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  1. #461
    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnyboy View Post
    Here is something to help guide your intuition.
    My intuition says: what is our rate of productivity growth relative to the rest of the world?

  2. #462
    Order Now! pure_mercury's Avatar
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    You're all wrong. Merry Christmas!
    Who wants to try a bottle of merc's "Extroversion Olive Oil?"

  3. #463
    null Jonny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiscoBiscuit View Post
    So are you saying that the availability of buyers in the bond market is an unimportant factor because those buyers happen to be domestic? No.

    The nationality of the creditor is unimportant. Bullshit.

    What is important is the continuing availability of creditors. I agree, but this is irrelevant to a short run policy discussion.

    Especially when you have a system that almost forces the gov't to spend more than it takes in.

    If the US continues to allow the interest on our debt to grow at its current pace, we won't have the money to afford much else in the not too distant future. If inequality and joblessness persist, things will be even worse.

    If there is a loss of confidence in the USD (or more specifically the ability of the US to meet its debt obligations) , it won't matter who our creditors are because no one will want to buy our bonds. Assume for a moment that no domestic creditors will buy US bonds. What bonds will they buy then? Will people in the US just stop working and starve?


    The fact that other countries owe us 89 cents on the dollar wont matter because the global economy will have already followed the US into the toilet. I agree, but this is irrelevant to a short run policy discussion.

    You would sound much more reasonable if you would concede the legitimacy of the oppositions argument that things need to be run (spending and taxes need to be addressed) better if we are going to get fiscal house in order. I agree, but now is not the time.
    There. Is. Absolutely. Unequivocally. Undeniably. A. Substantial. Difference. Between. Domestic. And. Foreign. Creditors. I cannot believe you would even write something so preposterous. Consider for a moment the nature of production and of debt. What does it mean for me, as a citizen, to lend money to my government? Start small if you have to. Consider a two person economy. What would it mean for one person to borrow "money" from another? How would the day to day needs of these two people be met (e.g. they need to eat, have shelter, etc.)? Hint: Money is a claim on the time of others; think about the current inequality I mentioned in my post above. Expand from 2 people to 4 to 8 to 16 to etc etc etc. I'll gladly provide my views later this week, when I have more time. I urge you, in the meantime, to think critically about your statement.

    I never suggested that we don't need entitlement reform. I never suggested that, in the long run, we shouldn't make an effort to curb spending and "balance" the budget (I don't mean not running a deficit, but running a manageable deficit). I'm saying, at this juncture, the debt should not be our primary concern. I thought I was clear on this. Joblessness and inequality are the two largest contributors to our economic woes. The argument can also be made that unrealistic expectations are also a chief concern, but those are markedly more difficult to deal with from a public policy perspective. Furthermore, addressing inequality and joblessness would go a long way to shifting expectations.

    I will reiterate my above sentiment: you are talking out of your ass.

    1. What original content you provide in the quoted post is irrelevant at best, and some of it is off the mark or patently wrong.
    2. The first quote you provide is a joke. Yes, I agree with the substance, but not with its relevance to this discussion. Within the quote itself there is a discussion of the impact of the debt on the government's ability to use tax and spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges, such as economic downturns or financial crises. Do you think we're in the midst of unexpected challenges and/or an economic downturn and/or a financial crisis? If you think any of these things are true, then what do you think making an attempt to reduce the debt, at this juncture, will do to those problems? This isn't the time.
    3. I couldn't care less about the reputability of your quoted publications. An argument stands alone and speaks for itself, and I know you agree with me. If not, I'm sure I could muster up a good number of Ivy educated economists and politicians who agree with my perspective. Hell, I bet I could even find a few nobel prizers. Impressed? I know I am! /sarcasm


    P.S. - Don't take it personally, I'm just bustin your balls because I think you're mentally deficient. Or, maybe I'm just doing it because I'm self conscious about my own intellect. Or, maybe I was abused as a child. Or, maybe I'm waiting to get something of value... I am an NTP after-all.
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  4. #464
    null Jonny's Avatar
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    As I mentioned previously, a net 4.4% of our national debt is owed to foreign creditors, but we actually earn more on interest from foreign assets than we pay those foreign creditors. A much larger 60% of that debt is owed to domestic creditors or the federal government itself. So, what does it mean to have domestically held debt? Some debt is held to facilitate a smoothing of economic activity and transfer/allocation of capital and resources. However, a large part of that debt is the result of the growing income inequality that is apparent in the data/graphs I provided above. Let me explain.

