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Is the Summers piece really that good? Should we be surprised when a known addict to govt expenditures -- vide his career in the Obama Administration and continued support of Obama spending -- predicts continued unrestrained growth of govt? Is this wisdom from an impartial analyst or a political statement? Is this a considered conclusion from someone willing to make hard choices and live within a budget constraint or prepared to stand up to and take on tough special interests? Not hardly, I'd say.

You do know that spending under Obama has been weaker than it was under Bush?

That's pretty funny. Let's put this canard to rest - finally.

I just came across this today, from the ever-insightful Ironman -

And let's not forget that the money that was laid out for TARP came (almost all) back in the form of repayments during this benighted regime.



You aren't entitled to your own facts.

Weaker? By what measurable standard?

"You do know that spending under Obama has been weaker than it was under Bush?"

No, that's not true or even really close to true.

US Federal spending ($ Billions)
2005 $2,472
2006 $2,655
2007 $2,729
2008 $2,982
2009 $3,518
2010 $3,456
2011 $3,598

He means "weaker" as in "more useless".

My favorite quote from the article:

"And on almost any reasonable view of the state’s responsibility, large increases in inequality such as those observed in recent years should call forth increased government activity."

Rome is burning, where did my gas can go?

#1 "Of the 24 incidents of Russian roulette, the majority of victims were white (79.2%)"

Does that reflect the black-white distribution of Kentucky?

Don't play Russian roulette in any bars with hot waitresses.

There is, perhaps unsurprisingly, little overlap between people who die from Russian roulette and people who are interested in Sokurov's Faust. Or anyone else's Faust, for that matter.

RE: #5 -- When shall we take the "con" out of economics? Isn't that the same John Donohue who (along with Steven Levitt) did such shoddy research in the past?

Should one expect to see a strong correlation between the incidence of concealed carry of handguns and rape or murder? Most rapes are not, in fact, the stereotypical stranger dragging his victim into the bushes, in which case one could imagine arming the victim might make a difference. Most rapes are of women who are either drunk or drugged into compliance, in which case it doesn't make much difference whether the victim is carrying (and in any case, most places don't let you carry in the bar or nightclub...)

I am not sure how rapes get measured. Of the total number of occurrences of rape, most likely are, as you indicate, rapes that occur between acquaintances and without the use of physical force (query whether prison rapes fall into this category). The same may be true for rapes reported to law enforcement; however, a certain unknown fraction of these reports are false. Of rapes that get prosecuted, I would guess that a much larger proportion are of the stranger-danger variety. Of the rapes that end in a conviction for rape, I would guess that an even greater proportion are of the stranger-danger variety. I still think an affect would be detectible.

Well, first let's define "legitimate rape" as when "you want to have sex with someone and they won't let you." All other rapes are lame if not "gaheyo!!!"

My prior is that RTC laws would have no discernible effect on anything, in part because the number of people who can carry and actually do is very small. I'm a little surprised that there was a noticeable effect on arrests for aggravated assault, but it's not clear whether that should be counted as an increase in crime or not. Even in states with very liberal self-defense laws, a person who shoots another in self defense is likely to be arrested and aggravated assault is a likely charge.

On the order of ninety-five percent of armed self-defense is accomplished by the threat of force - nobody actually gets shot. Which means, basically, nobody gets arrested. The attacker usually flees, the defender usually doesn't shoot him in the back (or try to run him down and tackle him), and if there's any ambiguity about who is going to be arrested, neither one of them is likely to call the police and say "hey, look, here's an aggravated assault for you to sort out!"

So, yes, between low carry rates and low reporting rates, I wouldn't expect much of statistical significance to emerge from that data.

Then how do we judge the efficacy of that intervention? Thought experiments?

So, do aggregate statistical methods disprove that the above type thing happens?

First of all, you realize that this is a non-intervention. Then you understand that the law's first effect is to let law-abiding citizens who want to carry to do so legally. Now you have to prove that there are significant negative costs to outweigh that liberty. So, no effect means no aggregate cost.

