Friday, December 26, 2014

Related to that Christmas Eve post...

There's a piece in today's Wall Street Journal called "The Fed's Needless Flirtation With Danger" in which Martin Feldstein writes that to stimulate demand, "Well-designed tax rules are a safe and effective alternative to quantitative easing".  Dr. Feldstein argues that we'd have been better served by stimulative tax policies that induce businesses to make new investments and help consumers consume, as opposed to so much QE.   

Unrelated to that X-mas Eve post...

I once saw an Economist on Squawk Box who insisted that nearly all economists collectively agree on nearly all major policy prescriptions.  I
Nassim Taleb, Wikipedia
wish I could recall his name. 
He still strikes me as wishful.  In my opinion, the guy wanted viewers to believe that the discipline of economics actually breeds the kind of certainty found in the natural sciences.  

In any case, wouldn't a Krugman-Feldstein debate or a Taleb-Krugman debate be an interesting spectacle?  I'd settle for a Twitter smack-down.
Paul Krugman, Wikipedia

I miss the old TV debates that featured thought leaders at opposite ends of a policy spectrum, hashing out their differences on politics and economics.  My favorite debater remains the late William F. Buckley.*
*Amazon Prime members can access some of WFB's old Firing Line debates -- free.
WFB, Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday cheers for the American consumer

Have you read about the recent boost in U.S. consumer spending?  Of course you have and you know it is widely attributed -- at least in part -- to a steep drop in energy prices, particularly a drop in gasoline prices. clip art
This development is often described by the financial press as a tax cut because the dollar benefit accrues to the consumer in much the same way a tax cut does.  That is, by paying less at the pump, we automatically keep more of what we earn.  I wonder how Keynesian-devotees and other Paul Krugman types (who routinely advocate for enormous government spending to stimulate demand), are reacting.  

It appears that putting money directly in the hands of taxpayers, also spurs consumption.  Shocking.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer notes on New York

I've taken business trips to New York since the Eighties and for me much remains unchanged -- both good and not-so-good. 
Times Square street performer
John Maddente photo

Thousands of taxi cabs now co-exist with new and superior competitors like Uber and Lyft, but the ride through decrepit parts of Queens to or from LaGuardia airport, is still dreary.  

The Times Square area remains a crowded kaleidoscope of sounds, sights and smells that probably began to lose charm in the Seventies.  Unkempt oddballs mill around a neon backdrop of seedy shops and streets that cry for updates, or at least a protracted power wash. 

On the other hand, I'm still captivated by the view looking southward down Park Avenue that terminates at the Met Life Building and Grand Central Terminal, or looking northward down Park Avenue from the other side of these buildings. 

Central Park remains a rolling, twisting, verdant place of tranquility.  In Lower Manhattan ("Downtown") adjacent to the monolithic New York Stock Exchange, a timeless and magnificent statue of George Washington still looks on above the steps of Federal Hall where General Washington took his oath to become President.

I could go on about the gems of old New York, but have a look at the gleaming new Freedom Tower!  It is one of the most breathtaking buildings I've seen.  This structure with its inspired shape, beautiful blue color and sheer enormity -- soars over the somber space where the World Trade Center Towers stood. 

Freedom Tower
John Maddente photo

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sometimes slander goes unpunished

As a teen, I once scraped together enough money to buy a hamburger at a diner, then sat down at a table and waited.  I watched waitresses serving customers around me and after a long period, I caught the attention of one waitress.  I asked if someone could take my order.  She replied that another waitress had seen me steal a tip and that's why nobody would wait on me.  The charge was bogus.  I had taken nothing.  I protested my innocence and left the diner with emotions recalled decades later as I write these words.

The point is, if one is going to accuse another of being a thief, one must be able to back up the accusation, or there ought to be consequences for the accuser.  Whether it breaches a legal standard or not, slanderous or libelous commentary is often allowed in America's political environment because it's passed off as free speech and there are no rules for fair play
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when public policy fights occur.  Unfortunately, class warfare is one avenue that works well to smear someone as long as the one doing the smearing advocates for a populist cause.  Too often, without evidence, one can accuse another of depraved motives like "voter suppression" or "racism" and get away with it.  Want examples?   

Do you recall when Sen. Harry Reid likened the GOP to slavery sympathizers because he couldn't handle Obamacare criticisms?  (See my Examiner column published here).  His disgraceful words are largely forgotten.  

Consider Vice President Joe Biden's spoken gem on the campaign trail, telling an African-American audience that Republicans are "...going to put y'all back in chains."  Pundits dismissed the remark as one more bone-headed comment by Biden, then Romney got crucified for citing an accurate statistic about the extent of government transfer payments. Romney's utterance, wasn't populist so the opposition could vilify him, yet Biden's reprehensible remarks left him unscathed.

Political slander often occurs after Conservatives disclose ideas to reform the welfare state or tax system.  Some ideas are better than others, but there's always a number of character assassins that cry "racism!"  And honest advocates to reduce voter fraud often attract a full scale tar job, replete with charges of "voter suppression."   

freepik image
Most Conservatives encounter this sort of thing sooner or later.  So, what if political slander happens to you?  My advice is to expose your character assassins fully, fairly and early on.  Fight with facts -- but fight no less.  

If you have a better remedy; please let me know.