Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

My answer to the question, “So is Brian Williams really an idiot, or does he just play one on TV?”

In the Comments thread to my post yesterday about a comment that Brian Williams made the day before indicating that he apparently does not know what “the debt ceiling” actually means, reader SW asked: “So, is he really an idiot or does he just play one on the tv?”

I answered:

I hadn’t thought of Williams as a lightweight before, which is one reason I was so shocked that he apparently doesn’t know what “the debt ceiling” actually means.  I rarely watch the network evening news shows anymore, but when I do, It’s his show that I watch.  The CBS and ABC ones seem to have made a concerted effort to play to conservatives, I guess because the audience for these shows these days is so largely white elderly folks.  

There was a good Opinionator piece in the NYT yesterday by a Philosophy prof. named Jason Stanley, called “Philosopher Kings and Fiscal Cliffs,” about how the misleading language used to discuss these things–which actually are specific facts–leads to dangerously false analogies and misunderstandings by the public, fed by deliberate misrepresentations by pols. (The article engages in a misrepresentation of sorts, itself, by equating Repub misrepresentations with Dem ones, but, oh, well.)  But Williams isn’t any old member of the general public. How can the main news anchor for NBC Nightly News not know what the debt ceiling is, and think it’s something that it’s not?

Williams’ Wikipedia bio is surprisingly sparse about his professional background, but my guess is that he’s never been a hard-news reporter on anything really complicated.  He apparently came to prominence by covering Hurricane Katrina for NBC News–hardly a complicated news event requiring knowledge beyond what the general public has.  But it just really surprises me that he apparently doesn’t even read the NYT or the Washington Post on major, complex stories such as the debt ceiling thing.  

Oh, well. This isn’t the era of Walter Cronkite.  So, what else is new?

I watched [Williams’] show again last night, and near the end he did a wonderful story on something dear to my heart: The Puppy Bowl.  The dogs all are rescues, up for adoption. Again, nothing complicated.  But, at least in my opinion, important.

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Smoking is All About Poverty

by run75411

Smoking is All About Poverty 

I raised the issue of why the elderly pay more than smokers for healthcare insurance since growing old is a natural occurrence and smoking and its associated disorders is self-inflicted. I raised it after STR said smokers are being robbed and I pointed out the elderly non-smokers and smokers pay 3 times the lowest cost insuree as determined by the MLR. Coberly believes there should be Medicare for all. The idea is a great one once we get a Congress who will support it. Even with a Senate majority of Democrats and faux Democrats, any alternatives to the PPACA went nowhere. For now and until Congress gets more sympathetic to its constituency, we have the best which can be conjured up today. With her reply, my fellow healthcare writer and expert in healthcare answered my post to one of her articles:
 
Me: I am crying crocodile tears for smokers paying 50% more than the lowest cost insuree. This is a tough pill to swallow for smokers who self-inflict this damage to themselves. The 50% premium for smokers pales in comparison to the 300% above the lowest cost insure, the elderly will pay for just being old a condition which is unavoidable. Come on Louise, you can not be serious.

Maggie Mahar: Most people don’t know the vast majority of adult smokers in the U.S. are low-income, didn’t complete high school, and leading very stressful lives. This is why they smoke. As a recent study of smokers in New Orleans and Memphis quotes one of the research subjects:

“”So many things fill your mind and you go through so much, you need your cigarette to smoke to calm down and get things off your mind,” says one of the participants, quoted in an article about the study in the March/April issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

In our study, cigarette use was defined as a ‘buffer’ for dealing with multiple demands, financial insecurity and daily hassles,” say Bettina M. Beech, Dr. P.H., M.P.H., of the University of Memphis, Department of Psychology and colleague.

More affluent better-educated Americans are far more likely to quit smoking than low-income very poor Americans for several reasons.

1) they have a reason to want to live. If you’re a black male who can’t find work, can’t put enough food on the table to feed your kids, and worry about what’s going to happen to them on the street, you’re angry, depressed and stressed. You are far more likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors –smoking, drinking, drugs. No matter how hard you try, chances are slim that your life is going to improve.

