Redirect


This site has moved to http://economistsview.typepad.com/
The posts below are backup copies from the new site.

December 31, 2014

Latest Posts from Economist's View

Latest Posts from Economist's View


Links for 12-31-14

Posted: 31 Dec 2014 12:06 AM PST

'Musings on 25-54 Employment-to-Population Rates and the Macroeconomy'

Posted: 30 Dec 2014 10:04 AM PST

Brad DeLong:

Musings on 25-54 Employment-to-Population Rates and the Macroeconomy: (1) If the US economy were operating at its productive potential, the share of 25 to 54-year-olds who are employed ought to be what it was at the start of 2000. Back then there were few visible pressures leading to rising inflation in the economy.
Does anybody disagree with that?
(2) Right now, 25 to 54-year-olds–both male and female–are employed at a rate lower by 5%-age points then they were at the start of 2000. That's 6.5%, or 1/15, more 25-54 labor at work than we have today.
Does anybody disagree with that? ...

That's just the start (too hard to excerpt effectively -- there are three more points followed by two questions, five more points, then two more questions).

'How Morgan Stanley Pushed Risky Subprime Mortgage Lending'

Posted: 30 Dec 2014 10:04 AM PST

Danielle Kurtzleben, vox.com:

Damning court filings show Morgan Stanley pushed risky subprime mortgage lending:
  • Court filings say Morgan Stanley, a major Wall Street bank, pushed subprime lender New Century into making riskier and riskier mortgage loans, the New York Times reports.
  • The filings include damning emails, showing that Morgan Stanley employees knew about and even joked about some borrowers' inability to pay on their mortgages.
  • The Justice Department is now investigating the connection between Morgan Stanley and New Century.
  • The fines further tarnish the reputation of a big bank that, despite its heavy involvement in mortgage-backed securities, until recently had few crisis-related legal troubles.

...

'Asymmetric Credibility at the Fed and Price-Level Targeting'

Posted: 30 Dec 2014 10:04 AM PST

Jared Bernstein:

Asymmetric Credibility at the Fed and Price-Level Targeting: While we in the US don't have the disinflation (positive but declining rates of inflation) problem facing the Eurozone, our benchmark inflation rate has consistently undershot its mark. The Federal Reserve target for the core PCE deflator is 2%, year-over-year, and yet it hasn't hit that growth rate even once since April of 2012. Since then, the average rate of PCE core inflation is 1.5% (Euro area core inflation was last seen growing at 0.6%).
Note also that the 2% is a target, not a ceiling (though there's often ambiguity around this), meaning if you've been below for a while, it's consistent with hitting your target rate on average to be above it for a while as well.
And yet, the question of whether the Fed is adequately meeting the "stable prices" part of its dual mandate (the other part is, of course, full employment) seems almost uniformly to be whether it's keeping inflation from going above 2%. In other words, the Fed's inflation credibility is asymmetric: they only lose credibility points for going above 2%.
As a policy matter for a healthy economy, this is wrong...

December 30, 2014

Latest Posts from Economist's View

Latest Posts from Economist's View


Links for 12-30-14

Posted: 30 Dec 2014 12:06 AM PST

'The Second Age of Imperialism'

Posted: 29 Dec 2014 11:08 AM PST

Branko Milanovic:

The second age of imperialism: As we enter 2015, it is not useless to look backwards in order to try to guess the trends of the future. I would  argue that the age that we are, to some extent exiting now, and which extended from the early 1980s, can be called the "second age of imperialism"--the first one, in the modern history, having been the age of high imperialism 1870-1914.              I will focus here on some of its key manifestations in the ideological sphere, in the areas I know, history and economics. But it should be obvious that ideology is but a manifestation of the underlying real forces, which were twofold: (i) the failure of most developing countries by 1980 to become economically successful and self-sustaining after decolonization and the end of Communism as an alternative global ideology, and (ii) the relatively solid economic record of Western countries (masked by the expansion of borrowing for the lower classes), and regained self-confidence of the elites in the wake of the Reagan-Thatcher (counter-) revolutions and the fall of Communism.  The violent manifestations of the second age of imperialism were invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, brutal war in Libya, and the defensive imperialism of Russia in Ukraine and Georgia. But here we are concerned with the superstructure. ...

