Posts tagged ‘Ezra Klein’

September 7, 2011

Falling Out of the Middle Class

by Vince

Ezra Klein finds an interesting study that gauges what factors contribute to men and women falling out of middle class society:

The big takeaway: Divorce and marriage matter, a lot. Education, or lack thereof, is pretty important, too. The picture gets blurrier with drug use: Men who use heroin are more likely to fall out of the middle class, but the effect is statistically insignificant for women. And crack use doesn’t make much of a difference for either gender.

September 6, 2011

A Closer Look at Jon Huntsman

by Vince

He released his economic plan last week. Take a look at it and the feedback on it in comparison to the 2012 GOP field.

September 6, 2011

Unemployment’s Far-Reaching Effects

by Vince

Ezra Klein digs into a few studies that exposes the health and educational pains inflicted on pupils and families as a result of unemployment:

Last year, Mike Konczal flagged a 2009 study by Ann Huff Stevens and Jessamyn Schaller of UC-Davis that examined the relationship between parental job loss and children’s academic achievement, drawing on data about job loss and grade retention from 1996, 2001 and 2004 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation:

We find that a parental job loss increases the probability of children’s grade retention by 0.8 percentage points, or around 15 percent. After conditioning on child fixed effects, there is no evidence of significantly increased grade retention prior to the job loss, suggesting a causal link between the parental employment shock and children’s academic difficulties. These effects are concentrated among children whose parents have a high school education or less.


In the end, the researchers concluded, “one percentage point higher unemployment rate leads to a 0.3 percentage point increase in the probability that a child repeats a grade.” If this is true, Konczal points out, the cumulative impact of unemployment is staggering. “There are roughly 55 million students in K-12 in the country right now. If unemployment is 1% higher that means, roughly, 165,000 additional years of schooling will be repeated,” he writes.

But just as children are at higher risk of underachieving, education budgets are being slashed across the country as the economy remains anemic and the politics of austerity have taken hold. It’s a continuous pile-up that could have lasting damage that goes well beyond sheer employment numbers.

August 30, 2011

Judging Hurricane Irene and Our Hurricane-type Hysteria

by Vince

If you live on the east coast in the U.S., you most likely have heard about Hurricane Irene non-stop for the past week (at least). A few of the places you may have heard bits of news from would of been the Weather Channel (as well as other local or national news stations) as well as Facebook (as well as the World Wide Web). Both of these media outlets covered this hurricane quite extensively. The former was done by professionals while the latter was done by mostly normal joe’s. What both have in common is that they stirred up interesting reactions in all of us.

T.V., especially weather coverage, can go over board. The constant reporting and sometimes worst-case scenarios may really freak people out to the point of hysteria. Facebook seemed to have had similar effects. One friend of mine noticed an interesting trend that isn’t necessarily unique to Hurricane Irene but still interesting: while many people freaked out about Hurricane Irene, many people freaked out about people freaking out about Hurricane Irene. If you think about it, this irony surely does play out in many situations. I don’t have T.V. so I somewhat tried to avoid Facebook so that I could sit back and watch the rain come down and relax over a shut-in type weekend.

One final note: politics has to come into play somehow with this hurricane and the hysteria (doesn’t it?) Two pieces worth checking out: Rush Limbaugh’s usual comments regarding the hysteria:

It was a rainstorm and there was a lot of flooding and there were deaths associated with it,” Limbaugh said. “But they hype — folks, I’ll tell you what this was, was a lesson.

“If you pay any attention to this, they hype — the desire for chaos, I mean, literally — the media desire for chaos was a great learning tool. This is a great illustration of how all of the rest of the media in news, in sports, has templates and narratives and exaggerates beyond reality creating fear, so as to create interest.”

With at least 40 people dead (and rising) and millions in damage, the king of hype and hysteria has to chime in, doesn’t he? However, I partly am in agreement with Rush. Some members of the media, and I include Facebook in this, have a tendency to almost want drama, hype, and buckets of craziness, in not only national events but their own lives.

Second, Ezra Klein et al wonder if we didn’t hype the storm enough considering what it was capable of:

A lot of the commentary over whether the storm got too much attention has been based around the damage the storm did or did not do. NBC’s Al Roker, for instance, tweeted, “Since when is covering a storm that kills 16 people and counting, causes massive flooding and millions in damage hype?” Over at the New York Times, Nate Silver runs somenumbers and concludes that Irenes ranks as “the 8th-most destructive storm since 1980, adjusted for inflation and the growth in wealth and population.”

