"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lisa Belkin on the Yonkers Housing Crisis

The Painful Lessons of the Yonkers Housing Crisis by Lisa Belkin
Crime has not increased. Property values have not decreased. Life is pretty much the same for those who lived on these blocks before the townhouses were built. And for those who moved in from the projects? The change of address didn’t solve all their problems, but it did make their lives safer, cleaner and measurably better.

Last month, the Obama administration announced that it would put teeth behind a policy making federal housing funds conditional on a city’s demonstrated efforts to reduce housing segregation. It won’t be easy. 
Already in Westchester County, not far north of Yonkers, local politicians are sounding exactly like those here in the 1980s. Ordered to build 750 units of affordable housing in 31 of its wealthiest, whitest towns, Westchester’s county executive, Rob Astorino, staged a photo op at Hillary Clinton’s front gate in Chappaqua, warning: “This is happening right here in Westchester County, and if you live in Ohio, if you live in Florida, if you live in Maine — wherever you live in the United States — you are next.” 
But if there is a new commitment from the federal government, and the longstanding but deeply frayed rules are actually (and finally) enforced, then perhaps the legacy of Yonkers can be more than Pyrrhic. Maybe we’re a few steps further along than we thought.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Men in Blazers with David Simon

The Men in Blazers Show: David Simon Interview

I've been getting into Premier League Football/Soccer via NBCSN and USA. These guys had a funny interview with David Simon who was promoting Show Me A Hero.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

safe assets and the natural rate

My Quiz for Wannabe Keynesians by Roger Farmer

A Tale of Two Natural Rates by Roger Farmer

Farmer disagrees with Krugman who agrees with Williamson.

The Natural Rate Hypothesis: an ideapast its sell-by date by Roger Farmer

Why financial markets are inefficient by Roger Farmer

Wow Farmer predicts a Great Depression. A little alarmist.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

German wage repression

German Wage Repression: Getting to the Roots of the Eurozone Crisis By John Miller