2) if you’re poor you cannot afford the nicotine patches and other drugs that making stopping so much easier for more affluent people. You probably also don’t have a doctor to prescribe these things. Louise is right– we need free smoking cessation clinics. The VA and Kaiser have both shown that they work. Of course poor people would like to quit smoking. A recent study in New York state shows that they spend 25% of their income on cigarettes. So why don’t they save up that money and buy a nicotine patch? Depression and stress sap a person’s will–and their ability to hope. Even if they stop smoking, they know that their lives are not going to suddenly get better. As the U. of Santa Clara points out on its Ethics home page:

penalizing individuals for unhealthy behaviors could result in great injustice and social harm.”

While 18 percent of U.S. citizens with incomes above the poverty line smoke, the figure almost doubles to 33 percent for those with incomes below the poverty line. A one-dollar cigarette tax would have a strongly regressive effect on the low incomes these individuals receive. Consider the added problem of tobacco addiction and the probable result of a tax is not less smoking or lower health care costs, but fewer dollars spent on nutritional food and other essentials – conceivably leading to more illness and higher health care costs.”

By charging smokers more for insurance, you increase the chances that they won’t be able to afford it. Given the choice between cigarettes– which they are addicted to and which they associate with relief of stress–and insurance, they’ll choose the cigarettes. Bottom line, when we blame smokers for smoking, we are blaming the poor for being poor. Tobacco companies know why people smoke.

Consider this confidential internal Philip Morris report:

Lower class panelists smoke more and are much more likely to be smokers than upper class panelists…”

It also found that lower class people tend to smoke non-filtered cigarettes (tend to “avoid health filters”) and that they also tend to avoid 100 millimeter-length brands. The writers also observe that lower class people have more incidence of poor mental health, hypothesizing that people use smoking as a “strategy” to combat the stress of low class status as well as poor mental health:

…the incidence of poor mental health is greatest among the lower class…To the extent that smoking is one of the available strategies people can adopt to combat stress, we therefore would expect greater incidence of smoking among the lower social classes.”

This is why in recent years, tobacco ads have targeted low-income people and African Americans. (Btw–they’re right, smoking is also associated with mental health problems.)

Me: I had to reconsider my stance on smokers being let off easy  given the weight of the evidence presented on why smokers should not pay more.  http://www.healthbeatblog.com/2013/01/the-newest-health-wonk-review-on-health-affairs/#comment-17887 “Health Wonk” Health Beat  blog

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Bill Gates is naive, data is not objective

by Cathy O’Niel       and re-posted with permission of the author who writes her own posts for her blog mathbabe, who works and teaches in New York city as a quant with style. This piece is a comment on data collection, not his intent.

Bill Gates is naive, data is not objective

In his recent essay in the Wall Street Journal, Bill Gates proposed to “fix the world’s biggest problems” through “good measurement and a commitment to follow the data.” Sounds great!

Unfortunately it’s not so simple.

Gates describes a positive feedback loop when good data is collected and acted on. It’s hard to argue against this: given perfect data-collection procedures with relevant data, specific models do tend to improve, according to their chosen metrics of success. In fact this is almost tautological.

As I’ll explain, however, rather than focusing on how individual models improve with more data, we need to worry more about which models and which data have been chosen in the first place, why that process is successful when it is, and – most importantly – who gets to decide what data is collected and what models are trained.

Take Gates’s example of Ethiopia’s commitment to health care for its people. Let’s face it, it’s not new information that we should ensure “each home has access to a bed net to protect the family from malaria, a pit toilet, first-aid training and other basic health and safety practices.” What’s new is the political decision to do something about it. In other words, where Gates credits the measurement and data-collection for this, I’d suggest we give credit to the political system that allowed both the data collection and the actual resources to make it happen.

Gates also brings up the campaign to eradicate polio and how measurement has helped so much there as well. Here he sidesteps an enormous amount of politics and debate about how that campaign has been fought and, more importantly, how many scarce resources have been put towards it. But he has framed this fight himself, and has collected the data and defined the success metric, so that’s what he’s focused on.

Then he talks about teacher scoring and how great it would be to do that well. Teachers might not agree, and I’d argue they are correct to be wary about scoring systems, especially if they’ve experienced the random number generator called the Value Added Model. Many of the teacher strikes and failed negotiations are being caused by this system where, again, the people who own the model have the power.
Then he talks about college rankings and suggests we replace the flawed US News & World Reports system with his own idea, namely “measures of which colleges were best preparing their graduates for the job market”. Note I’m not arguing for keeping that US News & World Reports model, which is embarrassingly flawed and is consistently gamed. But the question is, who gets to choose the replacement?

