Stuff I Read This Week, 1/20/11
Forgot the first one last week – one of the more important pieces published recently.
What Caused the Financial Crisis? The Big Lie Goes Viral– Barry Ritzholtz. “Wall Street has its own version: Its Big Lie is that banks and investment houses are merely victims of the crash. You see, the entire boom and bust was caused by misguided government policies. It was not irresponsible lending or derivative or excess leverage or misguided compensation packages, but rather long-standing housing policies that were at fault. Indeed, the arguments these folks make fail to withstand even casual scrutiny. But that has not stopped people who should know better from repeating them.”
The ECB’s iPhone Game Focuses Exclusively on Inflation, Ignoring Economic Growth – by Pedro da Costa. You know, exactly like the real-life ECB.
Large-Scale Housing Arbitrage – Matthew Kahn. Kahn cites this NYT article by Kate Murphy about moving houses slated to be destroyed to new locations, pointing out that if “arbitragers… purchase these cheap physical Detroit structures and drag them out of Detroit, then Detroit’s home prices will begin to stabilize.”
I was Wrong, and So are You – by Daniel B. Klein. “I eagerly awaited the results, hoping that the conservatives and especially the libertarians (my side!) would exhibit less myside bias… After a hard look, I realized that they had bombed on the questions that challenged their position. A full tabulation of all 17 questions showed that no group clearly out-stupids the others. They appear about equally stupid when faced with proper challenges to their position.”
Obama Wrote 5% Fewer Rules than Bush – by Mark Drajem and Catherine Dodge. “Obama’s White House approved 613 federal rules during the first 33 months of his term, 4.7 percent fewer than the 643 cleared by President George W. Bush’s administration in the same time frame… Of the 7,247 mass layoffs last year… 18 were the result of government regulation… Of the 3,114 mass layoffs in the first half of this year, 11 were related to government regulation.”
Vouchers for Veterans – by Paul Krugman. “What’s behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense. And because V.H.A. patients are in it for the long term, the agency has a stronger incentive to invest in prevention than private insurers.”
It’s Not the Government Regulations, Stupid – by Steve Benen. “Businesses aren’t hiring more because they need more customers, not fewer regulations.”
Agnostic Carnivores and Global Warming: Why Enviros Go After Coal and Not Cows – by James McWilliams. “As the WPF report shows, veganism offers the single most effective path to reducing global climate change… A global vegan diet (of conventional crops) would reduce dietary emissions by 87 percent… [T]he overall environmental impact of livestock is greater than that of burning coal, natural gas, and crude oil.”
Two Ways to Foil Hackers – by Ezra Klein. “Passwords you think are strong are not necessarily strong, and even if they are strong, they’re only as strong as the weakest account they’re linked to.”
Twelve Thousand Mile USA Road Trip in Five Minutes – by Brian DeFrees via laughingsquid.com and Ezra Klein. Time-lapse footage.
Congress’ Approval Problem in One Chart – by Sen. Michael Bennet via Chris Cilizza. Congress is less popular than the IRS, than BP during the gulf oil spill, than Nixon during Watergate, and – my favorite – the “U.S. Going Communist.”
What Paul Ryan Was Thinking – by Steve Benen. “The House easily defeated a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution this afternoon, despite overwhelming support from Republican lawmakers… Four Republicans broke ranks… and the one that’s likely to get the most attention is House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)… So, what happened?”
The Euro: As Good (and Bad) As Gold – by Peter Coy. “If a country runs chronic deficits, it can’t regain competitiveness through the market’s depreciation of its currency. Under the gold standard, exchange rates were fixed, which is to say the escape hatch of depreciation was locked. Under the euro, exchange rates no longer even exist. The escape hatch has been locked, welded shut, and sat on by the leaders of the Continent’s most powerful economies.”