Germany has been insistent that the so-called peripheral countries increase their competitiveness through slower wages rises or even wage cuts. Wage increases in Germany are an equally important, and symmetrical, part of this necessary adjustment process.
The wage increases are steps in the right direction, but relatively small steps. More gains for German workers in the future would be both warranted and a win-win proposition for Germany and its trade partners.
— Ben Bernanke, “German wage hikes: A small step in the right direction,” Brookings Institution, April 13, 2015.
Ben Bernanke not only supports recent German wage increases, he also thinks further wage increases for German workers are “warranted and a win-win proposition for Germany and its trade partners”?
Now that’s a jaw-dropper. Has the former head of the Federal Reserve Board—the guardian of “price stability,” which makes policy designed to keep U.S. wages in check—switched sides in the class war, now that he is retired?
Hardly. Rather, it’s that catering to the demands of German high finance and other elites has been so disastrous that even the former chair of the Fed cannot deny the undeniable: unless Germany changes course and boosts workers’ wages, the euro crisis will only worsen.
Let’s look more closely at just how German wage repression and currency manipulation pushed the eurozone into crisis, ignited a conflict between northern and southern eurozone countries (with Germany as the enforcer of austerity), and left Greece teetering on the edge of collapse.
From “Sick Man” to Export Bully
In 2000, Germany was widely considered “the sick man of Europe.” Through much of the previous decade, the German economy had grown more slowly than the European Union average, its manufacturing base had shrunk, and its unemployment rate had risen to near double-digit levels. Nor was Germany an export powerhouse, with its current account (the mostly widely used and most comprehensive measure of a nation’s financial balance with the rest of the world) showing a modest deficit in 2000.
Adopting the euro as its sole currency, in January 2002, was no panacea. For the next two years, Germany’s economy continued to stagnate. But converting to the euro—whose value was more or less an average of that of the stronger and weaker former currencies of the member countries—soon did improve Germany’s competitive position internationally. German exports, no longer valued in strong deutschmarks, but in weaker euros, became cheaper to buyers in other countries. At the same time, the exports of countries that used to have weaker currencies, such as the Greek drachma and the Spanish peseta, became more expensive. That alone transformed Germany’s current account deficit into a surplus.
China is widely accused of “currency manipulation,” keeping the renminbi weak to boost its exports. But few see that the eurozone—the now 19- country bloc sharing the euro as its common currency—has functioned for Germany as a built-in currency manipulation system. And much like China, Germany used a lethal combination of wage repression and an undervalued currency to boost its exports and output at the expense of its trading partners.
Following the adoption of the euro, Germany instituted a set of “labormarket flexibility” policies intended to further improve its international competitiveness. Known as the “Agenda 2010 Reforms,” the new policies reduced pensions, cut medical benefits, and slashed the duration of unemployment benefits from nearly three years to just one. They made it easier to fire workers, while encouraging the creation of parttime and short-term jobs. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reports that, from the mid-1990s to 2008, the incomes of the poorest 30% of Germans actually declined in real (inflation-adjusted) terms. Germany’s repressive labor policies kept a lid on wage growth. In every year from 2000 through the onset of the financial crisis in 2009, German compensation per employee increased more slowly than the eurozone average, and less even than in the United States.
During the 1990s, German workers’ real (inflation-adjusted) wages rose along with productivity gains, meaning that employers could pay the higher wages without facing higher labor costs per unit of output. After 1999, wage gains no longer kept pace with productivity, and the gap between the two widened. As wages stagnated, inequality worsened, and poverty rates rose. Total labor compensation (wages and benefits) fell from 61% of GDP in 2001 to just 55% of GDP in 2007, its lowest level in five decades.
German wage repression went even further than necessary to meet the 2% inflation target mandated by the eurozone agreement, and insisted upon by German policymakers. Unit labor cost (workers’ compensation per unit of output) is perhaps the most important determinant of prices and competitiveness. Unit labor cost rises with wage increases but falls with gains in productivity. From 1999 to 2013, German unit labor cost increased by just 0.4% a year. The reason was not German productivity growth, which was no greater than the eurozone average over the period; rather, it was that German labor-market policies kept wage growth in check.
This combination of a built-in system of currency manipulation afforded by the euro and labor-market policies holding labor costs in check turned Germany into the world’s preeminent trade-surplus country. As its competitive advantage grew, its exports soared. Germany’s current account surplus became the largest in the world relative to the size of its economy, reaching 7.6% of the country’s GDP, more than twice the size of China’s surplus compared to its GDP.
Beggar Thy Neighborhood
Germany’s transformation into an export powerhouse came at the expense of the southern eurozone economies. Despite posting productivity gains that were equal or almost equal to Germany’s, Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy saw their labor costs per unit of output—and in turn prices rise— considerably faster than Germany’s. Wage growth in these countries exceeded productivity growth, and the resulting higher unit labor costs pushed prices up by more than the eurozone’s low 2% annual inflation target (though by only a small margin).
The widening gap in unit labor costs gave Germany a tremendous competitive advantage and left the southern eurozone economies at a tremendous disadvantage. Germany amassed its ever-larger current account surplus, while the southern eurozone economies were saddled with worsening deficits. Later in the decade, the Greek, Portuguese, and Spanish current account deficits approached or even reached alarming double-digit levels, relative to the sizes of their economies.
In this way, German wage repression is an essential component of the euro crisis. Heiner Flassbeck, the German economist and longtime critic of wage repression, and Costas Lapavistas, the Greek economist best known for his work on financialization, put it best in their recent book Against the Troika: Crisis and Austerity in the Eurozone: “Germany has operated a policy of ‘beggar-thy-neighbor’ but only after ‘beggaring its own people’ by essentially freezing wages. This is the secret of German success during the last fifteen years.”
While Germany’s huge exports across Europe and elsewhere created German jobs and lowered the country’s unemployment rate, the German economy never grew robustly. Wage repression subsidized exports, but it sapped domestic spending. And, held back by this chronic lack of domestic demand, Germany’s economic growth was far from impressive, before or after the Great Recession. From 2002 to 2008, the German economy grew more slowly than the eurozone average, and over the last five years has failed to match even the sluggish growth rates posted by the U.S. economic recovery. With low wage growth, consumption stagnated. German corporations hoarded their profits and private investment relative to GDP fell almost continuously from 2000 on. The same was true for German public investment, held back by the eurozone budgetary constraints.
At the same time, Germany spread instability. Germany’s reliance on foreign demand for its exports drained spending from elsewhere in the eurozone and slowed growth in those countries. That, in turn, made it less likely that German banks and elites would recover their loans and investments in southern Europe.
Wage Repression and the Crisis
No wonder Bernanke now describes higher German wages as an important step toward reducing Europe’s trade imbalances. More spending by German workers on domestic goods and imports would help Germany and its trading partners grow, and improve the lot of working people throughout the eurozone.
Of course, much more needs to be done. Putting an end to the austerity measures imposed on Greece and the other struggling eurozone economies would boost their demand as well. In fact, it would also better serve the interests of Germany and the profit-making class, by helping to stabilize a system from which they have benefited so greatly at the expense of much of the region’s population.
Still, raising the wages of German workers to match productivity gains is, as Bernanke recognizes, surely a step in the right direction. Raising U.S. wages to match productivity gains would help defuse U.S. wage repression and boost economic growth here as well. If Bernanke throws his weight behind that proposition, we’ll truly wonder which side is he on.
Sources:  Kaja Bonesmo Fredrikson, “Income Inequality in the European Union,” OECD Economic Department Working Papers, No. 952, April 16, 2012; Brian Blackstone, “Germany’s Rising Wages Bode Well for Global Economy,” Wall Street Journal, April 12, 2015; Heiner Flassbeck and Costas Lapavistas, Against the Troika: Crisis and Austerity in the Eurozone(Verso, 2015); Real News Network, Interview with Heiner Flassbeck: “Germany’s Collective Denial,”  Feb. 22, 2015; Ben Bernanke, “Greece and Europe: Is Europe Holding up its end of the Bargain?” Ben Bernanke’s Blog, July 17, 2015; Philippe Legrain, “Germany’s Economic Mirage,” Project Syndicate, Sept. 23, 2014.
John Miller is a professor of economics at Wheaton College and a member of the Dollars & Sense collective.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Corbynomics and a QE for the people