This is where we get the closest to seeing him admit what’s really going on: that the person who defines the model defines success, and by obscuring this power behind a data collection process and incrementally improved model results, it seems somehow sanitized and objective when it’s not.

Let’s see some more example of data collection and model design not being objective:

  1. We see that cars are safer for men than women because the crash-test dummies are men.
  2. We see that cars are safer for thin people because the crash-test dummies are thin.
  3. We see drugs are safer and more effective for white people because blacks are underrepresented in clinical trials (which is a whole other story about power and data collection in itself).
  4. We see that Polaroid film used to only pick up white skin because it was optimized for white people.
  5. We see that poor people are uninformed by definition of how we take opinion polls (read the fine print).

Bill Gates seems genuinely interested in tackling some big problems in the world, and I wish more people thought long and hard about how they could contribute like that. But the process he describes so lovingly is in fact highly fraught and dangerous.
Don’t be fooled by the mathematical imprimatur: behind every model and every data set is a political process that chose that data and built that model and defined success for that model.

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Yes. Yes! YES!!!!: “New Subcommittee to Focus on Federal Courts and Bankruptcy System.” [With correction]*

Well, well, well.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has created a new subcommittee this year to specifically oversee the federal courts and the nation’s bankruptcy system, including administration and management, judicial rules, the creation of new judgeships.
Last session’s Administrative Oversight and the Courts Subcommittee has been split into two separate subcommittees for this session. Senator Richard Blumenthal will chair the new Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action Subcommittee, while Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) will become the chairman of the new Bankruptcy and the Courts Subcommittee.
Coons, a lawyer and the main proponent of a bill last year that reauthorized expired bankruptcy judgeships, said he will focus on a wide range of issues in his subcommittee hearings. “We have a judicial vacancy crisis in many parts of this country, and I’d like to look at what can be done to address it,” Coons said in a written statement.

“Our federal courts have traditionally been the last bastion for many Americans to assert their civil rights, but recent federal court decisions have made it harder to not only enforce federal civil rights, but also rights that people may have as a consumer or as an employee under state law,” Coons said. “That has to change.”
New Subcommittee to Focus on Federal Courts and Bankruptcy System, Todd Ruger, The Blog of LegalTimes, today.

Oooooooohhhhh, yah!  Might we finally see an end to, say, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine? [Don’t ask.] And the Younger doctrine?  [Don’t ask.]  And the Supreme Courts’ Orwellian conflation of “liberty” and state “sovereignty” in federal habeas corpus law concerning criminal convictions if state court? [Pleeease don’t ask.]  

Okay, I’ll just say this much, since I know you’re asking even though I’ve asked you not to: The Rooker-Feldman and Younger doctrines are the civil-litigation equivalent of federal habeas corpus law concerning criminal convictions if state court.  Got that? I thought so. 

Except that in the latter, the justices, good textualists/originalists that they are, distort an actual existing federal “jurisdictional” statute in a manner that renders it flagrantly in violation of, um, the Fourteenth Amendment and the Supremacy Clause.  (States’ rights! Liberty! Er, liberty for states to violate individuals’ constitutional rights, as long as those rights aren’t, say, Second Amendment ones, or Fifth Amendment “takings” ones!)  But in the former, the civil-litigation “jurisdiction” “doctrines,” they’re not even purporting to interpret a jurisdictional statute; they’re creating their own “jurisdictional” law in contravention of federal jurisdictional statute.  (The Rooker-Feldman doctrine was created in a 5-4 opinion in 1983 that purported to interpret a part of the main federal-court jurisdictional statute that was repealed, at William Rehnquist’s request, three years later. No matter, the doctrine has only metastasized since then.)

Funny, how that separation-of-powers thing matters only when the Republican-appointed justices want it to. Y’know, that thing in Article III about it being only the Congress that has the authority to write court-jurisdiction laws (which the Supreme Court can declare unconstitutional but has no constitutional authority otherwise to create court-jurisdiction “doctrines”)? Aw, never mind.

Also, maybe now we’ll get some changes to the statutes and court Rules whose court filing fees and private-printing-of-say-cert. petition fees, and outrageous cost-shifting from plaintiffs to governments and mega-corporations for the government’s or mega-corporation’s litigation expenses, sometimes willy-nilly including their (the civil-litigation defendant’s) attorneys’ fees but in any event routinely including thousands of dollars in non-attorney-fees “costs–usually because the lawsuit was tossed out of court on some procedural/jurisdictional gimmick.  When there isn’t an already-existing procedural/jurisdictional ground that can be distorted to dismiss the lawsuit, one can always be created just for that occasion.  (And you thought this happened only to Al Gore!)

