"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

Friday, August 17, 2012

It's the Housing Stupid by Dean Baker
In a Washington Post column today, Kevin Hassett and Glenn Hubbard, two of the top economists on Governor Romney's economic team, rightly take President Obama to task for blaming the weakness of the economy since the downturn on the financial crisis. They cite a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland as showing that recoveries following financial crises tend to be stronger not weaker than other recoveries. 
While there are some questions that can be raised about this study (was the financial crisis in the 1990 recession really comparable to what we saw in the fall of 2008?) the basic point seems right. After all, we do know how to set an economy in motion again following a financial crisis. Argentina managed to regain all the ground lost after a complete financial meltdown in December of 2001 in just 1.5 years. Our financial policy crew can't be that much less competent than the folks calling the shots in Argentina. The idea that a financial crisis puts a mysterious curse on an economy was always more than a bit suspect.
 Ultimately we will need an increase in foreign demand, meaning a lower trade deficit, to fill the gap. This will require a lower valued dollar which will make U.S. goods more competitive internationally. Unfortunately neither candidate seems willing to make the case for a lower valued dollar, which means that we can probably expect a weak economy for many years into the future, regardless of who gets elected.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Obama and his team did try to push a few big physical legacy projects. During his transition, he called for a massive nationwide effort to rebuild and retrofit public schools. But Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine hated it, and Obama needed her vote to get the stimulus through the Senate, so it got deleted. Obama also wanted to build a smart grid, with digital meters for all Americans (the smart part) and a new national network of high-voltage wires (the grid part). His aides explained that couldn’t happen quickly and didn’t even make sense as a federal project. Instead, the stimulus included about $11 billion of seed money for the smart grid, which has launched a new era for the utility sector but hasn’t really penetrated the national psyche. Finally, the White House slipped $8 billion into the stimulus for high-speed rail, the largest new transportation initiative since the interstates. But Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, killed a bullet train from Tampa to Orlando that was supposed to be the showcase project, and the only other bullet train, connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours, is still decades away from completion. The shovel-readier projects—like improvements that will slice an hour off the Amtrak train from Chicago to St. Louis—won’t produce the oohs and aahs of bullet trains. They’re really higher-speed rail—worthy, but not iconic.
Well, it was too small. More aid to states would have prevented more layoffs of public employees. More infrastructure projects would have put more unemployed laborers to work. More tax cuts would have put more money into the hands of consumers. What my reporting shows is that the disillusionment addicts of the left are wrong to blame President Obama for the size of the stimulus.
In general, I’d have to say my reporting backs up the Norm Ornstein-Thomas Mann thesis that the Republicans have gone off the policy deep end—denying global warming, denying Keynesian economics (except when it comes to business tax cuts and defense spending!), trashing Obama’s government takeover of health care and also his Medicare cuts, drumming stimulus supporters like Crist and Specter out of the party. Then again, one Republican who comes off pretty well is Mark Sanford, a rare voice of honest small-government conservatism in the party. (He also says some pretty surprising things about his trip down the Appalachian Trail.) 
The top priority for many local Republican politicians and Republican-leaning business organizations was avoiding a depression. They saw that the Obama stimulus wasn’t radical leftism; it was textbook countercyclical stimulus. Republicans had called for $300 billion worth of tax cuts, and that’s exactly what it had. Republican governors like Crist, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Jim Douglas of Vermont, and Jon Hunstman of Utah understood that its aid to states—over $160 billion worth—would prevent massive cutbacks of public services and massive layoffs of public employees. As the lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce told me: When you sit where I sit, you don’t want to see an epic collapse of aggregate demand. Depressions are bad for business. I also tell a fun story of a Democratic aide screaming and cursing at some business lobbyists, warning that they’d get nothing from the Democratic Congress if they couldn’t support an economic recovery bill during an economic emergency. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Forget Paul Ryan's Budget: His Scariest Idea Is About the Federal Reserve by Matthew O'Brien

True Blood breaks our heart into a pile of gooey vampire pudding by Meredith Woerner

Last night on Alphas - which has a great cast like David Strathairn as Dr. Lee Rosen and a wonderful Ryan Cartwright as Gary Bell - they played the first part of the  Yes song "I've Seen All Good People" called "Your Move."