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April 28, 2015

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Posted: 28 Apr 2015 12:06 AM PDT

'Are Immigrants a Shot in the Arm for the Local Economy?'

Posted: 27 Apr 2015 02:40 PM PDT

From the NBER (open link to earlier version):

Are Immigrants a Shot in the Arm for the Local Economy?, by Gihoon Hong and John McLaren, NBER Working Paper No. 21123: Most research on the effects of immigration focuses on the effects of immigrants as adding to the supply of labor. By contrast, this paper studies the effects of immigrants on local labor demand, due to the increase in consumer demand for local services created by immigrants. This effect can attenuate downward pressure from immigrants on non-immigrants' wages, and also benefit non-immigrants by increasing the variety of local services available. For this reason, immigrants can raise native workers' real wages, and each immigrant could create more than one job. Using US Census data from 1980 to 2000, we find considerable evidence for these effects: Each immigrant creates 1.2 local jobs for local workers, most of them going to native workers, and 62% of these jobs are in non-traded services. Immigrants appear to raise local non-tradables sector wages and to attract native-born workers from elsewhere in the country. Overall, it appears that local workers benefit from the arrival of more immigrants.

Paul Krugman: Nobody Said That

Posted: 27 Apr 2015 07:29 AM PDT

 Why don't prognosticators accept responsibility for their prediction errors?:

Nobody Said That, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Imagine yourself as a regular commentator on public affairs — maybe a paid pundit, maybe a supposed expert in some area, maybe just an opinionated billionaire. You weigh in on a major policy initiative that's about to happen, making strong predictions of disaster. The Obama stimulus, you declare, will cause soaring interest rates; the Fed's bond purchases will "debase the dollar" and cause high inflation; the Affordable Care Act will collapse in a vicious circle of declining enrollment and surging costs.
But nothing you predicted actually comes to pass. What do you do?
You might admit that you were wrong, and try to figure out why. But almost nobody does that; we live in an age of unacknowledged error.
Alternatively, you might insist that sinister forces are covering up the grim reality. Quite a few well-known pundits are, or at some point were, "inflation truthers," claiming that the government is lying about the pace of price increases. There have also been many prominent Obamacare truthers declaring that the White House is cooking the books, that the policies are worthless, and so on.
Finally, there's a third option: You can pretend that you didn't make the predictions you did. I see that a lot when it comes to people who issued dire warnings about interest rates and inflation, and now claim that they did no such thing. Where I'm seeing it most, however, is on the health care front. Obamacare is working better than even its supporters expected — but its enemies say that the good news proves nothing, because nobody predicted anything different. ...
It's both easy and entirely appropriate to ridicule this kind of thing. But there are some serious stakes here, and they go beyond the issue of health reform, important as it is.
You see, in a polarized political environment, policy debates always involve more than just the specific issue on the table. They are also clashes of world views. Predictions of debt disaster, a debased dollar, and Obama death spirals reflect the same ideology, and the utter failure of these predictions should inspire major doubts about that ideology.
And there's also a moral issue involved. Refusing to accept responsibility for past errors is a serious character flaw in one's private life. It rises to the level of real wrongdoing when policies that affect millions of lives are at stake.

Have Blog, Will Travel

Posted: 27 Apr 2015 07:20 AM PDT

I am here today: Milken Institute Global Conference:

