Thursday, March 31, 2011

I make the big time

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Should the United States depend on foreign suppliers for vital resources?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Striking Scatterplot

This graphic is from John Taylor, who plots it using quarterly seasonally adjusted data from 1990Q1 to 2010Q3.  Investment here is fixed investment. 

Of course, causality goes in both directions: Strong investment demand leads to lower unemployment, and a stronger economy, reflected in lower unemployment, encourages investment spending.   As a result, the interpretation of this scatterplot can be debated.  But there is no doubt that the strength of the correlation is impressive.

Update: Justin Wolfers takes John Taylor to task.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Scott Sumner to the rescue

Life is too short to defend myself against all the silly, groundless attacks I run across in the blogosphere.  So I am delighted when smart commentators like econ prof Scott Sumner help with the job.  For Scott's latest effort, click here.  Thank you, Scott.  Unfortunately, Scott has announced that he is taking a break from blogging.

Stiglitz on the Deficit

Readers of this blog have a pretty good understanding of my view of the long-run fiscal situation.  (If not, click here, here, and here.)  Joe Stiglitz has a very different view.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Our Children's Financial Crisis

Click here to read my article in Sunday's New York Times.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Even terrorists have downward-sloping demand curves

The AP reports:
When an admitted al-Qaida operative planned his itinerary for a Christmas 2009 airline bombing, he considered launching the strike in the skies above Houston or Chicago, The Associated Press has learned. But tickets were too expensive, so he refocused the mission on a cheaper destination: Detroit.

The Citation Impact of Open Access

I pointed out in a recent post that the Brookings Papers has become open access.  Common sense suggests that this change should increase readership and thus citations to articles published in the journal.  Indeed, some recent research on law journals confirms this:
Open access legal scholarship – which today appears to account for almost half of the output of law faculties – can expect to receive 50% more citations than non-open access writings of similar age from the same venue.

The bottom line: If a professor is interested in raising his or her citation ranking, he or she should should prefer a journal with open access.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

CEA Chairs on the Budget Deficit

Click here to read an important article signed by a bipartisan group of ten former chairmen and chairwomen of the Council of Economic Advisers.  I have never before had such a large and distinguished group of coauthors.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

BPEA is open access

Here is some interesting news.  The Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, one of the best applied macro journals around, is making all journal issues available to the public without charge.  Click here for the recent conference papers and here for back issues.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What nation has the most progressive tax system?

Click here for the answer.

Update: Wow.  This brief post--really just a link to another blog--proved more controversial than I expected.  Matthew Yglesias accuses me of irresponsibly misleading America's youth.  Scott Sumner responds to Yglesias, pointing out "if you are going to argue that people who make mistakes should be ostracized, it’s best not to make a serious mistake in your attack." 

The issue is what to make of this table:

Click on graphic to enlarge.

Over at the Yglesias blog, a commentor named Peter Whiteford very usefully explains the table as follows:

I am the person who wrote the chapter in the OECD report that is the basis of these figures. It is part of a report on the distribution of income to households, so it doesn’t include taxes that are not directly paid by households, since these are not included in income surveys....[T]he table also calculates the distribution of taxes for the household as whole after adjusting for the number of people in the household, so it will differ from data calculated on income tax returns which are not adjusted for household size.
As others have pointed out this measure includes all direct taxes on individuals so it includes income taxes and employee social security contributions, but not employer payroll taxes. It also doesn’t include sales taxes, but these are much heavier in most other OECD countries, and not as progressive as direct taxes, so if you added indirect taxes in through some sort of modelling it is almost certain that the USA would still have the most progressive overall tax system.
However, as the OECD report points out, progressivity is not the same as redistribution. Progressivity measures how the distribution of the tax burden is shared, while redistribution measures how much the tax system reduces inequality. Redistribution is influenced both by the progressivity of taxes and the level of taxes collected.
In fact, the US system of direct taxes actually reduces inequality more than any other country as well. But overall, the USA reduces inequality a lot less than most other countries, because the other thing that you need to take into account is what taxes get spent on.
Now the US system of social security and cash benefits reduces inequality by less than any other OECD country except Korea. The US social security system is marginally less progressive then the OECD average, but the level of spending is very low – only Mexico and Korea spend less in the OECD.
So while the US tax system is progressive and reduces inequality, the US welfare state is much less effective at reducing inequality. And because the US has a very unequal distribution of income from capital and a much wider wage distribution than many other OECD countries, it ends up as a relatively unequal country after taxes and benefits.
If you look at Nordic countries, they all have much less progressive tax systems than the USA, but they collect a lot more in taxes (including in VAT). They then spend this much higher tax revenue on social security and services, and it is this side of the equation that is most important in reducing inequality.
So the implication is not that the USA either needs to increase or reduce the progressivity of the tax system. If you want to reduce inequality, you need to increase the level of taxes collected and spend it more effectively.

CBO on the President's Budget

The bottom line from the CBO report:
Compared with the Administration's estimates, CBO's estimates of the deficit under the President's budget are lower for 2011 (by $220 billion) but higher for each year thereafter (by a total of $2.3 trillion over the 2012–2021 period).

The Nerdiest Ripple Effect

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Some Commentary

A couple bloggers I follow have posted comments on my new paper with Matthew Weinzierl on optimal stabilization policy.   Scott Sumner likes itPaul Krugman is predictably snarky.

Update: Greg Ip of The Economist weighs in.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Coase Theorem in Action

Click on graphic to enlarge.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Optimal Stabilization Policy

Here is my latest research paper, An Exploration of Optimal Stabilization Policy, coauthored with Matthew Weinzierl.  We are presenting it this afternoon at a Brookings conference.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Madness, Econ-Style

Monday, March 14, 2011

Broadway Producers as Risk-taking Entrepreneurs

"six out of seven musicals fail to recoup their investment."