CORBYNOMICS - MEH by Chris Dillow

Economist defends 'Corbynomics' after Chris Leslie's criticism

People's QE and Corbyn’s QE by Simon Wren-Lewis

Now the Bank of England needs to deliver QE for the people by Mark Blyth, Eric Lonergan and Simon Wren-Lewis

The Constant Reserves Multiplier by Eric Lonergan

On Corbynomics by Chris Dillow

Invest in Our Future by Jeremy Corbyn

The Bank, helicopter money and fiscal conservatism by Simon Wren-Lewis

Print Less but Transfer More: Why Central Banks Should Give Money Directly to the People by Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan


 The Greek Warrior by Ian Parker
It was as if Christopher Hitchens had woken up one day as Secretary of State. Varoufakis was no longer writing elegantly prosecutorial blog posts about Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the I.M.F.; he was meeting with Lagarde. Within days of Greece’s election, an academic with Marxist roots, a shaved head, and a strong jaw had become one of the world’s most recognizable politicians. He showed a level of intellectual and rhetorical confidence—or, perhaps, unearned swagger—that lifted Greek hearts and infuriated Northern European politicians. His reluctance to wear a tie seemed to convey the impossibility of containing his manliness.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

the enemy

Was it possible, that at every gathering--concert, peace rally, love-in, be-in, and freak-in, here, up north, back east, wherever--those dark crews had been busy all along, reclaiming the music, the resistance to power, the sexual desire from epic to everyday, all they could sweep up, for the ancient forces of greed and fear?
Pynchon, Inherent Vice 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Krugman on competitiveness and class warfare

What about trade balances and export sectors?

Competitiveness and Class Warfare by Krugman

For reasons not entirely clear to me, recently I found myself thinking about Lester Thurow’s Head to Head: The Coming Economic Battle Among Japan, Europe, and America. For those too young, or who don’t remember, Thurow’s book was a monster best-seller in the early 1990s; it resonated with many people who feared that America was losing its economic edge, that Japan was an unstoppable juggernaut, and so on. And it also played into the general notion of global economics as a struggle for competitive advantage, which is a perennial popular favorite.
I was pretty critical of that notion at the time, arguing that economic success or failure had little to do with international competition. But what I found myself thinking about was the question of who really did best in the decades that followed Thurow’s book. And the answer is … nobody.
The chart shows real GDP per working-age adult (15-64) in France, Japan, and America since 1990. The demographic correction is important: Japan has lagged economically, but a lot of that is just demography.
What’s striking here is how similar the three look. Japan lagged in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but recovered. France has lagged since 2010, largely thanks to the eurozone crisis and its misguided austerity policies. But given how much rhetoric there is about structural problems here and there, what’s striking is how little divergence there has been among advanced countries.
What this tells you, I think, isn’t just that international competition is far less important than legend has it. It also suggests that economic growth is pretty insensitive to policy: France and the US are at the extremes of advanced-country regimes, yet there’s not much difference in their long-term performance.
But does this say that policy doesn’t matter? Not at all. For while there is not, repeat not, anything like the zero-sum competition among nations so beloved of business types, there really is the question of who gets the gains. U.S. economic growth has been OK these past 25 years; US family incomes, not so much, because such a large share of growth goes to the very top.
International competition is a mostly bogus notion; class warfare is very, very real.