Program Glance

Sat, 04/25
05:30 PM - 10:00 PM
Global Gourmet Games Reception and Dinner (By invitation only)
Sun, 04/26
08:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Family Program (By invitation only)
12:00 PM - 04:00 PM
Leaders in Finance: A Conversation to Strengthen America's Economy and Competitiveness With Government and Business Leaders (By invitation only)
Navigating the New Investment Paradigm in an Interconnected World (By invitation only)
03:00 PM - 07:00 PM
Global Conference Registration
05:00 PM - 07:00 PM
Welcome Reception
07:00 PM - 09:00 PM
Milken Institute Young Leaders Circle Welcome Reception (By invitation only)
Mon, 04/27
06:00 AM - 08:30 AM
Continental Breakfast
06:00 AM - 07:00 PM
Global Conference Registration
07:00 AM - 08:00 AM
A Conversation With Wilbur Ross, Stephen Toy and Greg Stoeckle (By invitation only)
07:30 AM - 09:00 AM
Milken Institute Corporate and Investor Roundtable (By invitation only)
08:00 AM - 09:15 AM
Accelerating Medical Research: The Bipartisan Quest for Cures
American Politics: The 114th Congress and 2016 Presidential Election
The Return of Volatility: Canary in the Coal Mine?
09:30 AM - 10:30 AM
A Fireside Chat with Mohamed El-Erian (By invitation only)
Addressing California's Future: Solutions for Economic Growth and Job Creation (By invitation only)
Architecture of the American Economy: Policies to Drive Economic Growth and Our Competitiveness
CEO Roundtable (By invitation only)
Global Risk
Macroprudential Policy: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (By invitation only)
Power Shifts in Global Energy
Rebuilding Housing Finance: The Next Steps
The Economic Future of the Middle East
The Imperative of Early Childhood Education
The Intangibles of Building a Great Hedge Fund: People as an Asset Class
The Potential for Shared-Use Infrastructure Roundtable (By invitation only)
The Urban 6 Billion: A Blueprint for Development Through Private Investment
Trash or Treasure? Finding Value in Distressed-Debt Investing
Wellness and Prevention: Creating Healthier Lives and a Healthier Economy
Women in Elective Office
10:45 AM - 11:45 AM
Access to Capital: Who Is Funding Small and Middle-Market Companies?
An Unexpected Intersection: A Conversation With Norman Lear and Prophet Walker (Followed by a book signing)
Building a 21st Century Economy: A Conversation With U.S. Governors
Digitizing Wall Street: How Technology Is Changing the Future of Finance
Forward-Thinking Pension Funds: A Conversation with David Bronner (By invitation only)
From Success to Significance: A Legacy of Purpose for Longer Lives
Health Care in the Digital Age
I'm Not an Impact Investor, or Am I?
Insights from Capitol Hill (By invitation only)
Navigating Europe's New Volatility
Paving the Way to Next-Generation Infrastructure
Risky Business: Understanding Asia's Geopolitical and Societal Uncertainties
What Keeps CEOs Up at Night -- and What Gets Them Up in the Morning?
12:00 PM - 02:00 PM
K-12 Education Lunch (By invitation only)
Lunch Program | The Global Economy: A Conversation With Timothy Geithner, Henry Paulson and Robert Rubin
02:00 PM - 03:15 PM
Disrupting Aging: A Private Conversation With Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO, AARP, and Paul Irving, Chairman, Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging (By invitation only)
02:30 PM - 03:30 PM
A Conversation With Ken Griffin and Mohamed El-Erian
A Discussion With Tatsuo Yamasaki, Vice Minister for International Affairs, Japan Ministry of Finance (By invitation only)
A Fireside Chat With Mike Mullen (By invitation only)
Detroit: A Case Study in Changing a City's Fortunes
Great Ambition: Islamic Finance Goes Global
Is Bigger Better? Global Strategies in Hospitality
Leapfrogging and Innovation in Africa (By invitation only)
Luxury Without Borders
Peak Oil and Green Energy: Both Fossils?
Smart on Science: How Today's Patients Are Driving Cures
The 'New' Trades: Rethinking Education for a Digital World
Trick of the Trade: Pouring Liquidity Back Into Fixed Income
Women: Key Players in High-Growth Investment Strategies
03:45 PM - 04:45 PM
A Conversation: Coding and Diversifying the Tech Sector (By invitation only)
Can Hollywood Speak Chinese?
Chasing Real Return and Meaningful Impact (By invitation only)
Closing the Income Inequality Gap
Creating Stronger Partnerships for Global Food Security
Dealing With China: A Conversation With Henry Paulson (Followed by a book signing)
