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

My Twitter Exchange With Jamelle Bouie

Washington Post contributor Jamelle Bouie, or @jbouie, posted the following to a thread in Alex Seitz-Wald’s Twitter feed (or whater it’s called) about my hyphenated-names post from earlier today:
Holy crap. That post would have been better if it were just “Look at this Jewry Jew Jew.”
To which I responded:
I don’t buy into the Jews-rule-the-world-with-their-hedge-funds-and-Neiman-Marcus-Holiday-Season-catalogues thing. But I’m Jewish.
Bouie responded graciously, saying:
Um, I was being really, really sarcastic when I sent that tweet.
I tweeted (oooock, I hate that word, but I guess that’s what I did) back:
Thanks for responding.  I was about to post a sarcastic response to you on Angry Bear. Suffice it to say that I’m not anti-Semitic.
Elsewhere in that thread, begun by Seitz-Wald, someone named Irin Carmon–like Seitz-Wald a staff writer for Salon, I just learned; I’d never heard of her before–tweeted:

that seemed like a very long way to say “Alex Seitz-Wald sounds like he’s Jewish”

She’s right, of course.  I mean, who knew that only Jews work on Wall Street and have Neiman’s credit cards?!  And that “Carlyle” is a Jewish name?!  Or, for that matter, that Seitz is?!

I’m not a Twitter user–wasn’t, that is, until an hour or so ago; I think it’sis ridiculous–but I opened an account this evening in order to repond to the many accusations of anti-Semitism in that Twitter thread, including from Seitz-Wald, who surely knows that Seitz is not usually a Jewish name, but figured I thought it was.

Carmon, by the way, is a Harvard alum, who in the Twitter thread said her kids have (surprise!) hyphenated last names.  She’s probably busy getting ready for the High Holidays next month.  I can tell by her last name.


UPDATE: An exchange between reader Sheila and me in the Comments thread to this post:

SHEILA: I have a hard time understanding why post generation boomers are so negative about us. We cared about the poor, protested unnecessary wars, protested corruption and actually gave a shit about racism and the environment. Along with women’s rights. And for this we are vilified? It seems the right wing has been allowed to change the narrative to cast us as a bunch of stoned welfare recipients. I am a boomer and I kept my name because we moved to Alaska and I wanted my friends from the Bay Area and Madison to be able to find me . My kids are named after my husband. It honestly did not seem to matter. At any rate, I am really proud to be of my generation. I only hope that the generations to come eventually emulate us. Sheila

ME: And you think my post is about women who keep their married names after they marry, WHY EXACTLY, Sheila?

Let me spell it out: This post is about people WHO GIVE THEIR KIDS a last name that is: the mother’s last name, a hyphen, father’s last name.  This is a tiny segment of upscale people, almost all of them with degrees from fancy universities and from or currently living in a large metro upper-Atlantic coast area. I suspect that you could travel throughout, say, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, and almost every other non-northeastern or mid-Atlantic state, spending weeks in each, and never encounter a Millenial with a hyphenated mother’s-last-name/father’s-last-name last name.  Yet people with those last names are heavily represented in the student body of the most prestigous and expensive private colleges and universities, and in the upper-tier print news media and other no-one-but-people-with-upscale-backgrounds-need-apply professional circles.

To spell it out further: It’s about elitism. It’s about putting a neon sign on your kid that is intended to shout: “Upscale.” “From erudite, highly-educated family.”  Exactly the way, back in the early and mid-20th Century, the New England boarding prep schools, the Ivy League, the banking industry, the State Department, and ALL the other pillars of wealth and privilege were stocked with names like McGeorge Bundy, Erskine Bowles, Fill-in-the-Blanks-Wasp-Last-Name-As-First-Name.


Tags: , , , , Comments (18) | |

Advertising That Your Child Comes From an Upscale, Graduate-School-Educated Home and Therefore Won’t Need Financial Assistance if (When) He or She is Accepted Into Yale.

One of the really annoying (at least to me) fads among late Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, mainly, I suspect, from the Northeast and the Washington, D.C. area, is the hyphenated-last-name thing for their children.  As in, say, Alex Seitz-Wald, a Millennial blogger at the Washington Post’s The Plum Line, whose post from this morning, “John Boehner’s Escape Hatch is Closing,” I just read.

I don’t know anything about him; I know it’s a “him,” not a “her,” because I’ve read mentions of one or another of his posts, with references to him as, well, “him.”  Or, that is, I wouldn’t know anything about him were it not for the hyphenated last name.

