The President of the United States can unilaterally order the assassination of an American citizen, but needs the cooperation of opposition party Senators to get an Assistant Secretary of Commerce or a US Marshall in office.
If you want a good plain English explanation of what the new Gauti Eggertsson and Paul Krugman paper on “Debt, Deleveraging, and the Liquidity Trap: A Fisher-Minsky-Koo Approach” (PDF) says, you should of course turn to Paul Krugman here or here.
But I did want to call attention to one side-issue. Back on November first, Krugman blogged:
It’s also crucial to understand that a half-hearted version of this policy won’t work. If you say, well, 5 percent sounds like a lot, maybe let’s just shoot for 2.5, you wouldn’t reduce real rates enough to get to full employment even if people believed you — and because you wouldn’t hit full employment, you wouldn’t manage to deliver the inflation, so people won’t believe you.
I said that didn’t make sense to me and that a modest increase in inflation expectations should deliver a modest result, not no result. And in the new Krugman/Eggertsson model this comes out my way:
Where this model adds something to previous analysis on monetary policy is what it has to say about an incomplete expansion – that is, one that reduces the real interest rate, but not enough to restore full employment. The lesson of this model is that even such an incomplete response will do more good than a model without debt suggests, because even a limited expansion leads to a higher price level than would happen otherwise, and therefore to a lower real debt burden.
Victory. The real story of the model is that an increase in government purchases would have the most effect. And I’m all for ‘em. But it’s also worth thinking about what kinds of endeavors it’s feasible to undertake at very large scale. Transfer payments—i.e., the government mails checks to people—aren’t as well-targeted, but the logistics of adding a zero to the check are very easy. And such transfers could be “money-financed”—i.e., paid for by increasing the money supply rather than by increasing government borrowing—and thereby work on both sides of the issue. This is the fabled helicopter drop of yore and with Helicopter Ben himself running the Fed I’m continually surprised we’re not seeing more discussion in the policy community of what it would take to get the choppers off the ground.
What is happening to the party of Ronald Reagan? He embraced scientific understanding of the environment and pollution and was proud of his role in helping to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals. That was smart policy and smart politics. Most important, unlike many who profess to be his followers, Reagan didn’t deny the existence of global environmental problems but instead found ways to address them.
The National Academy reports concluded that “scientific evidence that the Earth is warming is now overwhelming.” Party affiliation does not change that fact.
Once upon a time there were moderate, pro-science Republicans in DC, like Sherry Boehlert, former chair of the House Science Committee. They are pretty much all gone from office now, replaced by Tea Party extremists, but Boehlert had a great op-ed in Friday’s WashPost, with the print headline, “Science the GOP can’t wish away.”
Here are more excerpts:
I was at a dinner Thursday night where an ideologically diverse group of people were talking about entrepreneurship, and basically everyone agreed that America could boost its growth rate by being more welcoming to skilled immigrants. And frankly, I just don’t see any way of disputing this. I think low-skill immigration is good for America, but even by the standards of those who think it’s badly surely more high-skill immigration would be a good thing. If we automatically let foreigners who complete a degree at an American university stay as a permanent resident, they’re not going to end up on food stamps or selling drugs on the streetcorner or whatever it is people are worried about.
There are a lot of different mechanisms through which the goal of more high-skill migrants could be achieved, and we should be doing them.
Characterized as the moral issue of our time, climate change not only poses significant risks to the environment but represents an opportunity to adapt and re-energize the economy through investment in clean energy technology. As the National Academies of Science notes, “the U.S. should act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop a national strategy to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change.”
Despite the overwhelming evidence and need to address its “inevitable impacts,” a huge contingent of the newly-empowered GOP members of Congress do not believe in climate change to begin with. A survey by the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson finds that a member of Congress from nearly every state in the union — the so-called “Climate Zombie Caucus” — explicitly reject the threat of man-made global warming. Of the incoming freshmen, 36 of 85 in the House and 11 of 13 in the Senate have publicly questioned the science and “there are no freshman Republicans, in the House or Senate, who publicly accept the scientific consensus that greenhouse pollution is an immediate threat,” Johnson found.
But this iron wall of denial does not sit well with all conservatives. In a Washington Post op-ed yesterday, former Republican Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (NY) articulated his confusion as to why “so many Republican senators and representatives think they are right and the world’s top scientific academies and scientists are wrong.” Allowing for debate over policy, Boehlert said he finds the GOP’s “dogged determination” to deny the actual science “incomprehensible”:
Watching the raft of newly elected GOP lawmakers converge on Washington, I couldn’t help thinking about an issue I hope our party will better address. I call on my fellow Republicans to open their minds to rethinking what has largely become our party’s line: denying that climate change and global warming are occurring and that they are largely due to human activities.[...]
Why do so many Republican senators and representatives think they are right and the world’s top scientific academies and scientists are wrong? I would like to be able to chalk it up to lack of information or misinformation.
I can understand arguments over proposed policy approaches to climate change. I served in Congress for 24 years. I know these are legitimate areas for debate. What I find incomprehensible is the dogged determination by some to discredit distinguished scientists and their findings.[...]
