Jonathan Gruber explaining ObamaCare a year ago: The Comic Book

November 1, 2013

THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY: Some 2,700 people lined up in July for free medical treatment at the Virginia-Kentucky Fairgrouds, in 2009. Inc. Magazine photo

THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY: Some 2,700 people lined up in July for free medical treatment at the Virginia-Kentucky Fairgrouds, in 2009. Inc. Magazine photo

Description from PBS NewsHour:

Published on Jun 8, 2012

Health correspondent Betty Ann Bowser talks with Jonathan Gruber, the author of “Health Care Reform,” the comic book. The MIT economist and professor of economics hopes the graphic layout of his book will help more Americans understand the complex law and its implications.

Read more about Gruber’s book and the health care reform law on the NewsHour’s Health Page:….

Be sure to see what’s going on more than a year later, in the immediately previous post, “Winners and losers.”

Winners and losers in ObamaCare

November 1, 2013

Chart based on Jonathan Gruber’s calculations here, in The New Yorker.  Gruber was on PBS’s NewsHour a few days ago, opposite a cranky old man from the Heritage Foundation who seems to be offended that he gets a fat paycheck.  Transcript and much more information, here.  Video of entire segment (including report on House hearings on the “glitches”), below.

Jonathan Gruber, a professor in MIT's Department of Economics Photo: M. Scott Brauer

Jonathan Gruber, a professor in MIT’s Department of Economics Photo: M. Scott Brauer

Gruber was interviewed by economics reporter Paul Solman earlier, and that appeared on NewsHour’s blog, on October 1; that transcript is here.


Obama already negotiated; GOP taking hallucinogens? (Again?)

October 8, 2013

Oh, Speaker Boehner forgot to mention that.

Reminder: How wealth inequality crowds out America’s success

October 7, 2013

Upworthy reposted this little movie today, which reminded me that nothing good has changed since last March. Looks like there’s not much chance of saving America soon, either, with the way things are going in the Capitol.

Is it time to really write the obituaries for America?  I hope not.

Watch it again:

What happens when a lot of money — I mean, a lot of money — is concentrated in a few hands?

The nation runs the risk of economic failure.

This short video says that more money is concentrated in fewer hands than we think.

Description from the maker, Politizane:

Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.

This is just one facet of the figures necessary for having rational discussions about tax reform, federal budget and deficit cutting, tax policy, and economic and monetary policy.

But it’s an ugly portrait, isn’t it?  How much does it differ from the France of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette?  How much does it differ from the going-to-hell-in-an-accelerating-handbasket U.S. of 1929?  Wealth’s concentration in the hands of a tiny few literally crowds out hundreds of millions of Americans from the ability to successfully accumulate modest nest eggs.

What do you think?

I wish the film’s creator had provided citations.

Have things improved since 2007?  Look at this chart based on Institute for Policy Studies figures:

Maldistribution of U.S. wealth, 2007; Inst for Policy Studies

Source: Institute for Policy Studies, via BusinessInsider


More, since the original posting:

Update March 9, 2013:  This is funny, to me:  Some people think just talking about this stuff is “class warfare.”  How are they so familiar with class warfare, you wonder?  That’s a self-answering question, isn’t it?


Selling wind energy leases off the coast of Virginia: Is this a good idea?

September 16, 2013

Contrary to the claims of President Obama’s critics, his administration is proceeding to develop energy resources in new areas.

Just a couple of weeks ago experimental wind energy sites off the coast of Virginia were auctioned off.

Wind power farm at sea; Clemson University image, of unidentified ocean-based wind farm.

Wind power farm at sea; Clemson University image, of unidentified ocean-based wind farm.

Can these tracts be developed responsibly?  I have not followed the issue, and I have not read the Environmental Impact Statement on this sale (surely there was one, since this is a “significant federal act” with great impact on these waters and the coast of Virginia).  Surely this is safer and cleaner than oil leases; enough cleaner?  Far enough away to avoid destructive effects on wildlife and other resources?

What do you think?

Here’s the press release from the Department of Interior:

Interior Holds Second Competitive Lease Sale for Renewable Energy in Federal Waters

Historic Sale for Wind Energy Development Offshore Virginia Advances President’s Climate Action Plan


WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to create American jobs, develop domestic clean energy sources and cut carbon pollution, the Interior Department today completed the nation’s second competitive lease sale for renewable energy in federal waters, garnering $1,600,000 in high bids for 112,799 acres on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Virginia.

Virginia Electric and Power Company is the provisional winner of the sale, which auctioned a Wind Energy Area approximately 23.5 nautical miles off Virginia Beach that has the potential to support 2,000 megawatts of wind generation – enough energy to power more than 700,000 homes.

The sale follows a July 31 auction of 164,750 acres offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts for wind energy development that was provisionally won by Deepwater Wind New England, LLC, generating $3.8 million in high bids.

“This year’s second offshore wind lease sale is another major milestone in the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and demonstrates continued momentum behind a robust renewable energy portfolio that will help to keep our nation competitive and expand domestic energy production while cutting carbon pollution,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Today’s sale is the result of a great deal of collaboration and planning with the Commonwealth of Virginia, which has been a leader in advancing offshore renewable energy for the Atlantic coast and an enthusiastic partner in this effort.”

“Today’s renewable energy lease sale offshore Virginia is another significant step forward in the President’s call for action to address climate change and the Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy Beaudreau. “I congratulate Virginia Electric and Power Company and we look forward to overseeing their development of the Virginia wind energy area, which will create jobs, increase our energy security and provide abundant sources of clean renewable power.”

Efforts to spur responsible development of offshore wind energy are part of a series of Obama Administration actions to increase renewable energy both offshore and onshore by improving coordination with state, local and federal partners. The Virginia Renewable Energy Task Force has been a leading agent in intergovernmental collaboration for wind energy development offshore Virginia.

Since 2009, Interior has approved 47 wind, solar and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands, including associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids. When built, these projects could provide more than 13,300 megawatts – enough energy to power more than 4.6 million homes and support more than 19,000 construction and operations jobs.

