Paul Krugman | Bitcoin, Inflation and the Misguided Fear of Government Money Creation – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“I had some fun yesterday with a tweet by Josh Mandel, the would-be MAGA senator from Ohio, who has declared his allegiance to fundamental American values: God, family and Bitcoin. I didn’t have space to go on about some of the things he has said about Bitcoin, which really is at the center of his campaign. But I was struck in particular by this tweet from October, in which he appears to assert that fiat money (dollars aren’t backed by anything except their official role as legal tender, and dollars can be created at the discretion of appointed officials at the Fed) is a crucial enabler of inflationary spending:

Mockery aside, is there any truth to that assertion? Has the U.S. government relied on the printing press to cover deficits and thereby fed inflation?”

This column is well worth finishing, and the reward is at the end.

Krugman recomends a cover band

doing the Beatles song Taxman.

Paul Krugman | 2021’s Overlooked Economic Recovery – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Grumpy New Year! There probably weren’t many Americans who started 2022 feeling celebratory. We’re going through yet another Covid wave, which is scary and wearying even though Omicron appears to pose a relatively low risk of serious illness if you’re fully vaccinated. Holiday travel was a mess, with the combination of the pandemic and severe weather causing thousands of flight cancellations.

Yet there’s a good chance that once time has passed and we’ve had a chance to regain perspective, we’ll consider 2021 to have been a very good year, at least in some ways. In particular, although nobody seemed to notice, it was a year of spectacular economic recovery — and one in which many dire warnings failed to come true.

Let me give you some background. Here’s the U.S. unemployment rate since 1979, the beginning of a nasty double-dip recession that was, at the time, the worst slump to hit America since the 1930s:”

Credit…FRED”

Paul Krugman | The Viral Lies About Covid That Keep Killing Us – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“A year ago it seemed reasonable to hope that by early 2022 we’d mainly be talking about Covid — or at least Covid as a major health and quality-of-life issue — in the past tense. Effective vaccines had been developed with miraculous speed; surely a sophisticated nation like the United States would find a way to get those vaccines quickly and widely distributed.

So why didn’t we get past the pandemic? Part of the problem has been the creativity of viral evolution. The Delta variant shocked us with its lethality; now Omicron is shocking us with its transmissibility. Still, we could and should have done far better. And the main reason we didn’t was the power of politically motivated lies.

Before I get to the specifics of those lies and the damage they’ve done, let’s be clear: Yes, this is about politics.

I know I’m not the only commentator who has faced a lot of pushback against emphasizing the partisan nature of vaccine resistance. We’re constantly reminded that many unvaccinated Americans aren’t Republican loyalists, that there are multiple reasons people won’t get or at least haven’t gotten their shots. All this is true; but politics has nonetheless played a crucial — and growing — role.

Look, for example, at a KFF survey from October, which found that 60 percent of the unvaccinated identified as Republicans, compared with only 17 percent who identified as Democrats. Or look at the invaluable Charles Gaba’s analysis of county-level data, which finds that on average a one percentage point higher Trump share of the 2020 vote corresponds to about a half-point reduction in a county’s current vaccination rate.”

“. . . . .  So none of this makes any sense — not, that is, unless you realize that Republican vaccine obstructionism isn’t about serving a coherent ideology, it was and is about the pursuit of power. A successful vaccination campaign would have been a win for the Biden administration, so it had to be undermined using any and every argument available.

Sure enough, the anti-vaccine strategy has worked politically. The persistence of Covid has helped keep the nation’s mood dark, which inevitably hurts the party that holds the White House — so Republicans who have done all they can to prevent an effective response to Covid have not hesitated, even for a moment, in blaming Biden for failing to end the pandemic.

And the success of destructive vaccine politics is itself deeply horrifying. It seems that utter cynicism, pursued even at the cost of your supporters’ lives, pays.”  -30-

Paul Krugman | What We Lose if We Don’t Build Back Better – The New York Times

“I’ll leave the savvy political analysis to others. I don’t know why Senator Joe Manchin apparently decided to go back on an explicit promise he made to President Biden. Naïvely, I thought that even in this era of norm-breaking, honoring a deal you’ve just made would be one of the last norms to go, since a reputation for keeping your word once given is useful even to highly cynical politicians. I also don’t know what, if anything, can be saved from the Build Back Better framework.