But the Irene hype occurred mostly before it made landfall, and so mostly before we knew how bad it really was, or wasn’t. Storms are unpredictable, both in their path and intensity, and though Irene mostly broke our way, it could easily have swung towards New York City and picked up speed before smacking into the city. If that had happened, we would be having a very different conversation right now. So the question isn’t whether the storm was overhyped given how things actually went, but whether it was overhyped given how they could have gone. I’m not enough of a meteorologist to render a verdict on that, but it’s the right question to be asking.

August 29, 2011

Playing Hypoethicals with America’s Employment Rates

by Vince

Ezra Klein et al add some commentary to the above chart:

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office put out its revised GDP forecasts and predicted that the economy would expand at a healthy clip between 2013 and 2016, about 3.6 percent per year. That’s curiously upbeat, and even if the U.S. economy gallops along at that pace, we’ll only reach full employment by 2017—right in time for Rick Perry’s second inaugural.

And what happens if we grow at a slightly more sluggish rate, which is hardly implausible? Dave Altig, senior vice president and research director at the Atlanta Fed, has designed a chart of different growth scenarios, looking at how long it will take real GDP (what the economy is actually producing) to catch up to potential GDP (what the economycould be producing, given existing resources) under each.

The current economy is as bad as expected and shouldn’t be expected to rebound (as noted) for almost half a decade.

July 29, 2011

Are Recessions All That Bad?

by Vince

As I read over Ezra Klein’s post that described the recovery-less recovery (more found here), a few words and phrases stuck out to me.

As Wolfers suggests, these numbers solve the mystery in the labor market. This isn’t about confidence or uncertainty or regulations or any of the other bankshot explanations we’ve been using to explain why unemployment seems stuck even as the economy rebounds. The economy isn’t rebounding. Demand isn’t returning. And without demand, there can’t be jobs.

Emphasis from here on out is from me. In terms of demand, is it all that bad for a country to scale back it’s purchases, it’s expenditures, and possibly live more within their means? Banks, for one, are not giving out loans as easily. I found this out over the past week. With a proposed deal I negotiated with Wells Fargo, I would of been facing a 40% mortgage payment to income ratio. The banks today want that ratio to be between 20% and 30%. Five years ago, I could have easily gotten a loan with a 40% ratio. I speak on this based on friends and family who have in fact received loans before the Great Recession with roughly 40% ratios. Banks are being more careful, people are not selling because the housing bubble has burst, and those willing to make moves have to cross their t’s and dot their i’s to prove that they truly will make x in a given year, not just think or hope they will.

Meanwhile, we’re in an economic crisis in which the main problem is too little spending.

Cutting spending and budgets in a recession does hurt an economy but, again, too little spending is not inherently bad. If anything, this Great Recession has helped us feel the purchases we make (credit cards numb the feeling of purchases. We do not see the actual money come out of our wallets or purses but only flash a piece of plastic. We delay this feeling from hitting us until later on).

I stand by less spending and lower demand as good signs for simplicity and understanding our behaviors. Whether these signals are actually making cognitive connections with fellow Americans, I cannot say for sure.

One final note: yes, over 9% unemployment nationwide (with that 2-3x the case for minorities – cry me a river white America) is bad. I will not deny that reality.

May 27, 2011

Questions For Obama

by Vince

Ezra Klein has a few scathing ones for our POTUS:

1. You have repeatedly lauded the economy of the Clinton years, yet in a time of high and mounting deficits, you want to make most of the Bush tax cuts permanent. Economically speaking, what makes you believe the Clinton-era tax rates are too high?

4. The main differences between your budget and the Simpson-Bowles report is that your budget raises less in taxes and cuts less in defense spending. Why were those decisions made?

5. You’ve talked frequently about the need to “win the future” through new investments and initiatives. But unlike the budgets proposed by the House Progressives or Andy Stern or EPI, Demos and the Century Foundation, there’s nothing in your budget that specifically commits to any such investments, nor any particular funding source dedicated to them. If these investments are so important, why not build them into your budget? Why accept the framework that this discussion should be entirely about cuts?