Giving Smarter to Fight Alzheimer's Disease (By invitation only)
Global Consumers: Riding the Wave of the World's Growing Middle Class
Prescription for Wellness: Extending Our Health Span
Private Equity: Rotation and Valuation
The Future of Higher Education
The World in 2025
Trillion-Dollar Megatrends: Cross-Asset Class Strategies for a Changing World ... And Your Portfolio (By invitation only)
What Online Lending Means for Banks, Businesses and Borrowers
Will Foreign Hands and Better Corporate Governance Lift the Japanese Economy?
05:00 PM - 05:45 PM
Engaging a Curious Mind: Brian Grazer Talks With Bob Iger About Life, Listening (Followed by a book signing)
05:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Gender Balance as a Strategic Initiative: A Global Perspective (By invitation only)
Global Overview
Innovative Finance for Global Health (By invitation only)
06:00 PM - 07:00 PM
Beach Point Reception (By invitation only)
CME Group Reception (By invitation only)
General Reception
Principal Financial Group Reception (By invitation only)
Reception for Speakers and Sponsors with Honored Guests, the Kenyan and Rwandan Presidential Delegations (By invitation only)
06:30 PM - 09:00 PM
Milken Institute Young Leaders Circle Reception and Program (By invitation only)
07:00 PM - 08:45 PM
Dinner Program | May We Have Your Attention, Please: How Data Is Transforming the Consumer Experience
09:00 PM - 10:30 PM
Late Night
Tue, 04/28
06:00 AM - 08:30 AM
Continental Breakfast
06:00 AM - 07:00 PM
Global Conference Registration
06:45 AM - 08:00 AM
Associates Breakfast (By invitation only)
07:00 AM - 09:15 AM
Global Capital Markets Advisory Council Roundtable Discussion (By invitation only)
08:00 AM - 09:15 AM
A Conversation With Ben Horowitz (Followed by a book signing)
Ebola and Economy: The Cost of Infectious Disease
Follow the Flow: How Asset Management Is Reshaping the Global Financial System
U.S. Overview: A Catalyst for World Growth?
09:30 AM - 10:30 AM
30% Club Initiative: Welcoming Women Into the Boardroom (By invitation only)
A Fireside Chat with Nouriel Roubini - Where Is the Global Economy Headed? (By invitation only)
Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Why L.A. Is Working
Demystifying Millennials
Digital Future: The Internet of Things
Global Real Estate: Best Countries, Best Classes
Investing in Growth: Opportunities in Developing Markets
Investing in Latin America Roundtable (By invitation only)
K-12 Education Reform: Are We Getting It Right?
Saving Lives Through Financial Innovation: New Developments in Finance and Health Care (By invitation only)
Say This, Not This: The Words to Use and the Words to Lose
Southeast Asia: A Compelling Case for Investment
The Business of Healthy
The Catalyst for Change: What's Working in Philanthropy -- and What's Not?
The Economic Implications of Climate Change
10:45 AM - 11:45 AM
Bridging the Graduation Gap for Low-Income Students
Convergence: Philanthropy, Technology, Celebrity and Marketing
Credit Markets: What's Next?
Deploying the Human Capital of Military Veterans: A Global Priority
Investing in Africa Working Group (By invitation only)
Investing in Southeast Asia Roundtable (By invitation only)
Investing in the Genomics Revolution: A Conversation with Ron Baron and Jay Flatley (By invitation only)
Oil, Gas and Coal Markets: A Roundtable Discussion (By Invitation Only)
Technology, Creativity, Values: What Drives the New Disruptors?
The Alchemy of Finance: Portfolio Construction Strategies
The Future of FinTech
The Transformation of Mexico
The World in Turmoil
Women Challenging the Status Quo: Building Businesses Their Way
11:15 AM - 12:30 PM
Lunch hosted by Glamour Magazine: The Girl Project (By invitation only)
12:00 PM - 02:00 PM
Lunch Program | What Would You Do to Make the World Better for Women and Girls? A Conversation and Call to Action
02:30 PM - 03:30 PM
Building a Company: Recruiting and Retaining Your Most Important Asset � Human Capital (By invitation only)
Cyber-Security: Protecting Companies and Citizens From Assault
From Marketer to Influencer to Global Brand Shaper
Inclusive Finance: How Technology Brings Banking to the Underserved
Innovative Cities: Transforming the Urban Ecosystem
Investing in Emerging Markets: The Returns Are in the Details
Is the Pacific Future Happening Now?
Military Leadership and Veteran Transition (By invitation only)
The Art and Science of Capital Structure
The Future of Work: How to Survive and Thrive Amid Creative Disruption
