51 Articles


6 months Ago

Financing a modern government (French Edition)

Published by marco on

I spotted the following citation in Notre Dame Cathedral will never be the same, but it can be rebuilt by Kiona N. Smith (Ars Technica):

“In a statement, French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron vowed to the rebuild the cathedral, beginning with a national donation program to raise funds for the effort.”

Did Macron just suggest using GoFundMe to fund the rebuilding of Notre Dame? Is France not collecting taxes anymore?

9 months Ago

Roubini on Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain

Published by marco on

The following citations are from an interesting talk/paper, Testimony for the Hearing of the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Community Affairs On “Exploring the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Ecosystem” by Nouriel Roubini on October 2018 (U.S. Senate Banking Committee) (sub-titled: Crypto is the Mother of All Scams and (Now Busted) Bubbles While Blockchain Is The Most Over-Hyped Technology Ever, No Better than a Spreadsheet/Database).

He had good foresight in 2007, but I’m surprised to see how confident he is about the current system in that paper... [More]

10 months Ago

Dean Baker tries, once more, to explain things

Published by marco on

Poor Dean Baker often writes about the same problems—topics that he’s discussed in detail and for which he’s provided solutions in his book Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer. He’s a national treasure.

Once more, though, from the top. His brief post Thomas Friedman Shows Us Why Democracy is Facing Huge Problems by Dean Baker (CEPR) makes the following points (all emphases added).[1]


“Bill Gates is not incredibly rich because of rapid... [More]”

3 years Ago

Mark Blyth on the Jimmy Dore show

Published by marco on

I last wrote about Mark Blyth about two months ago in the article Mark Blyth on Global Trumpism. I recently saw another interview with him on the Jimmy Dore show that I can recommend watching.

If you’ve watched Blythe before, he doesn’t cover a lot of new ground, but he does have a wonderful way with words and for getting right to the point. Often he can shut down an entire line of reasoning with a single, giant point that makes other arguments pale into insignificance.

The interview is split... [More]

The TPP is dead

Published by marco on

The article US pulls out of Trans-Pacific Partnership by David Kravets (Ars Technica) isn’t very long or filled with detail, but it looks like the TPP is dead. Trump made good on the one promise of his that I actually approved of.

The TPP was a deal negotiated in secret, encompassed over 2000 pages and was written (and probably read) almost exclusively by lobbyists for giant multinationals and patent/copyright holders. The former were hoping to be able to extract rent from signers that passed laws that could be shown to... [More]

Comparies National Economies

Published by marco on

I just read/scanned through the article Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture. The article is quite accurate and well-written in the material that it addresses. The reaction at Reddit was more uninformed than usual. My notes below.

  • Taxes: Federal and even cantonal (state) taxes are lower in Switzerland. As she mentioned, this is partially due to there being no “capital-gains loophole” (dividends are taxed at a high rate) but also because there are fewer... [More]

Energy-consumption by type in the U.S.

Published by marco on

This is a sobering graphic for those who’ve been swayed by the propaganda that America is “just around the corner” from a 100% alternative—non–fossil-fuel—economy.

 Energy consumption in the US (1776 – 2015) (EIA)

You can see that coal consumption is way down, but natural-gas consumption is way up. Home-grown natural-gas consumption is declining again (rapidly, despite more propaganda) but imports will likely continue. Along with natural gas, other renewables have also replaced some of the coal, but not nearly as much. Just as much as... [More]

5 years Ago

Grooveshark: A lesson in why we can’t have nice things

Published by marco on

Grooveshark is no more.

Why should we lament this? They were, after all, a company that delivered music without heeding copyrights and without recompensing the artists that wrote the music. Once you read more about their business model, one could only say that they operated in a gray area if one squinted really hard. Once you learned how they delivered what they delivered, you were amazed that they lasted as long as they did.

But let’s take a step back and examine what else they provided and... [More]

Some clarity on Greek debt

Published by marco on

As with so many other macroeconomic topics, Dean Baker at CEPR is a good source of information on this one as well. There is a lot of FUD about Greek debt:

  • That it will bankrupt Europe (whatever happens to the EU, they’re doing it to themselves),
  • That Europe continues to pay out (no payments for over a year now)
  • That the Greeks are trying to get out of paying (they’re actually trying to pay interest at a slower rate).

Let’s take a look at some details below.

Interest Rates are too low

... [More]

On Argentine Debt

Published by marco on

The very short post ”Holdouts” On Argentine Bonds, Did Not Own the Bonds at Time of Default by Dean Baker (CEPR) corrects the New York Times on their chronic mischaracterization of the Argentine default situation that drags on long after the default actually occurred (in 2001).

