30 January 2009

Two Good Articles

by Bruce Bartlett, author of one of my favorite books. They are here and here.
More later.

24 January 2009


Nick Gillespie in today's Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Bush has massively expanded the government along with the sense that
government is incompetent.

And people diminish the man's abilities.

22 January 2009

Why Some People Can't Be Taken Seriously

"Conservative" "economist" talking head Larry Kudlow, he of the gruff-voice, staccato non sequiturs (the financial Larry King, HELLO!) on CNBC wrote the following in December 2007:

Bush Boom Continues [Larry Kudlow]
There is no recession.
Despite all the doom and gloom from the economic pessimistas (me: I can't tell you how much I loathe the nonsensical practice, usually by conservatives, of adding "istas" as a suffix as a method of belittling or demeaning those with the temerity to disagree with them), the resilient U.S economy continues moving ahead—quarter after quarter, year after year—defying dire forecasts and delivering positive growth. In fact, we are about to enter the seventh consecutive year of the Bush boom.
The pessimistas are a persistent bunch. In 2006, they were certain a
recession was just around the corner. They were wrong. Instead, the
economy posted two consecutive quarters of near or above four-percent
Earlier today, a doom and gloom economic forecast from Macro Economic Advisors was released predicting zero percent growth in the fourth quarter. This report is off by at least two percentage points. These guys are going to wind up with egg on their faces.
Here are the facts: Americans are working. The 4.7 percent unemployment number remains at an historical low. On a three-month rolling basis, the U.S. economy has added over 100,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the household job count shows that an average of 303,000 jobs have been added in the last three months. This is noteworthy because it suggests that the job market is turning around.
Hours worked are growing more than 1-percent annually, while workers' wages are running 3.8 percent, a full percentage point ahead of inflation. As for this week's productivity report, it was nothing short of spectacular: the 6.3 percent productivity gain was the best in four years. A rise in productivity is good for growth. It's good for profits. And it's good for low inflation.
Speaking of inflation, business inflation is down from 3.5 percent just
over a year ago to 1.5 percent today. Meanwhile, oil prices have retreated to $88. And, to top it all off, last night we received a tremendous new number showing household net wealth has headed even higher. It stands at a record $59 trillion dollars. That's more than seven percent above a year ago.
Another factoid worth considering is that mortgage refinancings are soaring at lower rates. Since June, they are up nearly 70 percent, while mortgage rates on 15 and 30-year loans are down nearly a 100 basis points. That is a very positive, very welcome development that ought to cushion the plunge in home sales, and maybe even prices.
Down in Washington, Democrats are stuck with a Keynesian message of
economic pessimism, spending increases, and tax hikes to finance their big government proposals
. Unfortunately, they still refuse to acknowledge that tax rates have a profound effect on behavior. This kind of tax and spend, big government, Walter Mondale approach may come back to haunt them at the polls next year.
The GOP, on the other hand, has a positive supply-side message
of limited government, lower spending, and lower tax rates. And while it's true that the recent Republican-led Congress failed to adhere to its fiscal lodestars, the statute of limitations is quickly running out on that score
Incidentally, Democrats have not offered a single spending cut proposal
during their time at the helm. Not one. That's just one reason why—not to mention what I expect to be continuing growth in 2008— I believe the economic pendulum will soon swing in favor of the GOP.
There's no recession coming.
The pessimistas were wrong. It's not going to happen. At a bare minimum, we are looking at Goldilocks 2.0. (And that's a minimum). Goldilocks is alive and well. The Bush boom is alive and well. It's finishing up its sixth consecutive year with more to come. Yes, it's still the greatest story never told.
12/07 08:18 PM

All emphasis added by me. This is the problem when you have someone with an agenda, or rather a humongous axe to grind, playing at analysis. His desire to present the Republicans in the best light possible, instead of objectively analyzing the economic trends, blinds Mr. Kudlow to reality.
Dismissing the Democrats as Keynesians, when the biggest Keynsian presidents we've had in the last fifty years were Nixon & W, is laughable in its disregard of simple facts and recent history.
Also his attempt to give Republicans a pass for their profligacy (And while it's true that the recent Republican-led Congress failed to adhere to its fiscal lodestars, the statute of limitations is quickly running out on that score.) is equally laughable. So when Republicans are in the minority, they are staunch defenders of their fiscal lodestars, yet for the fourteen years while they were in the majority, six of which they shared with the Executive branch, is when they strayed off the reservation. What the hell good is it to have "fiscal lodestars" if you drop the ball at exactly the moment it matters?
And why is the statute of limitations running out on that score? Where is that statute? I'm going to remember it for the rest of my life. At least Democrats say they're going to spend like crazy. No, the Democrats have not offered a single spending cut proposal. That's not what they do. Republicans are the one's who are supposed to do that. But when neither party will, you may as well elect the people who are going to be honest about it.
The most important lesson of all, especially when getting economic or fiscal advice: consider the source and consider his grudge.
It's amazing how much can be gotten wrong in such a brief post.

