Wednesday assorted links


5. Labor market models have always used labor HOURS as the dependent variable. Only flawed studies used the less responsive unemployment rate or employment rate. The article makes it sound like this finding is novel.

To be fair, it is from the NYT...


Yet that generation invented nuclear power, space travel and antibiotics. Makes you wonder if broad based education really has any impact on science and technology. Maybe we'd be better off diverting half of the funding for STEM education and just build supercolliders instead.

Sure we could just invest in the obvious super geniuses, but I argue that education has far more reaching benefits than technological achievement.

The obvious being a lower crime rate associated with a more educated population. I suppose there are plenty of correlations to draw but more education does seem to have many more secondary benefits than we probably acknowledge

Work ethic and having standards and meeting them is also a factor I think. Competency in subject matter is way way down in US schools today and math and science education at a 7-8 grade level was equivalent to grade 12 or higher. All you have to do is visit schools in Asia to understand the difference in rigor for basic foundational competency of students compared to the US system. Theory is what comes after basic competency as been achieved, not before.

One other factor is society's current level of distraction...but that is a different subject entirely.

And yet, Asia seems unable to develop enough or good-enough colleges to serve its own populations.


That is rapidly changing and is also beginning to reveal itself in frequency and quality of publicly published scientific research.

Furthermore, university availability, not quality, in Asian nations is the issue as there are simply not enough slots to satisfy demands, especially in China where the Gao-kao produces as many as half a million new freshman every year. It isn't just US universities they go to either if that's any indication.

I would posit that it will be markedly different by mid-century.

I thought the Chinese government decided that everyone should go to university and they opened so many that now new graduates are paid about what construction workers fresh from the countryside are?

East Asian universities are mostly worthless. They churn out junk - often plagiarized. Chinese universities are worthless compared even to Japanese ones. The number of world class academics at a Mainland university could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

'East Asian universities are mostly worthless.'

Companies like Sony are not so worthless - but then, what American university graduate would come up with such a stupidly named product as the 'Walkman?'

Come again? Except for certain professional programs (e.g. medicine), Japanese universities are notorious as collecting pools of socializing youth who are idle academically.

Singapore has two schools in the top 13.

Asian universities are rising quickly.

Not to comment on whether Asian universities are good or not, but I would think Singapore is representative of Asia.

Well, Europeans with more than 9th grade educations invented those things at any rate.

Such obvious jealousy and envy.

Nuclear power - Fermi, Italian (admittedly, in America)

Space travel for Americans - Werner von Braun, German (admitting building on the work of noted American Robert H. Goddard)

Antibiotics - Alexander Fleming, British

Seems like the self centered Brazilian knows his history better than the self centered American

The antibiotics one should have been obvious to anyone aware of history, the space travel one is a broad subject (after all, the Russians were the first to launch both a satellite and a man into orbit), however von Braun was famous in America for his role in creating American space travel. But since Fermi might be a bit obscure, even among the ever so well informed MR commenters, here is a refresher - ' - 'Enrico Fermi (Italian: [enˈriːko ˈfermi]; 29 September 1901 – 28 November 1954) was an Italian physicist, who created the world's first nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1. He has been called the "architect of the nuclear age"[1] and the "architect of the atomic bomb".[2] He was one of the few physicists to excel both theoretically and experimentally. Fermi held several patents related to the use of nuclear power, and was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity by neutron bombardment and the discovery of transuranic elements. He made significant contributions to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics.'

I am not self-centered, I am fact-centered. As we say in Brazil, no argument can trump facts.

"Seems like the self centered Brazilian knows his history better than the self centered American"

And Obsessive poster fails his basic reading comprehension.

Bright side most ninth graders can build a parade float so Brazil wouldn't suffer.

Yet I doubt most American ninth graders would have been able to invent the airplane, discover the pion, discover he Urca effect, invent the Walkman before the Japanese did, invent the typewriter and the radio. With no Europeans to hold our hands, we were too busy harboring Jewish refugees to try to get Nazi cientists. Brazilian intellectual and moral superiority is overwhelming.

Por favor, pare de envergonhar nossa nação e nosso povo

Sim, eu concordo com Ronaldo, por favor pare.

This is incoherent. You mean those Jews like von Neumann, Einstein, Oppenheimer,...

Yes, this is incoherent. I don't understand. Please explain.

Important Jews who could help the American war machine were fine (SS officers who could help America's war machine were fine, too - Herr von Braun for example). Meanwhile, so many obscure Jews were sent back to die in occupied Europe by America's selfishness. And Einstein immigrated way before it was clear Hitler was plotting the elimination, not only mere persecution of the Jewish race. People trying to escape extermination were sent back to die.

Again, we did all we did without the help of distinguished Jewish scientists or, more important, their SS persecutors. We were too busy saving helpless from death.

"Por favor, pare de envergonhar nossa nação e nosso povo"
You are wasting your time. Your American master can't read Portuguese and won't bother to use Google Translate. You shoukd try the only language the Philistines understand, money!!

Oops, you got the airplane one somewhat wrong, as neither of the Wright brothers received a high school diploma, though both did attend beyond the 9th grade -

"as neither of the Wright brothers received a high school diploma, though both did attend beyond the 9th grade"

It doesn't matter because neithervof them invented the airplane.

"Oops, you got the airplane one somewhat wrong, as neither of the Wright brothers received a high school diploma"

The Brazilian version is that the airplane was invented by Santos-Dumont, not by the Wright brothers

"The Brazilian version is that the airplane was invented by Santos-Dumont, not by the Wright brothers"
It is not a "version", it is a fact. Our claim to the invention of the airplane is ancient, indisputable and self-evident.

The Wright brothers made their first flight in December 1903 and by the end of 1904 had made a flight of nearly three miles. Santos-Dumont made his first flight in 1906. The Wrights had a much better understanding of aerodynamics than anyone else, due to research they had done using a wind tunnel they built. They certainly had the first powered controlled heavier than air aircraft, they were rather publicly shy so there was some confusion at the time.

