Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Quotes of the day

Government payouts—including Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance—make up more than a third of total wages and salaries of the U.S. population, a record figure that will only increase if action isn’t taken before the majority of Baby Boomers enter retirement.--John Melloy

[Social Security] accounting that would be illegal for a private company is pretty hard to defend.--Eric Falkenstein

... in percentage terms of the change in total employment level from 2006 to 2010, jobs affected by the federal minimum wage hikes of 2007, 2008 and 2009 account for 42.5% of the total reduction in jobs seen since 2006.--Ironman

Last summer, Barack Obama promised a new education program that would produce 8 million more college graduates by 2020. Few people at the time raised the obvious question: do we really need an additional 8 million college graduates? Where’s the evidence for a coming shortage of college educated workers? The short answer is that the evidence doesn’t exist.--John Carney

President Barack Obama lifted a two-year freeze on new military trials at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and suggested on Monday Congress was hurting national security by blocking his attempts to move some trials into U.S. civilian courts. In an apparent acknowledgment that the Guantanamo detention camp won't be shut down any time soon, Obama also outlined procedures for reviews to be held at least every four years for prisoners held indefinitely without charge or trial.--Patricia Zengerle

While we're at it, we're going to close Guantanamo. And we're going to restore habeas corpus. ... We're going to lead by example _ by not just word but by deed. That's our vision for the future.--Barack Obama, 2007

[SEC chairwoman Mary Schapiro] is coming under Congressional fire for hiring as the S.E.C.’s general counsel someone with a Madoff financial interest — David M. Becker, who participated in matters involving how the scheme’s victims would be compensated. The revelations about Mr. Becker’s role have raised fresh questions about ethical standards and practices at the agency, where Mary L. Schapiro was brought in as chairwoman two years ago with a mandate to strengthen its enforcement unit. Ms. Schapiro will appear before Congress on Thursday to discuss the matter. Questions about Mr. Becker arose last month after Irving H. Picard, the trustee overseeing the Madoff case, sued him and two of his brothers to recover $1.5 million of the $2 million they had inherited in 2004 from a Madoff investment by their late mother. Mr. Becker’s financial ties to Madoff had not been publicly disclosed until that suit. Mr. Becker said that he advised Ms. Schapiro and the chief ethics officer of his financial interest in a Madoff investment account, “either shortly before or after” joining the agency in February 2009. ... Lawmakers have also asked Ms. Schapiro for details of her discussions with Mr. Becker about his Madoff account when she hired him in 2009. Ms. Schapiro missed a deadline on Monday for those responses. An S.E.C. spokesman said Ms. Schapiro declined to comment on Tuesday.--LOUISE STORY and GRETCHEN MORGENSON

But since Dodd-Frank passed, Congress’s noble attempt to protect investors from misconduct by ratings agencies has been thwarted by, of all things, the Securities & Exchange Commission. The S.E.C., which calls itself “the investor’s advocate,” is quietly allowing the raters to escape this accountability.--Gretchen Morgenson

Not a single juror [out of a pool of 40] had heard of Blankfein, who testified before Congress last year about his firm’s role in the 2008 financial crisis.--David Glovin, Bob Van Voris and Patricia Hurtad

Better to read things that annoy you, and respond when you are outraged, than to be oblivious to the best arguments against your worldview. The best liberal bloggers are those who don’t stay in their echo chamber, but rather are willing to also read blogs that annoy them.--Scott Sumner

But the real test of your concern comes when you have to give up things you really like, such dependable electricity. As you know, we shouldn’t build nuclear power plants, because they’re scary, and Karen Silkwood died for our sins. Besides, if we get power from our friend the Atom, it will mean there’s no incentive for clean “green” methods like bird-mincing wind turbines, or solar power, which could provide us with limitless power. (Unless the solar farm impinges upon the habitat of the Arizona Squeakrat, in which case, forget it.) Green-enengy enthusiasts believe we can get sufficient energy from wind and solar some day, so we don’t need to get more gas or drill for oil now.--James Lileks

There’s sex that’s actually pre-marital, in the sense that it involves monogamous couples on a path that might lead to matrimony one day. Then there’s sex that’s casual and promiscuous, or just premature and ill considered. This distinction is crucial to understanding what’s changed in American life since the sexual revolution. Yes, in 1950 as in 2011, most people didn’t go virgins to their marriage beds. But earlier generations of Americans waited longer to have sex, took fewer sexual partners across their lifetimes, and were more likely to see sleeping together as a way station on the road to wedlock. And they may have been happier for it. That’s the conclusion suggested by two sociologists, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, in their recent book, “Premarital Sex in America.” Their research, which looks at sexual behavior among contemporary young adults, finds a significant correlation between sexual restraint and emotional well-being, between monogamy and happiness — and between promiscuity and depression. This correlation is much stronger for women than for men. Female emotional well-being seems to be tightly bound to sexual stability — which may help explain why overall female happiness has actually drifted downward since the sexual revolution. Among the young people Regnerus and Uecker studied, the happiest women were those with a current sexual partner and only one or two partners in their lifetime. Virgins were almost as happy, though not quite, and then a young woman’s likelihood of depression rose steadily as her number of partners climbed and the present stability of her sex life diminished.--Ross Douthat

I suppose we all of us have shadowed places in our lives, places where reside only the ill-formed shapes of what might have been, never clear and untouchable and framed only by their absence of light. But we have what has yielded those shadows as well, or at least the memories of them.--Tony Woodlief

Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we're not listening to less music. There's more music consumed than before. On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it's not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.--Erik Brynjolfsson

If, in order to hear some music, a man has to wait for six months and then walk twenty miles, it is easy to tell whether the words, 'I should like to hear some music,' mean what they appear to mean, or merely, 'At this moment I should like to forget myself.' When all he has to do is press a switch, it is more difficult. He may easily come to believe that wishes can come true.--W.H. Auden
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