As part of the President’s comprehensive Climate Action Plan, he has challenged Interior to re-double efforts on its renewable energy program by approving an additional 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands and waters by 2020.

At the same time, under the Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, domestic oil and gas production has grown each year President Obama has been in office, with domestic oil production currently higher than at any time in two decades; natural gas production at its highest level ever; and renewable electricity generation from wind, solar, and geothermal sources having doubled. Combined with recent declines in oil consumption, net oil imports in 2012 fell to the lowest level in 20 years.”

BOEM auctioned the Wind Energy Area offshore Virginia as a single lease, containing 19 whole Outer Continental Shelf blocks and 13 sub-blocks. For a map of the Wind Energy Area, click here.

The auction lasted 1 day, consisting of 6 rounds before determining the provisional winner. In addition to Virginia Electric and Power Company the following company participated in the auction: Apex Virginia Offshore Wind, LLC. Following the auction, the Attorney General, in consultation with the Federal Trade Commission, will have 30 days in which to complete an antitrust review of the auction.

The lease will have a preliminary term of six months in which to submit a Site Assessment Plan to BOEM for approval. A Site Assessment Plan describes the activities (e.g., installation of meteorological towers and buoys) the lessee plans to perform for the assessment of the wind resources and ocean conditions of its commercial lease.

After a Site Assessment Plan is approved, the lessee will have up to four and a half years in which to submit a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) for approval, which provides a detailed outline for the construction and operation of a wind energy project on the lease. If the COP is approved, the lessee will have an operations term of 33 years.

BOEM is expected to announce additional auctions for Wind Energy Areas offshore Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts later this year and in 2014.

For more information on what’s going on offshore Virginia, visit BOEM’s website.

23 miles puts it far enough out that it’s generally out of sight from shore.  Out of sight, out of mind?  Out of danger?  Out of disaster potential?

Does a coal-power company’s winning these leases suggest a scheme to keep wind power from being developed, to improve the case for coal?


2-minute history of labor video

September 2, 2013

From the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, a two-minute history of labor.

Yes, it’s a pro-labor film — but not unbiased, and it covers national standards for social studies.


Albert Shanker and union teachers marching - undated photo, via PBS NewsHour

Albert Shanker and union teachers marching – undated photo, via PBS NewsHour

Immigration policy: Surprise answers from the Dallas Branch, Federal Reserve

August 30, 2013

Did you miss this interview last spring?

Pia Orrenius knows more about the economic effects of immigration on the modern U.S. than almost any other person alive — her job is to study immigration economics for the Dallas Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank.  As a dull economics researcher, she can be quite lively — in a bank of economics presentations, Orrenius will deliver the goods and keep you wide awake.  To deserved astonishment, Orrenius’s work is occasionally published by the right-wing generally isolationist American Enterprise Institute.

Pia Orrenius, Dallas Federal Reserve economist, Photo by David Woo, Dallas Morning News

Caption from the Dallas Morning News: Dallas Federal Reserve economist Pia Orrenius co-wrote a book on immigration reform with economist Madeline Zavodny. (Photo by David Woo/DMN)

Last spring the Dallas Morning News interviewed Dr. Orrenius, with a short version published in the Sunday “Viewpoints” section.  You could learn a lot from her.  In its entirety, for study purposes, the interview  from June 21, 2013 (links added):

Prepare to have your preconceived notions about immigration challenged. Pia Orrenius, 45, was born in Sweden and raised and educated in the U.S. She is a labor economist with the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank who has been studying the impact of immigration for two decades. Orrenius sees immigration through the prism of research, resulting in views that buck much of today’s accepted political dogma. She supports relaxing immigration restrictions for high-skilled workers and extending portable work visas to low-skilled workers, and warns of the unintended consequences of increased border enforcement.

It seems when we talk about immigration from a political perspective, much of the focus is on border enforcement. How important is border enforcement?

In terms of the immigration debate, border enforcement — while it’s very necessary and an important component of immigration policy and national security policy and defense policy — has unintended consequences. I know some people like to argue that border enforcement is not effective. It is, actually, effective. It’s just that you need a lot of it for it to be effective. And it’s very expensive. So you put all this costly border enforcement in place, and what happens? Fewer people get in. When fewer people get in, the wages of illegal immigrants go up. So if you’re lucky enough to get in, the reward is higher. That’s one unintended consequence.

I’ve heard you speak before about cyclical migration patterns and how, by making it so difficult to get in, people who once came alone now bring families. And families are what create the negative economic impact, because they use up education and health care dollars.

It reduces the circularity [of migration patterns] so people stay here longer. And they are also more likely to try to reunify with their families by bringing them here. So you actually have this unintended consequence of initially increasing the permanent population of illegal immigrants when you implement tough border enforcement. Whereas people before were more likely to leave their families in, say, Mexico and just migrate for work and then migrate home.

Last week, the Senate killed John Cornyn’s amendment to the immigration reform bill, which would have required raising the current 45 percent apprehension rate to 90 percent. What do you think a 90 percent rate would do?

If you put a border patrol agent every other meter on the border with Mexico, yes, you will not have any illegal immigration because they will be standing there in the way. But the question that’s not being asked is: At what price? At what cost to the taxpayers? And what else could you do with that money?

Then what do we do about illegal immigration?

Interior enforcement. Interior enforcement policies are, in so many ways, superior. They’re not nearly as expensive and are more efficient. If you have sensible interior enforcement policy, like universal E-Verify, then you’re really going to reduce the pressure on the border and save resources.

What’s the impact of illegal immigration on U.S. workers?

For native workers who compete closely with low-skilled immigrants, there is an adverse wage effect. But it’s quite small, smaller than you would think. And you don’t really find any adverse effects with high-skilled immigrants. Other forces drive wages to a much greater extent. Labor economists generally agree the most detrimental force on low-skilled wages, especially blue-collar men, is technology. And globalization — the offshoring of jobs that were traditionally high-paying. There are other things like the decline of unionization and in the real value of the minimum wage.

