by ilene - September 26th, 2012 3:33 pm
A new article "Robert Johnson: Economists As Marketeers for the Monied Interests" reminded me of this article from 2009. Here, Ryan Grim examines how the economics profession became essentially a servant to the Federal Reserve. ~ Ilene
Ryan Grim is the senior congressional correspondent for the Huffington Post and former staff reporter with Politico.com and Washington City Paper. He's the author of the book, "This Is Your Country on Drugs" and won the 2007 Alt-Weekly Award for best long-form news-story. – Ilene
Intro by Tom Burger:
Here is a good article to consider when you are pondering how it is that nearly all mainstream economists toe the line with respect to monetary economic dogma.
As I have so often asserted: there is a darn good reason why these people have gone to such great lengths to nail down support from economists and government: their business is extremely lucrative. They have quite literally achieved the alchemist's dream of converting lead to gold (i.e. money). The only difference is that the Fed doesn't need even a lead mine. They can convert "nothing at all" to "gold."
This article, however, might lead one to believe that this Fed influence is a recent development; the author cites people who say this is how it has been since about the 1970s. Well, maybe the Fed's total dominance of academia is that recent, but their campaign began at least 15 years before the legislation that founded the Fed.
The big city bankers of that turn of the century era put together a comprehensive program involving a blizzard of articles for the public and for economists. They founded university chairs for "right thinking" economists, they lobbied legislators. The activities described by Rothbard and others went on and on. In my opinion, none of this — then or now — was done because these people thought it would be good for the public or for the economy. They did it because it opened the door to unlimited theft. Okay … the perpetrators probably didn't admit to themselves they were thieves. They probably just believed that unlimited wealth was their destiny because they were just so much smarter than everybody else.
If you doubt the Fed's destructive control over economic thought, please read this article. – Tom
by ilene - September 23rd, 2010 9:40 pm
and Keep Its Economic Surplus for Itself
Courtesy of Michael Hudson
CDES Conference, Brasilia, September 17, 2010
I would like to place this seminar’s topic, ‘Global Governance,’in the context of global control, which is what ‘governance’ is mainly about. The word (from Latin gubernari, cognate to the Greek root kyber) means ‘steering’. The question is, toward what goal is the world economy steering?
That obviously depends on who is doing the steering. It almost always has been the most powerful nations that organize the world in ways that transfer income and property to themselves. From the Roman Empire through modern Europe such transfers took mainly the form of military seizure and tribute. The Norman conquerors endowed themselves as a landed aristocracy extracting rent from the populace, as did the Nordic conquerors of France and other countries. Europe later took resources by colonial conquest, increasingly via local client oligarchies.
The post-1945 mode of global integration has outlived its early promise. It has become exploitative rather than supportive of capital investment, public infrastructure and living standards.
In the sphere of trade, countries need to rebuild their self-sufficiency in food grains and other basic needs. In the financial sphere, the ability of banks to create credit (loans) at almost no cost on their computer keyboards has led North America and Europe to become debt ridden, and now seeks to move into Brazil and other BRIC countries by financing buyouts or lending against their natural resources, real estate, basic infrastructure and industry. Speculators, arbitrageurs and financial institutions using “free money” see these economies as easy pickings. But by obliging countries to defend themselves financially, their predatory credit creation is ending the era of free capital movements.
Does Brazil really need inflows of foreign credit for domestic spending when it can create this at home? Foreign lending ends up in its central bank, which invests its reserves in US Treasury and Euro bonds that yield low returns and whose international value is likely to decline against the BRIC currencies. So accepting credit and buyout “capital inflows” from the North provides a “free lunch” for key-currency issuers of dollars and Euros, but does not help local economies much.
The natural history of debt and financialization
by ilene - September 5th, 2010 5:11 pm
Galen contributed a substantial amount to the Hippocratic understanding of pathology. Under Hippocrates’ bodily humors theory, differences in human moods come as a consequence of imbalances in one of the four bodily fluids: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. Galen advanced this theory, creating a typology of human temperaments. An imbalance of each humor corresponded with a particular human temperament (blood-sanguine, black bile-melancholic, yellow bile-choleric, and phlegm-phlegmatic). Individuals with sanguine temperaments are extroverted and social. Choleric people have energy, passion and charisma. Melancholics are creative, kind and considerate. Phlegmatic temperaments are characterized by dependability, kindness, and affection.
While that theory proved wrong, Galen made some interesting contributions to medical science:
Galen’s principal interest was in human anatomy, but Roman law had prohibited the dissection of human cadavers since about 150 BCE. Because of this restriction, Galen performed anatomical dissections on living (vivisection) and dead animals, mostly focusing on pigs and primates. This work turned out to be particularly useful because in most cases, the anatomical structures of these animals closely mirror those of humans. Galen clarified the anatomy of the trachea and was the first to demonstrate that the larynx generates the voice. Galen may have understood the importance of artificial ventilation, because in one of his experiments he used bellows to inflate the lungs of a dead animal.
