White House needs a Mulligan

A University of Chicago economist named Casey Mulligan deserves some credit for causing Washington bureaucrats to pay unaccustomed attention to the basic economics of subsidy programs like Obamacare, which raise the implicit marginal tax rate on low-income workers.  Mr. Mulligan's conclusion that Obamacare's effect would be to depress the labor participation rate (i.e., suppress jobs) made it into the CBO's recently ballyhooed report, which estimates that the new law would result in millions fewer fulltime jobs:
The CBO works in mysterious ways, but its commentary and a footnote suggest that two National Bureau of Economic Research papers Mr. Mulligan published last August were "roughly" the most important drivers of this revision to its model.  In short, the CBO has pulled this economist's arguments and analysis from the fringes to center of the health-care debate.
Author of a 2012 book entitled "The Redistribution Recession," Mr. Mulligan points out that it shouldn't surprise anyone that paying people to be un- or underemployed results in more un- or underemployment:
"[A]re we saying we were working too much before?  Is that the new argument?  I mean make up your mind.  We've been complaining for six years now that there's not enough work being done. . . .  Even before the recession there was too little work in the economy.  Now all of a sudden we wake up and say we're glad that people are working less?  We're pursuing our dreams?" 
The larger betrayal, Mr. Mulligan argues, is that the same economists now praising the great shrinking workforce used to claim that ObamaCare would expand the labor market. 
He points to a 2011 letter organized by Harvard's David Cutler and the University of Chicago's Harold Pollack, signed by dozens of left-leaning economists including Nobel laureates, stating "our strong conclusion" that ObamaCare will strengthen the economy and create 250,000 to 400,000 jobs annually.  (Mr. Cutler has since qualified and walked back some of his claims.) 
"Why didn't they say, no, we didn't mean the labor market's going to get bigger.  We mean it's going to get smaller in a good way," Mr. Mulligan wonders. "I'm unhappy with that, to be honest, as an American, as an economist. Those kind of conclusions are tarnishing the field of economics, which is a great, maybe the greatest, field. They're sure not making it look good by doing stuff like that." 
* * * 
Mr. Mulligan is uncomfortable speculating about whether the benefits of this shift outweigh the costs.  Perhaps the public was willing to trade market efficiency for more income security after the 2008 crisis.  "As an economist I can't argue with that," he says.  "The thing that I argue with is the denial that there is a trade-off.  I argue with the denial that if you pay unemployed people you're going to get more unemployed people. There are consequences of that.  That doesn't mean the consequences aren't worth paying.  But you can't deny the consequences for the labor market."

Friday Night AMV

Steampunk. Interesting how this has become a full blown sub-genre of science-fiction/fantasy literature.

American riches

Via Jonah Goldberg, a map matching each American state with the country whose GDP is closest to it. Probably because we're unfair or something.

Can't Win For Losing

There are days when even I almost feel sorry for the Obama administration. On the one side, there are ugly headlines because the Congressional Black Caucus is angry that he isn't making his every court pick with an eye toward their particular grievances.

On the other, when he does just that, you get ugly headlines too.

The White House's response to the CBC is somewhat amusing, however. Rather than withdraw the nominees causing controversy, they put up five new ones, "including two women, one Hispanic and an openly gay African-American." Diversity! Respect for community values!

Pick one.

Now There's A Story You Don't See Every Day...

'Pope's Harley Davidson sold at auction for charity.'

Great looking bike, too.


A few weeks ago I put up Henry Rollins' attack on Toby Keith. It was not sympathetically received by the guests of the Hall.

Still, maybe Keith is blameworthy for not setting standards. He's guilty of letting people think that they are 'wild and crazy' no matter what they're doing. Some of his predecessors laid down markers.

Note the lyric: "It took fifteen beers to get here, I don't know how much 'till I leave." So fifteen beers is the baseline standard.

So that's triple shots, and three rounds of them. 9 total, but six of them are hard liquor.

Here the man drank just one beer. But it was free.

What It's Like Being Freed of Work

Gawker has an unusually insightful response to the story about 1 in 6 men now being liberated from work. They just decided to post some of their email from such men. One sample:
Soon after that, I lost everything. I lost my apartment, my furniture, my savings, my bank accounts, my credit cards and my once pristine credit rating. All gone, never to return.... I had a blood test this morning. There's nothing wrong. It's something my mom wants me to do each year as part of a regular check-up. I pray that the results come back with cancer or leukemia or something that will cause my demise. How sick is that? But I pray for the sweet release of death every night. My life ended 6 years ago. Now, I just exist. And I don't want to anymore.
Despair is a mortal sin. Those responsible for this policy, and the hardships it has caused, are in danger of killing both body and soul.

