Archive for August 2021


End stupid monetary policy debates

As I see it, there are two types of debates over real world monetary policy. In one debate, one side says monetary policy is obviously way off course. The other sides concedes that aggregate demand (AD) is not where we’d like it, but suggests there’s not much the central bank can and/or should do about it. These are stupid debates. In the second kind of debate, reasonable people will disagree as to whether growth in AD is likely to be excessive or inadequate going forward. These are intelligent debates.

I can’t emphasize enough that you do not want to live in a time where the first type of debate is occurring. Those are bad times, at least regarding monetary policy. And not just bad, obviously bad. People sometimes claim that there are periods where asset prices are obviously wrong (usually excessively high.) Actually, those asset price bubbles do not exist. But there really are times where monetary policy is obviously off course, as we don’t have the sort of NGDP future market targeting that would prevent those policy fiascos.

What are some examples of periods where monetary policy is obviously way off course? At a minimum, I’d say 1930-35, most of 1968-81 and 2009-14. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty more periods where monetary policy was off course in my opinion, I’m just listing a few periods where it’s patently obvious that either more AD or less AD would have been desirable.

Jay Powell’s Fed has given us reasonable monetary policy. Lots of Keynesian economists seem to think the economy would benefit from more AD. That view is certainly implicit in concerns expressed that the expiration of the $300 bonus payments in the unemployment insurance program will reduce AD. Larry Summers has a recent piece that suggests that monetary policy is too expansionary, i.e., that AD will be excessive going forward. That’s an intelligent debate.

It’s really nice to live in a world where this sort of intelligent debate is taking place. We need a monetary regime where the first type of debate never occurs. We need to do whatever it takes to avoid a situation where everyone agrees the economy needs more AD, or less AD, but people doubt whether the Fed can or should address the problem. The Fed always can and should address the problem—if we are debating that issue then we are in a very dysfunctional place.

My dream is that I never again see the sort of policy debate we had during the Great Depression, the Great Inflation, or the Great Recession, where almost everyone believes that more or less AD would be helpful, but most people don’t want the Fed to do anything about it.

End stupid monetary policy in order to end stupid monetary policy debates.

Heaven’s Gate, Jonestown and the NRB

Matt Yglesias linked to this:

The spokesman for a major evangelical nonprofit was fired for promoting vaccines on the MSNBC “Morning Joe” cable news show, Religion News Service has learned.

Daniel Darling, senior vice president of communications for the National Religious Broadcasters, was fired Friday (Aug. 27) after refusing to admit his pro-vaccine statements were mistaken, according to a source authorized to speak for Darling.

Does that mean they’d refuse to vote for vaccine advocates like Donald Trump?

PS. Don’t know what the NRB is? Here’s their credo:

NRB is a nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers. NRB works to protect the free speech rights of our members by advocating those rights in governmental, corporate, and media sectors, and works to foster excellence, integrity, and accountability in our membership by providing networking, educational, ministry, and relational opportunities. 

Corporate free speech? You mean they aren’t just against government censorship? They also believe that private organizations should mostly refrain from censoring their members? Especially when the speech is pro-life? That’s my view too!

Proust’s kaleidoscope

This is from volume 2 of In Search of Lost Time:

The people who lived in such an atmosphere imagined that the impossibility of ever inviting an “opportunist”—still, more a “horrid radical”—was something that would endure for ever, like oil-lamps and horse-drawn omnibuses. But, like a kaleidoscope which is every now and then given a turn, society arranges successively in different orders elements which one would have supposed immutable, and composes a new pattern. Before I made my first Communion, right-minded ladies had had the stupefying experience of meeting an elegant Jewess while paying a social call. These new arrangements of the kaleidoscope are produced by what a philosopher would call a “change of criterion”. The Dreyfus case brought about another, at a period rather later than that in which I began to go to Mme Swann’s, and the kaleidoscope once more reversed its colored lozenges. Everything Jewish, even the elegant lady herself, went down, and various obscure nationalists rose to take its place. The most brilliant salon in Paris was that of an ultra-Catholic Austrian prince. If instead of the Dreyfus case there had come a war with Germany, the pattern of the kaleidoscope would have taken a turn in the other direction. The Jews having shown, to the general astonishment, that they were patriots, would have kept their position, and no one would any longer have cared to go, or even to admit that he had ever gone any longer to the Austrian prince’s. None of this alters the fact, however, that whenever society is momentarily stationary, the people who live in it imagine that no further change will occur, just as, in spite of having witnessed the birth of the telephone, they decline to believe in the aeroplane. Meanwhile, the philosophers of journalism are at work castigating the preceding epoch, and not only the kind of pleasures in which it indulged, which seem to them to be the last word in corruption, but even the work of its artists and philosophers, which have no longer the least value in their eyes, as though they were indissolubly linked to the successive moods of fashionable frivolity. The one thing that does not change is that at any and every time it appears that there have been “great changes.”

Check this out tweet from not so long ago (notice the date):

Oh how the turntable turns.