    For illustrative purposes, and because our foreign held debt balance is actually a generator of income, consider an economy that is wholly domestic (i.e. it does not consume foreign goods, services, etc.) Further, suppose this economy is producing at a level more than sufficient to meet the basic needs of the population. What does this mean? This means that every year, people are working and producing enough goods and services for every person living in that economy. Now, suppose this economy runs a large deficit. How and why is that possible? Again, let me explain.

    I’ll temporarily simplify our assumption such that the economy mentioned above has only 20 participants. The GDP of the economy is currently $1,000,000. Five members of the economy are holders of capital and each gets $150,000 per year in income. The other fifteen members are laborers and each gets approximately $16,666 per year in income. The basic needs and desires of each member of the population are met with $20,000 per year. The level of income at which the marginal satisfaction provided by additional income is negligible is about $70,000 per year. A government is established to provide for the basic needs of the population, and taxes the “wealthy” $10,000 (~6.67%) each per year, so that it provides that additional $3,334 per year to those making less than a “living wage”.

    Many of the wealthy members of the economy don’t want to spend their entire yearly income, in particular because they are content with the goods and services purchased with some fraction of their compensation. Many of the poor yearn for a life comparable to those wealthiest citizens. The government grows in response to these desires, but because taxation is a dirty word (the rich lobby to keep taxes low), the government decides to borrow from these wealthy folks (rather than tax), promising them even more money in the future; on average, the government borrows $50,000 per year from each of the wealthy citizens. Thus, it runs a deficit of $250,000 per year and provides the poor with additional goods and services equal to $16,666 per year. Thus, on average the wealthy are each consuming $90,000 per year, and the poor are each consuming $36,666 per year. The economy is still producing $1,000,000 per year; that hasn’t changed. The basic needs of the poor are being met through their meager wages and through taxing the rich, and the additional wants/desires of the poor are being met by promising the rich even more money in the future.

    In the following years, the GDP of the economy grows to $1,200,000 per year (due to technology improvements, etc.). Additional monies taken in by the government via taxes, instead of going to the poor, are going to pay interest on the debt to the rich. The rich get richer, and the poor stay impoverished. The debt grows, and then the rich begin to complain that people are lazy and “we really need to get a handle on our national debt.”

    Now, suppose that economy were composed of hundreds of millions of people, and there were gradations of wealth. Inject some foreign trade and fire some fraction of the poor. That is, in effect, the US economy.

    @DiscoBiscuit - I'm sincerely sorry for my comments directed at you in the above posts; they were unnecessary and juvenile. I am, unfortunately, prone to bursts of offensive displays, often aimed at generating fierce criticism of my ideas. Further, when I deem something inadequately explained or, in my opinion, factually incorrect, I have a tendency to fall into those moods. This is my problem, not yours. I’m working on getting a handle on my harshness, and I appreciate your patience. I hope you had a good holiday.
    Last edited by Jonny; 12-27-2012 at 03:34 PM.
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  5. #465
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    An article from The American Conservative that discusses a recent TED talk with Jonathan Haidt:

    Asteroids and 'Other' problems

    Jonathan Haidt, one of my favorite public intellectuals, is back with a newly posted TED talk reflecting on how epistemic closure polarizes and paralyzes. In the video, Haidt talks about a handful of enormous problems — “asteroids” hurtling at us — that we have within our ability to solve, but that we can’t seem to do much about in large part because so many liberals and conservatives won’t recognize that the thing at issue is a problem.

    Around the 14-minute mark, Haidt shows a graph showing that income inequality has greatly expanded in recent years, and he points out that the left talks about how this is a very big deal, and bad for the common good. The right doesn’t care about this, or at least doesn’t see it as a problem. In the next graph, he shows how the out of wedlock birthrate has soared, such that in the next few years, most babies born in America will not have a father in the home. This is a huge problem, Haidt says, in part because single parenthood typically locks a woman and her children into poverty, exacerbating inequality, plus it puts children from those families far behind children from two-parent families in acquiring the cultural tools necessary to get ahead in this economy. The right, says Haidt, has been pointing out that there’s a serious problem with family breakdown in this way, but the left has been denying it.

    Here’s the thing, says Haidt: they’re both right, and both problems play into each other. But neither side is prepared to grant that the other has a point.

    In a related TED interview, Haidt explores more in-depth the insights of his talk. Excerpts:

    Your talk got me thinking — on a personal level, what should I be doing and saying and thinking every day to defuse these tensions and break through a party lens?