May 22, 2011

Higher Taxes and Growth

by Vince

Tax cutters may find this graph helpful (also: include in your conversation why the Bush Tax Cuts for the Rich, which is seen as a panacea, has not helped the economy as predicted but in the end it is all the presidents fault).

Ezra Klein:

The causal story off that graph is something like “in the ’90s, bringing down the deficit through a balanced mix of tax increases and spending cuts was a net positive for growth.” The correlation story off that graph is “the ’90s were a good time for the global economy, and Clinton’s economic management was, at best, a small part of the decade’s successes.” The obviously wrong stories are “tax increases are incompatible with growth” and “Bush’s management of the economy was successful.”

And yet those are the stories that best fit the policies both parties are proposing today. At least when it comes to taxes, both the Obama White House and the GOP are closer to George W. Bush’s approach than to Bill Clinton’s. The GOP thinks all of the Clinton-era tax rates were too high and all of the Bush tax cuts should be made permanent while the Obama administration says that most of the Clinton-era tax rates were too high and the vast majority of the Bush tax cuts should be made permanent, the exception being the cuts for income over $250,000.

May 14, 2011

Loathing Taxes

by Vince

The GOP way:

 The GOP doesn’t just hate taxes. They hate taxes so much that theirstated position is they’d prefer no deficit reduction, and even a default on the debt ceiling, to even a dollar in new taxes. They hate taxes, in other words, more than they like balanced budgets, or fear a federal default. Hating taxes is the absolute, number-one core belief of the modern GOP.

A recent history lesson is helpful:

 “In the 1990s, we raised taxes, particularly on the rich. And a lot of these people were saying our tax increases were going to kill the economy. But remember what actually happened? We got rid of our deficits and the economy grew really robustly for 10 years. And what if it happened again? We might get rid of our deficits and the economy would grow really robustly for another 10 years. Maybe it’s good for the economy to actually get the deficit under control.”

May 4, 2011

Doubting the Death of OBL

by Vince

This new movement, named “deathers”, is another conspiracy theory fad group. Some of my students and friends have voiced doubts of OBL actually being dead. Ezra Klein addresses this with brevity:

If we didn’t kill bin Laden, presumably he’ll quickly release a video emphasizing the fact of his continued existence. Or he’ll at least tell his daughter to stop publicly saying that she watched as he was shot and killed by Americans. If the conspiracy is that the Obama administration is claiming to have killed bin Laden when they in fact have actually captured him and are holding him for torture/interrogation/fun dance parties, then a photograph proves nothing more than that someone in the Obama administration knows how to use Photoshop.

March 4, 2011

Welcome Back, Job Growth and Lower Unemployment

by Vince


Ezra Klein explains the best job news (February report) in three years:

We created 192,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate fell below the psychologically important 9 percent mark. This is the sort of jobs report that could persuade businesses to start hiring and investing for real, as the only thing worse than getting into a recovering economy too early is getting into a recovering economy too late, and they’d be well served investing ahead of it rather than trying to play catch-up.

This is the kind of good news that 1) can dismiss some Obama haters and 2) helps you relax a bit for the weekend.

Updated: The White House blog adds its two cents.

January 13, 2011

Public Discourse and Mutual Target Usage II

by Vince

Above, Sarah Palin stands her ground in the wake of the Tuscon shooting. The full transcript to her speech can be viewed here. Ezra Klein starts us off with a critique of her response:

Imagine if Palin had come out and said, “My initial response was to defend the fact that I had never condoned such violence, and never would. But the fact is, if I in any way contributed to an unhealthy political climate, I have to be more careful and deliberate in my public language rather than merely sharpen my defenses.” That would’ve been leadership: It would have made her critics look small, and it would’ve made her look big. Those who doubted whether Palin could rise to an occasion that called for more than sharp partisanship would’ve been silenced.

Of course, Palin didn’t say that. Al Sharpton did (or at least he saidsomething very close). Palin accused her opponents of propagating a “blood libel.” Rather than admitting that we all sometimes go too far, and that we must constantly work to see the humanity in others and tamp down on the dangerous certainty we have in ourselves, she lashed out at her critics, mocked the idea that political rhetoric was ever “less heated” and noted that there was a time when politicians settled disputes through duels.