They got more done in those 9 years than our contemporaries manage in 15.

To be fair they didn't have to dedicate so many resources to diversity celebration, intersectional sensitivity training and inclusive bathrooms.

But they also had a lot less history and science to learn!

lol. That's the exact argument I used on my father (30 yrs ago).

I have two kids just enter what are considered 'good' Canadian schools. This is from just this week.

My grade 7 daughter started learning about climate change and the main takeaway so far is that it's scary and Trump is a denier. In a Canadian school.

My grade 10 son started learning about WWII and while you would think the subject far too big and complicated to cover properly, they have had lessons on 1) African-Canadian perspectives and 2) how they danced during the war (Swing apparently.)

If you don't teach your children yourself it's hard to see how they learn much of anything.

'and the main takeaway so far is that it’s scary and Trump is a denier.'

Considering that both are true, the problem is? Though in the case of Canada, possibly the benefits of a likely ice free Arctic in a generation means your daughter should be learning about the need for the Marine Royale Canadienne/Royal Canadian Navy to be built up to be able to defend Canadian Arctic interests against other nations that show a notable lack of respect for international borders and treaties, such as Russia. Or the U.S.

I knew it was the bathrooms. Even when it was Math, I knew it was the bathrooms.

"... invented nuclear power, space travel and antibiotics": penicillin came from Britain, rockets from Germany, and the invention of nuclear power and the atom bomb came from the Hungarian Leó Szilárd. None of those are obviously dependent on the study habits of American schoolchildren.

Um, liquid fueled rockets were invented by the American Robert Goddard; the Germans did a fair amount of refinements. Leo Szilard invented the concept of nuclear power, but Italian-American Enrico Fermi translated that concept to reality. Most things like this took persistent work by many people, and it is difficult to point to one person or even a small group of people as the ones responsible; there were hundreds.

In which world, Fermi is a proof of whatever it may be about American education?!

The post you are responding to didn't specify Americans and while the article might have pointed directly to American school children in 1940, the point was equally applicable to Europe.

Regarding the UK: "in 1942, during the Second World War, in the days when compulsory schooling stopped at 14"

The atom bomb was more what we call a 'team effort', Szilard's contribution notwithstanding.

Btw, Fleming was a Scot.

But Florey & Chain [who received the Nobel Prize for Medicine along with Fleming] and Dorothy Hodgkin, who elucidated its molecular structure, were all Brits.

Not to potentially step on dearieme's more knowledgeable toes, but Fleming was also a Brit. British is the polite, multiculturally sensitive term to use when speaking about any citizen of the United Kingdom.

Because PC is totally unpredictable, many people in Scotland now want to be called Scots, not Britons (Brits).

Or if we are beyond the optimal average number of years spent in school.

3. That sounds like a better America. I spent five years doing a double major and all I do now is sit at home filling out job applications online.

#3...In doing a family genealogy, I've discovered that many of my relatives, prior to WW II, never finished high school. Until this discovery, I was fairly sure that they all had finished high school. But there's of my grandmothers told me late in her life that she had been taken out of school when she was nine years old to work in a factory in Massachusetts. She was so ashamed of this fact, that she asked that I never tell anyone. I think that's why my relatives never told me about their lack of education...they weren't proud or happy about that fact. I also never realized how many, virtually all, of these male relatives fought in WW I and WW II. They never talked about it, or, if they did, it was to mention some odd escapade.

#4 - Past a certain population level, cities seem to be diseconomies of scale. As they add more people, they get more expensive.

That map is a bit dishonest. Productive people pay taxes, and they like to live in clean, safe areas with good schools. City centers no longer provide that. The idea that suburbs are these sinkholes of lost tax dollars is not really true. The suburban commuters are the ones running the in-town businesses that generate positive tax revenue. The poor are not propping up anything. They are net tax-consumers, and their pathologies drive the net tax-payers into the suburbs.

American cities are full of beautiful old church buildings built in the early 20th century that are now usually operated as charity offices, because their congregations moved away. Colleges: a foreigner might ask, why did they locate USC, Columbia, Johns Hopkins et al. in neighborhoods so dangerous they need their own police forces? Same phenomenon: the premier institutions were built where the wealthy and influential lived and worked at the time. But then the urban centers became dangerous, so the wealthy and influential moved away. Something happened between the time these churches and universities were built and the present-day but what that might be is one of those Imponderable Mysteries that people like the authors have to back-flip around.

This hits the nail on the head. There is a fundamental asymmetry in how we live our lives, we work in one place and almost invariably live someplace else. Now, when it comes to where we want the government to spend our tax dollars, it is disproportionately where we spend our leisure time, and where we raise our families--not in the location where we do our best work.
The author is missing some pretty basic points about the returns to specialization. The things we want & need in our commercial lives are not the same things we want elsewhere. More than that, we would substantially harm our commercial lives if we tried to shoehorn everything all together. We make our businesses more effective by spacing them closely, we make our child-rearing more effective by spacing it out.
I would like to see him redo that map with the "income" from folk's work attributed to their residence, not their place of work.


This may be true but the conclusions do not logically follows.

A) Businesses bring in lots of tax revenue via parcel tax.
B) Businesses are owned by local people.
C) Thus, local business owners pay a lot in parcel tax already.
D) Therefore, they should be allowed to have infinite cost subsidized living because that is how they like to live.

If businesses should pay a tax equal to the value derived from the land they occupy, why should that differ for residential land?

They're not being subsidized, because all taxes are paid by individuals. And without productive commuters, there are no businesses to generate tax revenue. You end up with a place like Newark or Detroit, which essentially live off federal transfer payments.

Los Angeles is seeing the most construction in the last 100 years.

So is Atlanta. A traffic engineer-friend said the roadways are flat out insufficient for it. And sales taxes keep going up, even though there's more population paying them. Diseconomy of scale.