Now they say aggravated assault goes up, but I doubt they explain what that actually means and by what mechanism inside their black box that RTC might cause that in a way where the carrier is at fault. For example, government statistics are already aggregated. What does aggravated assault include? Who knows? So, maybe aggravated assaults go up because the carrier keeps the assailant at gunpoint until the police arrive. Or, maybe peopel who now allowed to legally defend themselves are more willing to go into areas and situations they were afraid to before.

Advancing liberty requires no proof of efficacy. It is simply the right thing to do.

Yep, Summers likes government spending, seems we can't stop it, the dialectic must continue, we must manage our decline.

Pathetic article by pathetic guy, and pathetic that Tyler likes it.

Yep, Summers likes government spending, seems we can’t stop it,

So, you support massive cuts to SS, MEDICARE and defense?

I do.

Medicare: Lock in current federal (medicare+medicaid) spending as a % of GDP and freeze it. Use the pot of money to provide whatever of universal coverage it buys, a la the NHS's QUALY price mechanism. It undoubtedly buys vaccination, x-rays, and casts for all. It probably doesn't buy advanced cardiac or cancer care for anyone.

Social security: Freeze the current wage tax levels and use them to cut a check to everyone over age 70 for whatever ammount comes out of the monthly division problem. Recession reduces total wages? Then the old people's checks go down.

Defense: Yep, cut it to the same % of GDP it was under Reagan. That includes veteran's benefits.

That would leave us in massive deficits, considering we are overspending by about 40%.

Absolutely, 100%, and immediately.

After suffering from criticism for the destructive Clinton era cutting government spending growth, and seeing the praise heaped on rapidly increasing spending while cutting taxes during the conservative Bush years, Summers was converted to conservatism and has been the kind of conservative who supports tax cuts and increased spending.

Now that Obama has cut Medicare spending growth, he is being attacked by Romney-Ryan who promise to increase Medicare spending over the next decade. Which is what Summers has written will occur.

Obama negotiated cuts to defense, and now they are the law, but Romney-Ryan are promising to increase defense spending. Which is what Summers has written will occur.

Romney-Ryan have promised no cuts to Social Security for the boomers, so that will increase government spending. which is what Summers has written will occur.

The last time Social Security was cut was in 1983 when Reagan compromised and hiked the payroll tax while reducing benefits. Romney-Ryan promise not tax hikes, and no cuts to Social Security for boomers, so government spending will increase.

Are you arguing summers is pathetic because he is stating the only logical conclusion based on what Romney-Ryan are saying as they "tell the truth"??

Do you have any evidence Romney-Ryan are willing to cut government spending like Clinton did in the 90s? Clinton was opposed by both the right and left. Summers has simply stated the obvious - it is impossible to do what Clinton did in the 90s because of the politics of today.

And Summers was certainly an adviser to Clinton convincing him to deregulate deregulate deregulate over the objections of Democrats and Republicans (Borne). Summers was part of the activist policy makers who strong armed the bankers to bailout LTCM, doing a small government private sector bailout policy. Why no similarly strong push for a small government private sector bailout of very corrupt Lehman? Summers in the 90s scared the bankers into action, which Paulson really objected to, so Paulson refused to do a Summers on the bankers to get them to bailout Lehman.

The probability that "Obama's" "cuts" to Medicare spending will be reversed is 1. As in 100%. As in absolute certainty. Am I getting through here?

People are complaining about Larry Summers and not Nial Ferguson???? I may have missed whether Tyler linked to Nial Ferguson's execrable cover story in Newsweek on why Obama has to go ( Now there are good cases that can be made for this and why Romney should be elected but this certainly was not one of them. Very disappointing from a tenured Harvard professor. Fortunately, Jim Fallows punctures the holes in this fluffy balloon:

You're telling me you're really surprised by the quality of journalism that appears in a periodical that was sold for one dollar? When you stick your hand in water, are you surprised that it's wet?

"Very disappointing from a tenured Harvard professor." Disappointment requires an element of surprise. I'm never surprised by lame rubbish from a tenured Harvard professor.

Or, come to think of it, from a Harvard President.

Maybe tenured George Mason professors do better!

Yes, they do. I hope this isn't taken as invective but what Summers does (and others, it's not personal) is put a high status imprimatur on zeitgeist.