Among Galen’s major contributions to medicine was his work on the circulatory system. He was the first to recognize that there were distinct differences between venous (dark) and arterial (bright) blood. Although his many anatomical experiments on animal models led him to a more complete understanding of the circulatory system, nervous system, respiratory system and other structures, his work was not without scientific inaccuracies. Wikipedia.
Courtesy of Tim at Psy-Fi Blog
In an entertaining piece Economics is Hard. Don’t Let Bloggers Tell You Otherwise Kartik Athreya of the Fed in Richmond has suggested that financial bloggers are a mentally incontinent bunch, pathologically incapable of stopping themselves from opining on financial matters on which they actually offer no insight. Now, leaving aside the question of whether we want our professional economists to be entertaining, this opens up the question of whether untrained commentators can…
58 out of 58 Economists Overoptimistic on Philly Fed Manufacturing Estimate; Median Forecast +7 Actual Result -7.7, a “Veritable Disaster”
by ilene - August 19th, 2010 3:19 pm
58 out of 58 Economists Overoptimistic on Philly Fed Manufacturing Estimate; Median Forecast +7 Actual Result -7.7, a "Veritable Disaster"
Courtesy of Mish
They may call economics the "dismal science" but it would be hard pressed to find a more optimistic lot than economists, anywhere in private industry.
Fresh on the heels of a perfect 42 of 42 overoptimistic predictions on weekly claims (Please see Weekly Unemployment Claims Hit 500,000, Exceed Every Economist’s Estimate; No Lasting Improvement for 9 Months), a perfect 58 out of 58 Economists were overoptimistic regarding the Philly Fed Manufacturing survey.
Bloomberg reports Factories in Philadelphia Area Unexpectedly Shrink
Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region unexpectedly shrank in August for the first time in a year as orders and sales slumped, a sign factories are being hurt by the U.S. economic slowdown.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index fell to minus 7.7 this month, the lowest reading since July 2009, from 5.1 in July. Readings less than zero signal contraction in the area covering eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.
Economists forecast the measure would rise to 7, according to the median of 58 projections in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from minus 6 to 10.
The Philadelphia Fed’s survey was in sync with a report this week from the Fed Bank of New York. The bank’s so-called Empire State Index increased less than forecast, as orders and sales cooled.
Forecast for "More Modesty"!
“We expect the recovery that we’ve seen in our business to continue, but in a more moderate pace than we’ve experienced in the first half,” Chief Financial Officer Nicholas Fanandakis said on a conference call with analysts.
Fed policy makers last week voted to keep the benchmark interest rate at a record low and made their first attempt to shore up a recovery they said was likely to be “more modest” than earlier anticipated.
Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey
With that undoubtedly overoptimistic "modest recovery" out of the way, please consider actual results from the Philly Fed Business Outlook Survey.
Results from the Business Outlook Survey suggest that regional manufacturing activity weakened in August, after two months of slowing activity. Indexes for general activity, new orders, and shipments all registered negative readings this month.
Firms also reported declines in employment and work hours. The survey’s broad indicators
by ilene - July 31st, 2010 4:01 pm
Courtesy of James D. Hamilton at Econbrowser
"We have met the enemy and he is us," Pogo used to say. Well, we’ve also now met the recovery, and he is ugly.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported today that U.S. real GDP grew at an annual rate of 2.4% during the second quarter. The latest GDP numbers bring our Econbrowser Recession Indicator Index for 2010:Q1 down to 5.4%. This index is based on a very simple pattern-recognition algorithm for characterizing economic recessions. It is not a prediction of where the economy is headed, but rather a backward-looking assessment of where the economy stood as of the first quarter, using today’s 2010:Q2 data release to help inform that assessment.
University of Oregon Professor Jeremy Piger maintains a related index which has been at or below 1% for each month so far of 2010, while the most recent value calculated by U.C. Riverside Professor Marcelle Chauvet‘s algorithm is 7.8%. All three approaches agree that the economy remains in a growth phase that began in the third quarter of last year. A subsequent economic downturn would be described as the beginning of a new recession rather than a continuation of the previous recession.
*The plotted value for each date is based solely on information as it would have been publicly available and reported as of one quarter after the indicated date, with 2010:Q1 the last date shown on the graph. Shaded regions (with the exception of 2007:Q4-2009:Q2) represent dates of NBER recessions, which were not used in any way in constructing the index, and which were sometimes not reported until two years after the date. The most recent recession is shown on the graph as ending in 2009:Q2 as implied by the index; as of this writing the NBER has not yet assigned an end date for this recession.