We probably need more, and smaller cities.

But Lafayette is about 125,000 population. I wonder if what that map is showing is that in an area with a lot of wetlands, the outer edges of the city will tend to have more water issues that impact road subsidence and drainage. And if so, are the infrastructure costs unique to the setting?

I think in LA the reurbanization means less daily commuters. Of course everyone still wants to go someplace on the weekend.

More 125,000 people cities is not the answer though. I think 1M is a sweet spot. Enough scale to get high productivity, but infrastructure still manageable. We need to grow 250K-500K cities to 1M.

{#4}: "If they {cities} operated on accrual accounting -- where you account for your long term liabilities -- instead of a cash basis -- where you don't -- they would have been bankrupt decades ago. This is a pattern we see in every city we've examined. It is a byproduct of the American pattern of development we adopted everywhere after World War II."

No, it's a pattern of dishonest & corrupt government actors.

Why are dishonest & corrupt government officials now the norm in America?

"{#4}: “If they {cities} operated on accrual accounting — where you account for your long term liabilities — instead of a cash basis — where you don’t — they would have been bankrupt decades ago. This is a pattern we see in every city we’ve examined. It is a byproduct of the American pattern of development we adopted everywhere after World War II.”"

The basic premise is obviously flawed. If America has been doing it everywhere after World War II then it would have already accrued either way. WW2 was 3.5 generations ago. According to the author, the cost of replacing the entire infrastructure is spent every generation:

"the replacement cost of all of the city’s infrastructure — an expense we would anticipate them cumulatively experiencing roughly once a generation"

This article strikes me as highly flawed.

"This article strikes me as highly flawed." You, sir, are a master of understatement. Bravo!

If you didn't know anything about accrual accounting, you are unharmed. If you know anything about it, now you know less about accrual accounting.

I'm ever perplexed about why city/state/even the federal government are allowed to do a cash basis. "Don't worry, we'll find a new source of money *tomorrow*...."

Why are dishonest & corrupt government officials now the norm in America?

Because voters would rather defer the taxes necessary to maintain the infrastructure and votees are more than willing to exchange promises of low taxes for votes.

Wow, his follow-up article is even more specious, you can find it here.

He says, in bold face "Poor neighborhoods subsidize the affluent; it is a ubiquitous condition of the American development pattern." And, the headline (which he may not have written) says "Poor Neighborhoods Make the Best Investments". He includes the same 3D map, this time highlighting "poor" and "affluent" neighborhoods. However, his own data doesn't back up his assertions, as the highlighted areas ignore the most profitable and least profitable sections of town. According to his own data, the poor area shows a mild profit, and thus is hardly "the best" place to invest. Similarly, the affluent area is roughly break even, and far from being the primary loss centers. If it is operating a net zero income, it is hardly being "subsidized".

It's good to know that poor neighborhoods make the best investments. Somebody needs to tell Paul Romer so he abandons his expensive, dangerous scheme to develop an autonomous city on Honduran oceanfront for his millionaire friends. He can just direct them to Detroit or Newark instead. U.S. courts and property rights, and plenty of idle labor that can be trained and put to work.


[Democracy] can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury." -A. Tyler.

Mostly corruption of the official kind....

Declining cities have been negotiating themselves into a death spiral with their public service unions. Instead of paying taxes to purchase services that improve the quality of life for its residents and taxpayers, they pay more for legacy costs of previous generations... the comfortable retirement of people who don't even live in or spend their money in that city because they've fled to Florida or Arizona or Costa Rica. So the tax burden rises, more people flee for functional jurisdictions that can provide for the most basic responsibilities of the government, public security, sanitation, transportation & roads, education, etc...

Anecdotal, but having spoken to folks who've fled Upstate New York, Michigan and Illinois for Arizona, etc, they're astounded at the high quality of public services they get for the much lower tax burden. People talk and they cycle continues...

Tytler (rhymes with Hitler), my friend. (I realize the misspelling may be due to autocorrect.)

Charles Village in Baltimore wasn't that bad when I lived there, though I did know a couple of people who were violently mugged just outside the campus walls (one pistol whipped, one grabbed from behind by one mugger while the other took her wallet). You can do much worse in Baltimore.

Charles Village still isn't bad. I have a friend who lives up there and I 'm not afraid to go up that way at night, though I am careful everywhere in Baltimore. However east of Greenmount things get bad very quickly. It's a quirk of Baltimore that really nice neighborhoods often share birders with dilapidated slums.

Your comment is about 25 years behind the time.
You have heard of gentrification, no? Even a city like Baltimore where i live features some spiffy, quite safe and pricey neighborhoods near downtown that are popular with yuppie types, who often also work in the city.

It's good to know that when you can't read the Onion, BV is always available.

It was quite the parade of clowns, wasn't it?

4. Some tried to do good cost projections, some failed, some didn't bother. Regardless, some infrastructure should be abandoned.

I was fine with "unpaving roads" last year for this reason, though the idea shocked many.

"4. Why are so many American cities functionally insolvent?"

I question the validity of this article.

"When we added up the replacement cost of all of the city's infrastructure -- an expense we would anticipate them cumulatively experiencing roughly once a generation -- it came to $32 billion. "

You don't replace the entire infrastructure of a city every generation (20 years). That's a flawed premise.

Yep. 20 years is a useful estimate for roads, but not for much other infrastructure. Things like pipes can easily last 100+ years, and many municipal buildings at least half that long, if not longer. High cost items like sewage and water treatment plants also have an expected lifetime of much more than twenty years. In fact, almost all high dollar infrastructure items last quite a bit longer, pretty much everything besides roads and bridges.

"... pretty much everything besides roads and bridges."

It's not even true of roads and bridges. With roads, a significant portion of the cost is the original acquisition of the land and the base preparation for laying the underlying concrete. Those are pretty much one time costs.

"The average life span of highway bridges is about 70 years and the majority of bridges currently in use were built after 1945. "

The author seems to be completely clueless.

