Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quotes of the day

Hedge-fund managers made a big bet on Barack Obama and other Democrats in 2008. Now, with the 2012 contest gearing up, some prominent fund managers have turned their backs on the party and are actively supporting Republicans.  Daniel Loeb, founder of Third Point LLC, was one of the biggest Obama fund-raisers in 2008, rounding up $200,000 for him, according to campaign-finance records. In the decade prior, Mr. Loeb and his wife donated $250,000 to Democrats and less than $10,000 to Republicans.  But since Mr. Obama's inauguration, Mr. Loeb has given $468,000 to Republican candidates and the GOP, and just $8,000 to Democrats. Hedge-fund kings have feelings, too, and the president appears to have hurt them.--BRODY MULLINS, SUSAN PULLIAM and STEVE EDER

Indeed, if there is one disturbing characteristic of President Obama's foreign policy to date it is, quite simply, that the President is far too easily diverted from his stated goals and foreign policy convictions because of political opposition. On multiple issues, from Afghanistan and Gitmo to Libya and the Middle East peace process, Obama has laid out a policy, either publicly or privately, and then steadily backed away from it in the face of opposition, either from foreign governments, domestic political constituencies or his own military. He has far too often pursued the policies of least political resistance.--Michael Cohen

The Administration's budget did propose spending levels which make the recently increased rate of government spending as a share of GDP permanent, regardless of the reason for the recent increase. If you want to see this in a way that takes account of changes in nominal GDP growth related to the recession, then you can compare actual spending before the effects of the recession began with proposed spending after the effects of the recession are over. For all of 2007, spending was 19.6 percent of GDP. For all of 2021—after the impacts of the recession and the final year of the budget window—the budget submitted in February proposed spending equal to 24.2 percent of GDP. These two budget facts are part of the data presented in my Wall Street Journal chart and are taken directly from CBO tables. The 4.6 percentage point increase represents $1 trillion more federal spending per year at 2021 levels of GDP.--John Taylor

Last August, student loans surpassed credit cards as the nation’s single largest source of debt, edging ever closer to $1 trillion. Yet for all the moralizing about American consumer debt by both parties, no one dares call higher education a bad investment. The nearly axiomatic good of a university degree in American society has allowed a higher education bubble to expand to the point of bursting. Since 1978, the price of tuition at US colleges has increased over 900 percent, 650 points above inflation. To put that number in perspective, housing prices, the bubble that nearly burst the US economy, then the global one, increased only fifty points above the Consumer Price Index during those years--Malcolm Harris

We often see the world of the poor as a land of missed opportunities and wonder why they don't invest in what would really make their lives better. But the poor may well be more skeptical about supposed opportunities and the possibility of any radical change in their lives. They often behave as if they think that any change that is significant enough to be worth sacrificing for will simply take too long. This could explain why they focus on the here and now, on living their lives as pleasantly as possible and celebrating when occasion demands it. We asked Oucha Mbarbk [a rural Moroccan who had only found 100 days of work in the past year] what he would do if he had more money. He said he would buy more food. Then we asked him what he would do if he had even more money. He said he would buy better-tasting food. We were starting to feel very bad for him and his family, when we noticed the TV and other high-tech gadgets. Why had he bought all these things if he felt the family did not have enough to eat? He laughed, and said, "Oh, but television is more important than food!"--ABHIJIT BANERJEE, ESTHER DUFLO

Lighting a candle really is better than cursing the darkness.--Bryan Caplan

What this world needs is some sort of universal standard so we'd always know for sure who is good and who is bad. The Ten Commandments was a start. That list covers some of the basics. But it's a bit dated, and it doesn't cover the important questions of our day, such as who is arrogant, who doesn't work hard enough, who should come out of the closet, who is a hypocrite, who is an Internet troll, and so on. Society is inventing new ways of being bad more quickly than we can evolve the rules to cover the new situations. We need some sort of standard that can keep up. I'm unqualified for the task of creating this new standard of good and bad because I believe free will is an illusion. By my view, we're born, our molecules bump around then we die. No one is good or bad if we're all just bumping around according to physical laws. Any standard for good and bad behavior that I suggest would be inconsistent with my own point of view. But for some reason I'm going to suggest just such a standard anyway. Apparently I can't help myself.--Scott Adams
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