There have also been changes in the U.S.-born workforce — the aging that people talk a lot about and the increased education levels. The supply of U.S.-born workers who have less than a high school degree has been falling over time and is continuing to fall. These workers coming from Mexico and other countries are filling a niche.

Demographer Steve Murdoch has often said that, because of the graying of the U.S. workforce, we need a significant in-flow of immigration.

Does the economy need immigration? Do we need faster economic growth, do we need a more efficient, productive economy? Do we need it, or do we want it? That’s the distinction. If we want the economy to grow at potential, if we want to continue to rely on the services we’re accustomed to at a cost we’re accustomed to, if we want to continue living the way we have been living, yes, we need these workers. It’s just that the word need is tricky in this context.

A lot of the back story to what’s happening in Washington today has to do with what happened with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. There’s a feeling that we gave illegal immigrants a path to citizenship and now we have three or four times as many.

What happened with IRCA is that we legalized 2.7 million undocumented immigrants and then, 25 years later, we have 11 million more. But there are several reasons why what happened under IRCA is not going to happen again. First, look at the supply. Look at where people were coming from. They were overwhelmingly coming from Mexico. Well, that supply push has gone away. Mexican fertility has fallen from six to eight children per woman down to two to 21/2 per woman. (Don’t ask me how you can have half a child.)

Yeah, the poor mother. Actually, the figure you cited in your report is 2.2.

OK, 2.2. So you don’t have that demographic pressure coming from Mexico.

Another reason is technology. In the ’80s and ’90s, it was so hard to enforce the border because we didn’t have the technology to process these people. We couldn’t take their fingerprints and keep them in a database. It was a revolving door. Nowadays, we know exactly who they are, who’s getting caught two, three, four times. And we can implement interior enforcement as well. And pretty cheaply, like an E-Verify program. That was not possible 20 years ago. With technology, we will never go back to where we were before, where a half a million or a million undocumented immigrants were coming in, on net, in a given year. We’ll never go back to that.

This Q&A was conducted and condensed by editorial writer Ralph De La Cruz. His email address is Pia Orrenius’ email address is


Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Pearl Street (...

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Pearl Street (Uptown), Dallas, Texas; Wikipedia image. The Dallas FRB has a wonderful collection of regional art — all unfortunately out of public view.

Top 200 economics blogs, ranked by Onalytica Indexes

August 27, 2013

Borrowing the entire post from Onalytica Blog, for student ease — the top 200 economics blogs (via Mr. Darrell’s Pin Factory, with express permission and a few modifications). Reading a smattering from the top 20 should offer some real-world assistance in understanding any high school economics course.

Read ‘em and reap benefits, as the saying goes.  What did you learn just browsing the list?  Economics teachers and especially first-year economics students will want to bookmark this list and keep it handy.

Interesting that the Nobel Prize-winning Paul Krugman ranks so high, doubly interesting that Bruce Bartlett also ranks so high — and a clue, perhaps, to conservatives, that they should pay more attention to real economists.

Logo for Onalytica Indexes

Logo for Onalytica Indexes

(With a wave of the old wire-cutters to Bruce Bartlett, whose own blog is #2 on this list.)

It’s been several months since we published our latest ranking of influential economic blogs. Below is an updated list of the top 200 economic blogs, ordered by their Onalytica Influence index.

An explanation of the methodology can be found in our previous post on influential economic blogs.

We report the same metrics as before: Onalytica Influence Index, Popularity and Over-Influence. Influence index is the impact factor of blogs, similar to the impact factor of academic journals; Popularity measures how well-known a blog is amongst other economic blogs and Over-Influence seeks to capture how influential a blog is compared to how popular it is.

There are quite a few new entries in the list as a results of our growing underlying corpus of economic blogs from which the most influential ones are calculated. Over time, we should expect to see a reduced number of economic blogs entering the top 200 for the first time.

We have recently added some very well-known and influential blogs such as Economix, FT Alphaville and Vox, causing most blogs to go down in ranking. Moreover, there were other shifts in the ranking generated by a change in the quantity and quality of citations that blogs have received. If a blog has gone up it means that it has been cited by more influential blogs and/or has received a higher number of citations since our last ranking.