I think this is a bit unfair. They don't say that everything needs to be replaced every 20 years, but rather estimate that everything incurs costs equivalent to the replacement cost every 20 years. I don't know if that's a good estimate, but it's not obviously wrong as far as I can tell. And their point still stands even if the cost is off by a factor of 2 or 3.

Overall, I thought it was an interesting article. I'm not buying everything they are selling, but it was still a useful perspective.

"And their point still stands even if the cost is off by a factor of 2 or 3."

No, I don't think that's true. There's a big difference between having to spend 5% of your total infrastructure cost per year and having to spend 2% of it per year.

Pipes was the first thing I thought of, too.

A city is a collection of decades, sometimes centuries, of accumulated wealth. Some of it is way way more expensive to replace than it was to install because so much has been built on top of it. And that's not always physical, like the pipes. It could also be intangible things like the semblance of law and order. Lose either of those two things, and the costs to get them back will often exceed the NPV of all future tax receipts.

Coming up with the "replacement cost" for those things is as nonsensical as wondering how many calories I would need to consume to regrow my heart if it was removed. It's not an option. The only choice is constant maintenance.

#2: What I will most miss about President Obama is his staggering capacity to evaluate trade-offs...

Staggering? Way to establish the hagiographic theme in the first sentence, Cass. What a wordsmith.

I liked McMegan's and Virginia Postrel's comments. Tyler, yours was largely correct but largely unremarkable.

I didn't really think much of McMegan's phrasing, but the gist that Obama failed to ensure a lasting legacy is the biggest point. Obama, for numerous reasons, failed to ensure any kind of legislative or executive legacy.

Live by the pen, die by the pen.

Not necessarily so, his legacy will be handling the Great Recession fairly well (not perfect), and moving health care reform forward even if lots of Obamacare gets changed. It needs it.

The cost of "moving health case reform forward even if lots of Obamacare gets changed" was eight years (and counting) of the loss of Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. If that's an example of a "staggering capacity to evaluate tradeoffs" it's a capacity which evaluates, but hen makes the wrong choice.

"the loss of Democratic majorities in both houses ...": yes, O gets any plaudits going, and some other mugs pay the price. That's politics.

He probably knew Obamacare would be politically costly, but perhaps he thought that was worth it. Just as LBJ knew the Civil Rights Act would cost his party a lot of southern votes.

Surely you're not arguing that he correctly assessed just how many seats he would lose and for how long. Either he miscalculated (which LBJ almost never did) or he has no sense of what unified government can accomplish (which was what LBJ knew how to do.) The contrast with LBJ is instructive in that regard. He was wailing to lose seats, but not Congress. He was also willing to compromise to get buy-in from at least the leftmost part of the Republican Party. Obama of course had the problem that that wing of the party no longer existed, and indeed his compromises were with the rightmost wing of his own party (Ben Nelson.) Even the election of a Republican to fill Teddy Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts (!) failed to warn them that this strategy was dumb. They promptly doubled down to get Obamacare through reconciliation, which means that (a) the fact that bill was bad was something they owned, not the Republicans; and (b) it was the last thing they'd ever accomplish, wasting at least 8 years. That's just flat-out bad politics and Lyndon wouldn't have done it, nor would anyone else who wanted the Democratic Party to accomplish more than one half-assed thing in 10 years.

Obama is not responsible for Assange's and Putin's actions, for election machine fraud, or for the willingness of the American people to believe fake news from Fox, Breitbart, Drudge etc. Those factors are primarily what caused the Dem losses. Dems should have developed more effective media responses to Right Wing fake news. But the president himself does not have time to do that.

(Sorry for the double post... I hate WordPress)
Surely you’re not arguing that he correctly assessed just how many seats he would lose and for how long. Either he miscalculated (which LBJ almost never did) or he has no sense of what unified government can accomplish (which was what LBJ knew how to do.) The contrast with LBJ is instructive in that regard. He was wailing to lose seats, but not Congress. He was also willing to compromise to get buy-in from at least the leftmost part of the Republican Party. Obama of course had the problem that that wing of the party no longer existed, and indeed his compromises were with the rightmost wing of his own party (Ben Nelson.) Even the election of a Republican to fill Teddy Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts (!) failed to warn them that this strategy was dumb. They promptly doubled down to get Obamacare through reconciliation, which means that (a) the fact that bill was bad was something they owned, not the Republicans; and (b) it was the last thing they’d ever accomplish, wasting at least 8 years. That’s just flat-out bad politics and Lyndon wouldn’t have done it, nor would anyone else who wanted the Democratic Party to accomplish more than one half-assed thing in 10 years.

To Post-Truth politics: Nonsense. The Scott Brown election told them all they needed to know about Obamacare. And they went ahead anyway.

@Post-Truth Politics: What a soothing set of lies you tell yourself.

There's nothing from 2009-2010 that makes one think Obama passed PPACA as some noble sacrifice.

Everyone was thinking Obama was FDR (with W just like that penny-pinching Hoover who caused the Great Depression). Obamacare would be tremendously popular and Democrats would hold the White House for five terms. Maybe ten!

By the time the bill was limped over the finish line, it was more about being able to put "hey, we did something" on a resume, not caring if something simpler and more modest would have accomplished a similar goal at smaller financial and political cost.

"Handling the Great Recession well" sounds like an empty slogan. What did he really do besides throw a lot of money at the problem? Weren't most of the major credit market problems largely dealt with (for better or worse) by Bernanke and Hank Paulson? Seems to me what "handling the recession" really boils down to is "he worked with Congress to spend a bunch of money at a time when it was politically convenient and popular to do so." Not exactly Churchillian.

Well, he did fend off those calling for nationalizing banks and jailing bankers, he bailed out GM (something Trumpistas surely support), he was calm and confident in a scary time (McCain would have been a disaster). The Fed deserves a lot of the credit, but Obama handled things pretty well.

