Archives for Barack Obama



White House Economist Alan Krueger Answers Your Questions

We recently solicited your questions for Alan Krueger, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Below are Krueger’s answers, in which he talks about the Bush tax cuts, the American Jobs Act, and why NFL coaches should go for it on fourth down. Thanks to everyone for participating.

Q. The recovery from the recent recession has been great for corporate profits, but not so great for employment. I think that this is a natural result of the fact that when demand is insufficient, corporations focus on improving productivity rather than on producing more goods and services.

What can be done to increase employment? -Adam Read More »



Some Links Worth Following

1. President Obama is reading The World America Made, which downplays the America-is-in-decline meme; meanwhile, Latin America pushes the America-is-in-decline meme.

2. Austan Goolsbee is on Twitter, and has lots to say. (This will surprise no one who read this.)

3. If you have a Godfather-obsessed kid, as I do, you may want to read The Godfather Effect. (Good WSJ review here.)

4. “Is economic repugnance closely related to biological disgust?” Yes, this is from our friend Al Roth. More here on disgust and food. Read More »



Of Lags and Caps: Possible Implementations of a Brandeis Tax

Last Monday, Aaron Edlin and I published a cri de coeur op-ed in the New York Times calling for a Brandeis tax, an automatic tax that would put the brakes on income inequality. This is the third in a series of posts (the first and second posts are here and here) explaining more about our rationale and providing more details on how a Brandeis tax might be implemented. You can also listen to my hour-long interview on Connecticut Public Radio’s “Where we Live” here.

Of Lags and Caps: More Details About Possible Implementations of a Brandeis Tax
By Ian Ayres & Aaron Edlin

Remarkably of the hundreds of emails we received in reaction to our op-ed, almost no one questioned Brandeis’s idea that we can have great concentrations of wealth, or democracy but not both. People questioned other aspects of our proposal, asking questions like (1) how would it work in a world of income bunching; (2) would people still have the incentive to work hard; and (2) is it fair to have very high tax rates on the affluent.

Our last post talked about alternative potential triggers. Here we tackle some more detailed questions about implementation including how to trade off different kinds of distortions. Read More »



There Will Be Rich Always: Finding a New Way to Think About Income Inequality

On Monday, Aaron Edlin and I published a cri de coeur op-ed in the New York Times calling for a Brandeis tax, an automatic tax that would put the brakes on income inequality. In the next few days, Aaron and I will be publishing a series of posts explaining more about our rationale and providing more details on how a Brandeis tax might be implemented.

There Will Be Rich Always
By Ian Ayres & Aaron Edlin

In one of the more memorable lyrics from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar (based on Matthew 26:11), Jesus tells his disciples “There will be poor always.”

The same is true of the rich. There will always be a top 1 percent of income earners. But what it takes to be rich can change drastically over the course of even a single generation. In 1980, you would have had to earn at least $158,000 to be a one-percenter; but by 2006 the qualifying amount had more than doubled to $332,000. (You can produce an estimate of your own household income percentile – albeit using a different definition of income that produces a much higher 1 percent cutoff – at this wsj.com site.) The rise is not due to inflation as both these numbers are expressed in inflation-adjusted, constant 2006 dollars. Read More »



The Perfect Gift for the Health Care Buff in Your Family

Searching for the perfect gift for the health care reform junkie in your family? A new graphic novel by Jonathan Gruber (out on Dec. 20) may be just what you’ve been looking for. The book, Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How It Works, has been gestating for awhile, and aims to explain the complicated legislation. Here’s an excerpt from the Amazon book description:

You won’t have to worry about going broke if you get sick.
We will start to bring the costs of health care under control.
And we will do all this while reducing the federal deficit.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that Gruber served as an Obama advisor during the 2008 campaign and may not be the most unbiased of observers.

(HT: Marginal Revolution)



Did Racism Cost Obama Votes in 2008?

A new paper (PDF here) by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a Harvard Ph.D. economics student, attempts to measure whether “racial animus” cost Barack Obama votes in 2008. Using location-specific Google searches for racial epithets collected on Google Insights, and comparing Obama’s 2008 performance to John Kerry‘s in 2004, the study concludes that racism cost Obama 3 to 5 percentage points in the popular vote. Read More »



Lessons in Anchoring and Framing From … George Clooney?

In a Time magazine Q&A, the actor gives a fascinating reply to the question “Are you disappointed in Obama”:

I get angry at people who don’t stand for him, actually. If this were a Republican president, Republicans would say, “We were losing 400,000 jobs a month. We stopped it. We saved the car industry.” You could go down the list. Democrats should talk to Hollywood about how to posture some of these things. Say you’re about to get into tax loopholes. Instead of “loopholes,” say “cheating.” And then on the floor of the Senate, get up and say, “We’re not going to raise your taxes, but we’re not for cheating. Are you?” I just think Democrats are bad at that.

A few points: I assume the “people” he gets angry at for not standing for Obama are Democrats? If not … well … hard to imagine someone like Clooney getting angry at Democrats who didn’t “stand for” Bush.

Great point re the job loss and car industry! Perhaps not nearly 100 percent accurate, but still, a great point re how those accomplishments haven’t been framed as successes. Read More »



Green-Collar vs. Blue-Collar Jobs: A Difference in Name Only?

Amid ongoing inquiries into the prudence of government loans to failed solar firm Solyndra, and a spate of other bad news on the green jobs front, there is growing concern that the green economy may not be the juggernaut President Obama promised when he vowed after his election to invest $150 billion to generate “five million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.” To counter critics, the administration is greenwashing large swaths of the economy—defining “green jobs” down to the point that they are virtually indistinguishable from what we used to call “manufacturing jobs.”

Green jobs are central to arguments that new environmental regulations should be pursued even in a down economy. Supporters of the policies, like California’s carbon cap-and-trade system, claim that even if the cost of regulatory compliance causes job losses in the traditional economy, the regulations will create jobs in the green economy. And green jobs are better jobs, as the President says: high paying, reliably American, and yielding environmental benefits.

Success of the green economy supports the economic defense of environmental policy, which may explain why administration officials were on Capitol Hill last week defending the notion that millions of Americans, from bus drivers to car makers, are employed in “green jobs.” Read More »