BRIEFLY NOTED: for 2021-04-01 Th

Things that went briefly whizzing by that I want to remember...

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Share Grasping Reality Newsletter, by Brad DeLong


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And I am quoted by the extremely smart and hard-working Greg Sargent:

Greg SargentKristi Noem’s Hannity interview Shows How the Coming Infrastructure War Will Exacerbate Division: ‘Kristi Noem, the Republican governor of South Dakota, triggered epic mockery when she offered a creative argument against President Biden’s new infrastructure plan on Fox News on Wednesday night. “I was shocked by how much doesn’t go into infrastructure,” Noem said. “It goes into research and development, it goes into housing and pipes and different initiatives, green energy, and it’s not really an honest conversation we’re having about what this proposal is.” Of course, pipes are infrastructure… drink[ing] lead-tainted water. It would spend enormously on the most conventional infrastructure projects, such as bridge and road repair ($115 billion), ports and airports ($42 billion) and public transit, Amtrak and freight rail ($165 billion).

But… the… distinction Noem drew… between “infrastructure” on one hand, and “research and development” and “green energy”…. Republicans and Democrats, it turns out, have deep differences over what constitutes “infrastructure.”… Republican lawmakers have increasingly equated infrastructure with new highways that connect rural communities and promote exurban sprawl…. But they see most of what Biden proposed as “Democratic infrastructure”….

[But] back during the Eisenhower era, Republicans widely supported large public investments in big projects such as the interstate highway system. But they also supported big investments in research and development, in the technologies of the future and in education for the express purpose of facilitating future national development. “After the launch of Sputnik, for the federal government to spend whatever it took to produce universities and scientists and high technology became priority No. 1 of the Republican Party…” economist Brad Delong told me. “Education and engineering in high technology became the key piece of lacking American infrastructure that the Eisenhower administration wanted to create,” continued DeLong, the co-author of a book about government’s role in reshaping the economy at key historical moments. Republicans at the time viewed this as “essential to America achieving its national purposes,” DeLong said…

LINK: <https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/04/01/kristi-noem-hannity-biden-infrastructure-plan/>

The book, written with Stephen S. Cohen, is Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Policy <https://www.google.com/books/edition/Concrete_Economics/BXoyBgAAQBAJ>. It was a plea for pragmatism rather than ideology in political economy—and a sotto voce word of advice to Republicans to return their party to what it was before Goldwater cursed them and enslaved them to the demons of racism. Back then they thought the point was to make the American economy stronger, more dynamic, and more rapidly changing, because we are a frontier people and today’s frontiers are technological. And, yes, there would be some big winners, but (a) that was a positive point and (b) in the long run nearly everyone would be a winner. Now the Republican Party has become a party of plutocrats and white racists who greatly fear change and dynamism, because for the plutocrats—especially the heirs and heiresses—growth, dynamism, and change are their enemies because it is their wealth that dynamic Schumpeterian capitalism creatively destroys, and because for the racists growth, dynamism, and change brings the possibility that people who look different will not bow heads but instead will look them in the eye.


Joshua Gans agrees with me: much better for people with things to say to be on SubStack rather than working as sideshow acts for advertisers. SubStack and company look, to me, like a substantial intellectual win. But will the Gods of the Marketplace be tolerant enough for it to be self-sustainable?:

Joshua Gans’I have noticed that the journalists/opinion writers who have migrated to Substack are writing better pieces than they have in years. They are up in terms of length, reading age-level and complexity of arguments. I think this is a consequence of the change in underlying business model. When you sell ads, you need views. That means you want a product that attracts the marginal customer. When you sell subscriptions, that may seem to also hold but it doesn’t. That’s because a subscription is not a payment for an individual unit but instead a payment for a bundle. To keep people subscribed to the bundle, people have to be attracted to the average rather than the marginal attracting people. That, combined with the lack of an intermediary, means that the scale of a substack is much lower and more niche than ad-based outlets. Hence, for people I consumed even when they were edited/commercialised, I am happier now when they are not. For others, I can’t tell (yet)…