Financial Innovation and Risk Management

Posted: 29 Dec 2014 10:53 AM PST

Cecchetti & Schoenholtz

Financial Innovation and Risk Management: "We allow our standards of living to be determined essentially by a game of chance." -- Robert Shiller, Macro Markets, 1993.
In 2013, Robert Shiller shared the Nobel Prize for Economics with Eugene Fama and Lars Peter Hansen for their research on asset pricing. While Shiller is known as a critic of the efficient markets hypothesis and as a proponent of behavioral finance, less appreciated is his work on advancing financial technology to help societies manage fundamental economic risks.
At a time when the recent crisis has given financial innovation a bad name, Shiller's contrarian message is that well-designed financial instruments and markets are an enormous boon to social welfare. We agree.
Historical examples supporting Shiller's view abound. ...

'Data Insight: Which Growth Rate? It’s a Weighty Subject'

Posted: 29 Dec 2014 10:53 AM PST

Richard Crump, Stefano Eusepi, David Lucca, and Emanuel Moench at the NY Fed's Liberty Street Economics:

Data Insight: Which Growth Rate? It's a Weighty Subject:  The growth rate in real gross domestic product (GDP) is a conventional indicator of the economy's health. But the two ways of measuring annual GDP growth can give very different answers. In 2013, GDP grew 2.2 percent on a year-over-year basis, but at a faster 3.1 percent rate on a Q4-over-Q4 basis. So, which measure is more meaningful? We show in this post that the Q4/Q4 metric is better since it only considers quarterly growth rates during the current year, while the Year/Year measure depends on quarterly growth rates in both the current and previous year and puts considerable weight on growth around the turn of the year. ...

December 29, 2014

Latest Posts from Economist's View

Latest Posts from Economist's View


Paul Krugman: The Obama Recovery

Posted: 29 Dec 2014 12:24 AM PST

The economy is doing better. Will it continue?:

The Obama Recovery, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: ... As you may know, back in 2010 Britain's newly installed Conservative government declared that a sharp reduction in budget deficits was needed to keep Britain from turning into Greece. Over the next two years growth in the British economy, which had been recovering fairly well from the financial crisis, more or less stalled. In 2013, however, growth picked up again — and the British government claimed vindication for its policies. Was this claim justified?
No, not at all. What actually happened was that the Tories stopped tightening the screws — they didn't reverse the austerity that had already occurred, but they effectively put a hold on further cuts. ... And sure enough, the nation started feeling better.
To claim that this bounceback vindicated austerity is silly. ...
Meanwhile, back in America we haven't had an official, declared policy of fiscal austerity — but we've nonetheless had plenty of austerity in practice, thanks to the federal sequester and sharp cuts by state and local governments. The good news is that we, too, seem to have stopped tightening the screws: Public spending isn't surging, but at least it has stopped falling. And the economy is doing much better as a result. ...
What's the important lesson from this late Obama bounce? Mainly, I'd suggest, that everything you've heard about President Obama's economic policies is wrong.
You know the spiel: that the U.S. economy is ailing because Obamacare is a job-killer and the president is a redistributionist, that Mr. Obama's anti-business speeches (he hasn't actually made any, but never mind) have hurt entrepreneurs' feelings, inducing them to take their marbles and go home.
This story line never made much sense. The truth is that the private sector has done surprisingly well under Mr. Obama... What held us back was unprecedented public-sector austerity... Sure enough, now that this de facto austerity is easing, the economy is perking up.  ...
Will this improvement in our condition continue? Britain's government has declared its intention to ... engage in further austerity, which does not bode well. But here the picture looks brighter. Households are in much better financial shape than they were a few years ago; there's probably still a lot of pent-up demand, especially for housing. And falling oil prices will be good for most of the country...
So I'm fairly optimistic about 2015, and probably beyond, as long as we avoid any more self-inflicted damage. ...

Links for 12-29-14

Posted: 29 Dec 2014 12:06 AM PST

'Federal Tax Revenues During the 1980’s'

Posted: 28 Dec 2014 09:03 AM PST

PGL at Econospeak:

Federal Tax Revenues During the 1980's: Paul Krugman takes on another aspect with respect to the latest intellectual garbage from Stephen Moore by commenting on Moore's claim that Federal tax revenues soared from 1980 to 1989...