But I’ve saved the best for last: Now, maybe–maybe–we’ll finally get a law establishing an Office of Inspector General to review judicial-misconduct complaints and lifting the (yep, you guessed it) the prohibition against the complainant’s public disclosure of the fact that a complaint was filed.  Upon pain of dismissal of the misconduct complaint. Which, in one case I know of, involving a bizarre ex parte communication between a federal trial-level judge and a federal appellate judge in another region of the country (the trial-level judge jaw-droppingly implied in an  order he issued dismissing the lawsuit that he was doing so at the private urging of the appellate judge; seriously) would mean that, sometime during the now-28 months* in which the misconduct complaint has been pending–and before the two judges involved retire (one will be eligible this May; the other will be eligible later in the year)–the public might already know about what to of their esteemed judicial servants were up to back in 2007-08. And so might the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department.

I would greatly appreciate it if anyone who knows what I’m referring to not post anything here about it.  This isn’t the time.  Or the place.  Seriously. Thank you.  

And anyway, that’s just one of many, many instances of truly blatant abuse of the current the-law-allows-us-to-circle-the-wagons-almost-no-matter-what system.  I know of other jaw-dropping instances, including one directly related to the one I’ve somewhat described. All for one, and one for all!

But this is the time, and one of the places, to begin to urge that Congress not–yet again– be cowed by the Supreme Court justices’ cries of  “ But … but … judicial independence!”  

Yeah, judicial independence.  And interdependence. That’s my point, as well as theirs.

I think that these are all things that both liberals and Tea Partiers can, and will, join together on.  We’ll see.

Nowwww we’re talkin’.  Maybe. We’ll see.  

It’s time now.  Really.

—-
*Initially this post said incorrectly that the judicial misconduct complaint has been pending for 25 months. It has been pending for 28 months. Corrected 2/4.

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How To Debate Paul Krugman

On Saturday Mish wrote a really awful article with those words in it’s title.

The article borrows these words and includes a quote from an even more awful article by Austrian school economist and author Detlev Schlichter.  Part of that quote is presented here.

What makes him [PK] so annoying is his unquestioning, reflexive and almost childlike enthusiasm for state intervention, even in the face of its obvious failure, and his apparent unwillingness to probe any deeper into the real causes of our present economic problems or to show any willingness to investigate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of his particular medicine.

I want to make something perfectly clear before we go any further.  It is fine to disagree with Krugman, or me, or the Pope, or anyone else, as long as you bring facts, data, and some basic skill in rational discourse.  What is not fine is misrepresenting someone’s position and then holding the misrepresentation up to ridicule.  That is both vile and stupid.

Back to the quote: does that sound anything like the Paul Krugman who puts his ideas out there for the world to see on a daily basis?  What I see in Krugman is thoughtful analysis, and deep probing into both the causes of our problems and the consequences of economic policy decisions.  You don’t have to agree with his assesments, but you cannot validly deny that he is making them.

When the opportunities smack me in the face like this, I put on my Krugman Truth Squad hat. Schlichter offers us a standard issue stale Austrian anti-Krugman diatribe. You have to wonder if he has ever bothered to read anything that Krugman has written.  His wordy, repetitive, rambling, semi-coherent, desperate-sounding article – which I cannot recommend highly enough – is an impressive exercise in partial-truths, distortions, make believe, and straw man stuffing.  He then hints that we should go back to the gold standard and totally unfettered free markets.

Schlichter lists Krugman’s alleged assumptions, condensed here:

1)   Recessions, depressions and crises are the result of the unhampered market. 
2)   The Great Depression was caused by uncontrolled markets.
3)   Recessions, depressions and crises are practically the result of one problem: a lack of aggregate demand.  .  .  .   It is the role of government to get people spending again. This is done by printing money and causing inflation so that people spend.
 4)   The Great Depression was solved by the government spending lots of money and the central bank printing lots of money.