But because of the hyphenated last name, I do—or at least probably do—know quite a bit about him: that his parents have graduate degrees and fast-track careers, probably as doctors, lawyers or the like, and that he grew up in a gentrified city neighborhood or an upscale, probably older, leafy (definitely leafy) suburb somewhere not far from the Atlantic Ocean and not south of D.C., or in a college town.  He spent his youth, when not in school, in highly competitive sports leagues (probably soccer) and in look-at-me volunteer programs, maybe overseas during the summer.  He had private tutors for math and/or whatever other subject he needed in order to ace the SAT.  And he spent his four undergraduate years at a prestigious private college or university, and his junior year (or at least a summer) at a university in China, South America or Europe, graduating with a degree in something and with no (or almost no) college-loan debt.

And eventually, probably when he’s in his early 30s, he’ll marry a Millennial with a wink-nod code name like his: say, Harriet Goldman-Sachs. They’ll have two kids, named, maybe, Gertrude Goldman-Sachs-Seitz-Wald and Leon Goldman-Sachs-Seitz-Wald, respectively. Whose offspring three-plus decades later will be named, maybe, Linda Goldman-Sachs-Seitz-Wald-Neiman-Marcus-Carlyle-Group and John Goldman-Sachs-Seitz-Wald-Neiman-Marcus-Carlyle-Group.  Respectively.

The danger here, of course, is that by then all college and graduate-school programs will be online, and more reasonably priced, and therefore the Goldman-Sachs-Seitz-Wald-Neiman-Marcus-Carlyle-Group kids will be saddled with the hyphenated eight-name last names with no particular advantage to it.  Other than that the Washington Post, New York Times and other prestigious media outlets will have jobs waiting for them when they graduate with a degree or two or three from Yale Online University.


UPDATE: Actually, as I just wrote in the Comments thread in response to a comment by reader rjs, Seitz-Wald is a terrific political journalist at Salon, The Nation and ThinkProgress, as well as, now, the Washington Post.  (I believe he’s still with the other three.)  And really, I don’t know a thing about his background.  I just keep wondering what the intended end game is with these hyphenated names.  I mean, how many generations can be reflected in a last name before space runs out on the birth certificate? Because it obviously can’t extend beyond another generation, this fad really does strike me as simply code for, “This is someone with upscale, educated, intellectual parents who can pay his or her college expenses.”

Sorry, but it does. It’s today’s version of the British-Isles-last-names-as-first-names code that the Brahmins of the early and mid-20th Century employed.


Tags: , , , , Comments (17) | |

Why Banks are “Special”: The Short Story

No, not that kind of “special.” Though it sure is tempting…

Paul KrugmanScott Sumner (seemingly unlikely bedfellows, but…), and most other mainstream economists want to argue that banks are not special — that there’s no reason for economists to understand and analyze their operations in detail, or incorporate those understandings in their (mental and formal) economic models.

Their essential position is that borrowers’ and lenders’ incentives and reaction functions are symmetrical, interacting opposites. (This is the very essence of the Krugman/Eggertsson 2010 patient/impatient-agents paper.)


1. Banks are transparent intermediaries between real-sector lenders (“savers”) and borrowers.


2. The machinery of market portfolio allocation (i.e. as described by Tobin) allows us to model the economy as if #1 were true. cf. Krugman/Eggertsson.

So, in Steve Randy Waldman’s words, “Everything that matters is captured by the portfolio preference of nonbanks.” We can ignore the banks.

Steve, Cullen Roche, Scott Fullwiler, and many others suggest otherwise (and at length) — that banks are special and that it is necessary to model that specialness.

I’d like to explain, in brief, why they are special:

Banks aren’t optimizing intertemporal consumption preferences. Unlike real-sector actors, when banks lend they’re not “saving.” The incentives and reaction functions of the economy’s dominant lenders are completely orthogonal to those of the economy’s borrowers.

Now you could argue (back to #2, above) that the inexorable forces of the financial markets force banks (at least in aggregate) to act as if they were optimizing intertemporal consumption preferences (for their borrowers? their shareholders? their lending officers? their directors? their creditors? their depositors?). But I think many will agree that that argument is quite a stretch.

If economics, as I have suggested, is ultimately the study of human (individual and group) reaction functions, it seems irresponsible and misguided to ignore the incentives and reaction functions of some of the most powerful and influential actors in the economy, simply brushing them under the rug.

Mainstream theory tells us we don’t need to understand how banks work. To understand why that theory is wrong, you need understand how banks work.

Cross-posted at Asymptosis.

Comments (4) | |

“Willful blindness”

The example presented of a community and willful blindness is concrete enough to be useful for a conversation I believe, and to mean something to readers in general. There is the risk the term ‘willful blindness’ be bandied about and misused as happened in prior years with the term ‘cognitive dissonance’, a term thrown like little lightning bolts in conversation, or applied to points of view only contrary to one’s own, but it is something we all do to some extent. On the other hand, there are times when such ‘willful blindness’ is readily apparent as evidence mounts up…keeping evidence under wraps is another avenue to ignorance.

