Results for “from the rooftops”
74 found

Buried scary ledes

The [ECB] bank reversed itself on buying bonds amid signs that the debt crisis was spreading to the banking system.

“The situation was already starting to get worse on Thursday afternoon and throughout Friday of the week before last,” Mr. Trichet said. “A number of markets were no longer functioning correctly. It looked somewhat like the situation in mid-September 2008 after the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy.”

I suppose…I am glad they have not screamed that from the rooftops.  The full story is here.

Update: The scary lede has been removed altogether from any NYT story.

Two notes on liquidity traps and decreases in wages

1)  A fall in wages
increases the incentive to hire (call this the substitution effect) but it
decreases the income of people who already have jobs and this in turn
decreases their spending and other people’s income (call this the macro income effect).  In essence, Krugman and others are arguing that the macro
income effect can dominate under certain situations.  See Tyler (here and here) and Scott Sumner (Whom I cannot resist quoting–"no respected macroeconomic theory has ever been so decisively refuted
by the data as the theory that high wage policies can actually help the
economy during a Depression") on this point.  I, however, will ignore this debate and take it as given that this is possible.

Now one reason that people are talking about
a cut in the minimum wage in this context is that it follows exactly the two-part logic given above.  But bear in mind that the real policy choice
we have is to cut the payroll tax and cutting the payroll tax increases the
incentive to hire and increases the income of people who already have jobs.

2)  The idea of the
liquidity trap with its notion of lack of movement, inactivity and firms which "just aren't hiring" is hard to reconcile
with the fact that millions of new jobs are being created every month.  I have said this before but I should have shouted it from the rooftops because this error is very common.

MR vocabulary guide

1. “Self-recommending”: the very nature of the authors and project suggest it will be good or very good.  This also often (but not always) means I haven’t read it yet.  I am reluctant to recommend *anything* I haven’t read, but I am signaling it is very likely recommendation-worthy and I wish to let you know about it sooner rather than later.

2. An “Assorted link” that ends with a question mark: Worth thinking about, but I wish to distance myself from the conclusion and the methods of the study, without being contrary per se.

3. Hansonian: of, or relating to Robin Hanson.

4. The Jacksonian mode of discourse.  I am opposed to this.  Political and economic pamphlets in the Jacksonian era were excessively polemical and sometimes the Jacksonian mode is still used today, in 2009, believe it or not.

5. Wunderkind: Take the average age of that person’s relevant peers.  If said person is either under twenty or less than half that average, that person may qualify for “Wunderkind” status.

6. Markets in everything: Some of these are celebratory but many of these are sad or tragic.  Usually I am trying to get you to think about — as a philosophical question — why the market exists at all and not whether it should be legal.

7. Tyrone is my brother and alter-ego who believes the opposite of what Tyler believes.  Trudie offers personal advice.  Neither has good time management skills and thus they don’t write very much these days.

8. “Shout it from the rooftops”: What to do with wordy, obscure truths which the world badly needs to learn.

What have I left out?

What should we do instead of the Obama health reform bill?

A lot of people think you have no right to criticize a bill unless you propose a better bill.  I don't agree (if the aforementioned bill is bad on net), but in any case I will give this a try.  These are not my first best reforms or even my second best reforms.  They're my "attempt to work with some of the same moving pieces which are currently on the table" set of reforms.  I would trade away the Obama bill for these in a heart beat.  Keep in mind people, with a "no insurance" penalty of only $750, the current bill isn't going to work (and that's ignoring the massive implicit marginal tax rates on many individuals and families, or the "crowding out" of current low-reimbursement-rate Medicaid patients), so we do need to look for alternatives.

Here goes:

1. Construct a path for federalizing Medicaid and put it on a sounder financial footing; call that the "second stimulus" while you're at it.  It's better and more incentive-compatible than bailing out state governments directly and the program never should have been done at the state level in the first place.

2. Take some of the money spent on subsidizing the mandate and put it in Medicaid, to produce a greater net increase in Medicaid than the current bill will do, while still saving money on net.  Do you people like the idea of a public plan?  We already have one! 

2b. Make any "Medicare to Medicaid" $$ trade-offs you can, while recognizing this may end up being zero for political reasons.