Rank Change Website I P O-I
1. The Conscience of a Liberal 100.0 100.0 1.2
New Entry ★ 2. Economix 61.7 64.9 1.1
New Entry ★ 3. FT Alphaville 60.8 52.0 1.4
New Entry ★ 4. Vox 57.4 56.5 1.2
2 ↓ 5. Marginal Revolution 53.1 63.4 1.0
2 ↓ 6. Brad Delong 50.8 61.3 1.0
5 ↓ 7. Economist’s View 50.6 62.8 1.0
9 ↑ 8. Zero Hedge 49.0 57.7 1.0
2 ↓ 9. Naked Capitalism 40.4 48.0 1.0
4 ↓ 10. Econbrowser 36.2 42.0 1.0
11. The Big Picture 35.9 42.6 1.0
2 ↓ 12. EconLog 35.9 45.3 0.9
4 ↓ 13. The Money Illusion 30.2 48.0 0.7
9 ↓ 14. Greg Mankiw’s Blog 30.1 36.6 1.0
5 ↑ 15. Economic Policy Institute 28.7 35.7 0.9
3 ↓ 16. Calculated Risk 28.6 25.5 1.3
23 ↑ 17. Next New Deal 26.2 24.0 1.3
New Entry ★ 18. On the Economy 25.1 33.3 0.9
4 ↓ 19. Crooked Timber 24.5 26.4 1.1
6 ↓ 20. Freakonomics 23.4 32.4 0.8
9 ↓ 21. Worthwhile Canadian Initiative 23.3 32.1 0.8
New Entry ★ 22. Tax Policy Blog 22.3 12.3 2.1
1 ↑ 23. The Baseline Scenario 22.0 25.5 1.0
48 ↑ 24. Noahpinion 21.9 42.3 0.6
6 ↓ 25. Cafe Hayek 20.3 26.4 0.9
8 ↓ 26. Interfluidity 19.8 24.3 0.9
11 ↓ 27. Why Nations Fail 19.3 27.0 0.8
New Entry ★ 28. Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis 19.3 21.0 1.1
3 ↓ 29. Credit Writedowns 18.7 23.7 0.9
27 ↑ 30. Liberty Street Economics 18.0 21.9 1.0
8 ↓ 31. The Incidental Economist 17.7 22.8 0.9
New Entry ★ 32. 17.2 15.9 1.2
New Entry ★ 33. The Grumpy Economist 17.1 18.9 1.0
13 ↓ 34. Angry Bear 16.8 23.7 0.8
New Entry ★ 35. Macro and Other Market Musings 16.3 23.4 0.8
New Entry ★ 36. Not the Treasury View 16.0 17.1 1.1
16 ↑ 37. IMF Direct 15.7 19.5 0.9
New Entry ★ 38. Steve Keens’ Debtwatch 15.7 16.5 1.1
New Entry ★ 39. Stan Collender’s Capital Gains and Games 15.5 11.7 1.5
New Entry ★ 40. Bruegel 15.3 10.8 1.6
7 ↓ 41. The Policy Center 15.2 26.1 0.7
4 ↓ 42. Mainly Macro 15.2 8.4 2.0
New Entry ★ 43. Bill Mitchell – billy blog 14.8 16.5 1.0
16 ↓ 44. The Irish Economy 14.5 9.6 1.7
10 ↑ 45. New Economic Perspectives 14.4 17.1 1.0
New Entry ★ 46. off the charts 14.3 11.1 1.5
New Entry ★ 47. Eschaton 14.1 13.8 1.2
3 ↑ 48. Andrew Gelman 14.0 17.1 0.9
New Entry ★ 49. macroblog 13.9 15.9 1.0
New Entry ★ 50. Steven Landsburg 13.6 15.6 1.0
15 ↓ 51. Stumbling and Mumbling 13.4 20.1 0.8
27 ↓ 52. Overcoming Bias 13.4 21.0 0.7
New Entry ★ 53. Pragmatic Capitalism 13.3 18.9 0.8
7 ↓ 54. The Undercover Economist 13.1 12.3 1.2
New Entry ★ 55. Robert Reich 12.8 15.0 1.0
27 ↓ 56. The Becker-Posner Blog 12.7 9.6 1.5
13 ↓ 57. China Financial Markets 12.5 16.5 0.9
19 ↓ 58. Uneasy Money 11.8 17.1 0.8
New Entry ★ 59. Consider the Evidence 11.6 10.2 1.3
New Entry ★ 60. Bleeding Heart Libertarians 11.6 16.5 0.8
7 ↓ 61. Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal 11.2 13.5 0.9
69 ↑ 62. Economics One 11.2 16.2 0.8
New Entry ★ 63. the nef blog 11.1 8.4 1.5
6 ↓ 64. The Volokh Conspiracy 11.0 14.7 0.9
30 ↓ 65. Dani Rodrik’s weblog 10.9 12.6 1.0
21 ↓ 66. Organizations and Markets 10.9 10.8 1.1
119 ↑ 67. Conversable Economist 10.5 8.7 1.3
New Entry ★ 68. Euro Intelligence 10.5 14.4 0.8
New Entry ★ 69. The Market Monetarist 10.4 12.6 0.9
40 ↓ 70. A Fistful of Euros 10.2 11.1 1.0
New Entry ★ 71. The Center of the Universe 10.1 9.9 1.2
39 ↓ 72. Keith Hennessey 10.0 8.4 1.3
New Entry ★ 73. Enlightenment Economics 9.9 6.9 1.6
52 ↑ 74. The Street Light 9.8 8.4 1.3
New Entry ★ 75. Robert P. Murphy’s Free Advice 9.5 10.8 1.0
New Entry ★ 76. MacroBusiness 9.4 10.8 1.0
68 ↑ 77. Econospeak 9.4 11.4 0.9
15 ↓ 78. TaxProf Blog 9.3 15.6 0.7
23 ↓ 79. Adam Smith Institute 9.1 16.2 0.6
21 ↓ 80. Donald Marron 9.0 6.9 1.4
New Entry ★ 81. Free Banking 9.0 14.1 0.7
17 ↓ 82. The Reformed Broker 8.9 12.3 0.8
46 ↓ 83. John Kay 8.8 12.9 0.8
New Entry ★ 84. Economic Policy Journal 8.8 10.8 0.9
54 ↓ 85. InfectiousGreed 8.7 9.6 1.0
New Entry ★ 86. Crossing Wall Street 8.7 7.8 1.2
41 ↓ 87. The Oil Drum 8.6 10.2 1.0
46 ↓ 88. Patrick Chovanec 8.5 6.0 1.5
New Entry ★ 89. Coordination Problem 8.4 15.0 0.6
New Entry ★ 90. Cheap Talk 8.3 11.7 0.8
New Entry ★ 91. Michael Hudson 8.3 10.5 0.9
40 ↓ 92. John Quiggin 8.1 11.1 0.8
New Entry ★ 93. Kids Prefer Cheese 8.0 11.1 0.8
New Entry ★ 94. The Market Ticker 8.0 12.9 0.7
New Entry ★ 95. Real-World Economics Review Blog 8.0 12.6 0.7
32 ↓ 96. Daniel W. Drezner 7.9 8.1 1.1
New Entry ★ 97. ToUChstone 7.8 8.7 1.0
20 ↓ 98. Historinhas 7.8 7.2 1.2
New Entry ★ 99. Facts and Other Stubborn Things 7.8 8.1 1.1
42 ↑ 100. Stephen Williamson: New Monetarist Economics 7.8 15.3 0.6
New Entry ★ 101. Credit Slips 7.8 6.3 1.3
New Entry ★ 102. The Bonddad Blog 7.7 11.7 0.8
New Entry ★ 103. The Economic Collapse 7.7 9.3 0.9
