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/

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.”

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.

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.

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

My visitors

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…

Barney Frank’s Federal Reserve Reform Proposal…

Frank Introduces Bill to Concentrate Fed Power in DC, by Luca Di Leo, WSJ: U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass) Tuesday introduced a bill that would let interest rates be set only by Federal Reserve officials picked by the government, a new attempt to move power away from regional Fed officials chosen by the private sector.

The bill would remove from the 12-member policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee the five members who represent regional Fed banks. Only the seven-member board in Washington, which currently has two vacant seats, would get to vote on interest rates. The congressman said this would make the Fed more democratic and increase “transparency and accountability on the FOMC” by eliminating those officials who are effectively picked by business executives.

Mark Thoma does not like this proposal…

“Why Do Spanish People Smell Like Clean Clothes”

Not trying to sound racist, but has anyone noticed how spanish ppl smell like Clean clothes?.What do they use?
I got a walmart where theres alot of spanish ppl:)

Ive noticed that alot of them smell like super fresh clean clothes :D.. Does anyone know what detergent they use? 🙂

Thank you:)

Yahoo Answers

Rational Inattention Theory


‘Rational Inattention’ Guides Overloaded Brains, Helps Economists Understand Market Behavior, by Antonella Tutino, Economic Letter, FRB Dallas: Between Internet news sources, social media and email, people are awash in information, most of it accessible at near-zero cost. Yet, humans possess only a finite capacity to process all of it. The average email user, for example, receives dozens of messages per day. The messages can’t all receive equal attention. How carefully does someone read an email from a sibling or friend before crafting a reply? How closely does a person read an email from the boss?

Limitations on the ability to process information force people to make choices regarding the subjects to which they pay more or less attention. Economists have long acknowledged the existence of human cognitive capacities, but only in recent years have models embodying such limits known as “rational inattention” found their way into mainstream macroeconomics.

Rational inattention models have a broad range of applications. They may reconcile relatively unchanged prices and volatile ones and how the two play out in aggregate demand in the U.S. economy. Moreover, such models can capture salient features of the business cycle, providing a rationale for sharp contractions or slower expansions. Finally, rational inattention models have significant implications for monetary policy. Since the focus of these models revolves around formation of peoples’ expectations, understanding how individuals perceive the economy is instrumental to policymakers’ efforts to achieve output and price stabilization objectives.

Rational Inattention: A Primer
One macroeconomic school of thought—known as rational expectations—assumes that people fully and quickly process all freely available information. By comparison, under rational inattention theory, information is also fully and freely available, but people lack the capability to quickly absorb it all and translate it into decisions. Rational inattention is based on a simple observation: Attention is a scarce resource and, as such, it must be budgeted wisely.[1]

A world with overwhelming amounts of facts and data means prioritizing activities, recognizing individual processing limitations and accepting the consequences when acting, even if all information isn’t fully analyzed. Given a physical constraint on the rate at which people can process information—referred to as Shannon’s channel, after Claude Shannon, a Bell Labs researcher who pioneered information theory in the 1940s—people choose how much attention to devote to different subjects so they can maximize their productivity.

This seemingly abstract concept has a familiar resonance with day-to-day experience. For instance, the maximum amount of information that somebody can download from a computer at any one moment cannot exceed a number—the transmission rate—provided by the manufacturer. Likewise, a person cannot instantaneously respond to a given email. The amount of time it takes to answer email depends on its content and how much information that person wants to process to produce a sensible reply. The brain, which has limits on its processing abilities, is the channel through which an individual directs information, from the original email to the reply.

Incorporating such limits introduces great complexity into economic models. Still, economists are making progress, and results from this new avenue of research can explain several important aspects of macroeconomic performance. For instance, consider the business cycle, the period of activity between booms and busts. Data tell us that in aggregate, output contractions are faster than output growth during a typical cycle. Yet, mainstream models, whose intrinsically symmetric structure tends to make business expansion and contraction roughly equal, cannot account for this characteristic.

Rational inattention theory allows richer modeling that does not assume a symmetry of reactions to positive or negative economic shocks—an unanticipated beneficial boost in technology or an unexpected oil price increase doesn’t produce the same pattern of reactions.

Moreover, rational inattention models carry far-reaching policy implications. The underlying theory aims to provide a solid structure to study economic expectations as well as the public’s reaction to change. If central banks successfully reconcile the two, they can more effectively communicate strategies and goals, thus achieving policy objectives.

Choosing How to Consume
Data show that individuals react more quickly and strongly to loss of wealth than to an enhanced financial condition. The overall economy reduces output in response to a negative shock more rapidly than it boosts production in the presence of positive developments of the same significance.[2]

Rational inattention provides a possible reason for such behavior. Individuals choose bits of information according to their interests; risk aversion may induce people to process negative news faster than positive news. As an example, suppose someone reads in the news that interest rates are falling and businesses are cutting budgets. An interest-rate reduction doesn’t generally prompt people to rush to the bank to obtain a loan so they can consume instantaneously. However, news that companies are cutting expenses, possibly including worker pay, might encourage individuals to more readily seek clarification about their job situation and start making savings plans. Such behavioral differences are an example of an asymmetric response to an economic shock involving consumption and income.

Rational inattention theory produces both micro- and macroeconomic dynamics—individual decision making and broader aggregate behaviors—observationally distinct from standard models.[3] These attributes have motivated new research into developing models that make sufficiently specific predictions that can be compared with actual data for individual and group actions.[4]

Making Labor Choices
The relationship between Shannon channel information processing constraints and the human brain’s capacity suggests how rational inattention may be useful for economic modeling. Consider a person who must decide how much to consume and work while facing uncertainty about wages. Choosing the appropriate amounts and kinds of labor and consumption requires paying attention to current and future savings as well as various ways of earning income from one’s work. Information-processing constraints come into play, limiting the number of combinations the person would realistically evaluate. Applying rational inattention to this situation provides a useful framework for how the task will be undertaken.