3. Boost subsidies to medical R&D by more than the Obama plan will do.  Establish lucrative prizes for major breakthroughs and if need be consider patent auctions to liberate beneficial ideas from P > MC.

4. Make an all-out attempt to limit deaths by hospital infection and the simple failure of doctors to wash their hands and perform other medically obvious procedures.

5. Make an all-out attempt, working with state and local governments (recall, since the Feds are picking up the Medicaid tab they have temporary leverage here), to ease the spread of low-cost, walk-in health care clinics, run on a WalMart sort of basis.  Stepping into the realm of the less feasible, weaken medical licensing and greatly expand the roles of nurses, paramedics, and pharmacists.

6. Make an all-out attempt, comparable to the moon landing effort if need be, to introduce price transparency for medical services.  This can be done.

7. Preserve current HSAs.  The Obama plan will tank them, yet HSAs, while sometimes overrated, do boost spending discipline.  They also keep open some path of getting to the Singapore system in the future.

8. Invest more in pandemic preparation.  By now it should be obvious how critical this is.  It's fine to say "Obama is already working on this issue" but the fiscal constraint apparently binds and at the margin this should get more attention than jerry rigging all the subsidies and mandates and the like.

9. Establish the principle that future extensions of coverage, as done through government, will be for catastrophic care only.

10. Enforce current laws against fraudulent rescission.  If these cases are so clear cut and so obviously in the wrong, let's act on it.  We can strengthen the legal penalties if need be.

11. Realize that you cannot tack "universal coverage" (which by the way it isn't) onto the current sprawling mess of a system, so look for all other means of saving lives in other, more cost-effective ways.  If you wish, as a kind of default position, opt for universal coverage if the elderly agree to give up Medicare, moving us to a version of the Swiss system and a truly unified method of coverage.  But don't bet on that ever happening.

Separate issues:

12. If you can tax health insurance benefits and cut a Pareto-improving deal overall, fine, but I am considering this to be too politically utopian and it's not clear what the rest of that deal looks like.  The original tax break makes no economic sense but you don't want to end up with a big tax increase and a lot more people on the public books with little in return.

13. If the current bill were voted down, you can imagine some version of the above happening, although not necessarily all at once in one big bill.

14. Commission a study of how much the Obama plan is spending per QALY saved.  I agree that more health insurance saves lives, but a) the study should adjust appropriately for the superior demographics of those who hold or buy insurance, and b) the study should adjust for the income that would be lost through mandates and the safety that income would purchase.  I worry greatly that we have never, ever seen this number presented and that if we did it would not be pretty.  In any case, do the study, scream the number from the rooftops, and reread points 1-11.  Enact.

That's my recipe.  It's better than what we are doing now.  You don't have to adhere to any extreme form of economistic or free market ideology to buy it.  It might even be politically easier than the current path, as it "sounds less socialistic."

Assorted links

1. Geithner meets with bloggers, and here: "We were offered a tray of cookies at the meeting, from which I
abstained on principle. Those of you who think that's silly have no
idea how much I like cookies."

2. Assuming a can opener, more on health care costs.

3. More on the multiplier (shout it from the rooftops).

4. Mandates don't stay modest.

5. Lane Kenworthy reviews Create Your Own Economy.

What does the Dale and Krueger education paper really say?

It was reported in the media as showing that, controlling for all the right variables, going to an elite college or university as an undergraduate doesn't really matter for your future prospects or income.  But Robin Hanson, with money on the line, investigated further.  After reading the relevant pieces closely, he reports [what follows is Robin, not me, but with the multiple indentations I haven't indented everything again]:

"In fact his original 1998 working-paper abstract said:

We find that students who attended colleges with higher average SAT scores do not earn more than other students who were accepted and rejected by comparable schools but attended a college with a lower average SAT score.  However the Barron's rating of school selectivity and the tuition charged by the school are significantly related to the students' subsequent earnings. 

Half Sigma screams from the rooftops:

Based on the straightforward regression results in column 1, men who attend the most competitive colleges [according to Barron's 1982 ratings] earn 23 percent more than men who attend very competitive colleges, other variables in the equation being equal.