LINK: <https://twitter.com/joshgans/status/1377242922236719105>


Steve M. thinks that the “pipes aren’t really infrastructure” line of attack will be unsuccessful, because stupid. But the question is whether or not it is too stupid for the Lester Holts and the Chuck Todds and the other media gatekeepers who have had their moral sense excised by surgical operation will find it too stupid to amplify with their megaphones. The jury is still out on that;

Steve M.New Right-Wing Talking Point: Evil Libs Want You to Think Buildings Are Infrastructure!: ‘Let’s not mock Governor Noem for this—it’s not just her talking point. It’s clearly the focus-grouped right-wing talking point on the bill… Sean Hannity… Newsmax… Trending Politics… enumerates items… it says aren't infrastructure-related, among which is '“$80 billion…Amtrak… $213 billion to produce, preserve, and retrofit more than two million affordable and sustainable places to live (and we know who will and who won’t ‘qualify’ for these homes, don’t we?)” That's saying the quiet part out loud, with a bullhorn….

Breitbart just throws up its hands, calls the legislation “Joe Biden’s $2.5 Trillion ‘Infrastructure’ Bill,” with “infrastructure” in scare quotes, then lists “some of the top 45 spending proposals,” including: $111 billion to replace 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines, $100 billion to upgrade and build new public schools, $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure to reach 100 percent coverage, $100 billion to build a more resilient electric transmission system, $85 billion to modernize existing transit and help agencies expand their systems to meet rider demand, $80 billion to address Amtrak’s repair backlog; modernize the high traffic Northeast Corridor; improve existing corridors and connect new city pairs—all of which seem to me like infrastructure, rather than “infrastructure” in scare quotes, but experts disagree, I guess.

So yes, this is their argument: School buildings and rail lines and power lines and water pipes aren’t infrastructure. I’m shocked—the right is usually much better at this…

LINK: <https://nomoremister.blogspot.com/2021/04/new-right-wing-talking-point-evil-libs.html>


First is Rescue, second is Rebuild, and I do not know what the third part of Biden’s 100-Days initiative package is going to called—Rebalancing, perhaps? But Bloomberg is getting ready. And I am warning everybody that rebalancing the wealth distribution to any significant degree will be very hard, and take a very long time:

Christopher Condon & Payne LubbersBiden Seeks to Reverse Decades of Disparity in Next Economy Move: ‘More than a half century after Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, President Joe Biden is planning to take on the nation’s enduring challenge of inequality with a mass expansion of government spending and a revamp of the tax code…. The president’s remarks will lay out the infrastructure portion of an overall package expected to total more than $3 trillion…. Heather Boushey… “The ultimate measure of success of the economy is how well it’s working for people all across these United States.” For many, it’s not working well. The gaps between the richest Americans and the middle class, along with the lowest-income households, widened in the years before the pandemic struck—even amid the longest U.S. expansion on record….

Halting or reversing the trend even with major changes in policy won’t come easily or quickly, economists widely agree. “You’re turning a supertanker, and it’s taken us a generation and half to get here,” said Brad Delong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. “But, yes, you can start to turn the supertanker”… 

LINK: <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-30/biden-seeks-to-reverse-decades-of-disparity-in-next-economy-move?srnd=economics-vp&sref=wFA4tJCq>


This is just dorky on behalf of the Bloomberg News Editorial Board. The whole point of BREXIT—to the extent that it has a point—was so that Boris Johnson could chart his own course, which of course includes unduly loosening regulations in a bid to attract business. The Bloomberg Editorial Board here blames the EU for an action by the UK. The EU did not leave the UK. The UK left the EU. What the BNEB blames the EU for not accomplishing—the constructive revocation of BREXIT—has to start with a guarantee from the UK that it will shadow EU regulations, not a guarantee from the EU that it will maintain access permanently:

Bloomberg News Editorial BoardEurope Will Regret Stealing London’s Finance Business After Brexit: ‘In quitting the European Union, the U.K. has handed its former partners a golden opportunity: Seize some of the lucrative financial services business that London has long dominated. It’s a temptation that European officials would do well to resist…. The solution isn’t difficult. The EU and the U.K. should grant each other’s firms full access as long as their regulatory regimes remain roughly equivalent…. Such agreements should be made permanent, broadened… and strengthened to ensure the EU won’t revoke access suddenly and unilaterally. In return, the U.K. should offer assurances that it won’t unduly loosen regulations in a bid to attract business. The goal, in short, should be to keep trade as free as it was when the U.K. was still in the EU…

LINK: <https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-01-21/europe-will-regret-stealing-london-s-finance-business-after-brexit>


As Bill Janeway likes to say, when you give a banker near-infinite credit, you know exactly what he is going to do. You just do not know at which wall he will do it. Much better to have a fiscal policy and a wealth distribution with which full employment does not require that the central bank keep interest rates low low low low for long long long long. And much better to reconfigure banks, so as to make everybody a risk manager for everybody else within six desks of themselves:

Sofia Horta e Costa, Tracy Alloway, & Bei HuBill Hwang Archegos Capital Linked to Derivatives at Nomura, Credit Suisse: ‘Archegos used equity swaps or CFDs, people familiar have said. Instruments are popular with hedge funds, allow non-disclosure. World’s Biggest Banks Tally Fallout From Block Trade Spree: The forced liquidation of more than $20 billion in holdings linked to Bill Hwang’s investment firm is drawing attention to the covert financial instruments he used to build large stakes in companies…. Nomura Holdings Inc. and Credit Suisse Group AG… swaps and so-called contracts-for-difference….

Archegos may never actually have owned most of the underlying securities… amass[ed] exposure to publicly-traded companies without having to declare it. The swift unwinding of Archegos has reverberated across the globe, after banks such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley forced Hwang’s firm to sell billions of dollars in investments accumulated through highly leveraged bets. The selloff roiled stocks from Baidu Inc. to ViacomCBS Inc., and prompted Nomura and Credit Suisse to disclose that they face potentially significant losses on their exposure… 

LINK: <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-03-29/billions-in-secretive-derivatives-at-center-of-archegos-blowup?sref=vuYGislZ>


Methinks John Scalzi has shipped his latest book to the editor, and now has time to be wise:

John ScalziDoes Money Satisfy?: ‘Money doesn’t satisfy, it alleviates. In drug terms, money’s not a mood-lifter, it’s a painkiller…. There is a definite short-term bump that comes from suddenly having in your possession a larger sum of money…. But… that euphoria is both short-lived (the hedonic treadmill of money moves quickly), and usually masking a wider and more complex emotional response…. After the happy shock wears off, what they feel is often something like relief. That money can go to solve problems…. This is what I mean by money being a painkiller. So many of so many people’s day-to-day problems are caused by the lack of money. Lack of money causes uncertainty, anxiety and worry—causes pain. When you have money that pain goes away…. When you don’t have pain, you don’t think about that pain, and you don’t think of all the things you have to do to manage that pain. You just… get to do and think about other things… LINK: <https://whatever.scalzi.com/2021/04/01/reader-request-week-2021-7-does-money-satisfy/>


Where the Lawyer Cat filter came from:

CarstenRemove the Cat (Webcam Avatar): ‘A member of my family has for a long time been battling with a “Webcam Avatar”, a stupid white cat that replaced his video feed in Skype…. The “Webcam Avatar” is… pre-installed along with all the other crap Dell puts on a laptop (or perhaps as part of a system upgrade). To remove it, you need to go the path of Control Panel -> Add/Remove programs -> Remove Live Cam Avatar. It might appear in more than one place… 

LINK: <https://web.archive.org/web/20130331214218/http://www.bitbybit.dk/carsten/blog/?p=269>

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