Paul is debunking a claim that has been made and debunked many times. The usual line is that Federal tax revenues almost doubled from $517.1 billion in 1980 to $1032.0 in 1990. The inflation-adjusted part comes from the fact that the GDP deflator rose by 50.3% over this period so in real terms revenues rose by 32.8% over the entire decade. But there is another serious problem with this that anyone who followed the various tax policy changes during the Reagan years should know. Yes income tax rates were cut in 1981 but there were various tax rate increases that followed including a significant increase in payroll tax rates in 1983. Table B.21 of the Economic Report of the President provides the details on Federal tax revenues. Payroll taxes rose from $157.8 billion in 1980 to $380 billion in 1990. Yes, a 140.8% nominal increase and a 60.3% increase in real terms when this tax rate was increased. All other Federal taxes therefore rose by only 20.8% in real terms over the decade. Since I'm not the first to point this out one would have to believe that Stephen Moore would have seen this often made point before. And yet he can't be bothered to tell his readers the whole story? ...

'The Obama Bounce'

Posted: 28 Dec 2014 09:03 AM PST

Paul Krugman:

The Obama Bounce: Dean Baker is, of course, right: this is not a boom, and comparisons to the 1990s are insane. Still, growth has clearly picked up, and the public seems to be noticing. So what can we say about the Obama non-boom?
I'd argue that much of what we're seeing reflects the tapering off of austerity. ... Spending hasn't rebounded yet, but at least it has stopped shrinking: ... And it's important to realize that, despite all the rhetoric about how Obamacare/antibusiness rhetoric/Kenyan Islamic atheism is destroying business, the private sector has actually been relatively strong under Obama. ...
The point is that relatively good private sector performance has been masked by public-sector cutbacks; this is the opposite of what you usually hear, but that's no surprise.
What about the prospects looking forward? ... Overall..., the next year and probably the next two years are likely to be pretty good. This doesn't mean that the overall track record of policy has been good — we've wasted trillions in foregone output, damaged the lives of millions if not tens of millions. But it will feel a lot better than the years before.

December 28, 2014

Latest Posts from Economist's View

December 27, 2014

Latest Posts from Economist's View

Latest Posts from Economist's View


Links for 12-27-14

Posted: 27 Dec 2014 12:06 AM PST

'Underinvesting in the Public Good'

Posted: 26 Dec 2014 09:40 AM PST

Daniel Little:

Underinvesting in the public good, Understanding Society: There are quite a few investments in social programs that would have spectacular return on investment, but that in fact remain unfunded or underfunded. I am thinking here of things like broadened preschool programs, enhanced dropout prevention programs, regional economic development efforts, and prison re-entry programs. Why are these spectacular opportunities so dramatically under-exploited in the United States and other nations?

One line of answer derives from a public choice perspective: the gains that follow from the investment represent public goods, and public goods are typically under-provided. But that doesn't really answer the question, because it is governments that are underinvesting, not uncoordinated groups of independent agents. And governments are supposed to make investments to promote the public good.

Another plausible answer is that the citizens who are primarily served by most of the examples provided above are poor and disenfranchised; so the fact that they would benefit from the program doesn't motivate the politically powerful to adopt the policy.

There is also a powerful influence of political ideology at work here. Conservative ideas about what a good society looks like, how social change occurs, and the role of government all militate against substantial public investment in programs and activities like those mentioned above. These conservative political beliefs are undergirded by a white-hot activism against taxes that makes it all but impossible to gain support in legislative bodies for programs like these -- no matter what the return on investment is.

Failure to achieve these kinds of social gains through public investment might seem like a very basic element of injustice within our society. But it also looks like strong evidence of system failure: the political and economic system fail to bring about as much public good as is possible in the circumstances. The polity is stuck somewhere on the low shoulders of the climb towards maximum public benefit for minimum overall investment. It is analogous to the situation in private economic space where there are substantial obstacles to the flow of investment, leaving substantial possible sources of gain untapped. It is s situation of massive collective inefficiency, quite the contrary of Adam Smith's view of the happy outcomes of the hidden hand and the market mechanism.

This last point brings us back to the public goods aspect of the problem. A legislature that designs a policy or program aimed at capturing the gains mentioned here may succeed in its goal and yet find that the gains accrue to someone else -- the public at large or another political party. The gains are separated from the investment, leaving the investment entity with no rational incentive to make the investment after all.

Some policy leaders have recognized this systemic problem and have turned to an innovative possible solution, social impact bonds (link). Here is how the Center for American Progress explains this idea.

A social impact bond, or SIB, is an innovative financial tool that enables government agencies to pay for programs that deliver results. In a SIB agreement, the government sets a specific, measurable outcome that it wants achieved in a population and promises to pay an external organization—sometimes called an intermediary—if and only if the organization accomplishes the outcome. SIBs are one example of what the Obama administration calls "Pay for Success" financing. (link)

Essentially the idea is to try to find a way of privatizing the public gains in question, so that private investors have an incentive to bring them about.