"The government will grow because they made too many promises and reducing spending and borrowing will be hard." Thanks. Now how do we do it? The fact that we are borrowing half our budget is prima facie evidence that it has to stop. So, we'd appreciate some suggestions.

Mr. Former Treasury Secretary and Head Economist in Chief guy.


1. "Growing debt and rising interest rate will make debt payments go way up": Unarguably true. And huge.
2. "No increase in SS age requirements will offset a growing population of older people and shrinking population of younger ones": Most likely true.
3. "The same holds true of Medicare": Not true at all. If the U.S. could set up a system that procured cost-effective medical service, we could serve three or four more times as many people on Medicare w/o paying any more.
4. "Government service costs rise faster than inflation": Historically true but not necessarily so. If we produced medical care as efficiently as Singapore, not only would costs not rise as fast as inflation, they'd fall roughly 80 percent. If we replace most teachers with computers, then school costs plummet rather than rising.
5. “And on almost any reasonable view of the state’s responsibility, large increases in inequality such as those observed in recent years should call forth increased government activity.”: Just not true.
6. Not mentioned by Summers but: We could, I don't know, install some pro-growth policies that could expand the private sector some and give more absolute money to finance government services.

I'm not saying that raising the retirement age or creating systems that drive productivity gains in the provision of government financed services will be easy. History suggests such things are very, very hard. But they are certainly possible. Other countries do them. If we could provide government services as efficiently as the best nations do now, plus use technology to reduce teacher numbers (not going to happen in the next couple years but certainly doable, technologically speaking, in the next decade.)

I'd bet that government spending WILL end up growing as a percentage of the economy but it's not, as Summers is suggesting, inevitable — in the way it's inevitable that a rock you drop will fall. It's a choice we will make as a society, not directly but in consequence of not having the will to do better.

"Third, increases in the price of what the federal government buys relative to what the private sector buys will inevitably raise the cost of state involvement in the economy....

Funny that what the government produces inevitably becomes more expensive than the private sector by a factor of five to one hundred.

That the cost and complexity of financial regulation has risen just sounds a little bit like special pleading.

So people who play Russian Roulette tend to be drunk or on drugs or both.

There's a surprise. I wonder how they do on intelligence tests, though I doubt there's any way to find out.

I'd say that if you are offered a spot in a game of Russian Roulette, that this IS an intelligence test.
If you play, you fail the test.

Re Medicaid eligibility impact by race.

There are two plausible causes for the difference in mortality impact from reduced Medicaid eligibility between blacks and whites revealed by the study. Both probably contributed to the discrepency in the effect of reduced Medicaid eligibility on mortality rates for children who had reduced Medicaid eligibility due to an eligibility rule change.

1. A larger share of black children covered by Medicaid are both medically needy and poor - black families tend to seek Medicaid coverage only when they actually need it. In other words, more white children who don't have a current need for medical care but are poor are enrolled in Medicaid. So, a lot of the white kids cut from coverage didn't need it anyway in fact, so the reduced eligibility was less severe in fact than it seemed on paper for white kids. The cuts to Medicaid eligibilty for healthy but poor white kids dilutes the mortality impact of reduced Medicaid eligibility for sick and poor white kids, reducing its statistical visibility.

2. The gains of black children are entirely from "internal causes" (i.e. causes other than trauma) which in turn are much more likely to involve chronic health care issues than acute health care issues. The returns to access to health care for someone with chronic health care issues are non-linear. A brief period without either Medicaid or health insurance is disproportionately more survivable than a long period period without either Medicaid or health insurance for a child with a chronic health issue.

The black children who lost eligibility were much more likely to be without any health insurance for a long period of time than the white children who lost eligibility, because a far greater proportion of black children than white children were poor but without health insurance or Medicaid eligibility for a long period of time. Notably and supporting this hypothesis, the program change studied cut up to five years of eligibility per child, yet no statistically significant effect was observed in children who lost two years or fewer of eligibility, while there was a statsitically signficiant effect in those who lost three or more years of eligibility.

The bottom line is that being a poor kid with a chronic health problem who doesn't have either health insurance or Medicaid for a long period of time significantly increases your risk of dying, and you are much more likely to be in that situation if you are black than if you are white.

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