01 Oct 2009

Evangelicals Don’t Want Obama Messing With Their Kids!

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It’s not a matter of politics, it’s because they really don’t want the kids to view the president of the United States as some kind of supreme leader, the way they do in totalitarian countries. (Video HT2LRC)

This video disgusts me as both an American citizen and as a born-again Christian.

01 Oct 2009

It’s Only Money

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Krugman has left cap and trade for the moment to deal with government budget deficits. The man is fearless; look at his nonchalance in this post when he writes: “Finding 1 percent of GDP in higher taxes and/or spending cuts shouldn’t be that hard — and won’t be, if America has a sane political scene by 2019.”

Let’s not even use the 2019 numbers since the economy will be bigger and it might be unfair to Krugman. Using the 2008 numbers, 1% of GDP works out to $142 billion. Krugman is saying that a permanent mix of spending cuts and/or tax hikes on an annual basis of $142 billion “shouldn’t be that hard”? And forget the currently “insane” political scene–when would that kind of budget cutting and/or tax hiking have been not-that-hard?

Remember kids, this is an annual figure. When you see stuff talking about the cost of health reform etc., those are usually ten-year projections. So to reduce the budget deficit by a percentage point of GDP, without altering spending, would imply a “$1.4 trillion tax hike over ten years” in the way these things are usually scored, even if the economy didn’t grow. Once you allow for its growth, the number obviously would be that much bigger.

It really is amazing how desensitized we’ve all become to these gargantuan numbers.

01 Oct 2009

The Coming Marijuana Legalization

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Of all the predictions I’ve fired off on this blog in its short life, the one I’m most comfortable with–in terms of the risk/reward tradeoff in terms of geeconosphere reputation–is that the Obama administration will greatly liberalize the marijuana market. You’ve got hit shows about a white, upper middle class mom who sells pot, and now CNBC is running stories with lame pot jokes.

01 Oct 2009

Curse Those Subprime Loans!

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I was getting my car fixed up for the road trip to Greenville, SC tomorrow (Mises Circle on Saturday), and I was the only customer near the TV. So I flipped through the channels and decided CNBC was the least of 46 evils.

They kept giving snippets of Bernanke’s testimony to some Congressional committee. The funniest assertion I saw was some guy telling Bernanke (paraphrasing): “I am curious how you see the role of the Fed in the future growing, to regulate the financial markets and prevent the sort of excesses that contributed to our current situation. I know in my district, there were many people who obtained subprime loans, when what they really needed were prime loans. As a consequence they are now in default, many have lost their homes, and we have vacant homes pushing down housing prices.”

Now there is a grain of truth in that someone who had an adjustable rate mortgage might end up buying too big a house and then defaulting, when a more conventional mortgage would have prevented the foolish purchase.

But that doesn’t seem to be what the Congressman was getting at. No, he seems to think that deregulation caused banks to charge more in interest rates from safe borrowers than they should, and then this higher rate caused the borrowers to default. So the housing bubble was caused by lenders being too cautious in their evaluation of the riskiness of borrowers, and charging them too high of an interest rate. (!)

30 Sep 2009

Flu Vaccine Bask

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Once again I ask (not beg) Free Advice readers for their help: What are the best websites giving pro and con arguments for the H1N1 vaccine? I was on a plane recently next to a woman who oversaw emergency planning for hospitals in San Diego (I think), and she was telling me matter-of-factly that I should get my 4-year-old vaccinated. (We ended up getting into a dispute over the term “inoculation.” She was complaining that the government was wasting tons of money making all the hospital staff use one-shot ventilators when treating swine flu cases, and I asked, “If you guys have all been inoculated, why do you need the ventilators?” And she thought I was using the word incorrectly, that I had to use vaccinated instead. Thoughts?)

The problem–as my wife pointed out–is that most of the “go ahead and do it, there’s no real danger you moron” websites are all run by the government. On the other hand, there are some anti-vaccine things that I’ve seen which seem like they might care more about criticizing the government, than they do about my kid’s health.

