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October 11, 2011

DOOM: I've got the blues before sunrise


Obama's economic illiteracy underpins much of his failure on domestic policy. He compounds the problem by being intellectually arrogant: he's wrong, and the record proves he's wrong, but he cannot admit it to himself or anyone else. It becomes very wearying to enumerate all the ways in which this President is completely unfit for his job.

Here's a good example of how Obama's grand plans to revive the economy have failed: the $30 billion small-business loan package passed last year. It's been a complete failure, mainly due to the sloth and incompetence of the government, and misplaced priorities of the banks who received the money (they mainly used the government money to pay off their TARP loans -- in essence, giving Uncle Sugar's money back in a different wrapper).

Idiot manchild Ezra Klein experiences a blinding gimpse of the obvious, but having seen the light, he proceeds to misinterpret it as a call to even more and larger government intervention. (He also takes a half-hearted shot at Republicans, but that's simply a basal reflex for Klein.) Dumb as a bag of hammers, this guy.

Thomas Sargent, the newest Nobel laureate in Economics, is a surprising (to me) critic of both Keynesianism and Teh Krugman. Even in academia, the wheel turns.

The pre-post-employment economy. My friends and I used to ponder what people would do with their time if we ever achieved a Star Trek-like replicator technology and no one actually had to work for a living -- would we spend our time creating art, expanding the frontiers of science, and advancing civilization; or would we sit around all day watching TV and eating Cheetos out of a big tub?

One of the universal assumptions of industrial society — axiomatic to its capitalist, socialist, and hybridized variants — is that everybody, more or less, works. Not only does everybody work; everybody has a job. Either through judicious state planning or the benevolent invisible hand of the market, there is a job for anyone who wants or needs one and who is willing to do the work.

It is generally assumed that the overall economy will grow over time (again, either through planning or market evolution) and that this year’s batch of of available jobs will support a higher standard of living for the working populace than was made possible by the batch from a decade ago.

These assumptions are considered obvious. They are rarely stated, because they are considered to be a given.

So the question is — what if these assumptions are wrong?

More "green" FAIL, this time with GM’s slow-selling Volt.

From unemployed to unemployable. The jobs are out there, but the skillset of the current workforce is badly-matched to the high-tech needs of the workplace right now. Retraining is rarely an option -- it’s not easy to go from being a bricklayer or a truck-driver to being a database administrator or a software developer, and young people lack the experience that businesses seek. This kind of problem is deep-rooted, and will take many years to rectify. It's not a problem we can fix quickly.

Signposts on the way to municipal DOOM: cash-strapped Topeka will no longer prosecute domestic violence cases. I suspect that this is a variant of the old “we’ll have to lay off firefighters and cops!” ploy that cities bust out when they want to raise taxes, but in any event, as the finances of municipalities continue to degrade unpleasant choices like this will become more common.

I guess Governor Brown figured that since California doesn’t have enough money to cover the educational obligations they already have, and since the ocean of red ink shoes no sign of receding any time soon, he might as well commit to a whole new boatload of educational debt since his state already boned beyond recovery.

Merkel and Sarkozy assure the chumps that they have every intention of possibly having some kind of plan pretty soon, maybe.

Meanwhile, Greece's deficit miss to be re-re-revised again. It's almost as if they're lying, or don't know what the hell they're doing. Incompetence or perfidy? (Though there's no reason it can't be both, I suppose.)

China’s financial foundation is showing a lot of cracks. Dear debt-loaded Western nations: China will not save you. They may not be able to save themselves.

Just a reminder in case your forgot: the Occupy Wall Street people are neither particularly smart, clean, nor self-aware. These people do serve an important purpose, though: they serve as useful object-lessons on the wages of clueless arrogance mixed with stupidity. You can show your children pictures of these ill-bred, oblivious twits and remind them that this is what becomes of people with no skills, no shame, and no sense of responsibility.

Protesting: not a bad gig if you can get it. This falls under the “there are markets in everything” rubric.

Crisis management, Euro edition. A fairly long read, but very worth your time.

You know, most people know this intuitively: ignorance can lead to financial ruin.

Merit pay for teachers a bad idea? I tend to agree, mostly because it would inevitably be gamed by the teachers and their union. Arnold Kling has the right idea: get the government out of the education business entirely, and let the competitive marketplace do its work.

Is a trade-war with China justified? Given our dependence on trade with China, I doubt it -- we can threaten and bluster all we want, but come down to it, we and the Chinese need each other. If we are serious about punishing China, then the solution is simple -- stop buying stuff from them. Pay off the enormous debts we owe them. If we threaten them and fail to follow through, it will damage us more than if we had done nothing. If we go the tarriff route, we open a box full of demons we are in no way prepared to handle right now. (And as Douglas Holtz-Eakin points out, we could do a lot for our competitive posture by reforming our badly-designed tax regime.)

In other great news for the economy, the battering in the financial sector is taking its toll: Wall Street may lose up to 10,000 jobs by 2012. And given how much the state, county, and municipality of New York depend upon the tax revenues generated by those jobs, I'd be feeling some significant alarm if I were a politician there.

So-called "Progressives" -- spreading the misery.


K-9 Cop apprehends desperate criminal. News at 11.

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posted by Monty at 09:05 AM

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