And this:

The mayor of Boston said the city won’t be following New York’s lead requiring proof of vaccination at many indoor businesses, claiming the move is reminiscent of “slavery” and birtherism.

Acting Mayor Kim Janey — the first woman and black Bostonian to hold the office — said “there’s a long history” in the United States of people “needing to show their papers” when asked Tuesday about the mandate unveiled earlier in the day by Mayor Bill de Blasio that requires proof of vaccination to enter indoor restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms starting on Sept. 13.

PS. This is from volume 3 of ISOLT:

But, for one thing, however fiercely the anti-Dreyfus cyclone might be raging, it is not in the first hour of a storm that the waves are at their worst.

How far along are we in the Trump cyclone?

PPS. The quotation on top is taken from a four page long paragraph. Proust’s classic isn’t so long if measured in terms of number of paragraphs, rather than in terms of page or word count.

PPPS. One of my earliest memories is of seeing a big two volume book on my parent’s bookshelf, entitled “Remembrance of Things Past.” I know that’s not the “correct” translation of the title, but you know how memories of one’s childhood are. . . .

Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene lead the GOP

Back in 2016, Trump specifically disavowed racist anti-semites like David Duke:

Donald Trump issued a crystal clear disavowal Thursday of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke after stumbling last weekend over a question about the hate group leader on CNN.

“David Duke is a bad person, who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Today, Trump raves about racist anti-semites like Marjorie Taylor Greene:

I’m not sure if people have processed the fact that today’s Trump is not like the Trump of 2016, he’s far worse. You might believe that the leaders of the GOP denounce Greene:

The candidate, Marjorie Taylor Greene, suggested that Muslims do not belong in government; thinks black people “are held slaves to the Democratic Party”; called George Soros, a Jewish Democratic megadonor, a Nazi; and said she would feel “proud” to see a Confederate monument if she were black because it symbolizes progress made since the Civil War. . . .

“These comments are appalling, and Leader McCarthy has no tolerance for them,” said Drew Florio, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) went further, throwing his weight behind Greene’s opponent.

“The comments made by Ms. Greene are disgusting and don’t reflect the values of equality and decency that make our country great,” Scalise said in a statement. “I will be supporting Dr. Cowan.”

But people like McCarthy and Scalise are not the leaders of the GOP. Trump is the real leader of the GOP, and close ally Greene is one of his favorite people.

Here’s Wikipedia:

Greene has promoted numerous far-right, white supremacist, and antisemitic conspiracy theories including the white genocide conspiracy theory,[7][8] QAnon, and Pizzagate,[9][10] as well as other disproven conspiracy theories such as false flag mass shootings, the Clinton body count, and those related to 9/11.[11][12] Before running for Congress, she advocated for executing prominent Democratic politicians.[13] As a congresswoman, she equated the Democratic Party with Nazis[14][15] and compared COVID-19 safety measures to the persecution of Jews during the Holocaust.[16] She apologized for the latter comparison.[17]

A supporter of Trump’s efforts to overturn his loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Greene has repeatedly and falsely claimed that Trump won the election in a landslide victory that was stolen from him.[18] She called for Georgia’s election results to be decertified[19] and was among a group of Republican legislators who unsuccessfully challenged votes for Biden during the Electoral College vote count, even though federal agencies and courts overseeing the election found no evidence of electoral fraud.[20] Greene filed articles of impeachment against Biden the day after his inauguration, alleging abuse of power.[21][22]

What a lovely lady.

August 21, 2021

The GOP has a vaccine problem. Whether fairly or unfairly, the media is hammering the GOP for being anti-vax and anti-mask. Republicans will reply that they are not anti-vax, just pro-choice. Nonetheless, the media is relentlessly portraying the GOP as anti-vax, and that perception is beginning to take hold.

Consider that on just a single day (August 21, 2021) I saw no fewer than four big headlines about four different GOP people associated with opposition to vaccines or masks who died of Covid (in one case a wife):

This last article contains the following:

In the GOP circles where Apley was well known, however, there was little mention of covid-19 or how to prevent it. Two days after mourning their former vice chairman in a Facebook post that did not say what put him on a ventilator, the Galveston County Republican Party shared a far-right website’s medical-evidence-free claim that immunization against the coronavirus had killed a young conservative activist. “Another tragedy – From the Vaccine!!!!!” they warned.

I find this concentration of anti-vax sentiment in the GOP to be rather odd. Vaccines were originally presented as an alternative to all the lifestyle changes that so many Republicans hate. Vaccines were the magic bullet when bleach didn’t pan out.

The GOP has become a Donald Trump personality cult, where mere criticism of Trump’s behavior caused even a hard core Republican like Liz Cheney to be excommunicated and replaced by a New York moderate who opposed the border wall and voted against Trump’s tax cuts. But on the issue of vaccines, no one listens to (pro-vax) Trump. It’s an almost perfect example of the nature of a personality cult. Republicans could not care less what Trump thinks about vaccines; all that matters is that members of the tribe must be personally loyal to Trump.