New radio product

Freshly posted to my radio archives: July 23, 2011 James Galbraith on deficit hysteria and the single-volume collection of four books by his father, John Kenneth Galbraith, published by the Library of Amerca July 16, 2011 Amber Hollibaugh, interim director of Queers for Economic Justice, on the limits of same-sex marriage (see here for more) • Jeff Madrick, author of The Age of Greed, on the emergence of today’s icky economic order July 2, 2011 Christian Parenti, author of Tropic of Chaos, talks about the effects of climate change amidst state collapse, plentiful weaponry, and neoliberalism

What? Me benefit?

I just learned, via Kate Harding on Twitter (who got it from Boing Boing), that about half of beneficiaries of federal benefit programs don’t realize they’ve enjoyed benefits. See table 3, here. Exact numbers: 44% of Social Security beneficiaries say they “have not used a government social program.” Ditto 43% of those who’ve gotten unemployment benefits and Pell Grants, 40% of those on Medicare, and 25% of those on Food Stamps. The numbers are even bigger for what the author of the paper, Suzanne Mettler, calls the “submerged state”—benefits delivered via the tax code. So… Read More

PS: The Riksbank is right

I got a couple of emails asking me whether I agreed or disagreed with the passage from the Riksbank’s philosophy of money that I quoted yesterday. I agree. I guess that makes me a tough customer too—a hard-money Marxist, you might say.

Sweden: no paradise of monetary ease

Several people have commented that my characterization of the Swedish central bank—Sveriges Riksbank—as a pretty tough customer is wrong. They point to a rapid response to the 2008 financial crisis, more dramatic than that of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Yes, the Bank moved quickly to counteract the implosion. It flooded the system with liquidity—and briefly resorted to negative interest rates (though this was a largely symbolic gesture, since Swedish banks rarely borrow from the Riksbank). This is exactly what a central bank should do in the midst of a crisis. It also… Read More

The Economist, a “newspaper,” weighs in

Although for some reason I still subscribe to the thing, I’ve mostly stopped reading The Economist. If you read a good daily newspaper or three—I know, so old-fashioned—who needs all that attitude? I was reminded of why I don’t read the thing by reading a post from one “W.W.,” responding to the great Yglesias-Henwood debate, as excellently amended by Henry Farrell. It includes this remarkable observation: [F]rom my point of view the problem with jobs programmes, as compared to textbook monetary policy, is not that they increase the power of labour relative… Read More

Yglesias & neoliberalism

Matthew Yglesias regrets that his original commentary on monetary policy, and my disagreement with it, got hijacked by Henry Farrell and turned into an analysis of the limits of neoliberalism. (I also stand corrected that Yglesias hasn’t written in favor of a jobs program in the past—apparently he has, though there was no evidence of it in the piece I responded to.) I like what Farrell has to say, and agree with him: there’s a kind of liberal, or neoliberal technocratic approach to politics that boils down to, as Adolph Reed once put it,… Read More

The limits of easy money

[I delivered a condensed version of this as my July 16 radio commentary. It’s a rewrite, with some additional material, of the easy money vs. jobs program debate presented in fragments below.] I’ve been involved in some internet polemics—remember internet polemics, back before the Facebook “like” button made everyone sweet and nice?—that I thought might be worth recounting here. It all started when my friend (and occasional Behind the News guest) Corey Robin, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College, asked for comments on a piece by the liberal blogger Matthew… Read More

Radio commentary, July 2, 2011

[I’ve gotten out of the habit of posting these. Here’s last week’s — this week’s to come later today.] U.S. economic slowdown • the depressing debt ceiling debate   slowdown The mostly weak tone of U.S. economic data continues, following the precedent of disappointment set by the torpid employment report for May. First-time claims for unemployment insurance fell only slightly last week, and the four-week average remains quite high—not at recession levels, but at stalling recovery levels. And the number of people continuing to draw benefits, which had been in a long… Read More

McKinsey was mostly right (cont.)

When McKinsey released its survey showing that many employers were likely to drop coverage rather than comply with the mandates of Obamacare, there was a round of criticism from administration apologists saying the consultancy had gotten it all wrong. Even this august blog was hammered for credulously circulating corporate propaganda, or something like that, by reporting the study (Bye-bye employer health insurance) and declaring its findings “more right than wrong.” Paul Krugman, who is often critical of the Obama administration, nonetheless got into the act, criticizing McKinsey using some second-hand sources— thereby making it clear… Read More

Jobs follow-up: limits of monetary policy

A follow-up to the previous, inspired by another question from Corey: I should have said in there that the reason that quantitative easing hasn’t worked well is that monetary policy is ineffective when an economy is this sick. It’s the classic “pushing on a string” situation. Corps have lots of cash – they’re just not investing or hiring. The financial markets are flush. You need fiscal policy to mobilize all that festering cash. Inflation is now about 4% – all because of commodities, because “core” inflation (ex food and energy) is only… Read More

Why a jobs program is taboo

I just posted this to Facebook in response to a query by Corey Robin about the dismal “debate” on jobs hosted by  The Atlantic, and Matthew Yglesias’ side commentary on it. Corey’s question: why can’t the gov solve the unemployment problem by hiring people? My reaction: Wow, what a collection of tiny little “ideas” that “debate” gathers. It’s up there in tininess with Obama’s jones for patent law reform. Raising the inflation target implies that the Fed has been too tight, when in fact it’s been anything but. It’s been pumping like crazy since the financial crisis… Read More

Cantor: sneering our way to default

So Eric Cantor, the House majority leader who’s short Treasury bonds, is leading the way to default. Via Politico’s Morning Money email: CANTOR IS MASTER OF THE SNEER – WP’s Dana Milbank: “Eric Cantor has perfected the strategic sneer. It comes, frequently, when he answers a reporter’s question about something … Obama has said: The House majority leader’s lip curls up on the left side and a look of disgust washes over his face. … Cantor, who is establishing himself as the lead GOP negotiator with the White House as the Aug. 2… Read More