This is an interesting idea, but it doesn't really solve the fundamental problem: society's inability to make rational investment in its own wellbeing. It seems more like a way of shifting risks of program success or failure from the state agency to the private entity. Here is a McKinsey discussion of the concept (link), and here is a more skeptical piece in the Economist (link).

December 26, 2014

Latest Posts from Economist's View

Latest Posts from Economist's View


Paul Krugman: Tidings of Comfort

Posted: 26 Dec 2014 12:15 AM PST

Sometimes, government is the best solution to our problems:

Tidings of Comfort, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: ... All year Americans have been bombarded with dire news reports portraying a world out of control and a clueless government with no idea what to do.
Yet if you look back at what actually happened over the past year,... a number of major government policies worked just fine — and the biggest successes involved the most derided policies. You'll never hear this on Fox News, but 2014 was a year in which the federal government, in particular, showed that it can do some important things very well...
Start with Ebola... Judging from news media coverage..., America was on the verge of turning into a real-life version of "The Walking Dead." And many politicians dismissed the efforts of public health officials... As it turned out, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ... knew what they were doing..., there was no outbreak here.
Consider next the state of the economy. There's no question that recovery from the 2008 crisis has been painfully slow and should have been much faster. In particular, the economy has been held back by unprecedented cuts in public spending and employment.
But the story you hear all the time portrays economic policy as an unmitigated disaster... So it comes as something of a shock when you look at the actual record and discover that growth and job creation have been substantially faster during the Obama recovery than they were during the Bush recovery last decade (even ignoring the crisis at the end)...
What's more, recent data suggest that the economy is gathering strength... Maybe economic management hasn't been that bad, after all.
Finally, there's the hidden-in-plain-sight triumph of Obamacare, which is just finishing up its first year of full implementation. ... In fact, Year 1 surpassed expectations on every front. ... And all indications suggest that year two will be marked by further success.
And there's more. For example, at the end of 2014, the Obama administration's foreign policy, which tries to contain threats like Vladimir Putin's Russia or the Islamic State rather than rushing into military confrontation, is looking pretty good.
The common theme here is that, over the past year, a U.S. government subjected to constant bad-mouthing, constantly accused of being ineffectual or worse, has, in fact, managed to accomplish a lot. On multiple fronts, government wasn't the problem; it was the solution. Nobody knows it, but 2014 was the year of "Yes, we can."

Links for 12-26-14

Posted: 26 Dec 2014 12:06 AM PST

Merry Christmas

Posted: 25 Dec 2014 09:09 AM PST

Santa
I hope everyone has a great day.

December 25, 2014

Latest Posts from Economist's View

Latest Posts from Economist's View


Links for 12-25-14

Posted: 25 Dec 2014 12:06 AM PST

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Posted: 24 Dec 2014 02:56 PM PST

This is a repeat from previous years, something my grandfather read to us each Christmas Eve, Twas The Night Before Christmas:

G1

G2G3

L2_1 was the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

G26 G4

L3 he children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,

G5

L4 hen out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

G6

L5 he moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

G7 G8   G9

L6 ith a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

G10 G11

L7 ow, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

G12

 

G13

 

G14   G15

L8 s dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

G16   G17

L9 nd then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

L10 e was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

G18

L11 is eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

G19

L12 he stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

G20

L13 e was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

G21

L14 e spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

G22

L15 e sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

G23 G24
G25

'More Piling On Cochrane'

Posted: 24 Dec 2014 09:52 AM PST

Barkley Rosser:

More Piling On Cochrane: Why He Cannot Go Back To Being Taken Seriously Even About Asset Pricing: Oh, I cannot resist.  Since his effort to  dump on Keynesians in the WSJ, lots of people have been piling on John Cochrane, showing that nearly all his claims are not only laughingly bogus, but seriously unsupported even in his own column, such as failing even to mention a single supposedly Keynesian economist who forecast a return to recession as a result of budget sequestration, a centerpiece of his embarrassing column.  A sampling can be found Mark Thoma's links for today at economistsview, sort of a Christmas Eve special.
In any case, what caught my attention and is pushing me into  the piling on as well is a remark Brad DeLong made in his post at the link entitled "Cochrane ought to simply say..."  He suggests that Cochrane has made such a big fool of himself out of all this that he should just go back to working on asset pricing.  I am going to argue that even in that arena, he has made a bit of a fool of himself and should also be ignored to some extent, even though he has a long and respectable publication record in the area.
So, what is his problem? ...