The NYT likes to make us think that the battle is between a noble group of American investors which generously invested in Argentina, only to be robbed a country with no work ethic and a casual willingness to declare default rather than pay... [More]

John Oliver on the estate tax

Published by marco on

John Oliver’s new show on HBO is what some of us have always wanted the Daily Show to be. Oliver doesn’t self-censor, he doesn’t do pandering interviews and he does really, really in-depth segments. He did one recently on inequality.

“The federal estate tax does not apply to 99.4% of all farm estates. It also doesn’t apply to 99.86% of anyone’s estate. Basically, if you are not comfortable calling your pile of shit an “estate”, the estate tax probably doesn’t fucking apply to you.”

Watch the... [More]

Riding the wave

Published by marco on

When we talk about getting real about the Internet economy, we talk about acknowledging that there is real value there. And when we talk about valuation, we think we are talking about some measure of that—real value. The word “value” is built right into the word, so that must be what it means, right?

But what do we mean when we say “real value”? What kind of value or values? And, more importantly, value to whom? Is there only positive value? Or is there a negative component? Which part is... [More]

6 years Ago

WEF (World Economic Forum) Panel

Published by marco on

The panel from the World Economic Forum on Saturday ended at 16:45 GMT+1. SRF Info was streaming it live in Switzerland in English and I caught the tail end of one of the panels. The discussion included Schäuble from Germany, Christine LaGarde (president of the IMF) and the presidents of the banks of Japan, England (who seems to be American?) and India as well as the president of Blackrock (an investment company) and was moderated by Martin Wolf of the Financial Times.

They discussed the... [More]

The Spirit of Christmas

Published by marco on

The article Spend, don’t Mend by George Monbiot sums up the season as follows,

“Have people become so immune to fellow feeling that they are prepared to spend £46 on a jar for dog treats or £6.50 a bang on personalised crackers, rather than give the money to a better cause?(7) Or is this the Western world’s potlatch, spending ridiculous sums on conspicuously useless gifts to enhance our social status? […]

“To service this peculiar form of mental illness, we must wear down the knap of the Earth, ream the... [More]

Hidden subsidies in supposedly über-modern business models

Published by marco on

In order to provide a service, a company must generate enough revenue to cover costs. Rent has to be covered, utility bills must be paid and employees must get their salaries. Let’s assume that the main goal of the business is actually not to make the owners rich, but rather to provide the service and also provide employment. This is what we are trained to think of when we think of a small business.

Another goal of our economy in general is growth. When a company grows, it can provide its... [More]

Pharmaceutical patents

Published by marco on

The article Ross Douthat: Conservative Who’s Scared of a Free Market in Health Care by Dean Baker (Beat the Press) states the case with pharmaceutical patents very clearly, succinctly explaining how purported libertarian and small-government conservatives sometimes argue for government regulation. This case is a perfect example of why it’s OK to ignore the opinions of people like Douthat: they have shown time and again that they are either (A) corrupt, in it for themselves and their friends or (B) ignorant and possibly... [More]

Branches of economics, summarized

Published by marco on

This diagram of the branches of economics by Zach Weiner (SMBC) sums it up very nicely.

 SMBC 2013-09-19

7 years Ago

Switzerland restrains managerial remuneration

Published by marco on

The Swiss voted overwhelmingly to include a provision in their constitution to, as the campaign stated, “stop the ripoff”. The exact text (in German) can be found at Eidgenössische Volksinitiative gegen die Abzockerei. Rather than try to reformulate the result in a hyperbolic way, I’ll perform the service of just translating the relatively clear amendment to the Swiss constitution.

The letter of the law

See the link above for the full text; I include the original German for the parts I think... [More]

Dean Baker explains wealth

Published by marco on

The article Time to Bury Pew Report on Wealth by Age Group by Dean Baker (CEPR) hits the nail on the head. Pew put together a report a few years ago on the wealth of various age groups in the U.S. This report has since been misused by many journalists to show that the wealthy elderly are exacting inter-generational warfare on the young. The report stated that “the median household over the age of 65 had $170,500 in net worth [while] households under age 35 had [a] median net worth [of] just $3,700”.

Though I’m going... [More]

8 years Ago

Rich vs. Poor

Published by marco on

I recently received a request to post an info-graphic (included below) detailing the results of a recent study published by UC Berkeley, called Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior by Paul K. Piff, Daniel M. Stancatoa, Stéphane Côté, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, and Dacher Keltner (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). The original infographic is hosted at a site called Accounting Degree Online, for some strange reason. At any rate, the findings are kind of interesting.

The URL to the graphic includes the text “Rich people are unethical” but it could more accurately be called “Rich people are unethical (so are... [More]

Greece’s impending default (and what it means for CDS)

Published by marco on

It’s not that Greece’s financial situation is complex. It’s that the common explanation for Greece’s troubles—that the Greeks as a people are lazy—is not only incorrect—per capita, the average Greek works more than the corresponding famously sedulous German—but deliberately racist and unhelpful.

