Economy

Did the Welfare State Kill God?
September 11, 2009

Why did church attendance drop in Western Europe during the 20th century? An agnostic/atheist-type like me might speculate that increases in income, education, and urbanization made it easier for people to think and act for themselves and break away from the authority of the church. But then why did religiosity in the U.S. -- which saw similar increases in income, education, and urbanization -- stay flat over the 20th century?

Wall St. Reform Moves Up the Priority List
September 11, 2009

So says Mike Allen in today's Playbook: EXCLUSIVE: OBAMA WILL PROD CONGRESS TO SPEED WORK ON HIS PLAN FOR FINANCIAL REGULATORY REFORM. Financial reregulation has moved from third on the White House agenda, after energy/climate, to second, in part because it’s viewed as more attainable. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank is moving sections and may get several key ones to floor votes this fall, although Senate action may not come until next year. Very interesting, and smart.

The Right and Wrong Way to Obsess Over the Rich
September 11, 2009

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had a front-page story about the declining fortunes of the wealthy, marking a recent burst of journalistic interest one of my three favorite economic classes.

Did Tight Monetary Policy Cause the Crisis?
September 11, 2009

In his NYT mag piece, Paul Krugman blames macroeconomists for believing the world behaved as well as the math behind their models. His solution? To re-embrace Keynes. But in a provocative counterpoint on VoxEU, Scott Sumner says looking back to Keynes won't solve the problem.

Worth Reading
September 10, 2009

A decade's worth of income gains for Americans has been wiped out. Two top-notch accounts from Bloomberg on the global effects of Lehman's collapse. The FT has one too. Alaska spends more per pupil than any other state. Up to 12% of the gender wage gap is due to men working more dangerous jobs. Is a 2% inflation target too low?

American Litigiousness, Distilled
September 10, 2009

From the Journal's story on the declining fortunes of the wealthy (about which more later): "At law firms, billings ballooned earlier this decade, and law-firm salaries accounted for 1.5% of all U.S. salaries in 2007, twice the share in 1980, according to Economy.com." Actually, while part of that increase was surely the stuff of conservative legal nightmares, I'm guessing a big (bigger?) chunk was boom-related. Financial engineering requires legal work, lots of it.  

Obama Back in Top Campaign Form
September 09, 2009

This was the best speech I've heard Barack Obama give as president--possibly the best since January of 2008. Unlike his inaugural address, or even his convention speech, this one really soared and inspired by the end--a bit counterintuitively for a health care speech.

Worth Reading
September 09, 2009

One interest rate spread that's still dysfunctional. Chart of the Day: What a collapse in consumer borrowing looks like. Is there a college graduation -- or preparation -- crisis? Swaps clearing becomes more centralized. What the globalization of monetary policy looks like. Only 13% of Wikipedia contributors are women.

The Great Depression and NYC Home Prices
September 09, 2009

If the real estate market during the Great Depression is any guide, then property-owning Manhattanites will be waiting a long time for home prices to get anywhere near their bubble-era levels. Tom Nicholas and Anna Scherbina have constructed an index of home prices in Manhattan between 1920 and 1939 which shows that -- unlike most other parts of the U.S. during the 30's -- home values in the burrough flat-lined, falling by 69 percent to reach a new low at the end of 1932 and hovers around that value until the end of the 1930s.

Let's Talk Financial Crisis
September 09, 2009

For anyone interested in debating where the economy and financial system stand a year after the Lehman collapse, TNR is hosting a conference on the subject this coming Monday, September 14, at the Willard Hotel in Washington. We've got a real murderer's row of speakers and panelists lined up--Rep. Barney Frank, Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler, The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel, hedge fund manager (and TNR investor) Bill Ackman, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, among them.

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