Archive for January 2011
Excellent column by Dean Baker:
That is pretty much what former Obama adviser Steven Rattner had to say in the Washington Post today. In his piece, Rattner told President Obama:
"don’t blame the talented economists who were advising you …. Creating jobs is a slow and frustrating process in the wake of a tough recession."
Calling the president’s economic advisers "talented" is good for their self-esteem (we know how important that is), but in the real world, their talent as economists must be judged by their performance. Missing the biggest asset bubble in the history of the world (a credential shared by all of the president’s economic advisers) doesn’t speak well for them.
However even more important is their failure to generate jobs for the country’s workers following the bubble’s collapse, which has to be the top priority for economic policy. While job creation might be "hard" other countries have managed to do it. For example, Germany has managed to bring down its unemployment rate from 7.1 percent at the start of the downturn to 6.7 percent today. This was accomplished in spite of the fact that Germany actually had a steeper downturn than the United States.
Mr. Rattner’s piece suggests one of the key causes of the administration’s failure to generate jobs. Rattner highlights the more rapid productivity growth in the United States over the last decade than in other countries, in particular singling out Germany as country with slower growth.
While faster productivity growth is generally better than slower growth, this is not the case when . . .
I did not realize that Sing Sing Sing was written by Louis Prima. I saw the clip below in context: it’s from Hollywood Hotel, and is one of the reasons to watch the movie. Another is the Goodman Small Group session that started practically in the next frame: good shots of Teddy Wilson really swinging at the piano, Lionel Hampton, and others.
However, the U.S. actually has much greater inequality than in any of those countries.
Specifically, the "Gini Coefficient" – the figure economists use to measure inequality – is higher in the U.S.
[Click for graph showing the inequality rate of various nations.]
Gini Coefficients are like golf – the lower the score, the better (i.e. the more equality).
According to the CIA World Fact Book, the U.S. is ranked as the 42nd most unequal country in the world, with a Gini Coefficient of 45.
- Tunisia is ranked the 62nd most unequal country, with a Gini Coefficient of 40.
- Yemen is ranked 76th most unequal, with a Gini Coefficient of 37.7.
- And Egypt is ranked as the 90th most unequal country, with a Gini Coefficient of around 34.4.
And inequality in the U.S. has soared in the last couple of years, since the Gini Coefficient was last calculated, so it is undoubtedly currently much higher.
So why are Egyptians rioting, while the Americans are complacent?
Well, Americans – until recently – have been some of the wealthiest people in the world, with most having plenty of comforts (and/or entertainment) and more than enough to eat.
But another reason is that – as Dan Ariely of Duke University and Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School demonstrate – Americans consistently underestimate the amount of inequality in our nation.
As William Alden wrote last September: . . .
I was picking up some things for GOPM, and I noticed that prepared foods are starting to show up where previously one saw only raw foods. Thus raw foods have less space. I suppose, given that prepared foods, regardless of the health drawbacks, make more money for the company, so eventually we’ll see the raw foods eliminated, with the usual comment, "Oh, nobody asks for that any more," usually said to someone who is in fact asking for it.
In this case, a quarter of the bin that once for used for prepackaged meats (raw bison, raw beef, and the like) has now been given over to things like boxed lamb stew, already prepared. It looked awful, but…
I’m not exactly nervous, but I did spent some hours yesterday working through the on-line practice sessions that go with our text/workbook, ¡Adelante!. Today it occurred to me that a good lunch option will be boiled eggs (the class meets 11:30am – 2:00pm), so I’m getting some eggs to boil.
Weight still stuck above 195. But with the semester starting, my spending a couple of days a week on campus may be enough additional activity to get this show going again.
I was prompted to bring out my dish of Durance L’òme shaving soap on reading this post at BruceOnShaving. As you can see, he did not like the soap at all, and yet I have quite positive memories of the soap (which I’ve not used lately). I dug it out just to try, and it is still a really excellent and enjoyable shaving soap.
Given the enormous differences in our experience with the soap, and the fact that Bruce’s soap is quite new, I suspect that the soap has been reformulated sometime in the years since I bought my bowl. And we have certainly recently seen other shaving soap vendors ruin their products by reformulation—someone just recently wrote to say that Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet shaving soap is now no longer the good product it once was.
I decided to take photos along the way. Here’s the brush just after I loaded it, before working up the lather on my face:
I set up a blue background so you can see the lather. I returned to the bathroom (photos are done in the hall) and worked up lather for the first pass. This is the brush after that:
Yes: at that point the batteries in the camera went out. I was not interested in finding new batteries and doing a battery exchange in the middle of a shave, so I’ll try the exercise some other time. Suffice it for now to say that I enjoyed bountiful, luxurious, lubricating lather for all three passes, with lots left at the end, from the initial loading. It has to be a change in formulation.
The shave, BTW, was great. I am liking the Progress, as you can tell.