New Entry ★ 104. Corey Robin 7.7 11.4 0.8
New Entry ★ 105. Sober Look 7.6 8.4 1.0
56 ↓ 106. Environmental Economics 7.6 7.8 1.1
40 ↑ 107. Bronte Capital 7.6 7.8 1.1
New Entry ★ 108. George Monbiot 7.6 10.2 0.8
New Entry ★ 109. Max Keiser Financial War Reports 7.5 8.1 1.0
New Entry ★ 110. Club Troppo 7.4 13.8 0.6
New Entry ★ 111. Catallaxy Files 7.4 12.3 0.7
New Entry ★ 112. Coppola Comment 7.4 6.6 1.2
New Entry ★ 113. Of Two Minds 7.4 7.8 1.0
39 ↓ 114. ThinkMarkets 7.3 6.0 1.3
New Entry ★ 115. Tax Research UK 7.3 9.3 0.9
New Entry ★ 116. The Beacon Blog 7.3 9.9 0.8
New Entry ★ 117. Unlearning Economics 7.2 10.5 0.8
75 ↓ 118. A Dash of Insight 7.1 3.0 2.4
78 ↓ 119. Chris Blattman 7.0 10.5 0.8
New Entry ★ 120. The Aleph Blog 6.9 10.5 0.7
New Entry ★ 121. Evan Soltas 6.8 8.7 0.9
New Entry ★ 122. UDADISI 6.7 3.0 2.2
26 ↑ 123. The Slack Wire 6.7 5.7 1.3
New Entry ★ 124. Economics for public policy 6.7 9.0 0.8
41 ↑ 125. Supply and Demand (In That Order) 6.7 4.8 1.5
22 ↑ 126. NYU Development Research Insitute 6.6 4.2 1.7
2 ↑ 127. Ludwig von Mises Institute 6.6 9.0 0.8
New Entry ★ 128. OECD Insights 6.6 4.5 1.5
New Entry ★ 129. Mike Norman Economics 6.5 8.7 0.8
54 ↓ 130. The Economic Populist 6.5 8.7 0.8
New Entry ★ 131. MacroMania 6.4 8.7 0.8
65 ↓ 132. TripleCrisis 6.2 7.5 0.9
New Entry ★ 133. Economic Thought 6.2 9.0 0.8
New Entry ★ 134. Jesse’s Cafe Americain 6.2 11.7 0.6
New Entry ★ 135. Yanis Varoufakis 6.1 8.1 0.8
New Entry ★ 136. Political Calculations 6.1 9.6 0.7
New Entry ★ 137. Dan Ariely 6.1 6.0 1.1
New Entry ★ 138. Abnormal Returns 6.0 9.0 0.8
42 ↑ 139. Ideas 5.9 9.0 0.7
New Entry ★ 140. Monetary Freedom 5.9 8.4 0.8
New Entry ★ 141. azizonomics 5.9 6.9 0.9
76 ↓ 142. Tim Worstall 5.9 9.9 0.7
51 ↑ 143. Falkenblog 5.8 9.6 0.7
40 ↑ 144. Rajiv Sethi 5.7 7.5 0.8
76 ↓ 145. Coyote Blog 5.7 8.1 0.8
New Entry ★ 146. International Liberty 5.6 5.4 1.1
59 ↓ 147. CoRE Economics 5.5 7.8 0.8
68 ↓ 148. Knowledge Problem 5.4 8.4 0.7
New Entry ★ 149. I, Cringely 5.3 3.3 1.6
New Entry ★ 150. David Smith 5.3 8.1 0.7
New Entry ★ 151. Sanjeev Sabhlok’s Revolutionary Blog 5.3 6.0 1.0
91 ↓ 152. Division of Labour 5.3 2.7 1.9
New Entry ★ 153. Peter Martin 5.2 3.6 1.5
22 ↓ 154. Neighborhood Effects 5.2 5.1 1.1
New Entry ★ 155. The Epicurean Dealmaker 5.1 7.5 0.8
88 ↓ 156. Economists Do it With Models 5.0 6.3 0.9
New Entry ★ 157. Dr. Ed’s Blog 5.0 5.7 0.9
85 ↓ 158. Growthology 4.9 4.2 1.2
99 ↓ 159. Multiplier Effect 4.9 6.6 0.8
66 ↓ 160. Economics Intelligence 4.9 6.0 0.9
69 ↓ 161. The Capital Spectator 4.9 6.6 0.8
New Entry ★ 162. Offsetting Behaviour 4.8 8.1 0.7
New Entry ★ 163. Antonio Fatas and Ilian Mihov on the Global Economy 4.8 5.4 1.0
New Entry ★ 164. Tom Woods 4.8 6.0 0.9
New Entry ★ 165. owenzidar 4.6 3.6 1.3
10 ↓ 166. Market Design 4.6 5.1 1.0
New Entry ★ 167. Economics of Contempt 4.6 6.9 0.7
New Entry ★ 168. Balance 4.5 2.7 1.6
New Entry ★ 169. Jim Sinclair’s MineSet 4.5 5.1 1.0
26 ↓ 170. Environmental and Urban Economics 4.4 4.5 1.0
New Entry ★ 171. An Economic View of the Environment 4.4 1.8 2.2
New Entry ★ 172. Tax Justice Network 4.4 4.5 1.0
New Entry ★ 173. Mandel on Innovation and Growth 4.4 4.5 1.0
New Entry ★ 174. The Sports Economist 4.4 4.5 1.0
New Entry ★ 175. mathbabe 4.3 6.0 0.8
New Entry ★ 176. Financial Armageddon 4.3 6.6 0.7
107 ↓ 177. Brett Keller 4.3 1.2 2.9
New Entry ★ 178. Social Democracy for the 21st Century: a Post Keynesian Perspective 4.2 8.7 0.5
New Entry ★ 179. Robert Skidelsky 4.2 4.2 1.0
63 ↓ 180. Truth on the Market 4.1 5.4 0.8
81 ↓ 181. Economic Logic 4.1 4.5 1.0
New Entry ★ 182. Moneyness 4.0 6.0 0.7
New Entry ★ 183. Sparse Thoughts of a Gloomy Eurpoean Economist 4.0 3.3 1.2
New Entry ★ 184. Rick Bookstaber 4.0 4.8 0.9
96 ↓ 185. Alpha.Sources.CV 3.9 4.8 0.9
85 ↓ 186. Karl Whelan 3.9 2.4 1.6
17 ↓ 187. Macro Man 3.9 8.4 0.5
New Entry ★ 188. Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts 3.9 2.4 1.5
16 ↓ 189. History Squared 3.9 3.6 1.1
128 ↓ 190. Taking Hayek Seriously 3.8 6.9 0.6
66 ↓ 191. Ralphonomics 3.8 8.4 0.5
New Entry ★ 192. Naked Keynesianism 3.8 8.1 0.5
New Entry ★ 193. International Political Economy at the University of North Carolina 3.8 4.2 0.9
New Entry ★ 194. Middle Class Political Economist 3.7 4.2 0.9
New Entry ★ 195. Ed Dolan’s Econ Blog 3.7 4.2 0.9
111 ↓ 196. Roubini Global Economics 3.7 3.9 1.0
118 ↓ 197. Club for growth 3.7 5.7 0.7
New Entry ★ 198. Adam Smith’s Lost Legacy 3.7 7.2 0.6
New Entry ★ 199. Greed, Green & Grains 3.7 2.1 1.6
New Entry ★ 200. Cassandra Does Tokyo 3.7 5.7 0.7