Greece is currently running a larger deficit because of state-incurred debts. These debts are due not to exorbitant expenditure on a hopelessly top-heavy and overgenerous social apparatus—as... [More]

Fixing the Mortgage Crisis

Published by marco on

The blog post, Be a Hero, Barry by Robert X. Cringely, proposes an elegant solution to one of the main drags on the economy today: the millions of people (over 80% of mortgage-holders) who continue to make exorbitant payments on their now-nearly-equityless homes. They are moral heroes for continuing to pour money into what amounts to a black hole, an investment that will never pan out. They are also paying a huge amount of interest—especially compared to today’s rates—because they’re trapped and unable to... [More]

9 years Ago

Greek Austerity Measures

Published by marco on

What could happen to Greece and why is it Greece that’s in such big trouble? The short article, When Austerity Fails by Paul Krugman (NY Times) sums it up quite well.

Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are in trouble, but Greece is hit the hardest because it was the government that “borrow[ed] at rates only slightly higher than those facing Germany [and] took on far too much debt.” In Ireland and Spain, the government didn’t borrow too much, but both those countries’ banks did and, at least in Ireland’s case, the... [More]

10 years Ago

Taxes: Maintaining a Cottage Industry

Published by marco on

Ah, those lovely U.S. taxes—there’s no way to avoid them, even when living abroad. You can’t even renounce citizenship in order to avoid taxes, as documented in the article, Expatriation Tax. Even if you’re no longer a U.S. citizen, the U.S. reserves the right to require you to pay U.S. taxes if you’re either (A) in non-compliance with filing rules or (B) you’re rich (in which case, you probably won’t be paying anything significant, like other rich Americans). I’m not sure how this is... [More]

Krugman’s Back!

Published by marco on

After a relatively long dry spell of more toned-down blog entries, Krugman finally sinks his teeth into his opponents again, while at the same time pointing out an interesting concept, the anti–straw-man.

“[T]he construction of anti–straw-men: […] attributing to your intellectual opponents sophisticated, reasonable positions they do not in fact hold, ignoring the nonsense they actually espouse. […] both the OECD and Rajan are calling not just for fiscal austerity but for raising interest... [More]”

Dean Baker: National Treasure

Published by marco on

Despite the worst economy since the Great Depression and the clear failure of all of the policy tenets of the last three decades, economics and financial reporting has continued largely unchanged. It does not provide context or information that would help people understand why their wages are low, why their houses are underwater (worth less than they still have to pay for them) or why they can’t find jobs. Instead, it continues to generate vast amounts of propaganda designed to continue... [More]

Greeks vs. Swedes

Published by marco on

From the article, Roubini on Greece by Felix Salmon (Reuters):

“Sweden’s Bo Lundgren was also on the panel, and he helped explain how the Swedish population has the crucial and decidedly un-Greek ability to unite behind unpopular yet necessary policies once their political leaders have set a certain course. Greece, which is already seeing riots at any hint of fiscal austerity, just isn’t the kind of nation which is likely to decide that five years of wage cuts in a painful and deflationary recession is a price worth... [More]”

Capitalizing Journalism

Published by marco on

“It’s absurd to assume that your own overhead should be somehow apportioned between journalists on the basis of how much they’re earning, and in fact it’s even more absurd to think of journalists as profit centers in the first place. Journalists are cost centers: you spend money on them in order to attract a high-quality readership. If a journalist does that but you’re having difficulty monetizing that readership, then don’t blame the journalist, and don’t try to get him to chase pageviews... [More]”

Social Security Works As Expected: Nation Outraged

Published by marco on

From the world of misleading propaganda journalism comes this story: Social Security to start cashing Uncle Sam’s IOUs by Stephen Ohlemacher (Yahoo! News). First off, the author makes sure to use the term IOU right in the title to get people into the right frame of mind. If they get the mistaken impression that the Social Security is issuing IOUs, then that’s a real shame.

Before analyzing any further, a quick recap of how Social Security works is in order. Social Security is individually funded by a special tax (FICA) and, as... [More]

Geithner Gets All Huffy

Published by marco on

The following six-minute video is of Marcy Kaptur (Ohio) grilling Timothy Geithner about his activities, interests and intentions during and after the bailout.

Kaptur CHEWS Up Tiny Tim GOLDMAN And Spits Him Out (YouTube)

Kaptur is absolutely right to do this and Geithner’s exasperation comes across as extremly dickish. He is an appointed official, she is an elected official; he answers to her. That his every answer must be “Goldman Sachs” when asked about his cohorts is his fault, not hers. It would be nice if not only he, but many others who, as... [More]