UPDATE: By the way, unless you have actual medical qualifications, please don’t tell me what to do in the comments. I understand the general arguments pro and con, but like I said, I haven’t seen sources that I trust yet. So especially if you’re an anonymous commenter on my blog, your assertions aren’t going to make me have someone stick a needle in my kid’s arm (after taking him into a waiting room full of sick kids).

30 Sep 2009

Ron Paul on The Daily Show

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I was literally taking planes, trains, and automobiles today. There was a Fox Business Live spot for me to discuss a new IER study, so I canceled my outbound flight from Baltimore, caught the MARC train down to DC, did the interview, then a private car took me back to Baltimore for a later flight. Strangers would think I was important.

Anyway I’m back in Nashville and just now watched Ron Paul’s appearance on The Daily Show. It went really well. Jon Stewart gave a very fair interview. He obviously was not totally sold on ending the Fed, but you can see he took Paul seriously, unlike some people.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Ron Paul
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview

BTW I don’t know if it will be on the above video, but the “moment of Zen” afterward was pretty funny.

28 Sep 2009

A Quick Note From Baltimore

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I’m in a hotel in Baltimore right now, getting ready to deliver a lecture to Tom DiLorenzo’s “Capitalism and Its Critics” class, as well as a public lecture on the New Deal. So I won’t be blogging much, if at all, until Wednesday.

In the meantime, look at this blog post from Brad DeLong regarding Edward Prescott’s explanation of the financial panic (HT2MR): “He [Prescott] simply does not live in the consensus reality with the rest of us.”

Is anybody else weirded-out by the term “consensus reality”? Have you ever heard of a more Orwellian phrase? Not reality mind you, but consensus reality. Prescott’s sin is not being wrong per se, but rather that he disagrees “with the rest of us.”

“What are you talking about, Bob?” you protest. “DeLong is just trying to be cute; he means Prescott is nuts and objectively wrong.”

OK then why didn’t DeLong say that? Now this “consensus” criterion has spread from climate change to economics?

I am not being flip. DeLong’s use of the term “consensus reality” disturbs me far more than his endorsement of a Keynesian model. At least if he agrees that things are objectively right or wrong–and uses language accordingly–we can at least debate the merits of a Keynesian model.

But we have no hope of changing anyone’s mind, if we fall into the dreaded minority viewpoint, in a world dominated by “consensus reality.”

28 Sep 2009

The Most Ridiculous Argument Against Auditing the Fed Yet…

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…comes from Barry Ritholz, as relayed by Bruce Bartlett:

While I have been critical of the Federal Reserve (especially the Greenspan years), my beef with them has been their judgment and decision-making process. Congress, on the other hand, is a whole different matter. It[']s not their judgment, but rather, the fact they are owned not by the American people, but by lobbyists, and corporate interests. They have become structurally deformed.

How weird is it for me, who spent so many pages blaming the Fed for a lot of the recent crisis, to find myself in a position of defending them from outside political pressure? The choice we face is the recent Fed regime of secrecy, nonfeasance, irresponsibility, and easy money — versus something possibly likely to be a whole lot worse.

To be found in “contempt of Congress” would require an improvement in opinion of them.

If the Fed has been a major source of problems, Congress is much worse. They were the great enablers of the crisis, readily corruptible, bought and paid for by the banking industry. I find Congress to be the worse of two evils — lacking in objectivity, incapable of producing legitimate regulatory review.

So to summarize: The Fed has handed literally hundreds of billions of dollars created “out of thin air” to politically connected financial institutions. Congress asked Bernanke to tell them which institutions got how much money. Bernanke refused to say.

So Ron Paul and friends are pushing a bill that would force the Fed to disclose the recipients of such handouts of freshly printed dollars. And Ritholz says, “No, that’s dangerous, because Congress is owned by the banking industry.”

The Fed is a government-enforced cartel of private banks. It is literally owned by the banking industry. In contrast, Congress is merely rented by the banking industry.