Gayla Benefield was just doing her job — until she uncovered an awful secret about her hometown that meant its mortality rate was 80 times higher than anywhere else in the U.S. But when she tried to tell people about it, she learned an even more shocking truth: People didn’t want to know. In a talk that’s part history lesson, part call-to-action, Margaret Heffernan demonstrates the danger of “willful blindness” and praises ordinary people like Benefield who are willing to speak up.

14 minutes from a Ted talk is here.

Tags: , Comments (1) | |

The PPACA and Healthcare Sky is Falling Again . . .

Chicken Little

Huh? Repeal the PPACA to Help Hispanics and African-Americans ? ? ?

Crooks and Liars carries a conversation by Repub Senator Ted Cruz with Candy Crowley on CNN. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is making it his crusade to repeal the PPACA so as not to cause harm to the most vulnerable of America who potentially are losing their jobs, the Hispanics and African-Americans and singe moms. To real the PPACA do so, he is asking the House to pass a budget which specifically funds everything the government needs with the exception of funding for the PPACA. has debunked the lost job claim here: GOPS’s ‘Job-Killing’ Whopper, Again and previously.  There is no basis for Senator Cruz’s claim for lost jobs due to the PPACA.

As we’ve said before (a few times), experts project that the law will cause a small loss of low-wage jobs — and also some gains in better-paid jobs in the health care and insurance industries.

It’s also expected that more workers will decide to retire earlier, or work fewer hours, when they no longer need employer-sponsored insurance and can obtain it on their own with help from federal subsidies. But that just means fewer people willing to work — and it will free up jobs for those who want them. If anything, that could reduce the jobless rate.

Maybe Senator Cruz is implying employers will cut hours to less than 30 per week? Our own Spencer England has done a couple of posts on the topic of cutting hours to less than 30 hours. It just is not happening as the critics and naysayers are claiming.  Obamacare, The Sequester and Part Time Employment and here: Obamacare and Employment.

Is the PPACA hurting Hispanics and African Americans as Senator Cruz says? The US Department of Health Says No.  913,000 Latino have already benefited and 509,000 African-Americans to date. If anything, it appears that more of the minorities Mr. Cruz claims are being hurt are being helped by the PPACA.

Young Adults with Insurance


“Federal Healthcare Can Not Work” according to former Senator Jim DeMint who recently became the Heritage Pres  .  .  .

Dean Howard and Heritage Pres Jim DeMint face off on CNN as reported by Crooks and Liars. Former Repub Senator Demint: DeMint explained that Heritage Action had launched a nine-city tour to rally Americans in support of repealing Obamacare because it was an “unfair and un-American law.”

“Federal health care is not going to provide good health care to Americans,” DeMint insisted. “You can’t find a federal program that’s working effectively.”

Howard Dean Gov. of Vermont “Jim, I disagree with that,” former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) replied. “I think Medicare works pretty darn well and people like it. And that’s a federal program that works very well for people.”

Demint: (Medicare) “It’s tens of trillions of dollars in debt because it’s been mismanaged, it’s going to leave huge debts onto our children, and more and more doctors won’t even see a Medicare-insured patient,” DeMint replied. “So, it is not going to work for the future.” The former South Carolina senator continued: “And as we put more people on Medicare and Medicaid, and that’s what Obamacare is going to do, is to push more people into Medicaid-style plans, fewer and fewer doctors are going to see these folks. So, we need to make sure we get health insurance that doctors will actually take.” The former South Carolina senator continued: “And as we put more people on Medicare and Medicaid, and that’s what Obamacare is going to do, is to push more people into Medicaid-style plans, fewer and fewer doctors are going to see these folks. So, we need to make sure we get health insurance that doctors will actually take.”

Howard Dean: “I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that I disagree with that,” Dean said before he was interrupted by Bash.

CNN’s Bash: “I’m so shocked,” she snarked, promising to allow Dean to respond following a commercial break.

Howard Dean (after break): “Before we get to that, let me get a little equal time on health care,” Dean demanded. “You know, I was not a supporter of Obamacare when it passed. I am now. I think this ought to be implemented. You know, in our little medical office in Burlington, Vermont, we’ve discovered that premiums are going to be cut in half for the five people who work for my wife and her partners. So, this is going to make a big difference.”

While the PPACA is not the end all of healthcare plans, it still is a step forward in the right direction which has not been addressed since Hillarycare failed in 1993. To the question, are Doctors accepting Medicare patients? More Doctors Accepting Medicare Patients

“The number of physicians accepting new Medicare patients rose by one-third between 2007 and 2011 and is now higher than the number of physicians accepting new private insurance patients, according to a Department of Health and Human Services report obtained by USA TODAY.”

Someone is blowing smoke up  .  .  .  well, ahhh again.


Texas Representative Louie Gohmert’s Healthcare Hooey reports on Repub Texas Rep Louis Gohmert who claims under the PPACA a:

“poor guy out there making $14,000″ is ‘going to pay extra income tax if he cannot afford to pay the several thousand dollars for an Obamacare policy.’”