23 percent is quite a bit of money, it’s almost like getting two college degrees instead of one!  They also discovered that there was a benefit to attending a more expensive school. The more expensive tuition resulted in a lifetime internal rate of return of 20% for men and 25% for women."

Sherry Glied’s new health care paper

It is one of the best health care papers in recent times, it is here, I cannot find an ungated version.  Glied reminds us that only about 1/3 of American health care spending comes from private insurance.  Moving to international comparisons, the more general point is that:

…there is no persistent and regular relationship between the structure of system financing and the rate of growth in per capita health expenditures in a health system…the efficiency of operation of the health care system itself appears to depend much more on how providers are paid and how the delivery of care is organized than on the method used to raise the funds.

In other words, as I’ve stressed before, the health care cost problem comes from immediate suppliers, namely doctors and hospitals, and not from health insurance companies.

The best parts of the paper concern equity.  It is GPs which help the poor, not additional spending on technology or surgery; see p.18 for other comparisons along these lines.  Furthermore, and this you should scream from the rooftops, consider this:

…patterns of health service utilization in developed countries suggest that the marginal dollar of health care spending — money used to purchase high tech equipment or specialist services — is less progressively spent than the average dollar.

In other words, egalitarians should not allocate marginal government spending to health care.  And there is evidence that the more a government spends on health care, the less it spends helping people in money ways.  That is, there is crowding out. 

Finally, Glied offers a summary comparison:

Putting $1 of tax funds into the public health insurance system
effectively channels between $0.23 and $0.26 toward the lowest income
quintile people, and about $0.50 to the bottom two income quintiles.
Finally, a review of the literature across the OECD suggests that the
progressivity of financing of the health insurance system has limited
implications for overall income inequality, particularly over time.

Highly recommended.

Against Historic Preservation II

 In Manhattan, once famed for its ever-evolving skyline, an astonishing 27 percent of the borough’s lots now fall under the purview of the landmarks commission.

That’s from Jacob Andinder’s What Historic Preservation Is Doing to American Cities in the Atlantic. It’s a pretty good history of the movement for historic preservation focusing (of course) on some of the racist motivations and effects. But it has little to say about what to do about the consequent difficulties of building anything new. Similarly, here’s Binyamin Applebaum in the NYTimes correctly decrying the fact that historic preservation laws mean you can’t put solar panels on the rooftops of many homes in Washington, DC. Applebaum suggests a tiered approach.

I am more radical. All historical preservation laws should be repealed.

It’s one thing to require safety permits but no construction project should require a historic preservation permit. Here are three reasons:

First, it’s often the case that buildings of little historical worth are preserved by rules and regulations that are used as a pretext to slow competitors, maintain monopoly rents, and keep neighborhoods in a kind of aesthetic stasis that benefits a small number of people at the expense of many others.

Second, a confident nation builds so that future people may look back and marvel at their ancestor’s ingenuity and aesthetic vision. A nation in decline looks to the past in a vain attempt to “preserve” what was once great. Preservation is what you do to dead butterflies.

Ironically, if today’s rules for historical preservation had been in place in the past the buildings that some now want to preserve would never have been built at all. The opportunity cost of preservation is future greatness.

Third, repealing historic preservation laws does not mean ending historic preservation. There is a very simple way that truly great buildings can be preserved–they can be bought or their preservation rights paid for. The problem with historic preservation laws is not the goal but the methods. Historic preservation laws attempt to foist the cost of preservation on those who want to build (very much including builders of infrastructure such as the government). Attempting to foist costs on others, however, almost inevitably leads to a system full of lawyers, lobbying and rent seeking–and that leads to high transaction costs and delay. Richard Epstein advocated a compensation system for takings because takings violate ethics and constitutional law. But perhaps an even bigger virtue of a compensation system is that it’s quick. A building worth preserving is worth paying to preserve. A compensation system unites builders and those who want to preserve and thus allows for quick decisions about what will be preserved and what will not.