There is a natural aversion to more government regulation. But that should be included in the debate about how to respond to climate change, not as an excuse to deny the problem’s existence. The current practice of disparaging the science and the scientists only clouds our understanding and delays a solution.
While normally walking lockstep with this crowd, the GOP is rebuking the approach of “leaders of some of our nation’s most prominent businesses,” says Boehlert. The U.S. Climate Action Partnership, for example, is “no collection of mom-and-pop shops operated by ‘tree huggers’” but rather a group of “hard-nosed, profit-driven capitalists” like General Electric, Duke Energy, and DuPont pushing Congress to see climate change as an opportunity to “create more economic opportunities than risks for the U.S. economy.” “My fellow Republicans should understand that wholesale, ideologically based or special-interest-driven rejection of science is bad policy,” he said.
To former Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough (FL), its more than bad policy, “it’s embarrassing.” In a thorough roundtable discussion with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) on the “huge ideological tension” over climate change, MSNBC’s conservative host bemoaned the U.S.’s woeful standing in clean energy production that could “transform our economy.” Kerry, the leading lawmaker on climate change legislation, agreed that Congress’s failure was both “embarrassing” and “ridiculous.” Noting that “Republicans have made an art form out of calling everything a tax and running against it,” Kerry said, telling Scarborough why there’s little hope for improvement: “Too many of the people who’ve come into the Congress on the other side, all they want to do is cut. They’re not talking about investing in America. And if all we do is come down here and focus on the deficit without focusing on future investment, the United States is going to fall farther behind.”
Watch it (starting at 3:00):
Noteworthy chart, from Ryan Avent:
I do expect that in the future Texas’ relatively growth-friendly approach to new construction will continue to make it a major destination for migration. California would be well-served by increasing the level of density allowed in its most vibrant cities. But much myth-making aside, there’s no Texas growth miracle.
It’s hard to believe the FBI is wasting time going after financial sector corruption when there are still all these pot smokers running free in the United States. I hear a funny-looking guy named Barack Obama’s even done “a little blow” in his time.
Earlier this week, seven Republican-appointed federal judges co-signed a letter warning of the consequences of the GOP’s systematic obstruction of President Obama’s judges. The letter from the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit, which includes Republican appointees Alex Kozinski, Ralph Beistline, Vaughn Walker, Irma Gonzales, Frances Marie Tydingco-Gatewood, Richard Frank Cebull, Lonny Ray Suko, explains:
In order to do our work, and serve the public as Congress expects us to serve it, we need the resources to carry out our mission. While there are many areas of serious need, we write today to emphasize our desperate need for judges. Our need in that regard has been amply documented (See attached March 2009 Judicial Conference Recommendations for Additional Judgeships). Courts cannot do their work if authorized judicial positions remain vacant.
While we could certainly use more judges, and hope that Congress will soon approve the additional judgeships requested by the Judicial Conference, we would be greatly assisted if our judicial vacancies–some of which have been open for several years and declared “judicial emergencies”–were to be filled promptly. We respectfully request that the Senate act on judicial nominees without delay.
Although the letter is written in the respectful tone that judges generally adopt when speaking to their colleagues, this kind of advocacy by judges is exceptionally rare. Indeed, judges so rarely speak out about the judicial confirmation process that when conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist spoke out against GOP obstructionism of President Clinton’s nominees in 1997, the event stunned senators into action. Judicial confirmations increased from only 36 in 1997 to 65 in 1998. GOP obstructionism has become so serious that only 41 judges have been confirmed during Obama’s entire presidency.
An op-ed co-authored by retired conservative Judge Timothy Lewis provides a grim accessment of what will happen if Republicans continue their “delay for delay’s sake” tactics: “They are creating an unprecedented shortfall of judicial confirmations and, ultimately, a shortage of judges available to hear cases. For many Americans, this means justice is likely to be unnecessarily delayed — and often denied.”
Keith Humphreys stays at an alcohol-free hotel in Morocco and wonders if this might be a workable market niche in non-Muslim countries:
>I wonder if a chain of hotels without alcohol could make it as a niche market in the U.S. Religiously conservative travelers might like it, just as they do in Marrakech. Families with small kids are another potential source of customers as are I suspect women travelling alone who would like to know that there will not be drunken males in the restaurant or the lobby or anywhere else. People in recovery from alcoholism might also be drawn in. And of course such hotels could also get business from people like me, who wouldn’t book a hotel on this basis but at the same time don’t care enough about alcohol unavailability to let it stop them from staying at the hotel for other reasons (in my case because it was across the street from where our symposium was held).
I doubt it. Alcoholic beverages are such a high-margin profit for hotels that it creates a huge incentive for them to try to put people in their rooms and restaurant seats on the off-chance that they’ll buy a drink. Consequently, non-drinkers are probably getting a great deal from hotels and would have to pay higher prices for something else (food, rooms) since that stuff couldn’t act as a loss-leader for the booze. So people would need to put substantially more value on the non-availability of alcohol than I think is plausible.
You asked for a sidebar on climate science, and you got it!
I’ve put up a few possibilities, but I’d like to know what you think should go there. I don’t think it should be more than 5 to 7 posts, aimed mostly at new visitors (who actually comprise a substantial fraction of visits on any given day).