For example, the theory’s predictions are consistent with business cycles and secular trends in the U.S.—consumption is more changeable than the number of hours worked.[5] People are more likely to modify how much they save than the amount of time worked, a behavior corroborated by data.[6] Moreover, a group of such behaviors, which may greatly vary among individuals, can be much less volatile when taken together in the aggregate.

Selling Low, Buying High
Why are items on sale always noticeable at the supermarket, while price increases get much less visibility? Rational inattention models suggest that stores have an interest in attracting the attention of the customer to temporary price cuts to increase demand in the hope that the merchants can maintain consumption when the items go back to full price and the discount fades. Models of price-setting are designed to generate price and wage rigidity—the notion that goods prices and salary are fixed for a long time.

Rational inattention not only accomplishes this, but also explains which types of prices are most likely to remain rigid. Moreover, the theory can account for an important feature shared by many grocery store prices: frequent temporary discounting that reverts to a relatively stable price not prone to change outside of the “sale” periods.[7]

Consider the price-setting of a monopolistic producer who pays limited attention to demand. Importantly, the price paths drawn from such models are consistent in ways that rational expectation models are not. For example, under rational inattention, producers’ responses to input shocks, such as a supply disruption, are delayed and gradual; prices are rigid through time, and when changes occur, they are significant. Pricing is asymmetric, with sales (low prices) advertised to pique customer interest while diverting attention from price increases.

Computational complexity prevents the building of a rational inattention model that could explain a marketplace in pricing equilibrium, the point at which sellers can attract buyers to purchase all that they have produced. However, the literature has produced one example in which both consumers and producers have limited capacity to process information about prices.[8]

In that model, sellers produce a range of similar goods and compete perfectly for shares of the market, while consumers decide what bundle of goods to buy and where to shop. An unanticipated technology change affecting producers provides an outside shock. In this model, firms make real profits even if markets are perfectly competitive and prices don’t change for a prolonged period. Mainstream theory predicts that when markets are perfectly competitive, producers can’t charge a high markup without losing customers. Rational inattention models predict that competitive producers, exploiting the limited ability of consumers to process information about pricing, can make larger profits.

Brand-name products are a case in point. They are well advertised and, as a result, people may purchase them instead of often cheaper non-brand-name competitors, though the items may be essentially the same with little difference to justify a premium price.

Making Policy Choices
Whether rigid prices and wages occur because of market structure, such as monopolistic competition, or rational inattention has important policy implications. For instance, regulation may address a monopolistic situation, limiting a firm’s market power. Conversely, if rigidities mainly arise from rational inattention, then efforts should be made to more actively communicate the direction of monetary policy.

Rational inattention also strongly affects policymakers’ communications strategies. Most obviously, the theory suggests that rationally inattentive people make the most of available information by analyzing those bits that are very relevant to their decisions and disregarding the rest. As a result, the public can make better decisions with better overall outcomes if policymakers are highly transparent about what they do and why.

Because rational inattention theory predicts that people pay attention to information according to their needs, people have little incentive to take note of economic bellwethers in times of stability. By contrast, in volatile periods, market participants will allocate more time analyzing current and future macroeconomic indicators. That can result in more changeable behavior, including overreaction to news and policy changes.

Rational inattention implies that monetary policy instruments serve a dual role in the economy—as a stabilizing and signaling device. The theory provides a solid framework to study the effects of the policy changes on private sector behavior by taking into account this double duty.

An implication of this suggests that in troubled economic times, central bankers must pay closer attention to their message. By contrast, in less stressful periods, difficult policy choices can be made with less likelihood of market overreaction.

In email parlance, it’s almost as if an important announcement has been diverted into a spam folder, where it may sit for a long time while attention is given to the daily flow of news and messages. The critical information is there but escapes detection and reaction until much later, if at all.


1. See “Implications of Rational Inattention,” by Christopher A. Sims, Journal of Monetary Economics, vol. 50, no. 3, 2003, pp. 665–90, and “Rational Inattention: Beyond the Linear-Quadratic Case,” by Christopher A. Sims, American Economic Review, vol. 96, no. 2, 2006, pp. 158–63.
2. See “Some International Evidence on Output-Inflation Tradeoffs,” by Robert E. Lucas Jr., American Economic Review, vol. 63, no. 3, 1973, pp. 326–34.
3. “The Rigidity of Choices: Lifetime Savings Under Information-Processing Constraints,” by Antonella Tutino, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, unpublished paper, 2010.
4. “The Empirical Relevance of Rational Inattention,” by Antonella Tutino, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, unpublished paper, 2011.
5. See “Intertemporal Substitution in Macroeconomics,” by N. Gregory Mankiw, Julio J. Rotemberg and Lawrence H. Summers, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol.100, no.1, 1985, pp. 225–51.
6. See “Rationally Inattentive Macroeconomic Wedges,” by Antonella Tutino, Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, vol. 35, no. 3, 2011, pp. 344–62.
7. See “Rigid Pricing and Rationally Inattentive Consumer,” by Filip Matejka, CERGE-EI Working Paper Series no. 409, April 2010.
8. “Implications of Rational Inattention on Market Power,” by Fabio Araujo and Antonella Tutino, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, unpublished paper, 2010.