The Longevity Economy: Impacts and Opportunities of the Age Shift for Business, Investment and Society (By invitation only)
The Shifting Sands of Market Structure: Equity Trading in the Spotlight
Transforming Global Supply Chains to Be Humane and Ethical
03:45 PM - 04:45 PM
A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity -- A Conversation With Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Followed by a book signing)
Accessing Global Financial Markets Roundtable (By invitation only)
Boom or Bust: Opportunities and Risk in M&A
Breakthrough Medicine: Will Finding a Cure Be Just the Start of Saving Lives?
Disequilibrium in Global Debt
Fireside Chat with T. Boone Pickens (By Invitation Only)
Investing in India Roundtable (By invitation only)
Investment Opportunities in Education
Macroeconomic Trends: Monetary and Fiscal Responses
Modern Money: How Technology and Culture Are Changing How We Save, Spend and Invest
Reform in China: Growing Pains for a Global Power
Silver Strategies: Capitalizing on the Longevity Economy
Technology and Jobs: Should Workers Worry?
The Talent Crisis: Strategies to Build a Skilled Technology Workforce and Assure Diversity
05:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Beyond the Headlines: Global Leaders Explore Africa's Future
05:00 PM - 06:30 PM
The Triple Bottom Line: Investing for Impact (By invitation only)
06:00 PM - 07:00 PM
General Reception
Jefferies Reception (By invitation only)
Reception for Speakers and Sponsors (By invitation only)
06:00 PM - 07:30 PM
Women's Reception | How Women Are Defining the New Rules of the Game (By invitation only)
Co-hosted by Solera Sports and the Milken Institute
06:30 PM - 08:30 PM
Exclusive Event in Beverly Hills: Food and Wine Tasting, With a Book Signing
07:30 PM - 09:30 PM
Philanthropy Reception and Dinner (By invitation only)
08:00 PM - 09:30 PM
Milken Institute Young Leaders Circle Reception (By invitation only)
Wed, 04/29
05:30 AM - 07:00 AM
SoulCycle Ride (By invitation only)
06:00 AM - 08:15 AM
Continental Breakfast
06:00 AM - 03:00 PM
Global Conference Registration
07:00 AM - 08:15 AM
The Role of the Activist Investor: A 360-Degree View (By invitation only)
08:30 AM - 09:45 AM
Growth on the Frontier: Insights From African Executives
Reading the Tea Leaves: Markets on the Edge of Order and Chaos
Return on People: The Link Between Human Capital, Values and Corporate Performance
Sustainable Investing: Innovative Plans From a New Generation
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
China's Outbound Investment: A Bid for Influence or Better Returns?
Fireside Chat With Ayaan Hirsi Ali (By invitation only)
Going Over the Top: New Currents in the Digital Stream
Impact Investing 2.0: Finding Value in Doing Good
Infrastructure as an Asset Class
Institutional Investors: Patient Capital in an Impatient World
Leadership on the Front Lines
The Art of Art Collecting
The Blue Economy
The Business of Sports
The Learning Gap: Creating the Workforce Industry Needs
Where Does Russia Go From Here?
11:15 AM - 12:15 PM
Beyond Start-Up Nation: Israel's Growth Platform for Global Co-Innovation
Digital Me: The Right to Privacy vs. the Public Good
How American Business Is Shaping the Gay-Rights Debate
India: Can Modi Turn the Elephant Around?
Innovative Financing for Africa's Energy Infrastructure (By invitation only)
Next-Century Cities: A New Design for an Aging Demographic
Precision Medicine: Accelerating Treatments From Potential to Reality
Saving the World From Us: Strategies for Conservation
Taxes, Philosophy and Reform: Two Conversations With Milken Institute Review Authors
The Future Is Now: Things That Will Blow Your Mind
The New Consumer Experience: Integrating Digital and Physical (By invitation only)
12:30 PM - 02:30 PM
Lunch Program | Part 1 A Conversation With Jerry Brown and Kevin de León | Part 2 Trends in Global Entertainment
02:45 PM - 03:45 PM
Commercial Diplomacy: A Conversation With U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker
Expanding Our Frontiers: How Manned Spaceflight Can Change Your Future
Fountain of Age: Unlocking the Secrets of Longer Life
Precision Medicine Innovation in California (By invitation only)
Reforming Islam: A Conversation With Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The Long War Against Terrorism: A Military Perspective
04:00 PM - 05:00 PM
Around the World in 60 Minutes: Creating Global Prosperity
05:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Closing Reception