    Great question! I think the key is for us to all think about the word “demonization,” and do what we can to tone it down. That doesn’t mean that we all have to become centrists. My ideal is that we all have more constructive disagreement. So when you hear someone criticize a policy on the other side, that’s fine. But when you start hearing motive-mongering and demonization, stand up to it just as you would if it were something that was racist or sexist. If we avoid the demonization, disagreements can be positive.

    Are there other key terms that you would love to see disappear from our political vocabulary?

    “Extremist” is an easy one, because extremist just means somebody on the other side. Overall, we do need to watch our language — but it’s not so much specific words. It’s the claims that people on the other side are motivated by evil motives. The key to toning down demonization is to actually get to know some people on the other side and to build relationships with them. If your friend tells you something, you don’t demonize, you listen. But if your opponent does it, you jump right into lawyer mode and say, “Here are 10 reasons why you’re wrong.”
    This made me think of a conversation I had not long ago in which a couple of us lamented the impossibility of having an honest conversation about race in office settings, because many of us have so much to lose by saying the wrong thing to the wrong person, however inadvertently. Best not to say anything at all, lest the lawyers get involved. One of the guys in our group — we were all white — said that he had asked a black guy with whom he works out at the gym how come he has five kids by five different women, because that’s not right, etc. His black friend explained how he had gotten into that position. Then they got to talking about why whites and blacks can’t talk straight to each other, and for his part, the black guy said that blacks are always looking for a chance to be offended, and to get mad.

    “I cannot believe you had that conversation with a black guy,” I said.

    “I guess I’m crazy,” said the white guy.

    But he wasn’t crazy. He had already built a friendship with the black workout partner. It was okay to ask those difficult questions.

    Anyway, back to Haidt:

    We’ve talked about the left-right divide in politics, and I’m curious about what you’ve seen as a professor in the academic world. How similar or different is that dynamic?

    In the academic world, most fields have gone from being predominantly liberal to being overwhelmingly liberal. It’s been a part of this general polarization of our society since the 1970s. There used to be liberal Republicans and there used to be conservative Democrats, but beginning in the ’60s — once Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act — we got the moral purification of the two parties. So the change first happens in Congress, and then once the two parties become purified, it’s like this giant electromagnet cranks up and starts ripping apart everything else. My own field of social psychology has always leaned to the left, but in the last 20 or 30 years the minority of conservatives has shrunk to be undetectable. And this is a problem for scholarship, I believe.
    This brings to mind a post by Beyng in the “Other” thread below, in which I was trying to get readers to do a Haidt-like exercise in empathy. Beyng wrote:

    My Other? The leftist academics and intellectuals among whom I spend my working days, especially those who wax romantic about the poor–like, for example, Andrea.
    Then:

    I would thus like to modify and elaborate on my statement. In truth, then, I find that, on a day-to-day basis, my true “Other”–that person whom I genuinely struggle to understand and, yes, to love, or at least to like–is the urban cosmopolite from a privileged background. This is the sort of person who comprises the bulk of the academic class among whom, as I already noted, I spend my working days.

    This is not me. I am from a rural, working-class-at-best background in Appalachia. I am the first person ever in my family (on either side) to pursue higher education. The values among which I was raised were solidly placed, solidly religious, solidly conservative, and solidly traditional. These are not the values that orient most of my colleagues. In fact, a number of these colleagues have made a career of opposing everything about my cultural imaginary.

    To the extent that such opposition is explicitly thematized, I suppose I understand it, as Rod notes. That is in my job description after all. But one thing I’ve learned is that academic arguments are seldom the product of objective or detached contemplation. They are shaped decisively by their cultural background. And what I do not fully understand, much less condone, is the milieu that produces the cosmopolitan orthodoxy of academia.

    To be more precise, I do not understand why a person would want to live in NYC or Chicago. I do not understand folks for whom tenure and careerism is the sine qua non of a worthy life. I do not understand those for whom debating meaningless triviliaties represents a worthy endeavor. I do not understand why my colleagues insist on disparaging what Wendell Berry calls “country people” (with all such a moniker entails) at every chance they get–it’s not as if these upper-middle class elites who have never done an honest day’s work in their lives have ever been tangibly wronged by, for example, the trailer trash, farmers, and paper-mill workers of my family and youth. I do not understand, in short, the sort of cosmopolitan elitism that prevails in my professional world. It is thus that I feel profoundly unheimlich here, despite loving my work.