Why is health care so expensive?

August 21, 2013

This comes up in discussions about ObamaCare all the time.

These guys at Vlog have it nailed pretty well.  Don’t know much about ‘em, but their facts square:

Vlog brothers wrote:

Published on Aug 20, 2013

In which John discusses the complicated reasons why the United States spends so much more on health care than any other country in the world, and along the way reveals some surprising information, including that Americans spend more of their tax dollars on public health care than people in Canada, the UK, or Australia. Who’s at fault? Insurance companies? Drug companies? Malpractice lawyers? Hospitals? Or is it more complicated than a simple blame game? (Hint: It’s that one.)

For a much more thorough examination of health care expenses in America, I recommend this series at The Incidental Economist:…
The Commonwealth Fund’s Study of Health Care Prices in the US:…
Some of the stats in this video also come from this New York Times story:…

This is the first part in what will be a periodic series on health care costs and reforms leading up to the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, in 2014.

The other videos should be similarly enlightening, we hope.

Funny.  They don’t complain about ObamaCare so much.


Annals of ObamaCare: Restaurant hiring increased since the bill passed

July 30, 2013

Watch the charts, get the facts.  Obamacare is working well.

First, let’s look at the food service industry.  Hoaxsters claim that restaurants are cutting hours of employees and refusing to hire, to avoid the law. Not so.

Growth in restaurant employment and sales since Affordable Care Act was signed into law

Growth in restaurant employment and sales since Affordable Care Act was signed into law

So food service establishments — restaurants — have experienced sales and employment growth as has the rest of the economy during the Obama administration.  What about employees?  Are restaurants cutting back their hours to avoid providing benefits to employees?  Evidence suggests the opposite:  Hours worked per employee are increasing.  Go to the chart:

Average weekly hours worked in restaurants, per employee, since the Affordable Care Act became law

Average weekly hours worked in restaurants, per employee, since the Affordable Care Act became law

These are the official figures from the White House.  More [links added here]:

During the four years since the recession ended in June 2009, 87% of the increase in employment has been due to a rise in the number of workers in full-time jobs. And looking at the period since ACA was signed in March 2010, more than 90% of the rise in employment has been due to workers in full-time jobs. Moreover, the length of the average workweek for private sector production and nonsupervisory employees has returned to its level at the start of the Great Recession.

And while the number of involuntary part-time workers has declined roughly in line with previous recoveries, it spiked up 322,000 in June. However, nearly 30 percent of the June increase was due to federal employees. This suggests that furloughs contributed to the pickup in part-time employment.

These observations strongly suggest that the Affordable Care Act has not constrained growth in hiring or work hours. So what is the ACA doing? It’s slowing the growth rate of health care costs for consumers, creating new incentives for providers to raise the quality of care, and adding new transparency and accountability in the insurance marketplace—all steps that help the economy.

ObamaCare is working — the Affordable Care Act has provided cheaper health care, much broader insurance coverage, better health — and seems to be stimulating industry, too.



Time to raise the minimum wage

June 21, 2013

Illustration for Bloomberg News by Rand Renfrow: $15 Minimum Wage

Illustration for Bloomberg News by Rand Renfrow: $15 Minimum Wage

Robert Reich put it succinctly at his Facebook site [links added here]:

Nick Hanauer, one of the nation’s most successful businessmen, proposed yesterday that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour. But wouldn’t that cause employers not to hire workers who were “worth” less, and thereby lead to higher unemployment? No, says Hanauer. By putting more money into the hands of more people, it would stimulate more buying — which would generate more jobs than any jobs that might be lost. Hanauer understands that the basic reason the economy is still limping along is workers are consumers, and workers continue to get shafted, which means consumers lack the purchasing power to get the economy off the ground. A minimum wage of $15 an hour, combined with basic worker standards such as paid sick leave and a minimum of 3 weeks paid vacation per year, should all be in a national campaign for better jobs and a better economy in the 2014 election.

That’s the case, in brief.

Last March Reich said raising the minimum wage to $9/hour was a “no brainer.”

Alas, he didn’t account enough for the anti-brain lobby.

What do you think?


Also good, an update:

Remedial economics, remedial U.S. history

May 20, 2013

I should set a threshold — five e-mails, or a dozen Facebook posts, and a response will be given.

But then some idiot would work to make the threshold.

