Saturday, May 4, 2013

What Mattered This Week?

Back to basics: the employment report. Nothing great, but no disaster. We're certainly not having anything like Clinton's peace-and-prosperity second term, but at least for the moment it seems we're more in the direction of getting there than we are moving towards George W. Bush's second term. Even if there doesn't seem much hope of actually getting there within four years.

It's good that Obama finally got around to choosing a Secretary of Commerce, but much harder to imagine how a Secretary of Commerce can matter.

What do you have? What do you think mattered this week?

21 comments:

  1. As @smerconish said this morning:
    Thinking about how if Romney had won--with housing, jobs and stocks all rising--some would be saying "see we just needed to get rid of Obama."

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    1. My guess is that if Romney won, he'd have backed an expansionary fiscal policy. It would be disguised with some name and inefficient because it would be slanted to favor the rich and the military, but still expansionary.

      Many Rs really believe in austerity, so their caucus would be split. Ds, lacking a choice of fiscal policy that maximizes help to the middle class and poor, would support Romney's proposal and get it through.

      End result might be slightly better off than we would otherwise be in the next year or so because of the sequester that the Rs won't give up.

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  2. About all the back and forth about Syria--the chemical weapons, the Israeli air strike--matter a great deal.

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  3. "We're certainly not having anything like Clinton's peace-and-prosperity second term, but at least for the moment it seems we're more in the direction of getting there than we are moving towards George W. Bush's second term.'

    Don't forget that the first three years of G. W. Bush's second term were years of prosperity, if not peace. As late as April 2008, unemployment was only 5.0%. http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/data/UNRATE.txt

    (No, I'm not saying the economy was fundamentally sound until 2008, only that it's pretty rash to judge a second term by its first few months.)

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  4. Jobs report matters, but more because of the revisions up of the past months than this month's numbers. I'd second anon's points about Israel and Syria.

    Also I don't have any hard data to point at, but I feel like I've seen a sea change in coverage over austerity recently. Part of it probably has to with the demolition of that terrible Harvard study, but even in Politico you are reading about a major retreat from deficit mania among Senate Democrats. It also looks like Europe is, slowly, turning its back on austerity. I dunno, we'll see what happens.

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    1. Also in department of austerians behaving badly Niall Ferguson said we should all ignore Keynes because he was gay and didn't have any children.

      http://www.fa-mag.com/news/harvard-professor-gay-bashes-keynes-14173.html

      To be fair Ferguson has issued an apology, but I just wish we could all stop treating this guy as some sort of great, serious thinker.

      I guess this might matter? Sorry if I ruined the thread.

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    2. Agreed about the sea change on austerity. That's been the big development of the last few weeks, I think. It's a happy combination of Reinhart-Rogoff taking a pratfall right around the same time that policymakers, especially in Europe, were running out of excuses for their failed policies and were starting to realize that if they don't get better growth numbers, they're facing backlashes and some ugly future elections. (It's premature, of course, but conventional wisdom in the UK is already starting to coalesce around phrases like "Prime Minister Miliband.")

      And not to be pedantic, but R-R wasn't a "Harvard study." It was one guy at Harvard co-authoring something with a professor at Maryland or wherever it was. (Not sure if laypeople realize, but universities don't sign off on the opinions that professors express in their own published work.) I'm pointing this out just by way of saying that R-R never should have been treated as holy writ in the first place.

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    3. Fair enough. Although I'd say that everyone and their mom seemed to flog it as a something from "Harvard" originally. I guess this is part of the problem...

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  5. The Secretary of Commerce is 10th in the line of succession to the presidency. In case anyone else was wondering.

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  6. backyardfoundryMay 4, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    S. Carolina passes law making implementation of Obamacare illegal. This could be hilarious because it's the IRS that handles the penalty ... er, tax ... let's just say "penalty" for noncompliance with Obama. A row between SC and the IRS would be pretty sweet.

    http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2013/05/obamacare-affects-part-time-employment.html?m=1

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    1. Also this week, I declared myself King of Ethiopia. This has exactly as much legal force as South Carolina* declaring a federal law "null and void."

      (In fact, it was just the South Carolina House. It seems even their nutball governor isn't committed to this thing yet. Perhaps she's aware of the state motto: "South Carolina: Proudly failing at nullification since 1830."

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    2. backyardfoundryMay 4, 2013 at 9:17 PM

      This looks great. Obama won't even stop his pot raids; he'd definitely send in Union soldiers if SC fully circumvented Obamacare. Maybe drones would be a better idea ...

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    3. We've already seen the drones in action. They're called South Carolina Republicans.

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    4. @backyard,
      What is it with this fantasy that Obama's going to send in troops, or even better, UN troops? How much do you believe this? 10%? Please, put a hard number on it.

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  7. Although predictable, Markey and Gomez winning their primaries for Kerry's Senate seat matters, because if Gomez wins the special election (and the first PPP poll after the primaries shows him only four points behind Markey) this not only is signficant in itself (since in the Senate every vote counts) but will no doubt be read (as Scott Brown's victory was in early 2010) as a repudiation of Obama (even if that isn't true, if it is *believed* by politicians and pundits to be true, that has consequences).

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  8. backyardfoundryMay 4, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    Astonishing if true, this would mean that Sweden is much more 1%-y than the US:

    "For reasons that I do not fully understand (perhaps fear of the rich moving their wealth), Sweden has continued to lower tax rates for the already rich, while keeping taxes on new wealth through work or entrepreneurship high. In 2005 the left abolished the inheritance tax entirely. This means that today the top tax rate for someone who inherits wealth is 0%, and the tax rate for someone who creates new wealth by building a new company 67%."

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  9. I have a question about the West Texas fertilizer plant explosion. I saw a glowing article in the Dallas Morning News that sadly concluded the state and federal governments were to blame for not seeing safety inspections through. They somehow forgot to mention that the men who owned the plant, and who were responsible for day-to-day operations, should have known that storing explosive fertilizer next to pressurized ammonium tanks was a bad idea.

    So, my question is, do their actions meet the standard of criminal negligence? Can they be prosecuted for twenty counts of involuntary manslaughter?

    After the Trayvon Martin killing, I think it's pretty clear that public opinion can help prod reluctant prosecutors.

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  10. Big event of the week: "Fresh Outlook," May 4, 2013.

    Wherein a nervous Scott Monje makes his debut as a television personality, is reminded of the difficulty of thinking on your feet (or on your seat, as the case may be) under pressure, and occasionally forgets not to mumble.

    Syria
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrkdYthNnVk

    Gitmo
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5ciYeTTzAc

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    1. This is awesome. Next stop, Charlie Rose!

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    2. Autographs will be available at reasonable rates.

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  11. A new CNN poll found that Democrats are more likely to "be willing to give up some civil liberties if that were necessary to curb terrorism in this country." Even Republicans were more libertarian on this question:

    http://reason.com/blog/2013/05/03/cnntimeorc-majority-of-democrats-are-wil

    It suggests to me that civil libertarians in the Democratic Party have some work to do!

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