Monday, December 28, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
So, I just finished reading an NBER paper titled, "The Channels of Monetary Transmission: Lessons for Monetary Policy" by Frederic S. Mishkin (author of my ECON 321 - Money and Banking textbook!) I found it on Akila's homepage and thought it would be fun to read. It was written in 1996, but seems relevant to today's economy, no
Before I talk about the paper, I thought it would be good to review IS-LM curves! Also, throughout this blog post remember that Y = C+I+G+NX. (output = consumption + investment + government spending + net exports)
[picture from the Economist]
LM is an equilibrium locus of points for which money supply equals money demand. Example: at r3 and Y3, the money demanded in an economy equals the money supplied in that economy.
Okay, Mishkin's paper!
Mishkin starts out by explaining the principle of traditional expansionary monetary policy:
Money supply [M] increases leading to a decrease in real interest rates [r]. This stimulates investment spending [I] and leads to an increase in aggregate demand [AD] and output [Y].
M increases --> r decreases --> I increases --> Y increases.
If you're looking at IS-LM curves, the LM curve is shifting to the right. Because in order for demand to match the increased supply of money, interest rates must be lower for any given level of output/income [Y].
So what happens when money supply increases SO much such that nominal interest rates reach zero? (hrm...sound familiar?!)
Spending is actually affected by real interests rates rather than nominal interest rates. So, during times of expansionary monetary policy, expected price level [P^e] and expected inflation levels [π^e] rise. Given the Fisher equation, r = i − π, we can say that this increased expected inflation will lower the r and stimulate I leading to an increase in AD and Y.
M increases --> P^e increases --> π^e increases --> r decreases --> I increases --> Y increases.
Mishkin says that "this mechanism is a key element in monetarist discussions of why the U.S. was not stuck in a liquidity trap during the Great Depression and why expansionary monetary policy could have prevented the sharp decline in output during this period."
Mishkin points out that interest rate channels are not the only way through which monetary policy can promote growth. There is also the exchange rate channel, equity price channels and credit channels.
Exchange Rate Channel
When money supply increases, real interest rates fall. This means that the return on dollar denominated deposits will be relatively less than that on foreign exchange denominated deposits. Thus, demand for the dollar will fall and the exchange rate (E) will reflect depreciation. Depreciation isn't always a bad thing though. If the value of the dollar falls, American goods become relatively cheaper than foreign goods. This boosts net exports (NX) which boosts output (Y).
M increases --> r decreases --> E decreases --> NX increases --> Y increases.
Equity Price Channels
1) Tobin's q theory of investment: "q" --> the market value of firms divided by the replacement cost of capital. The higher q is, the cheaper it is (relatively) for firms to buy new plant and equipment capital. Fixed investment rises as q rises.
Since higher equity prices (P^e) will lead to higher q, we can say that:
M increases --> higher P^e --> higher q --> I increases --> Y increases.
2) Wealth effects: Remember Y = C+I+G+NX? Well, one of the determinants of C is the value of one's financial wealth. When stock prices rise, C is likely to rise as well.
M increases --> P^e increases --> wealth increases --> C increases --> Y increases.
1 & 2 apply to housing and land prices channels as well since housing and land also determine one's wealth.
"There are two basic channels of monetary transmission that arise as a result of information problems in credit markets:"
1) The bank lending channel: Expansionary monetary policy increases bank reserves and bank deposits thus allowing them to make more loans available to firms.
M increases --> bank deposits increase --> bank loans increase --> I increases --> Y increases.
Clearly, this does not always happen. The Economist recently wrote about the difficulties that small firms face during recession. Small firms rely on banks for about 90% of their financing needs while larger firms rely on banks for only about 30% of their financing needs.
2) Balance sheet channels:
When firms have lower net worth, there tend to be more adverse selection and moral hazard problems in lending to these firms. Businesses with lower net worth don't have as much collateral to put down for their loans (banks are more likely to suffer losses). Owners of such businesses also have lower equity stake in their firms and are willing to take greater risks with investment projects, etc. (moral hazard)
Thus, when M increases and P^e (net worth of firms) increases --> adverse selection/moral hazard decrease --> lending increases --> I increases --> Y increases.
Increased M and decreased nominal interest rates (i) also raises cash flow of firms which improves their balance sheets.
M increases --> i decreases --> cash flow increases --> adverse selection/moral hazard decrease --> lending increases --> I and Y increase.
An unanticipated rise in price level also improves balances sheets by raising the real value of firms' assets. Since burden of debt is dictated by nominal interest rates, an unexpected rise in price level lowers burden of debt. (Lenders don't like inflation, debtors like inflation)
Therefore, an unexpected rise in price level raises real net worth of firms, lowering adverse selection and moral hazard problems and stimulating I and Y as mentioned above.
Household balance sheet effects:
This one's pretty straightforward...if households expect themselves to be in financial distress in the near future, they don't want to invest in illiquid consumer durable or housing assets.
However, if they expect the value of their financial assets to rise, they will be willing to buy a new house or car, etc.