What I do know is that there will be huge human and, yes, economic costs if Biden’s moderate but crucial spending plans fall by the wayside.

Failure to enact a decent social agenda would condemn millions of American children to poor health and low earnings in adulthood — because that’s what growing up in poverty does. It would condemn millions more to inadequate medical care and financial ruin if they got ill, because that’s what happens when people lack adequate health insurance. It would condemn hundreds of thousands, maybe more, to unnecessary illness and premature death from air pollution, even aside from the intensified risk of climate catastrophe.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
The Democrats should drop Build Back Better, and do the parts separately, starting with the climate change mitigation pieces. They should be able to get some Republican votes on climate change, and perhaps some of the others as well.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Paul Krugman | How the G.O.P. Became Saboteurs, Threatening a Government Shutdown – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/02/opinion/republicans-government-shutdown.html

“. . . Under Obama, leading Republicans claimed that their fiscal brinkmanship was motivated by concerns about budget deficits. Some of us argued even at the time that self-proclaimed deficit hawks were phonies, that they didn’t actually care about government debt — a view validated by their silence when the Trump administration blew up the deficit — and that they actually wanted to see the economy suffer on Obama’s watch. But they maintained enough of a veneer of responsibility to fool many commentators.

This time, Republican obstructionists aren’t even pretending to care about red ink. Instead, they’re threatening to shut everything down unless the Biden administration abandons its efforts to fight the coronavirus with vaccine mandates.

What’s that about? As many observers have pointed out, claims that opposition to vaccine mandates (and similar opposition to mask mandates) is about maintaining personal freedom don’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny. No reasonable definition of freedom includes the right to endanger other people’s health and lives because you don’t feel like taking basic precautions.

Furthermore, actions by Republican-controlled state governments, for example in Florida and Texas, show a party that isn’t so much pro-freedom as it is pro-Covid. How else can you explain attempts to prevent private businesses — whose freedom to choose was supposed to be sacrosanct — from requiring that their workers be vaccinated, or offers of special unemployment benefits for the unvaccinated?

In other words, the G.O.P. doesn’t look like a party trying to defend liberty; it looks like a party trying to block any effective response to a deadly disease. Why is it doing this?

To some extent it surely reflects a coldly cynical political calculation. Voters tend to blame whichever party holds the White House for anything bad that happens on its watch, which creates an incentive for a sufficiently ruthless party to engage in outright sabotage. Sure enough, Republicans who fought all efforts to contain the coronavirus are now attacking the Biden administration for failing to end the pandemic.  . . . “

Paul Krugman  | What Europe Can Teach Us About Jobs – The New York Times

“Americans have a hard time learning from foreign experience. Our size and the role of English as an international language (which reduces our incentive to learn other tongues) conspire to make us oblivious to alternative ways of living and the possibilities of change.

Our insularity may be especially damaging when it comes to countries with whom we have a lot in common. Western Europe is our technological equal; labor productivity in northern Europe is just a little below productivity here. But Europe’s policies and institutions are very unlike ours, and we could learn a lot by looking at how those differences have played out. Unfortunately, any suggestion that Europe does something we might want to emulate tends to be shouted down with cries of “socialism.”

“. . .  Finally, let me offer a speculative hypothesis: Perhaps one reason Europeans aren’t engaging in an American-style Great Resignation is that they don’t hate their jobs quite as much.

Anecdotally, one factor behind Americans’ unwillingness to return to their old jobs is that enforced idleness during the pandemic gave many people a chance to reconsider their life choices — and a significant number may have realized that low-paying jobs with lousy working conditions weren’t worth having.

Of course, Europe is by no means a worker’s paradise. But some jobs that are grueling and poorly paid here are less awful on the other side of the Atlantic. Famously, in Denmark McDonald’s pays more than $20 an hour and offers six weeks of paid vacation each year. That may be an exceptional case, but the U.S. does stand out among wealthy countries for having a low minimum wage, for offering very little vacation time and for failing to offer parental and sick leave. Maybe the poor quality of U.S. jobs is one reason so many American workers are reluctant to return.