20 January 2009

Reading List and Why I'm not Reading Thomas Friedman

I have recently taken up the study of economics, both academically and individually. I have read Capitalism & Freedom, P.J. O'Rourke on the Wealth of Nations (don't laugh, or do but not at me. It's a great distillation and has prompted me to tackle the great Smith at some future date), the Road to Serfdom (which I must re-read) and The Armchair Economist. I am currently reading The Worldly Philosophers (120 pages in, very good) and next up to bat are: Economics in One Lesson, Freakonomics, Spin-Free Economics, The Chicago School and Human Action (summertime, and I mean the entire summertime) and several other works of Ludwig von Mises. I will also get to The Fatal Conceit by Hayek and Capitalism, Socialism & Democracy by Schumpeter. I am not writing this to show how smart I am (or wish to be) but to serve as an accounting of where I'm coming from and where I wish to be.
I would love to read Smith, Keynes, Riccardo, Malthus and Hume, but to list them here would be a boast that I don't know that I can live up to. Smith, most definitely. The others, well...perhaps someday.
I bring this up because I was having a conversation with a friend and he asked, "Are you going to read The World is Flat?" I had heard some things about this book and have read maybe two articles by Thomas Friedman, but I never quite got him. Another friend sent along an opinion piece by Friedman. I get what he's saying but there's just something there I don't like and can't quite put my finger on.
Thankfully, there's Matt Taibbi.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Please pardon the indulgence of listing the books. There is a better than even chance I won't get through all of them. I will post updates here when accomplished.

UPDATE: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Basic Economics and Applied Economics, both by Thomas Sowell. I have read most of Basic and am picking up Applied soon. Not that this counts as reading, though we did cover the entire book, but Principles of Macroeconomics by N. Gregory Mankiw (to whose blog there is a link to the right) was a fantastic textbook.
Also I have some works by Gordon Tullock.

Other than that, if any readers have any suggestions that may still be in print in about ten years, please pass them along.


I really shouldn't be surprised, but the dim-witted soul who described and celebrated "Big-Government Conservatism" has penned an homage to our 43rd, and thankfully former, president, praising his achievements.
I haven't the energy or time to discuss this fully. I'll let the sheer lunacy of the piece speak for itself.

05 January 2009

What Was I Smokin'?

So I found myself nestled comfortably on my couch next to books I should've been reading. My wife turned in early to adjust her schedule (she starts a new job next week and has to get up very early in the morning).

I see Smokin' Aces is on HBO. I remember the publicity for this movie when it was released and thought, "that might be a good movie to see." I never got around to it until tonight.

See, I like Jeremy Piven; I like Ray Liotta; Ben Affleck vacillates between tolerable to mildly entertaining. I realized last night that I like Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold; Ray Liotta as Henry Hill and Ben Affleck in Chasing Amy (best scene here, mind the language) and in two scenes of Good Will Hunting (here, with Asian subtitles, and here).

To try to transcribe the plot would certainly make my head explode and the same would befall you were you to try and read it. The parts that aren't obscenely opaque and predictable are just so...bad. Not good. Nonsensical. Even to try and recall it would give me a migraine.

Piven does an OK job playing someone strung out on Cocaine, but then, that doesn't seem real tough. But it's yeoman's work compared to what Andy Garcia put in. He's supposed to be a muckety-muck in the FBI and the damnedest thing happens. He affects some form of accent. No big deal to be sure, but he doesn't keep it. It's somewhat light in the beginning, gone in the middle and then thick at the end. All the more unnerving because I can't figure out for the life of me what the hell kind of accent it's supposed to be.
Liotta is Liotta, which is to say kind of scary. And he's one of the good guys.

The special effects are pretty good, especially the scene with the .50 caliber rifle. But it's far too much of a cheesy Tarantino rip-off. Old Quentin uses a bit much of the ultra-violence, but there's always a damn good story to go with it. Not this.
And there's too many damn characters. There should never be more than five principals, this movie has at least ten.

But Ryan Reynolds is the cream on this crop. I don't know why he's still around, but for the love of Jove, can we declare the Ryan Reynolds experiment over and never see him again? The man is the embodiment of milquetoast. They could have had a production assistant on camera reading his lines from the script and it would have carried as much heft.

Anyway, as the wife gets her schedule adjusted, I'm going to knock out a few movies that have been back-burnered far too long. Tonight it's 300. I hope it's better than last night, but it most certainly can't be worse.