in effect, an effort to strip away the dignity of lower-income workers.
And it's ... an assault on their freedom. Modern American conservatives talk a lot about freedom, and deride liberals for advocating a "nanny state." But when it comes to Americans down on their luck, conservatives become insultingly paternalistic, as comfortable congressmen lecture struggling families on the dignity of work. And they also become advocates of highly intrusive government. ...
The truth is that if you really care about the dignity and freedom of American workers, you should favor more, not fewer, entitlements, a stronger, not weaker, social safety net.
And you should, in particular, support and celebrate health reform. Never mind all those claims that Obamacare is slavery; the reality is that the Affordable Care Act will empower millions of Americans, giving them exactly the kind of dignity and freedom politicians only pretend to love.

Links for 02-14-2014

Posted: 14 Feb 2014 12:03 AM PST

Debt and Growth: There is No Magic Threshold

Posted: 13 Feb 2014 02:49 PM PST

New paper from the IMF:

Debt and Growth: Is There a Magic Threshold?, by Andrea Pescatori ; Damiano Sandri ; John Simon [Free Full text]: Summary: Using a novel empirical approach and an extensive dataset developed by the Fiscal Affairs Department of the IMF, we find no evidence of any particular debt threshold above which medium-term growth prospects are dramatically compromised. Furthermore, we find the debt trajectory can be as important as the debt level in understanding future growth prospects, since countries with high but declining debt appear to grow equally as fast as countries with lower debt. Notwithstanding this, we find some evidence that higher debt is associated with a higher degree of output volatility.

[Via Bruce Bartlett on Twitter.]

'The Econometric Evidence More or Less Supports' Ranting Leftists

Posted: 13 Feb 2014 11:56 AM PST

Paul Krugman:

... So, if you were a ranting leftist, you might say that political attitudes are shaped by class, and that ideological justifications for high inequality are just a veil for class interest. You might also say that "sound" economic policies are really just policies that redistribute income upwards. And it turns out that the econometric evidence more or less supports your rant.

More here.

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