So that’s Palin’s substantive response: Politics has never been reliably civil, her critics are unfair to her and at least she’s not shot anybody. All that is true. But you won’t find “stop bothering me, this tragedy isn’t my fault” in the chapter headings of any books on leadership.

Her response is very Jonah Goldberg-esque; we don’t live in a utopian world where everyone talks nicely to each other. She comes off somewhat callously and apathetic towards the invective streaming through the infected U.S. media and seems to let it off the hook as part of what we have in an imperfect world. This is somewhat a norm amongst conservative figures in America. America is seen by Palin as “exceptional” and our constitution is sacred. Yet don’t you dare try to make our world or nation perfect because we live on a fallen earth. When seeing that logic, it sounds out of touch from the struggling world and uninterested in change. Of course they want to change, but you will see a great difference in the moving direction for change and source of inspiration between liberals and conservatives.

Furthermore, no single American is that disconnected from the mass media’s tentacles that they do not get swept up in birtherism thoughts, comparisons between Barack Obama and Hitler, or one of many culture wars. No one is taking the blame off of Jared Lee Loughner and fully blaming Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or the Right. Many are simply saying that their usual rhetoric that is flowered with jingoistic, pompous, and sometimes angry words has an affect on us all.

In Palin’s defense, I am siding with Jared Lee Loughner being a nihilist, meaning he rejected everything, both sides of the political aisle, and doesn’t seem to be hellbent on destroying one certain party. It is more of a sick irony than a direct correlation that Gabrielle Gifford’s shooting overlapped with her district being the lucky recipient of gun cross hairs. Would the Democratic party be called for inciting violence if one of the Congressmen or Senators in its cross hairs map was shot?

Now on to Obama’s speech. Dave Weigel posted the full transcript to Barack Obama’s speech in Tuscon and is worth a full read.

Money quote:

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless.  Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems.  Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

As you read on, Obama denounces the idea of blaming one another during this time. I wonder if Palin takes that as him defending her amidst the ‘blood libel’ thrown her way? Obama continues on by showing the inward affects this event has (or can have) on us all:

After all, that’s what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected.  We’re shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward.  We reflect on the past.   Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder.  Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us?  Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us.  We may ask ourselves if we’ve shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives.  Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order.  We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

Obama closes with the desire for us all to see America as 9 year old Christina Taylor Green did:

Imagine: here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that someday she too might play a part in shaping her nation’s future.  She had been elected to her student council; she saw public service as something exciting, something hopeful.  She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model.  She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.

January 3, 2011

What I Am Reading: Online and In My Hands

by Vince

I have to start somewhere in my Google Reader. So far, about 500 unread posts await me along with 48 starred items to read later. Here are some of the starred goodies:

What’s up with Chris Christie since the winter blizzard pummeled New Jersey?

The collapse of the 2010 New York Giants is receiving comparison status to the New York Mets.

Ezra Klein put out some really interesting pieces. First, one on inequality with charts, unemployment “hysterisis“, how valuable a good night of sleep really is, and a New Year’s resolution for our American government: lose weight and get fit.

I came across a really neat magazine tonight at the library. If you liked Freakonomics, you may like mental floss.

The Barack Obama / Michael Vick conversation has caught my interest.

I also came across these two intriguing books: All My Bones Shake and Beyond Tolerance. While we are talking about books, I am really being sucked in to Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons book. The short chapters detailing the Hassassin make me want to read more and more! Now that is what a book is suppose to be like!

December 13, 2010

Unemployment Benefits

by Vince

Ezra Klein has a straightforward piece on unemployment benefits. Both of his charts/graphs are helpful, too.

It is helpful, if you talk about this, to be clear when addressing “the unemployed”. Beyond that terming resulting in an inhumane description, there are many Americans who go to job fairs or actively pursue jobs but to no avail. Remember: there are on average 5 applicants for every 1 job available.  Extending unemployment benefits, in many cases, keeps not only the recepient afloat but the businesses they shop at each week for their food, gas, and other necessities. Essentially, if you cut off the unemployment benefits in a draconian manner, you cut off the businesses. Please, let’s not lose reality and humanity in this discussion. How often does that happen with immigration, health care, and Islam?

Google has a great tool that allows you to look up each state, county, and region‘s unemployment rates.