White House blinks . . . maybe

This article claims the Obama administration is thinking of patching up the grandfathering problem on existing health insurance coverage for another year or more.

Things are looking up

A triangular political graph

We've all taken those political quizzes that plot you on a rectilinear graph according to your place on the left/right libertarian/authoritarian spectra.  P.J. O'Rourke claims that every soul struggles with three forces:
Everybody by turns has libertarian impulses, “leave me alone,” and statist impulses, “please take care of me,” and anarchist moments, “the whole system is rigged, they’re all a bunch of bums.”
Should we adopt a triangular graph now?  Or is he simply emphasizing the point he makes elsewhere in the interview, that the Baby Boomers are good at everything but duty, which would be the four point on the usual political compass?

H/t Maggie's Farm.


I can teach my children that it is wrong to steal with a mostly clean conscience, because it’s been a long time since my preteen shoplifting days. But when it comes to lying, the situation is different. I don’t remember having told any lies in the past week, but I know that if I reviewed a detailed recording of that time I’d catch myself in several. So can I really sincerely insist that I believe it is wrong to lie?

The truth is, I cheerfully lie to myself about my weaknesses and my abilities every day simply in order to keep myself moving forward. My ambitions would be very modest if they were determined entirely by my past achievements—and many of my achievements were possible only because I believed, with no good reason, that I could accomplish them.
The most interesting aspect of this article is the assertion that lying is fundamental to animal communication. In human beings -- children -- the capacity to lie is sometimes taken to be the moment at which a new kind of consciousness emerges. When I can think of my communication as false, and theorize about how you will receive it and whether it will fool you in a way that is beneficial to me, then I'm doing something different from simply trying to convey something to you. I have an idea that you have a mind too, and that mind can come apart from the facts of the world. I can shape how you think.

So is that going on with the bird who trails his wing to feign an injury? Or is that just the product of a random mutation? The answer has significant consequences in terms of what kind of being we encounter in the wild.

Oh, For the Love Of...

Writing about the current trend for beards, the Atlantic produces a piece suggesting that American beards have a "racially fraught" history that is also about oppressing women.

Also, in hard economic times it's cheaper not to buy razors. Also, the immediate antecedent isn't the 19th century but the counterculture of the 1960s and '70s. They aren't looking back to Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart, though they had magnificent beards. The hipsters are thinking of the hippies who served as the extras on Paint Your Wagon.

Those guys grew beards because it was more 'natural' and 'back to the earth,' which it really is. Turns out the thing grows there if you don't do anything to stop it. Natural fertility, man. Man's like a wheat field. Groovy.

Of course, some of us grow beards because our fathers grew beards and our wives like it. That's not a trend, it's a tradition. It makes no reference to race, and the only reference it makes to the rights of woman is her right to be free to enjoy a mighty beard on her husband.

Enjoy Your Freedom From Working

I’m done, guys. If we’ve reached the stage of welfare-state decadence where it’s a selling point for a new entitlement that it discourages able-bodied people from working, there’s no reason to keep going. We’ve lost, decisively.

As a great man once said, remember me as I am — filled with murderous rage.
This would be a good point to commission a poll. Are you really not working because you don't want a job, or because you can't find one? I'd like to know where the American people are on this. If it's the former, well, that's got consequences.

If it's the latter, maybe things could still be fixed. Of course, you're still poor from being unemployed, with no access to capital, skills that are degraded from being out of the workforce, and huge regulatory burdens including Obamacare keeping you from starting a business or getting a job with an existing one.

But at least we have a wheelbarrow.

A Parody

Not a parody:
In response, Susan Rice, the US national security adviser, issued a series of tweets on Tuesday denouncing the criticism. “Personal attacks in Israel directed at Sec Kerry totally unfounded and unacceptable,” Ms Rice wrote in one tweet.

Four from Drudge

Drudge is a very effective propagandist, or would be if he worked for a government (since part of the definition of "propaganda" includes that it is government activity). He draws three stories together as headlines in close proximity, under a broader headline that Scalia is talking about the SCOTUS re-authorizing internment camps.

