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July 05, 2011


I give no credence to economic predictions from Lindsay Lohan nor from her critic, Annie Lowrey. Lowrey wrote:

It [the idea that the Fed's printing of money will lead to high inflation] is, needless to say, an unconventional position on monetary policy for a Hollywood starlet—or anyone else. [emphasis added]

By using the phrase "needless to say," Lowrey is claiming that her side of the debate is so obvious that an argument need not be made. This debating tactic is often used when one's argument is weak. That's the case here. Lowrey's proof is essentially that the Fed's printing of money hasn't led to high inflation yet. However, this year's inflation rate tells us little about what will happen over the next few years.

Lowrey ignores the fact that from the end of 2010 to the end of May, 2011, the Consumer Price Index rose at an annual rate of 8.7%, as compared with 1.5% for the full year 2010.

This high rate was substantially due to rises in oil and food prices, which may moderate going forward. OTOH, our weak economy has held inflation down. Workers are in no position to demand raises when the unemployment rate exceeds 9%. And, the drop in home prices has been significantly reducing the CPI.

It's no wonder that "I am not a Muslim" doesn't convince people. It sounds like the famous Nixon quote, "I am not a crook." That sure didn't work for Nixon. I think most of us took Nixon's quote as a virtual admission that he was a crook.

IMHO Adam Serwer's column is worthless. It's not about what Dominique Strauss-Kahn did. It's about somebody's fantasy about what he did.

In fact, Serwer's analysis may be worse than worthless. A reader might overlook the fact that the scenario being discussed didn't actually happen. (Or, more precisely, the fact that there's no reason to believe that this scenario happened.) Thus, a reader's opinion may be improperly impacted by the imaginery scenario.

James Fallows is an excellent pundit, but when it comes to Fox News, not so much. Fallows wrote:

I say that notwithstanding the certainty that if some other "mainstream" journalist had said the same about George W. Bush on MSNBC or CNN, the outrage would never have been allowed to ebb on Fox and the Limbaugh show.

Fallows offers no evidence that Fox would behave this way. In fact, MSNBC moderators were sometimes comparably offensive about Bush, and these incidents did not lead to unending outrage on Fox.

P.S. It's amusing that in a column about offensive language Fallows endorses a column by Andrew Sullivan saying that Republicans "put a gun to the head of the US and global economy", that they "abandon[ed] the last shreds of a conservative disposition" and calling Republicans "fanatics".

Jonathan Bernstein dings Bachman for saying that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be no big deal. Bernstein quotes someone named Stan Collander who, "reminds us that, regardless of what else happens, promised credit rating downgrades would be devastating..."

A couple of observations

1. Bernstein seems to implicitly assume that failing to raise the debt limit will cause the US to default on its loans and will cause lower debt ratings.

2. Collander can't "remind us" of the impact of not raising the debt ceiling, because nobody really knows what the impact will be. Collander and Bernstein are entitled to predict their opinion of the impact. So is Bachman.

Is it really true that failing to increase the debt limit means defaulting on existing loans? Let's try a thought experiment. Suppose you have been spending 150% of your income for the last 18 months. You make ends meet by continual increased bank borrowing. Now the bank says they will lend you no more money. Do this mean you must default on your existing loans? Of course not. You could cut your spending to be in line with your income.

Similarly, if faced with a debt limit, Congress and the President have the power to cut federal spending down to what's affordable. In fact, I believe President could unilaterally cut some spending by instructing executive departments not to spend the full amount of money authorized by Congress.

Yglesias dings Obama for "disappointing policy outcomes out financial regulation or the public option or immigration reform or climate change." That is, Obama hasn't achieved liberal goals on these issues. Other liberals ding Obama for being too much like Bush by continuing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, continuing harsh questioning policies, etc.

Meanwhile, conservatives ding Obama for being too liberal. E.g., health reform, permanent increase in the level of federal spending, undermining Israel, being too friendly to America's enemies. abusing government powers to benefit labor unions.

Why is Obama simultaneously seen as too liberal and not liberal enough? IMHO two reasons

1. He ran a somewhat undefined campaign of Hope and Change. It worked. It allowed each supporter to imagine that Obama would do things that supporter favored. In the real world, no President could have satisfied all these disparate desires.

2. Obama has taken some notable actions, but they mostly haven't worked that well. Health Reform is widely considered a bad law. The economy got worse after passage of the nearly trillion-dollar stimulus. Obama's new approach to foreign policy hasn't yielded any victories. If Obama could point with pride to the things he did accomplish, I think people like Yglesias would complain less about the things he failed to accomplish.

Maybe lighter cars would reduce traffic deaths, but the study cited by Brendan doesn't prove it. The study shows that being hit by a heavier vehicle increases one's chance of death. But, it ignores the fact that driving a heavier vehicle reduces one's chance of death. The unanswered question is which of these two effects is bigger. In other words, would there be fewer deaths if we all drove lighter vehicles than if we all drove heavier vehicles?

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