Monday, August 03, 2015

the one percent

I have this quote up above:

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker
See Donald Trump. Sure there are good rich people. Of course. Conservatives and the corporate media would like you to believe they are virtuous and blessed by God. But pop culture seems to be coming around. For example:

Foxcatcher. Another Period. Season Three of Ray Donovan. Hell on Wheels. HBO's The Casual Vacancy. Mr. Robot.


attacks on Corbynomics

August 03, 2015

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Krugman on Freshwater's wrong turn

Freshwater's Wrong Turn by Krugman

Paul Romer has been writing a series of posts on the problem he calls “mathiness”, in which economists write down fairly hard-to-understand mathematical models accompanied by verbal claims that don’t actually match what’s going on in the math. Most recently, he has been recounting the pushback he’s getting fromfreshwater macro types, who seem him as allying himself with evil people like me — whereas he sees them as having turned away from science toward a legalistic, adversarial form of pleading.
You can guess where I stand on this. But in his latest, he notes some of the freshwater types appealing to their glorious past, claiming that Robert Lucas in particular has a record of intellectual transparency that should insulate him from criticism now. PR replies that Lucas once was like that, but no longer, and asks what happened.
Well, I’m pretty sure I know the answer.
First of all, it’s true about the initial transparency. In the beginning, Lucas and disciples had a very clear statement of both the problem and their solution. They took it as an observed fact that fluctuations in nominal demand were associated with fluctuations in real output, as opposed to merely affecting the price level, which shouldn’t happen if prices were flexible. But they insisted that it was illegitimate to assume sticky prices and wages, that any story you tell must be grounded in microfoundations — and not just that, in maximizing behavior.
So Lucas came up with a story: it was all about imperfect information. Faced with a shock to nominal demand, producers couldn’t tell how much was just a money fluctuation and how much a real change in demand for their particular product, to which they should respond by changing output. So they would engage in signal extraction, making the best possible estimate; this would lead in aggregate to an upward-sloping aggregate supply curve, but only because of rational confusion. And this in turn had strong policy implications: you might see a relationship between money and output, but it would disappear if you tried to use it.
It was a lovely, intellectually interesting and exciting approach. It was also quite wrong.
The wrongness took a few years to become irrefutable. By the early 1980s, however, it was overwhelmingly clear that rational confusion couldn’t explain business cycles, either empirically or theoretically — business cycles last too long, rational agents should be able to tell real from nominal shocks using information like asset prices, and more. And so you had a substantial chunk of the profession going back to sticky-price models, arguing that under imperfect competition things like menu costs or slight deviations from perfect rationality were enough to make money very non-neutral in the short run.
But Lucas and his school couldn’t do that, because they had burned their bridges. They had seized the moment when people took their models seriously to loudly and aggressively declare that Keynesianism of any form was total nonsense, that everything macroeconomists had done in the previous four decades was worthless. it would have taken a lot of intellectual integrity to admit that they might have been premature, that their models weren’t working and that maybe there was something in that Keynesian stuff after all. And that kind of integrity did not manifest itself.
Instead they went even further down the equilibrium rabbit hole, notably with real business cycle theory. And here is where the kind of willful obscurantism Romer is after became the norm. I wrote last year about the remarkable failure of RBC theorists ever to offer an intuitive explanation of how their models work, which I at least hinted was willful:
But the RBC theorists never seem to go there; it’s right into calibration and statistical moments, with never a break for intuition. And because they never do the simple version, they don’t realize (or at any rate don’t admit to themselves) how fundamentally silly the whole thing sounds, how much it’s at odds with lived experience.
What Romer is telling us, based on his discussion of growth models, is that this kind of thing is pervasive in that school. And no, everyone doesn’t do it. Read Mike Woodford or Gauti Eggertsson or Ken Rogoff when he’s doing theory: they all take pains to provide an intuition behind their models, and they don’t engage in false advertising.
So what happened to freshwater, I’d argue, is that a movement that started by doing interesting work was corrupted by its early hubris; the braggadocio and trash-talking of the 1970s left its leaders unable to confront their intellectual problems, and sent them off on the path Paul now finds so troubling.


Vangelis composed the musical scores to Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner and Missing among other movies.

Ian McShane joins Game of Thrones cast

Ian McShane joins Game of Thrones cast

"Pain or damage don't end the world. Or despair, or fucking beatings. The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man... and give some back."