The performance of the NIH during the pandemic in 2020

“A new research study by one of us and his Johns Hopkins colleagues found that of the $42 billion the National Institutes of Health spent on research last year, less than 2% went to Covid clinical research…

Here is the WSJ source.  Here is the full report from Johns Hopkins, and here is the executive summary:

● Of the $42 Billion 2020 NIH annual budget, 5.7% was spent on
COVID-19 research
● Public health research was underfunded at 0.4% of the 2020 NIH
● Only 1.8% of the 2020 NIH budget was spent on COVID-19 clinical
● Average COVID-19 NIH funding cycle was 5 months
● Aging was funded 2.2 times more than COVID-19 research
● By May 1, 2020, 3 months into the pandemic, the NIH spent 0.05%
annual budget on COVID-19 research
● Of the 1419 grants funded by the NIH:
• NO grants on kids and masks specifically
• 58 studies on social determinants of health
• 57 grants on substance abuse
• 107 grants on developing COVID-19 medications
• 43 of the 107 medication grants repurposed existing drugs

Ouch.  Here is a not entirely random sentence from the report:

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the NIH institutional challenges and inability to reallocate funds quickly to
critical research.

Here is another damning sentence, though it damns someone other than the NIH:

…to date, no research has investigated NIH COVID-19 funding patterns to the best of our knowledge.

Double ouch.  Might the NIH have too much influence over the allocation of funds to be investigated properly?  Rooftops, people…

Growing Oligopolies, Prices, Output, and Productivity

The real monopoly problems in our economy are not the firms that push up some very particular concentration indices, rather they are the small, local monopolies, hospitals, and the public education system.  Here is a new investigation (AEA gate) from Sharat Ganapati, you will note that the bold emphasis has been added by yours truly:

American industries have grown more concentrated over the last 40 years. In the absence of productivity innovation, this should lead to price hikes and output reductions, decreasing consumer welfare. With US census data from 1972 to 2012, I use price data to disentangle revenue from output. Industry-level estimates show that concentration increases are positively correlated to productivity and real output growth, uncorrelated with price changes and overall payroll, and negatively correlated with labor’s revenue share. I rationalize these results in a simple model of competition. Productive industries (with growing oligopolists) expand real output and hold down prices, raising consumer welfare, while maintaining or reducing their workforces, lowering labor’s share of output.

That is from the new issue of American Economic Journal: Microeconomics.  Rooftops!  Other research has pointed in the same direction.  Pennsylvania, Ave.: please do not split up America’s best and most productive firms.

My Conversation with Mark Carney

Here is the audio, video, and transcript, definitely recommended.  Here is part of his closing statement:

COWEN: Last question. You wake up each morning. Surely you still think about central banking. What for you is the open question about central banking, where you don’t know the answer, that you think about the most?

CARNEY: I gave a speech at Jackson Hole on this issue, and I started — which is the future of the international monetary system and how we adjust the international monetary system.

I’ll say parenthetically that we’re potentially headed to another example of where the structure of the system is going to cause big problems for the global economy. Because it’s quite realistic, sadly, that we’re going to have a fairly divergent recovery with a number of emerging, developing economies really lagging because of COVID — not vaccinated, limited policy space, and the knock-on effects, while major advanced economies move forward. That’s a world where rates rise and the US dollar strengthens and you get this asymmetry, and the challenge of the way our system works bears down on these economies. I think about that a lot.

And this:

COWEN: If you’re speaking in a meeting as the central bank president, do you prefer to speak first or speak last?

CARNEY: I prefer — I tend to speak early. Yes, I tend to speak early. I’m not sure that’s always the best strategy, but I tend to speak early. I will say, one thing that’s happened over the years at places like the G20, I noticed, is the prevalence of social media and devices. The audience drifts away over time, even at the G20, even on a discussion of the global economy.

And from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, do note this:

CARNEY: …I think you’re absolutely right on that, there wasn’t. It is revealed that there wasn’t a liquidity trap.

Rooftops!  Finally, on more important matters:

COWEN: Are the Toronto Raptors doomed to be, on average, a subpar NBA team due to higher taxes?


COWEN: What’s the best Clash album?

CARNEY: Fantastic question. London Calling, and one of my best memories — I was very fortunate; they came to Edmonton when I was in 12th grade in high school. I went to the concert and that was fantastic, yes.

