Thursday, January 13, 2011

Quotes of the day

We have become increasingly clear about the fact that if there are not offsetting measures to reverse the deterioration in negative fundamentals in the U.S., the likelihood of a negative outlook over the next two years will increase.--Sarah Carlson, senior analyst at Moody's Investors Service

The view of markets is that the U.S. will continue to benefit from the exorbitant privilege linked to the U.S. dollar [to fund its deficits]. But that may change. We can't rule out changing the outlook [on the U.S. sovereign debt rating in the future]. No triple-A rating is forever.--Carol Sirou, head of Standard & Poor's Corp. France

As a result of this [Supreme Court decision against a debtor in bankruptcy], people who buy cars they can afford will be unable to claim an allowance for the expense of keeping up their cars . But people who buy cars they cannot afford to pay for and for which they have to take on a loan, will be able to claim a $471 monthly allowance. There's nothing in the law that instructs the court to import the IRS's rule about when to permit a car expense allowance. The justices just decided that the law made more sense with the debt requirements. It's a shame that only one justice noticed how ridiculous it is to punish ownership and reward indebtedness.--John Carney

... those who aspire to hop from the 30th percentile to the 35th percentile [of income] would need to increase their cash income by $4,000 annually (or by about 17 percent); those who aspire to hop from the 91st percentile to the 96th percentile would require an increase of $57,900 (or 35 percent).--Catherine Rampell  (NOTE: This seemed off-base, and sure enough, when I looked at the table Rampell later provided, her numbers needed correction.  UPDATE:  Rampell got back to me and confirmed the error.  She had originally intended to compare 94th and 99th percentiles.)

... it is well known that if your father had high income, you are more likely to have high income than if you father had low income. According to this study (which I found thanks to a pointer by Paul Krugman), the elasticity of son's income with respect to father's income is about 0.5 in the United States. How do you interpret this fact? Some people might be tempted to see it as evidence against equality of opportunity. After all, it shows that it matters where you started. Rich parents can buy better schools, expensive tutors, fancy summer camps, and all sort of other great stuff for their kids. How fair is that? But what strikes me about that 0.5 number is not how large it is but how small it is. As I understand it, that 0.5 estimate is roughly the correlation between father and son income. That means that the fraction of variance of son's income explained by father's income--that is, R-squared--is only 0.25. This last number is sometimes called the "heritability" of a characteristic. By contrast, the heritability of IQ is usually estimated to be much larger than that. ... The study cited above points out that economic mobility is greater in some European countries. That fact does not surprise me, as those are nations with less inequality. Moving up and down a short ladder is a lot easier than moving up and down a tall one.--Greg Mankiw

I don’t know what led me to do it, but one day I decided the company would become more grateful. I bought several boxes of thank-you cards and gave one to each member of the staff (we were tiny, so this was no big deal) and asked if we’d be willing to write a thank-you card to somebody every day until our boxes were empty. The staff loved the idea. We wrote cards to our customers, to our vendors, even to our delivery guys. I wasn’t expecting anything to happen, except maybe to let the people who supported us know how grateful we were, but to my surprise, we saw a fairly significant boost in our business. No kidding. I don’t know if our business increased because we sent out thank-you cards, but it certainly didn’t hurt. There’s something inherently powerful in saying thank you to somebody.--Don Miller

Everything Obama did right during his presidential campaign he did right last night: It may not have been the best speech of his life, but it was the best speech of his presidency.--Ross Douthat

Having used divisiveness to push through Obamacare and other expansions of government, Obama now wants everyone to come together and lower the volume.--William Jacobson

Want to ferret out if someone at work is a Christian without straight up asking? Chances are, if they have a Bible verse tattooed in Hebrew, they are a Christian. (Or they’re Angelina Jolie. It’s one of the two.)--Jon Acuff

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