This is what I mean. "He bailed out GM." Come on. In Grownup Land, what he did was distribute public resources so as to benefit a group of his supporters, ie, the UAW.

As for jailing bankers, the Justice Department did bring several cases, which they lost. (FDR had the same problem.) I don't give a president any credit for allowing people jury trials before jailing them, or for not bringing cases that he knows a jury will reject.

@Jeff R: and this is what I mean (about partisanship). How is that different than the Carrier deal? If Trump bailed out GM you'd applaud him for helping those blue collar Midwestern guys. Plus, GM is a freaking iconic American company and there was no need for it to go down due to the financial system seizing up. They got bailed out and now they are doing fine. I'm a moderate pragmatist, letting GM go down was too Austrian for me, and taking over the banks was too communist for me as well.

It's amazing that one side blames Obama for bailing out GM, the other credits him for bailing out GM, when it was Bush who fought resistance to bail them out.

@msgkings -- Except, no, GM wasn't successfully bailed out, and neither was Chrysler. They both went bankrupt and into reorganization despite the loans from the Feds.

What Obama did was use those loans as leverage to bail out the pensions of GM & Chrysler employees/retirees, and the Delphi UAW retirees GM was responsible for after Delphi's 2005 bankruptcy. Which had nothing to do with saving GM/Chrysler as operating entities -- the pensions would have normally been dumped on the PBGC in the reorganization anyway. All Obama did was manipulate ordinary bankruptcy procedures to hand out a pile of stock in the reorganized companies to political supporters (the UAW as the new pension managers) at the expense of other creditors.

There's a big difference between a orderly Chapter 11 reorg and a disorderly Chapter 7 collapse. Plenty of businesses have done the former (airlines Donald Trump). The latter weould have been a catastrophe and wrecked a large portion of the country. And yes, Bush (and Cheney) deserve some credit for saving the auto companies too.

Yeah, it will get changed, but Obamacare (2010) is a New Deal landmark (repeal and replace are words), along with Medicare (1965) and Social Security (1935).

Also, since he took office in January 2009, there are 11.6 million more private sector jobs, and 356,000 fewer government jobs in this country.

Thanks Obama!

How many of those jobs are part-time or contract? And does the reason for that have anything to do with the ACA?

But I'll grant that even part-time and contract job growth is better than a continued Great Recession.

The number of workers rose over 5 million in that period.

The labor force participation rate has fallen steadily since 2009 - not suddenly during the recession - but steadily year after year. The rate hasnt been this low since the 1970s.

No quarter with plus 3% growth, over $10 trillion in new debt and widespread pessimism about the future - though the small business optimism index in December jumped the most it has in decades. Funny what elections can do.

And of course all this talk about Obama rescuing the country from the recession always neglect that he was a vocal proponent of the relaxed risk controls and government guarantees for sub-prime debt that led to the bubble and subsequent collapse.

Labor force participation has been trending downward (with fluctuations) since well before 2009. I really don't get the obsession with this stat. It's been in fairly narrow range (somewhere in the 60 %s) ever since the end of WWII. The key thing is not ho many people do not want to be in the labor force and can support themselves without a job-- but how many people who do want a job can find one.

" I really don’t get the obsession with this stat. "

The most obvious reason that it's such an important stat is that it directly effects the income for SS & Medicare and their ability to payout over the next 20 years. And in general, less people working is less people paying taxes and higher tax rates (or deficits).

Except that as I posted the statistic has fluctuated in a fairly narrow band-- and in the 60s and 70s (and at a guess in the 50s) it was as low as it is now,. maybe even lower, yet we had no difficulty with Social Security having enough tax income. The problem with FICA taxes has nothing to do with LFR or even the age scale of the country. Rather, the problems we are having are due to the shift of too much income to sources/situations not taxed for the program: investment income or income over the cap. Had the distribution of income remained close to what it was in the 80s, the Reagan reforms would have ensured adequate funding.

McMegan's comments weren't bad until she got to "unplagued by major scandals". WTH? IRS targeting, IRS leaking confidential documents, Fast & Furious, Operation Chokepoint, various illegalities revolving around the Iran deal and the Bradly Manning trade. Targeting of journalists, targeting of American citizens for assassination. His toleration of the Clinton Foundation scandals (both foreign donations, and the email account). There's actually a ton of email scandals, including not just Clinton but also Lisa Jackson at the EPA, and others. There was a number of EPA scandals too. There's the VA, the Obamacare website rollout...

It ain't a scandal until the NYT declares it a scandal.

Don't know if you're joking but that seems a pretty apt explanation for these claims.

Didn't some of Hilary's emails show that Obama emailed to the private email he had earlier denied knowledge of?

And the DNC clown who was caught on video admitting to planting disruptive and even violent people at Trump rallies was shown to have visited the White House hundreds of times.

The media simply didn't care.

Pseudo-scandals don't count.

Justin Fox has the most lucid comment, IMHO. Bobos adore Obama and buy into his notion of liberal technocracy. Mostly just a fanciful delusion. As the other links point out, the generation that passed the New Deal would strike our current Bobos as uneducated hicks (and the Dem party still depends on the votes of poorly educated, poorly employed, poor income people to win elections).

Geez, is everybody forgetting that it was B. Hussein Obama that got Osama bin Laden? Surely he deserves similar accolades for that deed as well as rescuing the country and maybe the world from the Great Recession, relieving the Islamic Republic of a financial shortfall and getting every American free health care.

Ramesh Ponnuru criticizing Obama, or anyone else, for self-righteousness is hilarious.

There is no group more self-righteous than conservative pundits, very much including Ponnuru.

# 3 "In 1940, the median American hadn’t finished 9th grade."
And in 2017 the majority of Americans are innumerate.

Your take on Obama was a little grudging don't you think?

He lost me with the Zhou Enlai quote. Zhou was talking about the effects of the 1968 riots in Paris, not the French revolution.

+ 1. Disappointed to see Tyler recycling this tired quote and getting the meaning wrong.