Which brings me to an under-discussed aspect of the current economic scene: Europe’s comparative success in getting workers idled by the pandemic back into the labor force.”

David Lindsay.   Amen.  Here are the two top comments at the NYT:

Ken
Times Pick

How can we possibly learn anything from France, the socialist dump? Have you ever been there? It’s terrible, all they have is great food and beautiful parks, amazing museums, walkable cities with excellent public transit, and a culture that values time with friends and family.

9 Replies724 Recommended
Socrates commented November 29

Socrates
Downtown Verona, NJ Nov. 29

Europeans understand inherently that they are part of society. Many Americans fail to grasp the concept of society, preferring the catastrophic and ludicrous myth of “individualism” that has produced moral, intellectual and economic poverty for tens of millions of Americans. They pretend that millionaires and CEOs built companies all by themselves and they fall for that nonsensical myth and they blindly worship “individual” success. No doubt that there are many talented CEOs and business owners who were the driving forces behind their company’s successes, but they all needed a staff and government infrastructure and a stable society to build that success. But Americans have tolerated the broad daylight highway robbery transfer of wealth from worker wages to CEO and executive wages for fifty years now, aided and abetted by the marketing of largely unregulated “capitalism” and greed to the great detriment of workers, who increasingly are relegated to poverty wages. CEO compensation in the USA grew 940% from 1978 to 2019 while typical worker compensation rose just 12% during that time. CEO’s and executives are not gods or superheroes; they’re just people. The federal minimum wage in the USA has been frozen at $7.25 per hour since July 2009, thanks in large part to America’s vulture capitalist culture feverishly peddled to Americans by billionaire right-wing profiteers. America’s vulture capitalists need to be regulated and taxed back to civilization and a decent society.

21 Replies695 Recommended

Paul Krugman | Spending as if the Future Matters – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“For centuries, America has invested taxpayer money in its future. Public funds built physical infrastructure, from the Erie Canal to the interstate highway system. We invested in human capital, too: Universal education came to the United States early, and America basically invented modern public secondary education. This public spending laid the foundations for prosperity and helped make us an economic superpower.

With the rise of the modern right, however, America turned its back on that history. Tax breaks — essentially giving wealthy people money and hoping that it would trickle down — became the solution to every problem. “Infrastructure week” became a punchline under Donald Trump partly because the Trump team’s proposals were more about crony capitalism than about investment, partly because Trump never showed the will to override conservatives who opposed any significant new spending.

Now Joe Biden is trying to revive the tradition of public spending oriented toward the future.”

Paul Krugman | Inflation Headlines Don’t Tell the Whole Story – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Early this year some prominent economists warned that President Biden’s American Rescue Plan — the bill that sent out those $1,400 checks — might be inflationary. People like Larry Summers, who was Barack Obama’s top economist, and Olivier Blanchard, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, aren’t unthinking deficit hawks. On the contrary, before Covid hit, Summers advocated sustained deficit spending to fight economic weakness, and Blanchard was an important critic of fiscal austerity in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.”

Paul Krugman | History Says Don’t Panic About Inflation – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

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“Back in July the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers posted a thoughtful article to its blog titled, “Historical Parallels to Today’s Inflationary Episode.” The article looked at six surges in inflation since World War II and argued persuasively that current events don’t look anything like the 1970s. Instead, the closest parallel to 2021’s inflation is the first of these surges, the price spike from 1946 to 1948.

Wednesday’s consumer price report was ugly; inflation is running considerably hotter than many people, myself included, expected. But nothing about it contradicted C.E.A.’s analysis — on the contrary, the similarity to early postwar inflation looks stronger than ever. What we’re experiencing now is a lot more like 1947 than like 1979.

And here’s what you need to know about that 1946-48 inflation spike: It was a one-time event, not the start of a protracted wage-price spiral. And the biggest mistake policymakers made in response to that inflation surge was failing to appreciate its transitory nature: They were still fighting inflation even as inflation was ceasing to be a problem, and in so doing helped bring on the recession of 1948-49.”