But a pretty recovery it’s not. The economy has grown by 3.2% in real terms over the last year, about the average annual historical growth rate since World War II. But since recessions are characterized by below-average growth, expansions should typically exhibit above-average growth, and particularly in the first year of an expansion we often see very strong growth as a result of the positive contribution…
by ilene - July 29th, 2010 10:12 am
Courtesy of Tyler Durden
Yesterday’s "paper" (more in the napkin sense than as a synonym for "intellectual effort") by Mark Zandi and Alan Blinder, which was nothing more than a glorified cover letter for selected perma-Keynesian posts in the administration’s Treserve complex, was so outright bad we did not feel compelled to even remotely comment on its (lack of any) substance. A man far smarter than us, Stanford’s John Taylor (the guy who says the Fed Fund rates should be -10%, not the guy who says the EURUSD should be -10), has taken the time to disassemble what passes for analysis by the tag team of a Princeton tenurist (odd how those always end up destroying the US economy when put in positions of power), and a Moody’s economist, who is undoubtedly casting a nervous eye every few minutes on the administration’s plans for EUCs and other jobless claims criteria. Below is his slaughter of dydactic duo’s demented drivel.
From John Taylor’s Economics One:
Yesterday the New York Times published an article about simulations of the effects of fiscal stimulus packages and financial interventions using an old Keynesian model. The simulations were reported in an unpublished working paper by Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi. I offered a short quote for the article saying simply that the reported results were completely different from my own empirical work on the policy responses to the crisis.
I have now had a chance to read the paper and have more to say. First, I do not think the paper tells us anything about the impact of these policies. It simply runs the policies through a model (Zandi’s model) and reports what the model says would happen. It does not look at what actually happened, and it does not look at other models, only Zandi’s own model. I have explained the defects with this type of exercise many times, most recently in testimony at a July 1, 2010 House Budget Committee hearing where Zandi also appeared. I showed that the results are entirely dependent on the model: old Keynesian models (such as Zandi’s model) show large effects and new Keynesian models show small effects. So there is nothing new in the fiscal stimulus part of this paper.
Second, I looked
by ilene - July 20th, 2010 7:40 pm
Courtesy of SHAMUS COOKE writing at CounterPunch
If the U.S. economy eventually recovers and current trends continue, U.S. workers won’t be celebrating in the streets. The corporate establishment has made it clear that a “strong recovery” depends on U.S. workers making “great sacrifices” in the areas of wages, health care, pensions, and more ominously, reductions in so-called “entitlement programs” — Social Security, Medicare, and other social services.
These plans have been discussed at length in corporate think tanks for years, and only recently has the mainstream media begun a coordinated attack to convince American workers of the “necessity” of adopting these policies. The New York Times speaks for the corporate establishment as a whole when it writes:
“American workers are overpaid, relative to equally productive employees elsewhere doing the same work [China for example]. If the global economy is to get into balance, that gap must close.”
“The recession shows that many workers are paid more than they’re worth…The global wage gap has been narrowing [because U.S. workers’ wages are shrinking], but recent labor market statistics in the United States suggest the adjustment has not gone far enough.”
The New York Times solution? “Both moderate inflation to cut real wages [!] and a further drop in the dollar’s real trade-weighted value [monetary inflation to shrink wages] might be acceptable.” (November 11, 2009).
The Atlantic magazine, agrees:
“So how do we keep wages high in the U.S.? We don’t…U.S. workers cannot ultimately continue to have higher wages relative to those in other nations [China, India, etc.] who compete in the same industries.”
President Obama speaks less bluntly about the wage subject for political purposes, but he wholeheartedly agrees with the above opinions, especially when he repeatedly said:
“We must lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity, where we consume less [as a result of lower wages] at home and send more exports abroad.”
So how will Obama implement his economic vision that inspired Wall Street to give him millions during his Presidential campaign? Much of the work is happening automatically, due to the Great Recession. Bloomberg news reports:
“More than half of U.S. workers were either unemployed or experienced reductions in hours or wages since the recession began in December 2007… The worst economic slump since the 1930s has affected 55 percent of
by ilene - July 18th, 2010 2:32 pm
Courtesy of Robert Reich
Missing from almost all discussion of America’s dizzying rate of unemployment is the brute fact that hourly wages of people with jobs have been dropping, adjusted for inflation. Average weekly earnings rose a bit this spring only because the typical worker put in more hours, but June’s decline in average hours pushed weekly paychecks down at an annualized rate of 4.5 percent.
In other words, Americans are keeping their jobs or finding new ones only by accepting lower wages.
Meanwhile, a much smaller group of Americans’ earnings are back in the stratosphere: Wall Street traders and executives, hedge-fund and private-equity fund managers, and top corporate executives. As hiring has picked up on the Street, fat salaries are reappearing. Richard Stein, president of Global Sage, an executive search firm, tells the New York Times corporate clients have offered compensation packages of more than $1 million annually to a dozen candidates in just the last few weeks.
