Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Quotes of the day

Fathers (and father figures) have a vital role to play in the lives of young women. In a world where so many men seem predatory and unreliable, in a culture where so many older men sexualize teen girls, a loving father figure can provide an indispensable reminder that men are not inherently weak.--Hugo Schwyzer

[Warren] Buffett criticizes hedge fund managers because they charge big incentive fees and receive favorable tax treatment compared to common folk. Yet, Buffett Partnership Ltd was structured like a hedge fund, providing Buffett with very large incentive fees and very favorable tax treatment. Buffett also criticizes efforts to reduce the inheritance tax on rich families—“the lucky sperm club,” he sniffs. Yet Buffett has, quite deliberately, made Berkshire a haven for family companies that want to keep their business and their own management intact, while avoiding the very estate taxes he wants others to pay.--Jeff Matthews

When corporations stop lobbying for all sorts of tax breaks and changes in the law to benefit them, and start treating people better, then I'll stop stealing.  But until then, I don't see why anyone should judge me.  Maybe you think the difference is that stealing is illegal.  But driving 70 mph is illegal, and my neighbors do not think less of me for doing it.  Is stealing somehow extra-super-illegal?  What if I only steal a little bit in each session, so that my theft is only a misdemeanor, just like a speeding ticket?  Yes, I find these arguments fairly ridiculous too.  So why do they suddenly sound intelligent when they're applied to loan default?--Megan McArdle

Many commentators blame our continuing economic woes on "uncertainty." They allege that recent and anticipated dramatic policy changes make business planning difficult, and that this is retarding growth and employment. This view is not wrong—but our main problem is not the uncertainty surrounding new policies. It is the policies.  ... the stimulus was wasteful and politicized, and the American people, not being idiots, know they will have to pay for it eventually. People adjust their plans to account for the additional debt heaped on them, meaning lower investment and consumption.  I will also tell you Dodd-Frank, with its enshrining of too big to fail and its large regulatory costs, is an albatross. I will add that ObamaCare's gigantic new entitlement has hurt. I will throw in that massive additional regulatory costs being foisted upon business is an extra drain on the economy. I would definitely say that the disregard for law during the auto-company "bankruptcies" has long-lasting negative effects. I'd even throw in that the president's demonization of business has been harmful. Finally, I'd say the expected tax increases, even if only on the "super rich"—defined as anyone still gainfully employed—weigh upon us.  ... Focusing on "uncertainty" takes our eyes off the ball. We should not seek clarity about the many new drags on our economy. We should seek to have the administration cease and desist, then reverse them. --Cliff Asness

Pres. Grant, for example, might have grumbled in 1873 about “some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank that uses a modern safe and so employs fewer armed guards than before, or when you travel on trains which, compared to stage coaches, transport many more passengers using fewer workers.” Or Pres. Nixon might have groused in 1973 about such labor-saving innovation: “You see it when you step into an automatic elevator that doesn’t require an elevator operator, or when you observe that polio vaccination keeps people alive and active without the aid of nurses and all those workers who were once usefully employed making iron-lung machines, crutches, and wheelchairs.” Do you, Pres. Obama, really wish to suggest that the innovations you blame for thwarting your fiscal policies are “structural issues” that ought to be corrected?--Don Boudreaux

... President Obama blames America’s current unemployment problem on… automation. ATMs and airport kiosks are singled out. These words could only be uttered by someone who knows very little about economics or the history of human progress. In fact, they could only be uttered by someone who has never reflected on this question before in his life. Because if you reflect for one moment, you come up with this glaringly obvious counterfactual: we use a lot more labor-saving technology today than in previous generations, and yet we also employ far more people. Therefore, increased automation does not lead to decreased national employment.--Andrew Coulson

So how much did Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and her Merry Band of spend-happy Democrats pay for each one of those 2.1 million jobs she says they’ve created? A little division gives us the answer: $1,331,714.29 per job. Let me say that again. This administration has spent over one and one-quarter million dollars per job created in the past 2 1/2 years. And they’re proud of that? They want to hang their hat on that? Let me put this another way. There are, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13.9 million unemployed people looking for work in the United States. With the almost $3 trillion the Democrats have spent thus to create jobs thus far, they could have given each one of them $200,000 dollars with over $16 billion to spare. They could have given each of the 153.7 million people in the labor market right now $18,000 and would have saved us taxpayers $30 billion.--Jimmie Bise

While Ryancare isn’t likely to become law anytime soon, the plan will live on for months in Democratic attack ads. But just two years ago, when President Obama himself told Americans that it was urgent that health-care costs be brought under control, he proposed hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Medicare cuts — not just caps on the rate of program growth. Now that his own $900 billion health-subsidy plan is law, suddenly, Medicare is a sacred trust — untouchable, except by Democrats. Thanks to this double standard on health care, it’s unlikely we’ll consider the benefits of building incentives for healthy behavior into Medicare anytime soon. That’s a pity, since those incentives might be the surest way to convince Americans to embrace a healthier lifestyle, saving billions in health-care costs in a competitive market in the process.--David Gratzer

In just three years you are going to be forced to buy insurance coverage for the very services Wal-Mart is giving away for free!--John Goodman

At last night’s Republican debate, the seven candidates talked about unemployment, taxes, regulations, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s talk of a goal of 5% GDP growth, the individual mandate in the health care bill, the Independent Medicare Advisory Board, welfare reform, the Tea Party, currency policy, the National Labor Relations Board, Boeing, TARP, the auto bailout, Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposal, former Gov. Mitt Romney’s health care program in Massachusetts, raising the debt ceiling, raising the retirement age for Social Security, the role of religion in public life, the 10th amendment, Libya, Afghanistan, and so on. But President Obama’s 2012 campaign is sending out a DNC video suggesting the candidates spoke only about sharia law, an anti-gay-marriage amendment, repealing health care, Sarah Palin, and the space program.--Jake Tapper

In the standard, schoolbook model, increases in the money supply stimulate the economy because they create illusory profits. The demand for goods unexpectedly rises, pushing prices up. Businesses expand to meet this excess demand, hiring new workers, opening shops, and so on. The “extra profits” are invested. Stimulus! A slightly more sophisticated version says that when interest rates are lowered, this stimulates business investment on the expectation that lower interest rates signal higher savings—which indicate there will be more wealth available for future consumption. But that didn’t happen this time around. The Fed lowered interest rates down to zero. And then it engaged in quantitative easing twice in an effort to provide monetary policy economic stimulus beyond the so-called “zero bound.” And none of this worked. (Or rather, it didn’t work to stimulate the economy. It might have worked to achieve other goals, such as stabilizing the financial system.) So why has monetary policy become ineffective? The answer is simple: because we all understand monetary policy too well. Monetary policy can only have a stimulating effect if the rise in prices or fall in interest rates is unexpected and misunderstood. When monetary inflation is understood and expected, it doesn’t stimulate the economy. Instead, what you get is some version of stagflation.--John Carney

..., up until two or three years ago I couldn’t even balance my own cheque book. This is the sort of job where you have to educate yourself quickly about things you don’t know anything about, and more importantly you have to be able to, very quickly, pretend that you know what you’re talking about when you don’t (laughs).--Matt Taibbi

What I'm asking is this: Are screenwriters now affected by "spoiler culture" before they even begin the writing process? If you know a twist will be unavoidably revealed before the majority of people see the work itself, and if you concede that selling and marketing a film with a major secret will be more complicated for everyone involved … would you even try? Would you essentially stop yourself from trying to write a movie that's structured like The Sixth Sense?--Chuck Klosterman

I’ve read the story about the prodigal son more than anything else in the Bible. If you’ve messed up life like I have, then it’s a pretty good read. When you get arrested, they should read that to you right after the Miranda rights. That’d be a nice way to take a little sting out of going to jail.--Jon Acuff
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