Let’s pause here for a moment and set aside the redundancy.  I’m not sure points 1 and 2 represent PK’s view with any degree of accuracy.  Certainly they are gross oversimplifications and neglect other factors.  But if they are true, then point 3 can’t be.  Let’s set that aside, as well.  Points 3 and 4 are reasonably close to the truth, though if you read the original, point 3 runs off the rails as it continues. 

From there it only gets worse.

5)   This explains ALL economic problems.

So, according to Schlechter, Keynes taught, Krugman believes – and would have us believe – that loose money policies and causing inflation are the right policy measures not only for recessions, but for boom times, and periods of inflation, hyper-inflation, stag-flation, or any other problem you can think of.  Even I know enough about Keynes to call that out as false.

The redundency continues to pile up.  I’ll extract one more point. [#’s 6,7, and 8 are repetitions of #4 with various degrees of elaboration and snark.]

7)   If after many rounds of money printing and deficit spending, there is still a recession, then only one conclusion is permissible: There was obviously not enough money printing and deficit spending. We need more of it.

I don’t claim to know everything, but I’m not aware of any situation in recent history that has played out like this, so it looks like a Schlichterian fantasy.  In the post WW II era, the combination of loose money and fiscal expansion has generally kept recessions rather short, leading to V-shaped recoveries, and putting the brakes on too quickly has occasionally led to a double dip.  England has recently experienced an austerity-induced double dip recession.  In the current U. S. doldrums, Krugman tells us fiscal frugality has led to a slow and limping recovery.  This is credible since spending is flat and GDP growth is anemic. [Graph 1]

Graph 1, Current Expenditures and GDP (log scale)

Has any modern major economy had a recession persist after “many rounds of money printing and deficit spending”?  Even in the Great Depression things turned around pretty quickly once New Deal policies were implemented.  But, as PK also tells us, recessions brought on by a financial crisis are different from the typical post WW II recession.

Schlichter doesn’t let up. Though this statement [emphasis added], “Krugman is the one who should be made to explain his policy recommendations and who has to answer the criticism that policies like the ones he is recommending got us into this mess in the first place and that his policy ideas have been implemented for years to no effect, at least no positive effect.” is hard to beat for sheer negation of reality [and for channeling Ron Paul],  the real capper is this: “Krugman is practicing Keynesianism as a religion.”

It is because of statements like this that I lose patience with people who use words like “disingenuous.” You can supply your own alternative vocabulary   Check Krugman’s Op-Eds and blog posts, where he repeatedly demonstrates reality with graphs and tables, shows how austerity is failing right now with real-world examples, and admits it when he gets something wrong.  When is the last time you saw a Krugman-hater do that?

Mish, to his eternal discredit, says of this nonsense: ” Moreover, it appears to be 100% accurate.”

But, Mish continues, the real way to debate Krugman is demonstrated by Economist Hans Hermann-Hoppe in this one minute video.

This is genuinely awesome.   That an economist can be so thoroughly wrong – wrong in general and wrong in every particular – about what Keynesianism is and does, leaves me speechless, and that’s saying something.

OK – almost speechless.  Any child can see that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it.  So let’s forget the trivially unimportant technical details and ask simple-minded, allegedly probing questions that in this case are totally unrelated not only to the policies Keynes and Krugman propose, but to anything else in the real world, and then point and stare when these questions cannot be answered – by anyone, while your minions nod approvingly.

But would it work?  Mish concludes this way:

Krugman would respond with incomprehensible gibberish “for wonks only” as well as typical Keynesian nonsense about how paying people to dig holes and other people to fill them up would start a chain reaction of growth.

A child would see the answer was preposterous, but not a trained economist, politician, or brainwashed academic. Paul Krugman, keynesian economists in general, politicians wanting a free lunch, and most academics are all incurable.

Nonetheless, Hans Hermann-Hoppe’s answer is indeed the correct one. By asking questions a child will understand, some non-brainwashed people will see Keynesian and Monetary stimulus for what they really are: economic stupidity.

In a follow up article [with a 5 point list that includes 2 naked assertion and 3 irrelevancies {seriously – Zimbabwe?!?}] Mish makes it clear that in his view monetary and fiscal stimulus are BOTH stupid.   So, at this point it looks as if he – with his straw man army and blatant intellectual nihilism –  and I have devolved into a schoolyard game of calling each other stupid.

But I’m quite sure Mish is not stupid, and I’m fairly certain I’m not either.  The real questions are these: who is paying attention to reality, whose policies make things better or worse in a given situation [absolutism, anyone?] and whose concepts have had some predictive power over the last several years.  [Here’s a hint: it’s not the Austerians.]