We’re back to the same ominous trend as before the Great Recession: a larger and larger share of total income going to the very top while the vast middle class continues to lose ground.
And as long as this trend continues, we can’t get out of the shadow of the Great Recession. When most of the gains from economic growth go to a small sliver of Americans at the top, the rest don’t have enough purchasing power to buy what the economy is capable of producing.
America’s median wage, adjusted for inflation, has barely budged for decades. Between 2000 and 2007 it actually dropped. Under these circumstances the only way the middle class could boost its purchasing power was to borrow, as it did with gusto. As housing prices rose, Americans turned their homes into ATMs. But such borrowing has its limits. When the debt bubble finally burst, vast numbers of people couldn’t pay their bills, and banks couldn’t collect.
Each of America’s two biggest economic downturns over the last century has followed the same pattern. Consider: in 1928 the richest 1 percent of Americans received 23.9 percent of the nation’s total income. After that, the share going to the richest 1 percent steadily declined. New Deal reforms, followed by World War II, the GI Bill and the Great Society expanded the…
by ilene - June 18th, 2010 12:05 pm
As usual, Steve presents a very balanced view of economic matters. Always worth reading. – Ilene
Courtesy of Steve Randy Waldman at Interfluidity
I’ve been on whatever planet I go to when I’m not writing. Don’t ask, your guess is as good as mine.
When I checked out out a few weeks ago, there was a debate raging on “fiscal austerity”. Checking back in, it continues to rage. In the course of about a half an hour, I’ve read about ten posts on the subject. See e.g. Martin Wolf and Yves Smith, Mike Konczal, and just about everything Paul Krugman has written lately. While I’ve been writing, Tyler Cowen has a new post, which is fantastic. Mark Thoma has delightfully named one side of the debate the “austerians”. Surely someone can come up with a cleverly risqué coinage for those in favor of stimulus?
Here are some obvious points:
Austerity is stupid. Austerity is first-order stupid whenever there are people to whom the opportunity cost of providing goods and services that others desire is negative. To some economists, that sentence is a non sequitur. After all, nothing prevents people from providing goods and services for free, if doing the work is more beneficial to them than alternative uses of their time right? Economists who make this argument need to get out more. Doing paid work has social meaning beyond the fact of the activity, and doing what is ordinarily paid work for free has a very different social meaning. It is perfectly possible, and perfectly common, that a person’s gains from doing work are greater than their total pay, so that in theory you could confiscate their wages or pay them nothing and they would still do the job. But in practice, you can’t do that, because if you don’t actually pay them, it is no longer paid work. The nonmonetary benefits of work are inconveniently bundled with a paycheck. Under this circumstance, having the government pay for the work is welfare improving unless the second-order costs of government spending exceed both the benefits to the worker in excess of pay and the benefit to consumers or users of the goods and services purchased.
by ilene - May 31st, 2010 5:24 am
Courtesy of Tim at The Psy-Fi Blog
Clever Man, Stupid Idea
Simon-Pierre Laplace was a Very Clever Man who did many Very Clever Things. Unfortunately, like many clever men, having got hold of a Brilliant Idea he was rather inclined to go off and use it on everything in sight, which led to a number of Very Odd Conclusions. In fact as far as science goes, he may well have been the original man with a hammer; taking aim at every problem as though it was a nail.
As is the way of these things economists got hold of Laplace’s ideas, converted them to their own and started developing delicate and intricate webs of theories and practices. Unfortunately, over the succeeding three hundred years they’ve failed to keep up with advances in physics and biology, rather leaving economists as the only believers in an approach that suggests we have no free will, a position from which they’re having to be dug out and defused, one unexploded theorist at a time.
When Isaac Newton published his theory of gravity he knew it contained a serious flaw; his equations didn’t exactly match what was observed. He reckoned, correctly, that the differences between his theory and the observations were down to the gravitational effect on the planets of other planets – so called perturbations, which he didn’t know how to mathematically model. He said:
“But to consider simultaneously all these causes of motion and to define these motions by exact laws admitting of easy calculation exceeds, if I am not mistaken, the force of any human mind.”
And, of course, he was mistaken. The force of Laplace’s mind successfully solved the problem. Having achieved this, though, Laplace went a stage further. Because he could exactly calculate the position of any planet he could compare this with the results of observations from astronomers. What he discovered changed human history.
It turned out that observers made errors, but they made them in a particular way – their observations fell about the actual position of the planet in a very distinctive pattern. This pattern, of course, was the ultra-familiar Bell curve or normal distribution. Laplace realised that human error was statistically quantifiable and, therefore, could be effectively eliminated from the data. This…