You’ve seen this, of course:

5 misleading truths

“5 Truths You CANNOT Disagree With”

It was past the threshold, so I responded:

More truths:

  1. You cannot legislate poverty away by laws that send all the wealth generated by the working poor, to the rich.
  2. What one person receives without working for in capital gains, or productivity increases, another person worked for, without receiving. It is unjust to give the benefits of the sweat of one woman, to another man.
  3. Government subsidies create wealth in nations; most great enterprises have found their roots in government funding, from irrigation in Babylon, to farming along the Yellow River, through Columbus’s voyage of (accidental) discovery, the Transcontinental Railroad, and settlement of America.
  4. When opportunities exist for the poor, hard work makes much wealth. A society is wealthy, and an economy is sound, when the poor spend money. Rich guys spending money doesn’t work — there are not enough rich guys.
  5. When the rich tiny percentage of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, but that the work of others is ALSO their property and the poor will take care of them, then we have conditions for financial collapse (see the Panic of 1908, or 1837, or the Great Depression — or any other); those conditions often lead to revolution, sometimes violent (see Russia in 1917, Germany in 1922, Shay’s Rebellion, the French Revolution — when the rich get the rewards the hard-working man created, it is the beginning of the end of any nation. Some smart nations fix those problems when they occur.

When hard work no longer gets you ahead, and when hard work no longer will feed, clothe and educate your family, you may get angry.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable,” John Kennedy said. He was pretty smart for a young, rich guy.

(Links added above, other than the YouTube video; I hope the JFK Library has video of Kennedy actually saying that.)

People who post these “5 truths” without irony must have slept through ALL of economics in high school, and forgotten everything they may have ever learned about American history in the 20th century.  Income distribution is a serious issue — maldistribution and misdistribution of wealth leads to trouble, either economic calamity, or violent revolution, or both.

It’s fun to say that no person should get ahead on the earnings of another person; it’s more realistic when we understand that a system rigged to give financial players yachts, and working people debt, is the unfairness that those worriers should worry about.

John F. Kennedy waves to a crowd in front of Cobo Hall, in Detroit

Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy waves to a crowd in front of Cobo Hall, in Detroit, during the 1960 American Legion Convention. Image from Walter Reuther Library


“I, Pencil,” updated and animated — and not so offensive as I expected (even if free market nuts think it is)

May 16, 2013

English: Title page of Adam Smith's Wealth of ...

Title page of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, 1776. Wikipedia image

This is an encore post.  The topic is probably timely just about any time — the debates about which comes first, free markets or free people, or the balance of government regulation necessary to keep a truly fair and truly free market, or the utility of regulation at all, are debates that are good to have.  It’s a pity there isn’t more discussion of Adam Smith’s ideas, instead of the idol-worshipping of a bronzed copy of Smith’s famous treatise.  In any case, a spate of links to this post reminded me that it’s good to recirculate from time to time.

Have you read “I, Pencil?” You should.  There’s a link early in the article.  It’s a quick read.

Every economics teacher knows that old Leonard Read piece, “I, Pencil.”   It’s a good, practical demonstration of the concept of Adam Smith’sinvisible hand,” free markets, and the way economies put stuff together for sale without a government agency issuing instructions, written by Read in 1958, for the Foundation for Economic Education, a once-free-market economic think tank that recently made an unexpected (by me) lurch to the radical right.


Pencils – Wikipedia image

The essay is dated, though, for high school kids today.  Most of the stuff Read properly assumed people knew something about, is left out of modern curricula in elementary and middle school, so a high school teacher must do remedial work in mining, international trade, lumbering, manufacturing, chemistry and metallurgy, just to make the thing make sense.  Where we used to learn about pencils in first or second grade, my students in recent years labor under the misconception that pencil leads are made out of lead, and I have to explain to them that graphite is a form of carbon.  They don’t know cedar from pine, or mahogany, they don’t know copper from tin from zinc from steel, and they think rubber has always been synthetic.

Imagine my surprise on this:  I got an e-mail touting an animated, YouTube update of Read’s essay. It’s not bad, even though it’s from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is neither competitive, nor an institute, but is instead a propaganda arm of crazy right-wing wackoes.

Whoever made this film appears not to have had much interference from the CEI poobahs.

Am I missing something? Is this film more right-wing than I see?

I worry that I missed something, or that the producers of this movie wove a spell over the usual radical near-fascist groups.  This movie has been touted in recent days by almost all of the usual crypto-black-shirt think puddles, American Enterprise Institute, the unreasoning Reason magazine from the so-called libertarian view, the cartoonish Glen Beck effluent pipe The Blaze, the Coors family’s Heritage Foundation, the offensively-named Lexicans, the biased Cafe Hayek (which is often a good read anyway, so long as you don’t take them seriously on any science issue),  the sanctuary for authoritarian-leaning victims of lobotomy Hot Air, and even that publication from the propaganda organization, The Daily Capitalist — in short, it’s been plugged by organizations covering the entire political spectrum from Y to Z, the far right end of the alphabet.

English: From US Patent 19783 Combination of L...

From US Patent 19783 Combination of Lead-Pencil and Eraser by L. Lipman, March 1858. (Patent later invalidated — so much for free market rewards to inventors) Wikipedia image

Maybe they didn’t watch it? 

For today’s teenagers, someone should do a couple of updates.  “I, SmartPhone” and “I, Tablet Computer” could include lessons in government regulation of radio spectrum and how such regulation allows public safety functions and air traffic control to exist alongside great profit-seeking groups, and how such developments would be impossible without government regulation. There would also be a section on the mining and milling of rare Earths, of ores like Coltan, which would introduce the concept of blood or conflict diamonds and ores, the collapse of order in unregulated areas like Congo and Somalia, slave labor as in Pakistan and China.  “I, Fast Food Breakfast” could include side lessons in importing of orange juice from Brazil and other nations, artificially-flavored syrups from China and the threat from climate change to U.S. maple tree farmers, and meat from Australia and Argentina, along with the ideas of food safety regulation on eggs and egg products by USDA and FDA.  “I, Burrito” could include lessons in cultural diffusion and migrant farm workers who pick the tomatoes . . .


Color pencils. Wikipedia image

By the way, the fact that pencil leads are graphite (and clay), and not lead, should not be taken to mean that pencil manufacturers came up with a kid-safe product on their own; lead in the paint on pencils was enough to worry the health officials, until regulation got different paints used.

