Thursday, November 08, 2012

Economic Compromise Or Creativity


Econbrowser is a blog written by a "liberal" economist, Menzie Chinn, from the University of Wisconsin Madison and a somewhat "conservative" economist, James D. Hamilton, from the University of California San Diego.

Yesterday's post was about...

Finding compromise
President Obama won a second term in office yesterday, receiving 50.3% of the popular vote But the Republicans held control of the House of Representatives and Americans remain deeply divided. Historically, the party in control of the White House loses some congressional seats in the midterm elections. That means that any legislation passed into law over the next two years, and likely the next four years, is going to have to be agreed to by both a Democratic President and a Republican House.
Perhaps the Democrats and Republicans will face up to the fact that, for better or worse, we're stuck rowing the same boat together for the foreseeable future, so it's time to strike a Grand Compromise setting the United States' long-run fiscal house in order. Any objective observer can see that this calls for both tax increases and entitlement reform. Perhaps some leaders on both sides will emerge from the embers left by the election wars to carry such a vision into action. But based on what I have seen from the key players so far, I personally am not expecting to see that happen. [more]
This is exactly the kind of thinking that boxes us in and prevents addressing real problem sources.  My comment:
Somehow, the idea that there are only two aspects to the budget issue has blocked other thinking. Raise revenue or cut spending. It is a problem of framing.
When you believe that you can only tax more or cut spending you fail to get to root cause for many of the government programs, to wit: the programs are bloated, inefficient, and wasteful.
Now the simple view is that when you simply cut spending you fix the bloated, inefficient, and wasteful aspects of these programs. That would be incorrect. You may reduce the scale of the issues, but you have not addressed the root causes... and you deliver less as a result.
Medicare studies show that there is somewhere between 10-20% waste/fraud built in. Presume it is 20% and you cut spending by 10%. You haven't reduced the waste and fraud relative to the total spending. You've just reduced what the program delivers. Cut the waste and fraud in half and you can cut spending by 10%, not increase revenues, and deliver the same amount of services.
So, while those who say the number show a need for $X tax increases or $Y spending cuts may be technically correct, they are process/product incorrect.
I would venture a guess that at least 10%, probably more, of the federal spending is waste/fraud related and could be fixed. It might take some creativity not necessarily endemic in the government to actually accomplish this mighty feat of discipline, but it could be done without needless pain. 
Strangely, no one seems interested in real problem solving.  Cut spending or raise taxes or both... just don't fix the underlying problem.  That's like pouring perfume on a corpse to hide the stench.

Can"t Find It?

Use the SEARCH BLOG feature at the upper left. For example, try "Global Warming".

You can also use the "LABELS" below or at the end of each post to find related posts.

Blog Archive

Cost of Gasoline - Enter Your Zipcode or Click on Map

CO2 Cap and Trade

There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

My photo
Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)