I read them all and Tyler's comments are the most thoughtful. Well done. I don't always agree with him, but he often makes me think.

Tyler's comment was certainly the most...Tyleresque. I identified his style about 8 words in. Measured and soothing, yet vaguely guarded. Cagey.


Tyler can be enigmatic. And it makes me come back.

#2 I despise what he did to health care, Libya, race relations, and just about everything else. But I'll give him credit for Cuba.

My short take on Obama: He tried his best on healthcare, i cant fault him for that. Otherwise he will be largely forgotten.

LOL....the first black president (and a two-termer) will never be 'forgotten'

Truth. The ticking time-bombs, the devastation, the scars will be here for years.

Jimmy Carter is the only winner. He no longer is the worst POTUS.

I always thought that Carter was evaluated rather harshly. In my lifetime the worst have been W and LBJ. Whether O joins them may depend on investigations over the next four years. But be honest: McCain might well have been even worse.

You are insane with that comment.

He's surely a candidate for the worst from a foreign policy perspective, right? The Iran agreement will play a big part in his legacy, and it's a really big bet with an outcome we won't know for a while.

Economically, he had the best term-over-term comp environment I can think of, so he was bound to have improving employment, GDP, and markets, no matter what he did. You can argue the huge debt, the falling labor force participation rate, and spending that still hasn't normalized all cloud that record. And Obamacare has an element of fiddling while Rome burns about it.

He never was.

Rookie error.

Well, i wanted to focus on his accomplishments not his skin color. You are probably right, but hopefully in a generation or two that will matter a lot less, kind of like the first catholic president is to us.

True, eventually that marker will matter less, but as a two term president who handled the Great Recession competently he won't be one of those 'forgotten' presidents like Ford or Harding or Fillmore.

This is a fun read on how presidents have been judged by actual historians, and not just partisan mopes like we internet punters:

There's already a couple of ratings on Obama, around #18 (out of 43, Cleveland counts as only 1). That seems about right to me. B/B- level.

Partisans of course will argue FDR and Wilson are ranked too highly (on the right), and the other side will argue Reagan is (on the left, right mulp?), but that's the usual partisan idiocy.

And in any case, ranking presidents is the ultimate parlor game that's fun to argue about because there's no empirical way to prove you are wrong.

I guess it all depends on who is doing the remembering. To the average joe, presidents associated with big events are remembered, Lincoln, FDR and so on. To historians, how closely the president's policy positions match with the historian's is what is important.

Agreed. Check the link, they survey many historians so while there is some variation, the obvious ones are where they should be (Washington, Lincoln, A. Johnson, Harding)

Historians are one of the hardest left groups around in academia. I don't quite trust their evaluations. Just record what happened accurately and the reader can figure his own evaluation. >1900 I'd say Obama rates higher than Nixon and LBJ, no more. Above average number of scandals and politicization of the federal government hurts him.

@TMC: Not true (historians are not nearly as left leaning as other liberal arts disciplines), read the article. They even have a separate survey of liberal and conservative historians. Bottom line is there's no right answers. You are on the right, so you of course rate Obama poorly. Liberals love him. Reality, as always, is in between.

Numbers I see are 8.5:1 liberal, certainly enough to color the results. As for me I am on the right, but I think Obama's poor performance is beyond just partisanship on my part. He was just a poor performer. Objectively, since his 2008 win, leading his party to losing more seats than any time in the past 100 years.

Speaking of ranking presidents, this article gives me a chuckle now and again: .

Donald Trump is one of least athletic presidents we've had since FDR (who had a damned good excuse). He could be one of the first to go.


Depends on demographics. If the US turns into McAllen Texas then yes he will absolutely fade into obscurity. If current trends persist and the left continues its collapse and demographics stabilize Obama will be the democrats Harding, in over his head, surrounded by corruption, somewhat popular.

Thanks for the laughs, guys.

"LOL….the first black president (and a two-termer) will never be ‘forgotten’"

Agreed, that's what I expect history to conclude.

Agreed. He was always a summary of the vectors operating within the Democratic Party, adding nothing but his mouth, little dollops of spite, and bad negotiating skills. The thing is, American history has decayed into an apologetical discipline, and the fusion of Democratic Party hacks and race-class-gender obsessives on history faculties will play let's pretend for a couple of generations. It took about 30 years for the history guild to acknowledge that John Kennedy was an inconsequential roue (bar during the run of weeks of the Cuban missile crisis).

Well, he did have one initiative: the IRS as political tool and the Justice Department as 24 hr lawfare operation.

Im not sure those things are really new with Obama, maybe just more overt.

" the IRS as political tool ": surely that goes back to FDR or even earlier.

No. Richard Nixon's minions wanted to undertake IRS audits of selected enemies (John Dean said the list had about 20 names on it) and were rebuffed by the commissioner of internal revenue. This really is fairly novel.

Weird, I thought I made it up. When we do our swingers night I usually have my black colleague role play being Obama threatening me with an IRS audit unless I let him have his way with my wife *WINK*

Lerner avoided testifying by pleading the 5th. If the House actually thought there was anything to the IRS business, they would have done well to give Lerner immunity.

Part of the job is Head of State, right?

Always dignified, well-spoken, a presentable symbol. Reagan was also a great Head of State.

After eight years of cringing, just hoping Dubya got through his spoken remarks without stumbling, it was a welcome relief.

Now we get this crazy-looking celebrity guy who, when he opens his mouth, you wanna make sure you're holding on to something.

It's part of the job anyway.

Obama had a respectable tone to what he said, but babbled on for hours saying very little, and followed up by doing very little. People finally caught on. Europeans and Russia just decided to not bother with him anymore as the dithering drove them nuts. At least Bush and Trump, though not eloquent, are taken more seriously.

In a normal world he would have been an evening anchor for a local news broadcast at a television station in a medium-size city. Not hard to imagine him describing the opening of a new donut shop in Morgantown, WV or bantering with the weather girl about possible snow in Chattanooga. He would have been quite successful.

