Barack Obama Marxist in Action?

Scott Sumner points out that government spending for the first time in his lifetime has fallen under President Obama
Gov't spending

And what about that massive inflation that was predicted to happen under Obama and Bernanke/
Inflation

But what about those rapidly expanding government payrolls? Surely the government must be expanding its size?
Via Kash
Government employment

From this the GOP concludes

Paul Krugman circa 1997 on the triumph of capitalism

Paul Krugman pondering what went wrong with communism.

“The Soviet triumph in World War II was, above all, a victory of production. Despite huge losses in the first months of the war, despite mass dislocations of population and the German occupation of many of the country’s key manufacturing centers, Soviet industry managed to build tanks, artillery, and aircraft that were technologically a match for Germany’s weapons, and to do so at a rate that consistently exceeded anything their opponents thought was possible. Indeed, the decisive German defeats at Stalingrad and Kursk came about precisely because the Germans launched offensives against what they imagined to be a weaker opponent, and were taken by surprise when counterattacked by thousands of tanks whose existence they had never suspected….”

 

So why then did communism fade out in favor of capitalism? Pressure caused by globalization? Inability to keep up with rapid technological progress? He continues…

…A market system, of course, works whether people believe in it or not. You may dislike capitalism, even feel that as a system it will eventually fail, yet do your job well because your family needs the money you earn. Capitalism can run, even flourish, in a society of selfish cynics. But a non-market economy cannot. The personal incentives for workers to do their jobs well, for managers to make good decisions, are simply too weak. In the later years of the Soviet Union, workers knew that they would be paid regardless of how hard they tried; managers knew that promotions would depend more on political connections than on performance; and nobody was offered rewards large enough to justify taking unpopular positions or any sort of serious risk. (There can’t have been more than a few dozen people in the Soviet Union – all of them politicians – who had the kind of lavish life style enjoyed by tens of thousands of successful entrepreneurs and executives in the United States). So why did the system ever work? Because people believed in it. I don’t mean that people went singing to their jobs, praising the motherland. I do mean that they did not take as much advantage of the system as they might have (and did, in the system’s later years). And I also mean that because people in authority believed in the system, they were willing to impose brutal punishments on those who did try to take advantage. (Stalin used to shoot unsuccessful generals).

We see this kind of thing all the time, in microcosm. The market does not require people to believe in it; but the centrally planned economies that live inside a market economy, known as corporations, do. Everybody knows that financial incentives alone are not enough to make a company succeed; it must also build morale, a sense of mission, which makes people work at least somewhat for the good of the company rather than think only of what is good for them. Luckily, under capitalism an individual company can fail without taking the whole society down with it – or it can be reformed without a bloody revolution.

 

Why did people stop believing in socialism? Part of the answer is simply the passage of time: you can’t expect revolutionary fervor to last for 70 years. But perhaps also the unexpected resurgence of capitalism played a role. By the 1980s Russia’s elite was all too aware that the country, instead of overtaking the capitalist nations, was slipping behind – that Russia was failing to take advantage of new technology, that if anyone was challenging the West it was the rising nations of Asia. Communism lost any claim to the mandate of history well before it actually fell apart, and perhaps that is why it fell apart

 

In the end, then, capitalism triumphed because it is a system that is robust to cynicism, that assumes that each man is out for himself. For much of the past century and a half men have dreamed of something better, of an economy that drew on man’s better nature. But dreams, it turns out, can’t keep a system going over the long term; selfishness can.”

http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/Russia.htm

ATTN: Eurozone…..

A new article is out @ VoxEU on the effects of capital inflows, exchange rate flexibility, and financial crisis.

The authors find that large capital inflows without flexible exchange rates to adjust leads to credit expansion and eventually bubbles. This played a major role in China/US with China pegging its currency to the USD and the Eurozone where they share the common currency and trade surpluses in Germany and the like are disruptive to the deficit countries such as Greece.

http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/7555

Good News In the US?

Via Calculated Risk

In the week ending January 14, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 352,000, a decrease of 50,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 402,000. The 4-week moving average was 379,000, a decrease of 3,500 from the previous week’s revised average of 382,500.

As a rule of thumb it is generally accepted that to reduce unemployment this needs to be below <400k.

I am starting to become modestly optimistic.

http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2012/01/weekly-initial-unemployment-claims_19.html

Andrew Sullivan on Obama’s first term

Andrew Sullivan does not understand the lack of appreciation for President Obama’s first term.

You hear it everywhere. Democrats are disappointed in the president. Independents have soured even more. Republicans have worked themselves up into an apocalyptic fervor. And, yes, this is not exactly unusual.

A president in the last year of his first term will always get attacked mercilessly by his partisan opponents, and also, often, by the feistier members of his base. And when unemployment is at remarkably high levels, and with the national debt setting records, the criticism will—and should be—even fiercer. But this time, with this president, something different has happened. It’s not that I don’t understand the critiques of Barack Obama from the enraged right and the demoralized left. It’s that I don’t even recognize their description of Obama’s first term in any way. The attacks from both the right and the left on the man and his policies aren’t out of bounds. They’re simply—empirically—wrong…..

After spending a couple pages making the case as to why both conservative and liberal criticism is unfair, Sullivan concludes:

….If I sound biased, that’s because I am. Biased toward the actual record, not the spin; biased toward a president who has conducted himself with grace and calm under incredible pressure, who has had to manage crises not seen since the Second World War and the Depression, and who as yet has not had a single significant scandal to his name. “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” George Orwell once wrote. What I see in front of my nose is a president whose character, record, and promise remain as grotesquely underappreciated now as they were absurdly hyped in 2008. And I feel confident that sooner rather than later, the American people will come to see his first term from the same calm, sane perspective. And decide to finish what they started.

Blogging Returns

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Tax Cuts Do Not Pay For Themselves….Vol 2298934

Bruce Bartlett attempts to explain the position of conservative economists to GOP members and put to rest the idea of tax cuts paying for themselves…

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