Things to Read on the Evening of April 19, 2014


  1. Jonathan Chait: Obama Declares Obamacare Victory: “The fate of the Affordable Care Act has followed a pattern that I’ve argued, tracks the great polling debate of 2012, the main difference being the lack of a single clarifying event, akin to the election, to instantaneously discredit one side…. Ross Douthat has a column today retrenching the definition of failure. The most notable thing about it is the conservative ground he’s surrendered…. He hangs on the possibility of future failure–Congress may one day repeal the medical device tax or the Independent Payment Advisory Board’s recommendations, or scale back the Cadillac tax…. For all the Sturm und Drang, implementing a successful health-care reform was not actually very hard, for the simple reason that the United States started with the worst-designed health-care system in the industrialized world. When you spend far more on health care than any country, and you’re also the only advanced democracy that denies people access to medical care, it’s incredibly easy to design a better system…. The health-care system still has lots of problems, beginning with the 5 million poor Americans cruelly denied health care by red state Republicans…. If it’s so easy to massively improve health care, why didn’t it happen before? Because passing a health-care reform through Congress is incredibly hard…. The triumphs of Obamacare were designing a plan that could acceptably compensate the losers and generating the resources to cover the uninsured without alienating those with insurance. Designing and passing Obamacare was a project requiring real policy and political genius. Implementing it was easy.”

  2. Lars E.O. Svensson: Ingen Kunde ha Förutsagt… * Deflation in Sweden: Questions and answers * The Possible Unemployment Cost of Average Inflation below a Credible Target * Why Is [High] Household Debt an Additional Reason for Fulfilling the Inflation Target?

  3. Debate at KSU: Mark Thoma vs. Steve Williamson: The Federal Reserve’s Monetary Policy Decisions since the Ending of the Great Recession in 2009


  1. Luci Gutiérrez: Scientists Study Why Stories Exist: “We human beings spend hours each day telling and hearing stories. We always have…. But why? Why not just communicate information through equations or lists of facts? Why is it that, even in talking about our own random, accidental lives, we impose heroes and villains, crises and resolutions? You might think that academic English and literature departments, which are devoted to stories, would have tried to answer this question…. At a fascinating workshop at Stanford University last month called ‘The Science of Stories’, scientists and scholars talked about why reading Harlequin romances may make you more empathetic, about how 10-year-olds create the fantastic fictional worlds called ‘paracosms’ and about the subtle psychological inferences in the great Chinese novel “‘he Story of the Stone’…. One of the most interesting and surprising results came from the Princeton neuroscientist Uri Hasson…. When different people watched the same vivid story as they lay in the scanner—the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, for instance—their brain activity unfolded in a remarkably similar way. Sergio Leone really knew how to get into your head…”

  2. David Glasner: OK, Tell Me–Please Tell Me–Why Bitcoins Aren’t a Bubble: “The problem I have is that bitcoins can’t be used for anything except as a means of payment for something else…. Since when does a theory of asset valuation premised on the existence of an unlimited supply of suckers count as an acceptable theory?… How does one avoid concluding that bitcoins are a massive bubble?… Now one could respond that if bitcoins are a bubble, then so is fiat currency. That is a pretty good response, and the positive value that we typically observe for most fiat currencies is far from unproblematic. But… it is possible to account for the positive value of fiat currency by reference to its acceptability in discharging tax liabilities to the government…. So there you have it…. But… the value of bitcoins is showing little sign of moving rapidly toward its apparent zero equilibrium value…. Either I have overlooked some material fact… or there is a problem with the theory of valuation that I am using…”

  3. Justin Fox: A New Golden Age for Media?: “The venture capitalist and Web pioneer Marc Andreessen (who has investments in three digital news operations) unleashed a spirited discussion on Twitter early this year with his visions of a bright digital future for news. At one point Andreessen offered up the ‘most obvious 8 business models for news now & in the future’. After listing today’s staples, (1) advertising and (2) subscriptions, he continued with (3) premium content (that is, “a paid tier on top of a free, ad-supported one”); (4) conferences and events; (5) cross-media (meaning that your news operation also generates books, movies, and the like); (6) crowd-funding; (7) micropayments, using Bitcoin; and (8) philanthropy. Nicholas Thompson, the editor of The New Yorker’s Web site and a co-founder of the digital sort-of-magazine The Atavist, chimed in with two more: (9) ‘while building product you’re passionate about, create software you then license widely!’—The Atavist’s approach—and (10) ‘fund investigative business stories + then short stocks before publishing’, a reference to the billionaire Mark Cuban’s controversial relationship with Sharesleuth…”