April 27, 2015

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Posted: 27 Apr 2015 12:06 AM PDT

'This Is Not A Trade Agreement'

Posted: 26 Apr 2015 09:41 AM PDT

This is not a subtweet:

This Is Not A Trade Agreement, by Paul Krugman: OK, Greg Mankiw has me puzzled. Has he really read nothing about TPP? Is he completely unaware of the nature of the argument?
Personally, I'm a lukewarm opponent of the deal, but I don't see it as the end of the Republic and can even see some reasons (mainly strategic) to support it. One thing that should be totally obvious, however, is that it's off-point and insulting to offer an off-the-shelf lecture on how trade is good because of comparative advantage, and protectionists are dumb. For this is not a trade agreement. It's about intellectual property and dispute settlement; the big beneficiaries are likely to be pharma companies and firms that want to sue governments.
Those are the issues that need to be argued. David Ricardo is irrelevant.

'Mediamacro Myth 6: 2013 Recovery Vindication'

Posted: 26 Apr 2015 09:22 AM PDT

Simon Wren-Lewis:

Mediamacro myth 6: 2013 recovery vindication: The idea that austerity during the first two years of the coalition government was vindicated by the 2013 recovery is so ludicrous that it is almost embarrassing to have to explain why. The half-truths in this case are so flimsy they do not deserve that label. I can think of two reasons why that claim could have any credibility. The first is that people confuse levels and rates or change. The second is that some critics of austerity might have occasionally overstated their case.
To see the first point, imagine that a government on a whim decided to close down half the economy for a year. That would be a crazy thing to do, and with only half as much produced everyone would be a lot poorer. However a year later when that half of the economy started up again, economic growth would be around 100%. The government could claim that this miraculous recovery vindicated its decision to close half the economy down the year before. That would be absurd, but it is a pretty good analogy with claiming that the 2013 recovery vindicated 2010 austerity.
The second point is that some critics of austerity did on a few occasions allow their rhetoric to get the better of them, and suggested that if austerity continued a recovery would never come. That was always an overstatement. ...
What any knowledgeable and honest media reporting should have done is tear the vindication argument to shreds. ...

On Microfoundations

Posted: 26 Apr 2015 09:05 AM PDT

Via Diane Coyle, a quote from Alfred Marshall's Elements of the Economics of Industry:

...He wrote that earlier economists:
"Paid almost exclusive attention to the motives of individual action, But it must not be forgotten that economists, like all other students of social science, are concerned with individuals chiefly as members of the social organism. As a cathedral is something more than the stones of which it is built, as a person is more than a series of thoughts and feelings, so the life of society is something more than the sum of the lives of its individual members. It is true that the action of the whole is made up of that of its constituent parts; and that in most economic problems the best starting point is to be found in the motives that affect the individual….. but it is also true that economics has a great and increasing concern in motives connected with the collective ownership of property and the collective pursuit of important aims."

April 26, 2015

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Posted: 26 Apr 2015 12:06 AM PDT

April 25, 2015

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Posted: 25 Apr 2015 12:06 AM PDT

'No Price Like Home: Global House Prices, 1870-2012'

Posted: 24 Apr 2015 01:35 PM PDT

Interesting paper:

No Price Like Home: Global House Prices, 1870-2012, by Katharina Knoll, Moritz Schularic, and Thomas Steger: Abstract: How have house prices evolved over the long‐run? This paper presents annual house prices for 14 advanced economies since 1870. Based on extensive data collection, we show that real house prices stayed constant from the 19th to the mid‐20th century, but rose strongly during the second half of the 20th century. Land prices, not replacement costs, are the key to understanding the trajectory of house prices. Rising land prices explain about 80 percent of the global house price boom that has taken place since World War II. Higher land values have pushed up wealth‐to‐income ratios in recent decades.