So, maybe a better way to phrase it is, “Who is practicing their economics as a religion?”

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Yup, John Boehner and Paul Ryan Are Right: The economy contracted in the fourth quarter because #spendingstheproblem and Keynesian Economics Doesn’t Work.

Construction has been one of the more encouraging sectors, adding jobs each of the last four months. The hiring there was probably because of a combination of rebuilding from Hurricane Sandy, unseasonably warm weather that led to fewer work stoppages, and the nascent housing recovery, said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomic Advisors.

Retailing, health care and the wholesale trade also added positions in January, while the government again shed jobs. Government payrolls have been shrinking most months over the last four years.

Job Growth Is Steady Amid Snags Holding Back Economy, Catherine Rampell, New York Times, today

Bring on the sequester, I say!  Let’s get that economy going again!

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The employment situation

This was another tepid employment report not much different than the reports in 2012.

Payroll employment rose 168,000 and the household survey showed a gain of only 17,000

 

Private payrolls expanded 168,000 while government employment fell 9,000.

 Perhaps more importantly the year over year change in employment is showing significant signs of weakness,  Both the household survey and payroll data show that the year over year gain in employment has peaked.


 Moreover, this weakness is appearing despite the fact that the annual benchmark revisions showed stronger employment growth in 2012 than originally reported.

 The revisions also significantly changed the pattern of hours worked in 2012.  Originally, hours worked fell well below trend in mid-2012 and were strengthening back to trend at year-end.  Now
it appears that hours worked were not as weak as originally reported. But with the average workweek unchanged in January, the January hours worked fell 0.2%.

 

 On the other hand the apparent bottoming of average hourly earnings growth  is still intact and was actually strengthening in January. 

 
 The growth in average weekly earnings fell back to only 1.2%  versus 1.7% in December and the low of 1.0% in October.  It is going to be very hard for consumer to absorb the increase in payroll and income taxes in early 2013.  Prospects for consumer spending in early 2013 do not appear promising.

 

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Brian Williams Thinks Raising the Debt Ceiling Means Increasing BUDGET APPROPRIATIONS. O Peter Jennings, Walter Cronkite, and Edward R. Murrow, Where Art Thou? — [UPDATED]

I watched NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams last night.  Big Mistake.

Big mistake.

Because now I’m really confused.  I was pretty darn sure until then that “raising the debt ceiling” meant allowing the Treasury Department to pay financial obligations already incurred, such as interest on bonds, Medicare payments, and contract obligations, and to allow continued payments for ongoing financial obligations such as Social Security payments, Veterans’ benefits, and salary payments to federal employees, some of whose jobs are sort of important.  (Think: air traffic controllers.)  I had thought that because I had followed the recurring-crisis news reports about it since 2011, when the first of the crises began.  And because Obama had actually explained it in his Jan. 14 press conference.

But now, well, I think I might have misunderstood, because after Williams reported that the Senate yesterday had approved the House bill to “suspend” the debt ceiling through May 19, he added, shaking his head in disapproval, something like: “This is Washington’s version of kicking the can down the road.  Our debt is now more than a trillion dollars.”

I suggest that next time Williams is onboard one of NBC’s corporate jets, he might read, say, Paul Krugman’s column in today’s New York Times.  It doesn’t explain the difference between the debt ceiling statute and budget-appropriations statutes, so Williams will continue to conflate the two until he digs deeper and reads earlier Krugman columns or other mainstream-media articles that did that.  But it does (yet again)–to borrow a phrase from Paul Ryan in his Meet the Press interview aired last Sunday–debate the efficacy of Keynesian economics, and whether anti-Keynesian “austerity” measures reduce or instead increase national debt in real terms and, more important (although Williams apparently doesn’t know this), decrease or instead increase debt relative to GDP.

But if he is going to wait until he’s up there in the air in that Learjet to read the Krugman column, I hope the trip occurs before May 20.  

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UPDATE: Additional recommended reading for Brian Williams: Joe Scarborough, Paul Krugman and the economist-pundit divide on debt and deficits, Neil Irwin, Washington Post, yesterday.

Scarborough, though, at least knows what the debt ceiling law is, and that it isn’t the same as budget-appropriations legislation.  He does, after all, work for MSNBC, not, say, NBC News.

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