COWEN: I also saw them, I think in what would have been 12th grade had I been in school that year. But London Calling is too commercial for me. I much prefer the Green album, like “Career Opportunities,” “Janie Jones.”

CARNEY: Well, “I Fought the Law” was the best song at the concert. I have to say, they had got to Combat Rock by this time, which was relative — [laughs] Combat Rock was more commercial, I thought, than London Calling, although they threw it all out the door with Sandinista!

Again, here is Mark’s new book Value(s): Building a Better World For All.

Facts about recessions and unemployment (and matching)

Not everyone is going to like this one:

During a recovery, unemployment seems little responsive to demand disturbances.  Economic policy should focus on preventing recessions rather than trying to ameliorate their effects.

That is from the new slides/paper by Robert E. Hall and Marianna Kudlyak on the consistency of recovery from recessions, lots of evidence behind that claim, as employment recovery occurs at a remarkably consistent rate across recessions, regardless of policy response.  Furthermore explanation of the micro-data mostly follows from the supply of employment, not the demand, and no that doesn’t require any kind of weird DSGE model, nor does it involve aggregate demand denialism about the initial cause of the problem.  Links are here, including other papers by Kudlyak, many good papers in there, sadly these rooftops are nearly empty.

Inflation and the Fed

Federal Reserve officials were optimistic about the economy at their April policy meeting as government aid and business reopenings paved the way for a rebound — so much so that and “a number” of them began to tiptoe toward a conversation about dialing back some support for the economy.

Here is more (NYT).  That is yet another sign that our government (treating fiscal and monetary as a consolidated entity) made a mistake in applying too much demand stimulus.  Hardly anyone said this at the time except Summers and Blanchard, and since then few have been willing to come out and admit error.  There is an ex post attempt to redefine the debate by insisting inflation will not spiral out of control.  Quite possibly not, but whatever your view on that question, don’t let it distract you from the actual mistake.  Virtually all macroeconomic commentators in the public sphere were wrong for not realizing and stressing that too much demand stimulus was being applied.  Furthermore, we ended up spending $1 trillion (!) in ways that were pretty far from optimal.

Got that?  People, the rooftops are waiting.

Let the AZ Vaccine Go!

Finally the NYTimes has picked up on a story I have been shouting from the rooftops for months.

Tens of millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca are sitting idly in American manufacturing facilities, awaiting results from its U.S. clinical trial while countries that have authorized its use beg for access.

…About 30 million doses are currently bottled at AstraZeneca’s facility in West Chester, Ohio, which handles “fill-finish,” the final phase of the manufacturing process during which the vaccine is placed in vials, one official with knowledge of the stockpile said.

Emergent BioSolutions, a company in Maryland that AstraZeneca has contracted to manufacture its vaccine in the United States, has also produced enough vaccine in Baltimore for tens of millions more doses once it is filled into vials and packaged, the official said.

…But although AstraZeneca’s vaccine is already authorized in more than 70 countries, according to a company spokesman, its U.S. clinical trial has not yet reported results, and the company has not applied to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization. AstraZeneca has asked the Biden administration to let it loan American doses to the European Union, where it has fallen short of its original supply commitments and where the vaccination campaign has stumbled badly.

The administration, for now, has denied the request, one official said.

Some federal officials have pushed the White House to make a decision in the next few weeks. Officials have discussed sending doses to Brazil, which has been hard hit by a worsening coronavirus crisis, or the European Union or Britain.

The AZ vaccine could have saved thousands of lives in the US, if it had been approved earlier. But it’s not going to be approved in the US for months at best and with the ramp up in production of Pfizer, Moderna, J&J and now Novavax it’s no longer needed in the US. Let it go! Send it to Canada or Mexico or Brazil or COVAX.

In our Science Paper we estimate that another 1 billion courses of vaccine capacity are worth $1 trillion of additional global benefits. AZ has on the order of 50 million doses nearly ready to go and can produce in the US around 25 million doses a month so over a year that production is worth over $100 billion to the world economy, far higher than the modest cost of production! Instead of idling this capacity we should expand it even further as part of a plan to vaccinate the world.

It’s a Biden Plan to vaccinate the world or a Xi Jinping Plan and I’d rather it be a Biden Plan.