'Unit Roots, Redux'

Posted: 24 Apr 2015 01:10 PM PDT

John Cochrane weighs in on the discussion of unit roots:

Unit roots, redux: Arnold Kling's askblog and Roger Farmer have a little exchange on GDP and unit roots. My two cents here.
I did a lot of work on this topic a long time ago, in How Big is the Random Walk in GNP?  (the first one)  Permanent and Transitory Components of GNP and Stock Prices" (The last, and I think best one) "Multivariate estimates" with Argia Sbordone, and "A critique of the application of unit root tests", particularly appropriate to Roger's battery of tests.
The conclusions, which I still think hold up today:
Log GDP has both random walk and stationary components. Consumption is a pretty good indicator of the random walk component. This is also what the standard stochastic growth model predicts: a random walk technology shock induces a random walk component in output but there are transitory dynamics around that value.
A linear trend in GDP is only visible ex-post, like a "bull" or "bear" market.  It's not "wrong" to detrend GDP, but it is wrong to forecast that GDP will return to the linear trend or to take too seriously correlations of linearly detrended series, as Arnold mentions. Treating macro series as cointegrated with one common trend is a better idea.
Log stock prices have random walk and stationary components. Dividends are a pretty good indicator of the random walk component. (Most recently, here.) ...
Both Arnold and Roger claim that unemployment has a unit root. Guys, you must be kidding. ...

He goes on to explain.

'Monopsony and Market Power in the Labor Market'

Posted: 24 Apr 2015 09:18 AM PDT

Nick Bunker:

Monopsony and market power in the labor market: We've all heard the term "monopoly," even if it's just in the context of the board game. But a related term, or even another face of monopoly, is monopsony. A monopsony is when a firm is the sole purchaser of a good or service whereas a monopoly is when one firm is the sole producer of a good or service. Most examples of monopsony have to do with the purchase of workers' time in the labor market, where a firm is the sole purchaser of a certain kind of labor. Just as the United States is seeing increasing evidence of monopoly power and cartelization on the producer side, we also need to pay attention to the effects of monopsony power in the labor market.
The classic example of a monopsony is a company coal town, where the coal company acts the sole employer and therefore the sole purchaser of labor in the town. Now why should we care about this? The monopsony power of the coal company allows it to set wages below the productivity of their workers. In other words, employers gain the power to depress wages.
But employers don't have to be sole employer for monopsonic behavior to arise. If there are a few powerful firms, collusion could drive down wages as well. ...

One of my job market papers -- it was long ago -- assumed monopsony power in labor markets as a way of flipping the correlation between real wages and employment/output from negative to positive (which is more consistent with the empirical evidence starting with Dunlop and Tarshis in the 1930's. For a nice discussion of this evidence, see Keynesian Controversies on Wages, by John Pencavel.

Paul Krugman: Zombies of 2016

Posted: 24 Apr 2015 08:01 AM PDT

Some bad ideas just won't die:

Zombies of 2016, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Last week,...Chris Christie ... gave a speech in which he tried to position himself as a tough-minded fiscal realist. In fact, however, his supposedly tough-minded policy idea was a classic zombie — an idea that should have died long ago in the face of evidence that undermines its basic premise, but somehow just keeps shambling along.
...Mr. Christie ... thought he was being smart and brave by proposing that we raise the age of eligibility for both Social Security and Medicare to 69. Doesn't this make sense now that Americans are living longer?
No, it doesn't..., almost all the rise in life expectancy has taken place among the affluent. The bottom half of workers,... who rely on Social Security most, have seen their life expectancy at age 65 rise only a bit more than a year since the 1970s. Furthermore,... many ... still have to perform manual labor.
And while raising the retirement age would impose a great deal of hardship, it would save remarkably little money. ...
And there are plenty of other zombies out there. Consider, for example, the zombification of the debate over health reform. ...
Finally, one of the interesting political developments ... has been the triumphant return of voodoo economics, the "supply-side" claim that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy so much that they pay for themselves.
In the real world, this doctrine has an unblemished record of failure..
In the world of Republican politics, however, voodoo's grip has never been stronger. Would-be presidential candidates must audition in front of prominent supply-siders to prove their fealty to failed doctrine. ... Supply-side economics, it's now clear, is the ultimate zombie: no amount of evidence or logic can kill it.
So why has the Republican Party experienced a zombie apocalypse? One reason, surely, is the fact that most Republican politicians represent states or districts that will never, ever vote for a Democrat, so the only thing they fear is a challenge from the far right. Another is the need to tell Big Money what it wants to hear: a candidate saying anything realistic about Obamacare or tax cuts won't survive the Sheldon Adelson/Koch brothers primary.
Whatever the reasons, the result is clear. Pundits will try to pretend that we're having a serious policy debate, but, as far as issues go, 2016 is already set up to be the election of the living dead.