This is among the worst things about Trump. It's going to be stressful living with him for the next eight years.

Some day, we'll be emotionally distant enough from the 1960s that historians will ask, "Wait, why didn't JFK just contact the Soviets quietly in the first place, and cut the same missiles-in-Turkey-and-Italy deal that he secretly cut anyway?"

When they do that, the drug-addled playboy lightweight will properly and universally be dubbed the "Worst President Ever", and possibly "Worst World Leader Ever", for bringing the world to the precipice of full-scale nuclear war for no good reason (assuming no one actually manages to start a nuclear war before the re-evaluation).

He wasn't alone in bluster during that event. The other guys weren't playing nice either.

But more broadly I agree with your sentiment. Kennedy and LBJ really are the guys that built the modern world-destroying nuclear standoff we had to live with for the following decades. Their escalation is not widely appreciated.

Kennedy's decision to start things by going public, making unilateral demands, and committing multiple acts of war didn't leave the "other guys" much opportunity to play nice without looking weak. Yet despite that, Khrushchev ultimately swallowed his pride and had the Soviet Union back down in front of the world, giving the US a PR victory with the missile trade being secret -- and, as a result, got himself removed in a coup shortly thereafter. There was only one statesman in the confrontation, and he was, weirdly enough, the immoral scum who ran purges under Stalin.

(Or maybe not so weirdly. Swallowing your pride to survive is a skill that probably was selected for under Stalin, while Kennedy seems to have been raised specifically to be a preening macho idiot. Confronted with nuclear war, the calculating murderer accordingly took the necessary action to save the world he lived in.)

"Women have been unequally affected by the overuse of jails, especially in small counties. According to a recent report from Vera, the number of women incarcerated in small counties has increased 31-fold between 1970 and 2014. In Lackawanna County, that rate has risen 38-fold in this same period."

One can't speculate about the "unequality" of the absolute rate of women's jail incarceration, but one can note the trend. As is typical of these kinds of articles, the most revealing reporting can be found when regular people are quoted:

"“[Some judges here] send people to jail all day long,” he said. “Miss a drug meeting? 30 days. Late on a child support payment? 30 days.”

" “There’s not a crime problem to speak of,” one small business owner said. “Just a lot of poverty and inequality […] There are a lot of drugs, a lot of people breaking orders of protection, which the police give out like candy, but not much violent crime.”"

1 - In the Kingdom of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king. Each decade deserves economic histories to be revised by revisionists.

2. Admiration is the daughter of ignorance (B. Franklin). Read the droolings of faux-literate Obama worshipping imbeciles pasting lipstick on a pig.

3. Better educated and smarter than the median 2017 American.

4. Liberals.

5. And the Sun will set in the West.

6. Boredom.

3. Better educated and smarter than the median 2017 American.

The issue of metropolitan high schools in the northeast, perhaps so. Some of my in-laws could tell you about secondary schooling as it was in western Virginia ca. 1945 and what it was 30 years late. The trajectory wasn't downward.

#4 a very deceptive post. It never asks the question why is the labor cost of streets and sanitation so high. If the city has such staggering costs to maintain streets and sanitation in post war areas then the post war suburbs must be even worse? Right.

Also it goes on to declare that poor neighborhoods generate revenue for the city but only accounts for streets and sanitation. What about police, fire, schools, and social work?

I am actually predisposed to think favorably of the idea that low density building it too expensive but the author fails to deliver compelling evidence, sadly.

6. For minor offenses, we should consider moving to corporal punishment instead of jail terms. Miss a drug meeting? That's a paddling. Late on a child support payment? That's a paddling.

Seems to work for Singapore.

From what I've read on the topic, it seems like the kind of people doing the sorts of low-level property or otherwise antisocial crimes we are worried about respond best if the risk of detection is high and the punishment is rapid. Our system has evolved in the precisely wrong direction for achieving those ends. Caning seems like a genuinely good alternative to our current system. Not only might it be more effective at deterring crime, but I think it is more humane, more dignified and more supportive of liberty. That we have accepted locking large numbers of men into small cages as a completely reasonable practice is crazy to me.

How about we stop punishing people for what shouldn't be crimes at all? Individuals found to be possessing small quantities of drugs for personal use will only be punished by having their drugs seized. Child support is, most generously, an outdated institution, more realistically it's a feminist system designed to screw over men and discourage White family formation.

"Child support is, most generously, an outdated institution, more realistically it’s a feminist system designed to screw over men and discourage White family formation."

I disagree. Child support is a societal good. It's dysfunctional when it treats men as the cash cow. For the most part, it's the alimony that's often unfair and sexist, whereas the child support is rational.

FWIW my assistant pays her ex-husband alimony. Not so sure it's all that discriminatory.

"Of the 400,000 people in the United States receiving post-divorce spousal maintenance, just 3 percent were men, according to Census figures. Yet 40 percent of households are headed by female breadwinners -- suggesting that hundreds of thousands of men are eligible for alimony, yet don't receive it."

"FWIW my assistant pays her ex-husband alimony. Not so sure it’s all that discriminatory."

Congrats to your assistants ex-husband, he's a 3 percenter.

I suspect a significant portion of those men eligible for it are too proud to ask for it.

The person who gives you your pills twice a day is not your assistant. It's an orderly.

It must be the sexist in me, but my first reaction was: "3%? Who ARE these guys?"

@Sam: actually it's the lady who owns the junkyard I'm squatting in. I wish I could get on that loony bin gravy train, 3 squares a day and all the pills you can cadge!

'It must be the sexist in me, but my first reaction was: “3%? Who ARE these guys?”'

I could imagine cases where a husband puts the wife through medical school or law school and she leaves him once she starts pulling in a six-figure salary. That guy might want to be gradually paid back for the tuition fees and living expenses he shouldered that helped the wife reach her earnings potential in the first place. The more common scenario is probably when a woman takes years off from full-time employment to raise the children. If she gets divorced and goes back into the full-time labor market, she is almost certainly not going to be able to earn as much as she would if she never sacrificed for the family.

