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 in order 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 tax policies that induce businesses to make new investments and help consumers consume, instead of unleashing so much QE, but some of his contemporaries would challenge that assertion.   Major economists in the media often disagree in practice and do so with the type of certainty reserved for hard science and their views are frequently colored by their political leanings.   

I once saw an Economist on Squawk Box who insisted that professional economists collectively agree on nearly all major policy prescriptions.  I
Nassim Taleb, Wikipedia
wish I could recall his name. 
His remarks still strike me as wishful.  Maybe he was right, but it sounded as though h
e wanted viewers to believe that the discipline of economics breeds the kind of metaphysical certainty found in the natural sciences.  There's a reason that the name for the field of study has long been referred to as "Political Economy". 

To help settle the issue or at least test it, a long form Krugman-Feldstein debate or a Taleb-Krugman debate would be an interesting spectacle, like the sort we could watch years ago.

Paul Krugman, Wikipedia
I'm referring to the old TV debates on public television that featured thought leaders from opposite ends of a policy spectrum who respectfully but forcefully hashed out their differences on politics and economics.  

My favorite debater remains the late William F. Buckley.  Though not a PhD economist, he did hold an undergraduate degree in economics from Yale.  Amazon Prime members can access some of WFB's old "Firing Line" debates for free.
WFB, Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday gifts 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 attributed -- at least in part -- to a steep drop in energy prices, particularly a drop in gasoline prices. clip art
This development is described by some in the financial press as a tax cut because the 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 Keynesians who routinely advocate for enormous government spending to stimulate demand are reacting.  Putting money directly in the hands of taxpayers can also spur consumption.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer notes on New York

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

Taxi cabs now co-exist with new competitors like Uber and Lyft giving riders new options, but the 
ride through decrepit parts of Queens enroute to LaGuardia airport, is still dreary.  

The Times Square area remains a crowded kaleidoscope of sounds, sights and smells that probably began to lose its charm in the Seventies.  Thousands of pedestrians 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

How 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 and waited.  I watched waitresses serving customers around me and after a long period, I caught the attention of one waitress.  I asked her 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 the charge and left the diner with emotions that affected me decades later and even as I write these words.  I never learned the identity of my accuser.

The point of the story is that if one is going to charge another of being a thief, one must be able to back up the accusation, or there ought to be consequences for the accuser.  

Slanderous or libelous commentary is allowed in America's political environment because it's accepted as free speech and there are no rules for fair play
freepik image
when public policy fights occur.  

Unfortunately, class warfare is one avenue that works well for the accuser mob 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 holding depraved motives like "voter suppression" or "racism" and the accusers 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 comparison is largely forgotten today.  

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."  Many pundits dismissed the remark as just one more bone-headed comment by Biden.  Now contrast that sorry episode with how Mitt 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 as a contemptible elitist, yet Biden's reprehensible remarks about the GOP left him unscathed.  

Political slander often occurs after Conservatives disclose ideas to reform the welfare state, curtail federal spending, or simplify the tax system.  Some ideas are better than others, but there's always a number of character assassins that will cry "Racism!"  And advocates trying 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.  What if it happens to you?  My advice is to expose your character assassins fully, fairly and early.  Fight with facts, but fight no less.  

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