Story one is a tale of a militarized police raid on a house thought to contain nonviolent criminals, none of whom were actually there. The video demonstrates that the difference between a "knock" and "no knock" raid has largely collapsed.
Ross says he didn’t hear the police announcement until after one officer had already attempted to kick in the door. Had that officer been successful, there’s a good chance that Ross, the police officer, or both would be dead. The police department would then have inevitably argued that Ross should have known that they were law enforcement. But you can’t simultaneously argue that these violent, volatile tactics are necessary to take suspects by surprise and that the same suspects you’re taking by surprise should have known all along that they were being raided by police. Well you can, and police do, and judges and prosecutors usually support them. But the arguments don’t logically coexist.
Story two is a follow-up story on Kelo v. New London, showing that -- after the government's seizing and destroying of people's homes, for 'economic development' -- nothing ever got built.

Story three is another story about the closures and fines of children's lemonade stands.

Of the four stories, the one about Scalia is a report on an academic conference at which he offered some provocative but theoretical thoughts; the Kelo piece is about a historic injustice, but one ten years old; and the lemonade piece is about a small number of overweening idiots in government across the country. Only the piece about the police raid points to a current, urgent problem.

Sure looks awful on Drudge, though.


Bookworm Room linked to this article about a new product for battlefield medics.

I was just reading a early-twentieth-century piece musing about the technological advances of the nineteenth century, and wondering whether the twentieth century could possible sustain the pace.

What's Holding Back The Economy?

Here are two articles that do not rhyme, but do harmonize. The first is by Spengler, writing about the factors that are holding up the economy -- and why he thinks he has to jettison his free-market convictions to fix them. The regulatory "reign of terror" combined with the uncertainty of Obamacare's implementation are discouraging hiring and job growth. But so is a decaying infrastructure, and the absence of buying power among Americans. To fix this, he suggests an FDR-style jobs program aimed at reconstructing employment, buying power, and the infrastructure at the same time.
This should be no surprise in retrospect, given two disastrous underlying trends. One is the decline of real median household income....

The other is the collapse of the labor force participation rate, which is the flip side of the coin: if fewer adults are working, median household income will be lower. It’s even worse than it looks, because Americans who have jobs are working fewer hours. Average hours worked are down 1% from pre-recession levels. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s the equivalent of 1.4 million jobs in a labor force of 140 million. The U.S. has restored 2.5 million jobs since the financial crash, but adjusted for hours worked, it’s the equivalent of just 1.1 million jobs.
The other article is from the NYT, which focuses on the effect of the two "disastrous underlying trends" identified. There's no point trying to sell to anyone except the rich:
In 2012, the top 5 percent of earners were responsible for 38 percent of domestic consumption, up from 28 percent in 1995, the researchers found.

Even more striking, the current recovery has been driven almost entirely by the upper crust, according to Mr. Fazzari and Mr. Cynamon. Since 2009, the year the recession ended, inflation-adjusted spending by this top echelon has risen 17 percent, compared with just 1 percent among the bottom 95 percent.

More broadly, about 90 percent of the overall increase in inflation-adjusted consumption between 2009 and 2012 was generated by the top 20 percent of households in terms of income, according to the study, which was sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a research group in New York.
Their solution is unspecified, but the clear implication is that America can't get back on track until people have money to spend. Of course, to have money to spend, they'll need a job: the thing that distinguishes the upper classes they are talking about from the lower classes is that they tend to have two jobs, as well as access to wealth from investments so that they are not wholly dependent on work for wealth.

There's a strong agreement on the need to find a way to infuse work-earned wealth into the lower classes (including what remains of the middle class). Spengler's on stronger ground because he also recognizes the damage being done by regulation, especially of health care but also of other industries.

Interesting to see the right and left come together on a big-government vision for the future. But they seem to agree on amnesty, too. Of course, amnesty happens to directly conflict with the goal of creating fuller employment among the existing lower classes... but it will help ensure political support for big-government programs.

More fun with science

This would make a good elevator.  Not a lift, but what Heinlein would have called a bounce tube, something you step into in order to be gently lowered to the ground floor.

Secular holidays

I understand there's some kind of sporting event on TV late this afternoon.  I made the mistake of going to the store hungry on the way home from church, and came home with armsful of makings for nachos etc.  Even so, my spread won't be up to these standards:

Got my Super Bowl spread ready.

H/t Powerline.


He was ninety-two years old, more than fifty spent working around horses, so he knew what was about to happen when he saw it. Fortunately, he was a true man.

Why, This One

Dylan Farrow asks you to imagine something. Then, she asks: "Now, what's your favorite Woody Allen movie?"

This one, of course.

Somewhere between two and three and a half minutes, we get as close to honesty as you're likely to see in art. Now you know why he could write that scene.