Fighting the Derp – NYTimes.com

I’ve already mentioned one telltale sign of derp: predictions that just keep being repeated no matter how wrong they’ve been in the past. Another sign is the never-changing policy prescription, like the assertion that slashing tax rates on the wealthy, which you advocate all the time, just so happens to also be the perfect response to a financial crisis nobody expected.

Yet another is a call for long-term responses to short-term events – for example, a permanent downsizing of government in response to a recession.

Paul Krugman, in Fighting the Derp – NYTimes.com.

Economics and Elections – NYTimes.com

In making these assertions, I’m not engaged in casual speculation — I’m drawing on a large body of political science research, mainly focused on presidential contests in the United States but clearly applicable elsewhere. This research debunks almost all the horse-race narratives beloved by political pundits — never mind who wins the news cycle, or who appeals to the supposed concerns of independent voters. What mainly matters is income growth immediately before the election. And I mean immediately: We’re talking about something less than a year, maybe less than half a year.

This is, if you think about it, a distressing result, because it says that there is little or no political reward for good policy. A nation’s leaders may do an excellent job of economic stewardship for four or five years yet get booted out because of weakness in the last two quarters before the election. In fact, the evidence suggests that the politically smart thing might well be to impose a pointless depression on your country for much of your time in office, solely to leave room for a roaring recovery just before voters go to the polls.

Paul Krugman, Economics and Elections – NYTimes.com.

Trends in Top Incomes and their Taxation in OECD Countries – Papers – OECD iLibrary

The shares of top income recipients in total pre-tax income have increased in OECD countries in the past three decades, particularly in most of the English-speaking countries but also in some Nordic (from low levels) and Southern European countries. Today, the richest one percent receives between 7% of all pre-tax income in Denmark and the Netherlands up to almost 20% in the United States. This increase is the result of the top 1% capturing a disproportionate share of overall income growth over the past thirty years: around 20 – 25% in Australia and the United Kingdom, up to 37% in Canada and even 47% in the United States. At the same time, tax reforms in almost all OECD countries reduced top personal income tax rates as well as rates of other taxes affecting the highest income earners. Indeed, while top tax rates were equal to or above 70% in half of the countries in the mid-1970s, this rate has been halved in many countries by 2013.

via Trends in Top Incomes and their Taxation in OECD Countries – Papers – OECD iLibrary.

President Obama vs. Walker Percy and Another Jefferson Lecturer | Front Porch Republic

Because it needs saying, I’ll be the one to go ahead and say it: making higher education an “economic imperative” misses the point of higher education entirely. Until we manage to decouple higher education from the job market, we are going to persist in misunderstanding education’s true end. It may well be that in the past—i.e., in a debt-based economy incapable of imagining how top-heavy things eventually fall over—a college degree has been a stepping stone to the middle class, but those days are over. An economy that can’t help a college graduate retire an enormous debt is not going to look upon a college degree as a stepping stone to the middle class. Colleges, obviously, will continue to look thus upon the degree how they will wield the mighty frame of education, how build, unbuild, contrive to save tuition costs, but this is just one more thing among many about which they will be wrong.

And although it is true that we shouldn’t make higher education a luxury, it is truer still that we shouldn’t make it a commodity. When it once again becomes difficult, it will be neither a luxury nor a commodity. Making it so “every American should be able to afford it” is no different from making it so every American can do it, which is the same thing as rendering it meaningless. — Jason Peters

via  President Obama vs. Walker Percy and Another Jefferson Lecturer | Front Porch Republic.

What it did not do, however, was void any proposal outright, much less prove that all government activity was counterproductive. Smith held that the sovereign had a role supporting education, building infrastructure and public institutions, and providing security from foreign and domestic threats — initiatives that should be paid for, in part, by a progressive tax code and duties on luxury goods. He even believed the government had a “duty” to protect citizens from “oppression,” the inevitable tendency of the strong to take advantage of the ignorance and necessity of the weak.

John Paul Rollert, Sleight of the ‘Invisible Hand’ – NYTimes.com

Obama alleged, correctly, that Republicans’ refusal to countenance tax increases scuttled the Bowles-Simpson plan and the Senate’s Gang of Six plan. He argued, also correctly, that Republicans’ refusal to budge on taxes is “the biggest source of gridlock in Washington today.” He’s on solid ground, too, in saying Republicans would end Medicare as we know it.

But none of that is going to help Obama, because he hasn’t come up with a viable alternative. It isn’t enough to claim that the other guys have a bad plan (though they do). As Democratic strategists Stan Greenberg and James Carville wrote in a memo widely discussed this week, Obama needs a “new narrative” that “focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class.”

Dana Milbank: Obama needs a plan. Now. – The Washington Post

Obama alleged, correctly, that Republicans’ refusal to countenance tax increases scuttled the Bowles-Simpson plan and the Senate’s Gang of Six plan. He argued, also correctly, that Republicans’ refusal to budge on taxes is “the biggest source of gridlock in Washington today.” He’s on solid ground, too, in saying Republicans would end Medicare as we know it.

But none of that is going to help Obama, because he hasn’t come up with a viable alternative. It isn’t enough to claim that the other guys have a bad plan (though they do). As Democratic strategists Stan Greenberg and James Carville wrote in a memo widely discussed this week, Obama needs a “new narrative” that “focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class.”

Dana Milbank: Obama needs a plan. Now. – The Washington Post

I always emphasise: don’t expect this from me. I don’t think that the task of a guy like me is to propose complete solutions. When people ask me what to do with the economy, what the hell do I know? I think the task of people like me is not to provide answers but to ask the right questions.” He’s not against democracy, per se, he just thinks our democratic institutions are no longer capable of controlling global capitalism. “Nice consensual incremental reforms may work, possibly, at a local level.” But localism belongs in the same category as organic apples, and recycling. “It’s done to make you feel good. But the big question today is how to organise to act globally, at an immense international level, without regressing to some authoritarian rule.

Slavoj Žižek: ‘Humanity is OK, but 99% of people are boring idiots’ | Books | The Guardian

I always emphasise: don’t expect this from me. I don’t think that the task of a guy like me is to propose complete solutions. When people ask me what to do with the economy, what the hell do I know? I think the task of people like me is not to provide answers but to ask the right questions.” He’s not against democracy, per se, he just thinks our democratic institutions are no longer capable of controlling global capitalism. “Nice consensual incremental reforms may work, possibly, at a local level.” But localism belongs in the same category as organic apples, and recycling. “It’s done to make you feel good. But the big question today is how to organise to act globally, at an immense international level, without regressing to some authoritarian rule.

Slavoj Žižek: ‘Humanity is OK, but 99% of people are boring idiots’ | Books | The Guardian

How Art History Majors Power the U.S. Economy: Virginia Postrel – Bloomberg

In reality, however, a tremendous amount of economic value arises from pleasure and meaning — the stuff of art, literature, psychology and anthropology. These qualities, built into goods and services, increasingly provide the work for all those computer programmers. And there are many categories of jobs, from public relations to interaction design to retailing, where insights and skills from these supposedly frivolous fields can be quite valuable. The critics seem to have never heard of marketing or video games, Starbucks or Nike, or that company in Cupertino, California, the rest of us are always going on about. Technical skills are valuable in part because of the “soft” professions that complement them.

via How Art History Majors Power the U.S. Economy: Virginia Postrel – Bloomberg.