Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back to the Grindstone

Holy shit.
I know.
The stupidity of the last couple days is astounding, even considering the source. I can't keep slacking. First up, old fashioned catch-up shorters from the end of last week, then I begin the descent into the depths of this week's hell.

Damning with faint praise:

Megan has found a new way to be unprofessional; mistakes with fonts. For some reason when she blockquotes now her entire post switches to the font, margins, and spacing within the blockquote. Sure, it's a small thing, but the woman's title includes the word "editor". She either doesn't look at her work or doesn't give a shit.
As to the post itself, Megan seems to think banks can save themselves by becoming real estate companies, and that everyone with a bad mortgage would rather be homeless.

Do you mind if I rant a minute?:

Oh, boy.

Here's my position on what ended the Great Depression: I don't know.
And therefore no one else in the world does, either.
I also think it's possible that nothing the government did ended the Great Depression. It may be that, like Topsy, it "just growed".
I think it's possible Bugs Bunny ended the recession by reinvigorating the cartoon carrot and bullet market. It may be that every time Elmer Fudd took a shot the unemployment rate dropped a hundredth of a percent, we'll just never know.
And, ummmm, then the font, margins, and spacing change for absolutely no reason. It's like she started speaking in an accent mid conversation for no discernible reason.
Once again, I am driven to quote the immortal Charles Murtaugh: the universe is not here to please you. Fiscal stimulus will make the economy grow faster, or it will not make the economy grow faster, without regard to whether taxation is theft or universal healthcare is an immediate moral imperative. I doubt I'm the only one who is wearied by the way so many of the participants in the debate seem to already know the answer they want, and are merely looking for a set of questions that will get them there most expeditiously. Was there ever a time when people didn't think that tricky economic conundrums could, or should, be used to "prove" that their personal values about the level of taxation and spending are a scientific fact? Probably not. Still, given how important this question is, I wish more people would treat this as a problem to be solved, a question to be answered, rather than a battle to be won.
Just because people's lives are being held in the balance of this artificial debate Megan and allied ideologues are trying to force into the conversation about how to begin fixing the mess Megan's fellow travelers created doesn't mean anyone should act like they give a shit. Megan is totally being dispassionate, when she isn't calling anyone who isn't as confused as she is a jerk.
In any case, as always, do as she says, not as she does. Human failings are for the little people.

A tale of two theories:

Here we see Megan at her conservative pundit "best", trying to use the knowledge imparted by Spencer's comment (Update: That's not our Spencer, I withdraw my lazy semi-endorsement.) to her previous post on the Great Depression as evidence she's totally right. Sure, he was explaining that we do pretty much know why the Great Depression ended, that she's wrong to claim it wasn't over before our entry into WWII, and that a number of FDR's policies demonstrably worked, but all that just adds up to why she doesn't credit him directly when dishonestly restating his words.
Well, maybe not dishonestly, perhaps she's just utterly lost.
If you take money out of the system in taxes, and spend it, you've created barely any stimulus at all, because more than 90% of that money would have been spent by private parties. (At our current savings rates, close to 100%). It's borrowing the money and spending it that creates the stimulative effects.
Maybe there's something I'm missing, but that seems like an amazingly stupid thing to say.
Oops, but that means I'm insulting Krugman.
I'm not really saying anything much different from Paul Krugman, though I'm much more cautious about the marvelous benefits of World War II spending than he is.
Daaaaaaaaa-uuuuuuuuu-iiiii? Gaaaaabbbaabababababbaaaaa?
Are we sure Megan actually speaks english, and not some bizarrely similar entirely personal language where words have radically different meanings?

What do you mean by "New Deal"?:
When you ask whether fiscal stimulus shortened the Great Depression, you should be simply asking

1) Was there a fiscal stimulus
2) Did it shorten the Great Depression?
It is not arguable, in my mind, that FDR's biggest contribution to fixing the mess was fixing the banks, not building dams. But the national narrative puts the FDIC somewhere down there with paying writers for taking oral histories of sharecroppers, and elevates the massive public works projects to center stage.
Because in a nation crippled by unemployment FDR's projects put millions to work building the underpinnings of the national infrastructure we now take for granted? Stupid me, I'm thinking about the little people again. They plain old don't matter except as props. The only important thing is whether financiers were living the high life.
It's also important to point out--which I've done, like, eighty times--that this is not an argument over works projects. It's a technical question: how much does fiscal stimulus do to counteract a really nasty depression? This matters in part because we're not going to build the Hoover Dam again, and we don't need to--we have social insurance to deal with unemployment in a way that we didn't then, and so we don't need to create make work in order to keep people from starving.
Sure, Megan sneeringly dismisses all government works projects as "make-work", and considering the state of our nation's infrastructure we essentially do need to build the Hoover Dam again, but if we give the unemployed a crust of stale bread every day for a couple months the problem will fix itself. Just don't make the mistake of getting caught up in worrying over the little people.

This is getting long, so I'll brb with part two of the catch-up.


spencer said...

Just in case there is any confusion, that comment on Megan's blog was not mine. I refuse to register to comment over there as a matter of principle.

Anonymous said...

um, you don't have to register dumbass.