While there are issues with people who just exceed 400% FPL getting subsidies, Rep Gohmert of Texas claim is erroneous. A person making $14,000 in income is at 122% of FPL and would be subsidy eligible. Under the PPACA, if a citizen lives in a state which expands Medicaid to 138% FPL, the person making $14,000 would be covered under it. If a citizen lives in a state “like Texas” which chooses to not expand Medicaid, the person would be exempt from the mandate or additional income tax as Gohmert claims. A rule published July 1st granted the exemption to the mandate or citizens who live in states which do not expand Medicaid.

There is a lot of controversy about expanding Medicaid to cover people making less than 138% FPL in that the gov. could attach assets in the future. States do have that option and in fact they do enforce it when the middle class uses Medicaid to pay for assisted care and nursing home care which is nothing new and did not come about with the PPACA. Those wealthier than FPL must meet a certain income and asset standard before Medicaid will kick-in.


Obamacare by The Numbers reports on false claims by the Republican National Committee:

“Republican National Committee claims that 8.2 million Americans can’t find full-time jobs ‘partly due to ObamaCare.’”

Since the PPACA was implemented, the numbers of part time workers has been decreasing. The numeric quoted represents the total number of part time workers seeking full time work.

Part-time workers Graph

6 million retirees will also lose their:

“prescription drug coverage”

The quoted 6 million losing their prescription drug coverage are expected to go on Medicare Part D after losing Employer covered drug prescriptions. The tally by the RNC goes on for 55 more losses by citizens under the PPACA as accounted for in their RNC report:  Obamacare by The Numbers


74% of Small Business will fire workers, cut hours under Obamacare. reports on how John Boehner misquoted a recent Chamber of Commerce release of a 3 page Small Business Outlook Study. Only 13% of small businesses said they would take such actions in the study.

Speaker John Boehner Tweet, July 17 CC Study: “74% of small businesses will fire workers, cut hours under #Obamacare” cc @dcexaminer @uschamber

Even though some companies will cut workers to less than 30 hours to avoid providing them with healthcare insurance, the companies will still have to pay in equivalents. The government calculates something it calls full time equivalent employees. It divides the number of hours that part time workers actually work in a month ]by 120 to see what it is in equivalent. In effect, for purposes of the regulation two part time employees will count as one full time employee in determining if the firm has over 50 employees and is subject to the penalty. So actually, firms will not be able to avoid the penalty by just cutting the hours its employee work to under 30.

Tags: Comments (0) | |

Contra Hall

Robert Hall wrote a paper (pdf warning)which is getting attention from Krugman, DeLong and their slavish follower uh here.

Neither DeLong nor Krugman is convinced, but both are respectfully doubtful, because sometimes that which seems to be arrogant recklessness is not pointless

Hall used to be famous at MIT for talks along the lines of “Not many people understand this, but the IS curve actually slopes up and the LM curve slopes down” — and then, not most of the time but often enough, his apparent craziness would turn out to be a big insight

OK Paul given the high praise for apparent craziness, I am about to critique a paper I haven’t read (yes Krugman also wrote “General recommendation: before you denounce a reputable economist for making some completely idiotic mistake, do your homework.” but you haven’t considered my careful counter argument that … shut up). Go on if you care.

Comments (1) | |

Median wages and employment to population ratio

From colleague New Deal Democrat at the Bondadd blog comes this comment and clarification regarding the reporting from this post at Angry Bear:

I have left this comment elsewhere, because there is widespread misreporting and misunderstanding of this report.

While the data is correct, the conclusion drawn by most of your readers probably is not. The Sentier paper does not show a decline in wages, salaries, earnings, compensation, or paychecks, because they did not measure for that (something i have confirmed with them directly). Those have stagnated for a decade, but actually rose during the recession, declined about 3% after, and have steadied or slightly risen in the last year, mainly due to the effects of $3+ gasoline flowing through the economy. I’ve written about it, but if you don’t want to believe me, how about this paper by the Economic Policy Institutue published just this past week:

Comments (1) | |

Ryan Avent and Graeber

by Robert Waldmann

Ryan Avent has some fun with Graeber.  Click for the article but here is a summary.

Graeber “The ruling class has figured out that a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger”.
Avent (my bold)

“Employers had to retain such workers—had to pay them a wage sufficient to keep them on the job despite its dreadful tedium—because the machines of the era lacked the manual dexterity to complete the required tasks, and so a line of human machines was the only way to make the highly productive assembly-line system work. As technology evolved, however, automating routine tasks became ever easier. And the high wages needed to compensate labourers for the soul-crushing repetitiveness of their work gave employers every incentive to automate routine tasks as soon as it was technically feasible.”

Comments (1) | |