    I could go on. The point is that I’m not sure I should understand, though your post has inclined me to wonder whether I ought at least try.
    I wonder what understanding would gain for Beyng in this situation. I mean, I think it’s almost never wrong to try to understand the world from the point of view of others, if only because it helps you to be more considerate in your dealings with them, and perhaps more effective in winning them over to your side. As a journalist, though, I was usually an outlier in most newsrooms, given my conservative cultural politics. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t understand why my liberal colleagues — and they were almost all liberal — believed the things they did. I did understand that; I just disagreed with them. What I struggled to understand was why so many were content to live inside that epistemic bubble, given that the profession we’d chosen, if done right, would lead one into frequent encounters with all kinds of different people, including people who saw the world much differently than oneself. The lack of curiosity about the world beyond what they were safe with was what really puzzled me about my liberal colleagues. And it discouraged me a great deal about journalism’s ability to do what journalism is supposed to do.

    This talk of the Other resonates with me as I think about the book I’ve just written about my sister and me. I was her Other, and she didn’t want to engage me, to ask me about why I believed the things I do, and made the choices I did. She judged me for those choices, and judged me pretty harshly. But she didn’t want to make the effort to understand my Otherness. And she rebuffed my attempts to talk with her about our differences, to try to resolve them. I don’t know why that is. Anyway, it’s a mystery to me, one that is now unsolvable, a sad fact that I regret.

    At the same time, I think about the extent to which the character traits that made her so strong — her fierce dedication to this place and its way of life — depended on her unwillingness to consider the world as it must have looked from the point of view of a brother who rejected it. For me, thinking about the Other is an interesting and improving exercise; for her, it was most likely far more tied up in identity, and therefore more threatening to her sense of the self. If I had been her neighbor, and not her brother, I bet she would have found it easier to try to see the world as I see it. Ah, siblings…

    So, where was I? Shouldn’t write these things late at night. Anyway, Haidt says the way to overcome all this polarization and paralysis is to unite around a common threat. An immediately visible problem with this is that to recognize the threat posed by certain phenomenon may require one to cede an ideological principle. For a conservative to agree that inequality is a serious problem likely requires a pretty serious philosophical concession about egalitarianism. Likewise, for a liberal to agree that there’s something deeply wrong with out-of-wedlock childbearing may demand a substantial philosophical concession, having to do with the purpose of marriage, and stigmatizing certain expression of sexual liberty.

  6. #466
    null Jonny's Avatar
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    I must not be on the left, because I think the breakdown of family and community is central to the problems we face going forward. Not only do insular lifestyles cause people to consume more resources, they also result in feelings of depression and in some cases probably contribute to these acts of violence we hear about. I also think tradition is an important aspect of a healthy society.

    Further evidence that I must not be on the left: I think that some minorities look for chances to play the race card and be offended. I also question the justification for affirmative action and promotion of "diversity."
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  7. #467
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonnyboy View Post
    I must not be on the left, because I think the breakdown of family and community is central to the problems we face going forward. Not only do insular lifestyles cause people to consume more resources, they also result in feelings of depression and in some cases probably contribute to these acts of violence we hear about. I also think tradition is an important aspect of a healthy society.

    Further evidence that I must not be on the left: I think that some minorities look for chances to play the race card and be offended. I also question the justification for affirmative action and promotion of "diversity."
    left-ish.
    "I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine. "
    -Bruce Lee

  8. #468
    respect the brick C.J.Woolf's Avatar
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    Everyone has their must-haves and their deal-breakers. Politically, a must-have is a social good that is so necessary it is worth accepting some social ills (or forgoing some other social goods) to have, while a deal-breaker is a social ill that is so unacceptable it is worth accepting some other social ills (or forgoing some social goods) to eliminate.

    I don't know how often one guy's must-have is another guy's deal-breaker (complete polarization), but it's easy to view someone else as a moral monster if they dismiss one of your must-haves or deal-breakers as no big deal.

  9. #469
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    people just become more who they are.
    "I'm not in this world to live up to your expectations and you're not in this world to live up to mine. "
    -Bruce Lee

  10. #470
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    Quote Originally Posted by C.J.Woolf View Post
    but it's easy to view someone else as a moral monster if they dismiss one of your must-haves or deal-breakers as no big deal.
    Which no more makes us monsters than those who dismiss our structural fiscal issues or our sclerotic legislative process.

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