We need a classroom guide on Read’s piece and this new movie that seriously discusses the need for regulation in pencil manufacture, from the safety of the saws used to cut the trees, and in the mills, to the anti-child labor provisions of the graphite and rubber import agreements, to the forest regulation and research necessary to keep the incense cedar wood in production, through the anti-deforestation requirements on rubber plantations and the regulation of lead in the paint.  The movie is good, much less right-wing than those groups who fawn over it, but still in need of some real-world economic reality.

Mechanical pencil leads spilling out of their ...

Mechanical pencil leads spilling out of their plastic case. Wikipedia image


More, in 2013:  

Teacher salaries and raises hammered by recession

May 7, 2013

Daily salary IMG 0077

Accounts for daily salary sealed by a high civil servant named Ur-Shara – Girsu, Sumerian object dated to circa 2044 BCE, Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon via Wikipedia.  Finding evidence of significant teacher raises since 2044 BCE can be difficult.

I’ll let the press release speak for itself for a moment:


National Council on Teacher Quality



For Immediate Release// Contact: Laura Johnson
May 7, 2013


New NCTQ Report: Teacher Salary Growth Slowed as Result of Recession

Over the Last Four Years, Teachers Continued to Get Raises, But at Only One-Third to One-Half of What Raises Were at Start of Recession

Washington, DC – A new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) finds that although teachers continued to get raises following the recession, there was a noticeable slow-down in teacher salary growth on par with that of comparable professions. Post-recession raises have been one-third to one-half of what they were at the beginning of the recession, with almost all 41 districts studied by NCTQ freezing or cutting at least one component of scheduled teacher raises at some point between the 2008-09 and 2011-12 school years. In 80 percent of the districts sampled (33 out of 41), teachers had a total pay freeze or pay cut in at least one of the last four school years.

“There is no question that teacher salary growth took a hit post-recession,” said Kate Walsh, President of the National Council on Teacher Quality. “The good news is that the economy is strengthening and districts are slowly getting back to investing more in teacher pay. The question is, will education leaders choose to go back to the status quo of step increases and regular annual adjustments, or will they evaluate teacher performance and reward the most effective teachers with raises? Expectations for students are increasing, which means the bar is being raised for teachers as well— and a support that should accompany this shift is the ability to reward the best-performing teachers.”

The recession’s impact on teacher raises varied district by district. Cutting annual adjustments, which are raises for cost-of-living and other market forces, was the most common method used to reduce raise amounts. However, no district had a pay cut or freeze every year and eight districts had positive salary growth over the entire four-year period (Fort Worth, Memphis, Milwaukee, New York City, Jefferson County, KY, Fresno, Chicago, and Baltimore City). Of the 41 districts in the sample, Chicago Public Schools had the highest average raise over the four years at 6.5 percent. The report includes detailed information on teacher raises in each of 41 districts from 2008-09 to 2011-12, including the methods each district used to reduce raises. To view the full report, visit

The report draws on data from the 50 largest U.S. public school districts in 2010-11 (the most recent year for which such data are available). Forty-one of the 50 districts responded to the data request with enough information to be included in the report. NCTQ calculated the average annual salary growth in the 41 school districts from 2008-09 to 2011-12 by analyzing districts’ salary schedules and determining teachers’ movement on the schedules (using information reported by the districts). Salary growth calculations take into account raises for earning additional years of experience (also known as “step increases”) and annual adjustments for cost-of-living increases and other market factors. They do not take into account raises for completing additional coursework.

About NCTQ
The National Council on Teacher Quality advocates for reforms in a broad range of teacher policies at the federal, state, and local levels in order to increase the number of effective teachers. In particular we recognize the absence of much of the evidence necessary to make a compelling case for change and seek to fill that void with a research agenda that has direct and practical implications for policy. We are committed to lending transparency and increasing public awareness about the four sets of institutions that have the greatest impact on teacher quality: states, teacher preparation programs, school districts and teachers unions. For more information, visit:



A new Landaff teacher in the 1940s watches as ...

“A new Landaff teacher in the 1940s watches as a student writes on the blackboard.” Wikipedia image


How’s that austerity working for you?

April 6, 2013

NJ State Police Benevolent Association sign

Sign outside Atlantic City, New Jersey. Image from

“Even the bad guys are feeling lucky.”

With declining income, American cities lay off cops.

No problem for the rich!  Just hire private cops! Story in the Christian Science Monitor:

After people in Oakland’s [California] wealthy enclaves like Oakmore or Piedmont Pines head to work, security companies take over, cruising the quiet streets to ward off burglars looking to take advantage of unattended homes.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Long known for patrolling shopping malls and gated communities, private security firms are beginning to spread into city streets. While private security has long been contracted by homeowners associations and commercial districts, the trend of groups of neighbors pooling money to contract private security for their streets is something new.

Besides Oakland, neighborhoods in Atlanta and Detroit – both cities with high rates of crime – have hired firms to patrol their neighborhoods, says Steve Amitay, executive director of the National Association of Security Contractor.

“It’s happening everywhere,” Mr. Amitay says. “Municipal governments and cities are really getting strapped in terms of their resources, and when a police department cuts 100 officers obviously they are going to respond to less crimes.”

Potential issues:

  1. Is the cost less than the modest increase in taxes required to keep the cops on?
  2. What happens when a rent-a-cop finds criminals in action?  Private security firms are not bound to stop criminal action, nor put their lives on the line to catch criminals.
  3. Would it be as effective if those people who fire private security simply donated that money to local law enforcement agencies?

File this under the so-called conservative rich cutting off their fingers to spite their hands:  Does it ever occur to them that they would have more bankable cash if they didn’t have to hire a security service to guard their homes, but instead paid modest taxes to educate would-be criminals to do non-criminal work, and to provide police protection instead of private spies?

Didn’t Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association say his agency would support bigger budgets to hire more cops?  Where is that lobbying action today?  What’s that — he was just jerking whose chain?  (I’d be more comfortable if I knew LaPierre does not regard Somalia as the model for how a national government ought to work.)



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,991 other followers

%d bloggers like this: