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Brookings Scholars Reverse Course on… Everything

Photo: Spike Mafford

With my better half serving in the administration, I’m spending much of this year visiting Brookings.  And every morning, we receive an email, letting us know just what the various Brookings economists are up to.  This morning’s edition (written by Daniel Moskowitz) was priceless: Good enough I thought worth sharing with the wider world.  (Hint: Check the Date):

April 1, 2011
research and commentary
A case for import-driven economic growth
The Fiscal Times
Barry Bosworth
Public unions are the sole cause of state and local deficits
Brookings Up Front
Gary Burtless
es scholars in the news
Scholar calls for lowering Social Security retirement age
Bloomberg – While many budgetary experts inside the beltway have called for cuts to entitlements, Brookings senior fellow Isabel Sawhill argues that the retirement age at which Social Security benefits kick in should be lowered. “Did you know that almost 10 percent of all federal dollars are spent on children?” Sawhill said. “That’s just wacko spending that much money on kids. These $300 billion or so should be in the pockets of the elderly. Obama has all this nonsense talk about winning the future. What does that even mean? Let’s give AARP a win.”
Former Fed officials call for drastic changes to monetary policy
Wall Street Journal Donald Kohn, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and formerly the vice chair of the Federal Reserve, issued a dire warning about inflation on Thursday morning. “Given our current monetary environment, I would say there is now a high probability that the U.S. is entering into a lengthy period of hyperinflation,” Kohn said. “Over the past couple of years, the price of gold has just skyrocketed. Ron and Rand Paul know what that means, I certainly know what it means, and so does anyone with half a brain.” He estimated that the Fed should raise the funds rate at least 900 basis points to fend off inflation. Alice Rivlin, another former vice chair of the Fed and currently a senior fellow at Brookings, agreed with Kohn’s diagnosis, but disagreed with his prescription. “I think Don and I both know that inflation is on the verge of spiraling to Zimbabwe type levels circa 2008,” Rivlin said. “But unlike Don, I think the only way to fight inflation is to abandon fiat currency and return to the gold standard.” Rivlin shocked colleagues when a year ago to this exact date she declared her support for Ron Paul’s movement to end the Fed.
Re-reforming welfare
The Nation Ron Haskins, one of the principal architects of the 1996 legislation that overhauled welfare and now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has changed his mind about welfare reform. “The idea that our welfare state requires an individual to work in order to qualify for most benefits is not only absurd but also inhumane and unfair,” Haskins said. “If I were to do welfare reform all over again, I would make it an open-ended entitlement and remove work requirements. Sure work rates among single mothers have increased pretty dramatically since the legislation, but I have come to realize that welfare is supposed to be an entitlement.” TANF needs to be reauthorized by September 30, 2011, and we can only hope that Congress heeds Haskins’ advice.
Wharton professor gets haircut for charity
Penn CurrentJustin Wolfers, an associate professor at Wharton and currently a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, chopped off his flowing blond mane for the charity Locks of Love. His donation will help create wigs for children suffering from health problems who have lost their hair. “To say I am surprised with his decision is a dramatic understatement,” his colleague and Brookings senior fellow emeritus Charles Schultze said. “I don’t care how altruistic you are, you simply don’t cut off hair that looks that good. If I were in his shoes, or I should say, if I had similarly flowing locks, I would just make a damn financial contribution!” Karen Dynan, the vice president and co-director of Economic Studies at Brookings, worries that his decision may adversely affect his career. “Justin is obviously a very talented and extremely bright economist, but it just seems like his hair was so central to everything he did and was his signature attribute,” Dynan said. “Would Greenspan have become chairman of the Fed without those huge plastic rimmed glasses? Maybe, maybe not. I think there is a modest to moderate risk that such a drastic change could negatively alter his career trajectory.” Another colleague who would only speak on background echoed Arrested Development character Lucille Bluth’s sentiment towards Oscar Bluth: “Oh, that hair.”
Tax scholar arrested in Dupont
Washington PostWilliam G. Gale, a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, was arrested yesterday evening for disorderly conduct. The arrest was the result of an altercation with another man, who bystanders described as a LaRouchie, outside of the south entrance to the Dupont Circle Metro. “That was that a$%hole who interrupted Peter’s [Orszag] speech in Falk last summer,” Gale said. Gale was apparently alluding to an incident last July in which Gale was forced to escort a supporter of Lyndon LaRouche out of the Brookings Institution’s Falk Auditorium after the man broke out in song with lyrics describing Orszag and Larry Summers as “fascist pigs.” Gale said, “I always told myself that I would confront that guy if I ever ran into him again.” A police officer intervened in the fracas just before it came to fisticuffs. Orszag, the former director of OMB and currently a vice chairman at Citigroup, originally said he had no comment on the incident but later added, “The only thing I have to say is that Brookings should amend Bill Gale’s title to Senior Fellow and Resident Bad A$%.”
A smart idea to spur growth
ChamberPost BlogTed Gayer, an economist at the Brookings Institution, has a bold idea to stimulate the economy: remove all regulations that protect the habitats of endangered and threatened species. Gayer explains, “I basically took the framework from a paper that I wrote with Michael Greenstone to perform a welfare analysis of these regulations that are anti-business, and my findings suggest that removing these regulations would substantially improve social welfare and result in $1.2 trillion in development.” He continued, “While some of my critics may argue that these regulations protect species that are on the verge of extinction, the truth is that a proper valuation of the life of what the government labels an ‘endangered species’ approaches zero. Who honestly cares if a whooping crane dies? Do they have an unemployment rate that borders 9 percent?”
other news of interest
Hamilton Project recruits new scholar
Reuters Matt Taibbi, a writer and blogger for Rolling Stone, has joined the Hamilton Project as a non-resident fellow.
States look to lottery for budget fix
WP – Jerry Brown and Chris Christie have both been spending millions of state dollars on Mega Millions tickets in the hopes that a single-winner jackpot would help alleviate their states’ budget woes.
Silent Spring: All government officials’ Twitter accounts deactivated
NYT – Bipartisanship wins the day as The White House and Congressional leaders have agreed that Tweeting with constituents is a waste of time.
As oil prices rise, so does demand for office shower facilities
WP – More white-collar workers have started spending nights sleeping in their offices as the price of oil has made commuting unaffordable.
other commentary
An Angry Blog Post
Brad DeLong’s Blog (DeLong) – Anger is seething from my prose.
Did you know I am the author of the most widely used intro to econ textbook?
Greg Mankiw’s Blog (Mankiw) – I just wanted to reiterate that my principles textbook is in its sixth edition(!) and has sold more copies than any other principles text.
I told you this would happen!
NYT blog (Krugman) – Do you not remember my blog post and/or column from 18 months ago in which I said that we would face the economic calamity that we now face?
General Electric Motors?
NYT (Friedman) – Remember in Back to the Future II when Marty’s car ran on a nuclear fusion trash compactor? The way forward for America is for GE and GM to work together to develop this marvel.