December 6, 2010

The Bush Tax Cuts in One Chart

by Vince

Ezra Klein provides a short note:

The term “tax cuts for the middle class,” which Democrats like to use, has misled. As you can see from the left side of the chart, the “tax cuts for the middle class” also cut taxes on the rich. A family that makes $750,000 a year would pay lower taxes on the first $250,000 of their income. The question has never been whether only middle-class workers should get a tax cut. It’s how much income the tax cut should cover.

October 13, 2010

Some Basics with Immigration Reform

by Vince

I haven’t forgotten about my part two for immigration, including immigration tests. My time in the classroom has been pulling my attention and my reading time has been diverted elsewhere.

In the meantime, Ezra Klein, et al have some reminders:

The people who need to be convinced of comprehensive immigration reform — which must include a path to legal status for illegal immigrants — are angry about illegal immigration. Trying to paper over that won’t help, and might actually hurt.

Better to confront it directly: Yes, there’s illegal immigration, and yes, illegal immigrants should have to pay fees and learn English, but no, it’s not good for American workers or the American economy to have 12 million illegal immigrants living in the shadows, and no, deporting 12 million people is not a realistic option. Put differently, there are two fundamental facts here: Yes, there are illegal immigrants, and yes, we need to find a way to make them legal residents.

I find Nicole’s points extra intriguing:

How is the I-Word inaccurate – isn’t some illegal action happening here?

The I-Word is used as a sweeping generalization to label people who are out of status due to a variety of circumstances. For example, many people:

  • Are brought to the country against their will.
  • Are brought by employers and often exploited for cheap labor.
  • Fall out of status and overstay their VISAS for a variety of reasons.
  • Risk being killed in their country of origin.
  • Are refugees due to bad economic policies such as NAFTA.
  • Are affected by natural disasters and/or other reasons beyond their control.
  • Are forced by economics and/or politics to risk everything simply to provide for their families.

This language scapegoats individual immigrants for problems that are largely systemic, such as unfair economic and immigration policies. The system itself pushes certain people into categories that are hard to get out of. There exists a backlog of people who must wait years to get processed, even when they are eligible to get papers through a relative. In this broken system, there can be families with mixed status that get torn apart because family unification is not a priority of the system.

There are other accurate words that do not dehumanize, such as: foreign national, undocumented immigrant, unauthorized immigrant,  immigrant without papers, and immigrant seeking status.

As Tim Wise puts it in his book, whites are born into a sense of belonging while African Americans and many others of color are born into a way of being that is always questioned of its legitimacy as well as criticized if one member of the group slips up. It is as if a certain black boy has the whole weight of the African American nation on his shoulders and when he messes up, its another brick in the wall of “I told you so”. That isn’t right. We, and by we I mean those who care for the humanity of others, need to be armed with the right information to disarm the bigots. However, merely arming oneself with the data, means of discussion, and thoughts I believe is not enough. To truly believe these things for yourself does it. How good does it feel knowing you stand for the betterment of humanity and can hold a toxic conversation without raising your heart rate / blood pressure?

September 28, 2010

Ezra’s Immigration Proposition

by Vince

Ezra Klein has an idea:

With more labor – particularly more labor of different kinds – the economy grows larger. It produces more stuff. There are more workers buying things, creating demand. That increases the total number of jobs. We understand perfectly well that Europe is in trouble because its low birth rates mean fewer workers – and that means less economic growth. We ourselves worry that we’re not graduating enough scientists and engineers. But the economy doesn’t care if it gets workers through birth rates or green cards.

In fact, there’s a sense in which green cards are superior. Economists separate new workers into two categories: Those who “substitute” for existing labor – we’re both construction workers, and the boss can easily swap you out for me – and those who “complement” existing labor – you’re a construction engineer, and I’m a construction worker. Immigrants, more so than U.S.-born workers, tend to be in the second category, as the jobs you want to give to someone who doesn’t speak English very well and doesn’t have many skills are different from the jobs you give to people who are fluent and have more skills.

That means firms can expand more rapidly because they have more labor of different types and that native workers can do jobs where they’re more productive. If you have lots of immigrant laborers willing to build roads, a firm can build more roads and has more need for native workers who can supervise the crews or do the technical work. The effect of all this – which has been demonstrated in multiple studies – is that immigrants raise wages for the average American.