Should Be Aware of:

  1. Josh Marshall: Paper or Pixel?: “I’ve just launched a discussion in The Hive (sub req) about the transformation from reading paper books to digital books. Baffling as it is to me, since for decades I was not only a voracious reader but a devotee of the physical book itself, I made the transition about three years ago. I’m just not able to read paper books anymore. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that. But it’s true. Are you the same? Are you resisting? Can’t stand reading on a Kindle or other device? Join us for the discussion…”

  2. Loukas Karabarbounis and Brent Neimann: The Global Decline of the Labor Share: “The stability of the labor share of income is a key foundation in macroeconomic models. We document, however, that the global labor share has significantly declined since the early 1980s, with the decline occurring within the large majority of countries and industries. We show that the decrease in the relative price of investment goods, often attributed to advances in information technology and the computer age, induced firms to shift away from labor and toward capital. The lower price of investment goods explains roughly half of the observed decline in the labor share, even when we allow for other mechanisms influencing factor shares, such as increasing profits, capital-augmenting technology growth, and the changing skill composition of the labor force. We high- light the implications of this explanation for welfare and macroeconomic dynamics.”

  3. Betty Cracker: The Real Death Panel: “Richard had a happy healthcare reform story earlier. Here’s a sad one. It’s okay with Florida’s wingnut state legislature if working people die due to lack of healthcare. It’s not that these upstanding Christians actively want folks like 32-year-old mother of three Charlene Dill to collapse and die on a stranger’s floor because she couldn’t afford medication. It’s just that state-level wingnut legislators need to deny the president a healthcare reform victory at all costs, and Ms. Dill and 17,000 others like her are eggs that had to be broken to whip up a wingnut-tantrum omelet. So now Ms. Dill’s children will grow up without a mom, and Republicans in the FL legislature can go back to Cockroach Acres and tell their constituents that they bravely stood up to the Kenyan usurper and told him to keep his socialist federal dollars out of Flarda. See? It all evens out…”

  4. Charlie Stross: Generation Z: “I was born in late 1964…. I’m an early type specimen of Generation X. My generation (in the UK) benefited from free university education…. Today’s students expect to graduate with a burden of over £40,000 in loans on their back…. I bought my first home… for a little under £28,000…. Just over 15 months later after I bought my flat I sold it for £40,000 and used the profits to put myself back into university…. A decade on from my purchase, apartments like that one were changing hands for on the order of £100,000…. Low or stagnant income, the services my generation depended on and took for granted will no longer exist or be private monopolies, you either take on a crushing debt burden or consign yourself to unskilled labour for life, the cost of housing is an unsuperable barrier. To that you can add childcare costs…. One ray of hope for Generation Y is rising life expectancy—but by the same token the retirement age is rising…. Generation Y will probably work until they become too infirm…. If you follow this blog you already know my views on how we have created a security panopticon surveillance state…. There has been a boom market in dystopian young adult fiction over the past decade. There is a reason for this. Play and recreation is an important training mechanism in young mammals by which they practice or rehearse activities that will fit them for later adult life experiences…. On a global scale, things are improving…. What should we be doing about it? And what is it feasible for us to do?…”

  5. Paul Krugman: Obamacare Versus The Wusses: “What’s the point? The votes are already in; you can’t build momentum, or attract more donations, or any of those other things that claims of imminent victory might do. Wouldn’t election night be a good time to adopt the persona of hard-headed realist, not delusional wishful thinker? Yet this hardly ever happens. Something like this is going on with Obamacare. Not a day goes by without some prominent Republican politician or pundit insisting that the enrollment numbers are phony, that more people are losing insurance than gaining it, etc. I know that’s what the base believes, because it’s what they hear from Rush and Fox. But you would think that important people would have someone around who has a clue, who knows that enrollment data and multiple surveys are all telling the same story of unexpected success. OK, maybe not — if famous senators don’t have anyone to clue them in about BLS data, they might really still be living in the bubble. But that’s really their choice…. I guess that what gets me is the — to use the technical term — wussiness of it all. Isn’t there any space on the right for people who sell themselves as tough-minded, who condemn Obamacare on principle but warn their followers that it’s not on the verge of collapse? Is the whole party so insecure, so unable to handle the truth, that it automatically shoots anyone bearing bad news? And the answer appears to be yes…”



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