Alimony seems much more dubious in cases where both partners have been working full-time throughout the marriage.

Child support (which is different from alimony) is based on the simple principle that both parents should financially support their children, even when they are unwilling or unable to share custody. In some cases, it almost certainly saves taxpayer money since a single parent who receives child support payments is likely to need food stamps, Section 8, Medicaid, etc. You have people like Arnold Schwarzenegger who get their mistresses pregnant while still married and raising children of their own; "family formation" with all children living under the same roof and eating meals at the same table together is very unrealistic in that scenario.

Oops, that second sentence should read "a single parent who receives child support payments is less likely to need food stamps..." etc.

"6. For minor offenses, we should consider moving to corporal punishment instead of jail terms. Miss a drug meeting? That’s a paddling. Late on a child support payment? That’s a paddling."

Replace paddling with 8 hours in the public stocks. Or maybe just 8 hours in the yellow jumpsuit picking up trash in public areas.

1. To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle. I was reminded of that quote when I read the list, the first on the list being Robert Higgs's Wartime Prosperity? Gibbs makes the distinction between resources that are directed, bad, and resources that are allocated by exchange, good, and concludes that war is overrated (as a cause of prosperity). Indeed, war is Hell for the saps who have to participate in it and should be avoided if possible no matter how "expansionary". But it wasn't the war, it was the peace that followed: namely, an enormous expansion in government promotion of investment in human and physical capital that lead to the long period of shared prosperity. Thus, Higgs was right but for the wrong reason: It was fear of another war not the war already fought that was the source of the expansion in government promotion of investment in human and physical capital that was "expansionary".

(5.) It is sad that people find it necessary to question, debate, and study the effect of raising the minimum wage. We have something called the Law of Demand.

#5 is why I think that a higher minimum wage would be good for people like me. Higher wages would attract better faster workers improving service.
Prices might go up but I can easily afford that. I think businesses that now hire emps at below the new minimum wage would see that they can raise prices because most of their competition would be on the same situation. Inferior workers would lose out because higher prices would mean less spending in those businesses. I would expect the employment effect to be small but I am a believer in the idle hands are the devils workshop theory. I also think people are happier working than not.


Lafayette native here. I believe that the map attached to the author's follow-up article ("Poor Neighborhoods Make the Best Investments") is inaccurate. First, some background information on Lafayette. The map depicts the land for the entire Parish (county) of Lafayette. (Note that the city and Parish are both governed by a single council and a City-Parish President.) The city of Lafayette is located mostly in the western-central parts of the Parish, with most new development occuring in the direction of the southern part of the parish.

The areas marked "Poor Neighborhoods" on the map appear to be located along US HWY 90. Yes, there are some poor residential neighborhoods near that highway, but most of the parcels along the highway are occupied by either commerical and retail businesses or, in the southern part of the parish, companies working in the oil and gas industry. Thus, it is possible that the "profit" cited by the author is from retail, industrial, or commerical tracts, not residential neighborhoods.

The areas marked "Affluent Neighborhoods" appear to be in the rural parts of the parish. In fact, most of the red areas on the map appear to be rural.

The core of the green "surplus" area appears to consist of middle and upper-middle class (with a few upper-class) neighborhoods and commerical areas built in the 1970's through the 2000's in accordance with the prevailing suburban model of developement.

Thanks for the Intel. I've looked all over the country and found that sprawling suburbs usually have no trouble paying for streets and sanitation so I wondered why this city was the choice model. Seems it was picked because it made for a deceptive map.

Obama could have be great for race relations, all he had to do after Gates, Zimmerman, Ferguson etc. was to remind people that there are 330 million people in the USA and so lots of bad stuff is bound to happen.

#6 Why is incarceration not a last resort. Restitution, ankle bracelets even corporal punishment

Also more police less crime

2. The Noah Smith piece is delightful, explains perfectly why Trump was elected.

I've been saying this for a long time, 3rd dumbest guy on the internet

#4 Anybody here got good pattern recognition skills? If so, something about healthy cities might be gleaned from this:

4. I think his math is exaggerated but it's clear that he is directionally correct.

There are a ton of towns with infrastructure that they cannot afford to maintain without federal/state subsidies. Federal programs will often cover the initial construction but not the maintenance.

It reminds me of the families who win new houses from "Extreme Home Makeover" but end up going bankrupt because they can't afford the property taxes and utility bills that a come with a 2800 square foot home.

2. I still prefer Stephen Skowronek's theory of political cycles. I prefer it because it offers some hope, that after a hopeless resentment election, Americans will square up.

#6 - How can an article about Scranton not mention the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company?

>Why are so many American cities functionally insolvent?

You know, if 90% of major American cities were run by GOP Mayors, I'm pretty sure you could come up with the answer.

But since 90% of them are Dem Mayors... well, Gosh, it's just a total mystery!!

6. In this connection, one of the best articles of last year :

I don't know if Scranton is doing something wrong/improper/illegal in their justice system or not and after reading the site referenced it io obvious that they don't know either. What they do know is that to many of the wrong race are in jail and therefor they can make hay of that. Should people who commit crimes be brought to justice and pay the price of breaking the law or not? Should criminals be let go because more blacks commit crimes in Scranton than whites? That IS what they are proposing. The ONLY person who is in control when it comes to committing a crime is the person who chooses to commit the crime. Why blame the police for catching them, the prosecutor for prosecuting them and the judge for sentencing them? Why not blame the perp who broke the law?

#2. I'm shocked that Bloomberg is so far left. The only right wing voice featured is Ponnuru. Cowen expresses a neutral viewpoint, everyone else, even McArdle expresses a left wing, very pro-Obama view.

6- Do they want become a tourist destination jailing people ? strange way...

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