M increases --> P^e increases --> financial assets increase --> likelihood of financial distress decreases --> consumer durable and housing expenditure increase --> Y increases.
Okay, so this blogpost is pretty monstrous. I'll just bullet point a few important things from the rest of Mishkin's paper:
- Monetary policy affects Y through other asset prices besides interest rates.
- Near zero short-term interest rates do not necessarily mean that monetary policy is easy if economy is undergoing deflation. (ex: short-term interest rates during Great Depression were near zero, but monetary policy was contractionary)
- If short-term interest rates are near zero but stock Ps are low, land prices are low and value of domestic currency is high, then monetary policy is very tight and not easy.
- "Avoiding unanticipated fluctuations in the price level is an important objective of monetary policy, thus providing a rationale for price stability as the primary long-run goal for monetary policy."
So, basically, when I started writing this blog post, I just wrote out the things that are bolded and in green so I wouldn't forget what I had read in Mishkin's paper. It turned out to be a pretty incoherent blogpost, so I started adding more and more details...
If you're still reading, pat yourself on the back.
Happy Christmas Eve!
Friday, December 18, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
According to Gen. McChrystal, the Taliban pays its soldiers about $300 U.S. per month—which is more than the U.S.-sponsored Afghan government does... McChrystal said that in coordination with the Afghan government, the pay scale for the Afghan security forces has just almost doubled, to the point where it’s "almost at parity" with the Taliban now. Of course, that still means the Taliban pays its recruits more than the Afghan government does. And if the Obama administration and NATO are correct that many Taliban foot soldiers essentially fight because of economic opportunity, then this is a glaring, flashing red light of a problem.Matt Yglesias follows up with relevant thoughts:
At the same time, this highlights a lot of lingering issues about the cost-effectiveness of our approach. Why are we spending a multiple of Afghanistan’s total GDP on fighting a war in the country? Couldn’t more be done, for cheaper, with cash for bribes and development? How is it that it doesn’t take the Taliban years to train competent soldiers?The concept of a sunk cost really doesn't seem to have penetrated the intellectual sphere of military policymakers."
Speaking of sunk cost, this is for my friends who are in less than ideal relationships:
Monday, December 7, 2009
Buttonwood tackles the issue of banker bonuses. As does Richard Murphy.
I am very bitter about the finance industry. In college, I thought that I would lose my friends to their significant others. But it looks like I've lost many of them to banks instead...boo. When people ask my friend if she has a boyfriend her response is, "Yes. His name is Deutsche Bank." Sad.
In a gchat conversation today:
----: we better getting bonuses this year or else i legit have mcd's hrly wages
Will post answers to Crossword #4 on Friday when I put up a new crossword!
Extra: Great visualization of income inequality in NYC here.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
She is amazing because 1) she doesn't have any formal vocal training (well, she took a lesson or two back in h.s. but didn't really have time for it...) and 2) if you've EVER heard me sing, you know that vocal talent does not run in the Jang family...
Friday, December 4, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Some things that I am thankful for:
1) replyforall.com - donate to your favorite causes just by sending e-mails! [fabulous. i love donating other people's money! haha]
2) threadsy.com - because I hate going to separate webpages for facebook, twitter, gmail, etc. Thank you, threadsy, for pulling me together. You've come a long way since your unifime days.
3) my job, which allowed me to have a kid without the messiness of giving birth. I just signed up to sponsor a child through worldvision.org. It's awesome! You can donate a GOAT AND TWO CHICKENS for $100. LOVES IT.
4) The Economist.
5) my people (this includes family, friends, blog followers, etc.)
6) my dog.
7) and how could I forget, the independence of the Fed.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I don't know about other people, but I have pretty badass subwoofers and speakers attached to my laptop...and Carrie's subwoofer puts mine to shame...
Anyway, there's also a "business exemption" which allows food and retail establishments to play music without authorization or payment of a fee as long as their size does not exceed a certain square footage limit.
So I was telling Hillary that in Dispute Settlement 160, the EC complained that these exemptions were violations of Article 9(1) of the TRIPS agreement, which is basically this, from what I can tell...
Her response was, "It makes me sad that people spend their energy on that kind of thing..."
I can't really imagine Lang Lang throwing a hissy fit because he didn't get paid for a CD of his that was played at Bloomingdale's or wherever...
He probably plays because he loves to, and because he's so f-ing good at it. [Just went to his concert on Friday and he was amazing!]
And I don't think F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby thinking, "Yeah...this one is totally going to produce $500,000 a year for my grandchildrens' trust fund!" (Truth)
Hillary says, "That's crazy! That's more than 7 times what YOU make." Thank you, Hillary, for so kindly pointing this out to me.
Anyway, it seems silly to me that people have to pay to play music for others...if it is a disincentive for musicians to make music because their music is being played in public places for free, then maybe they shouldn't be musicians to begin with.
The Economist just had an article about music piracy, here.
Also, because I was talking to a few people about IPR and drugs and wanted to write down some thoughts:
1) As Michelle Boldrin and David Levine argue, perhaps we are on the wrong side of the Laffer curve when it comes to innovation and rewards. CMR International reported that in the 1990s, $35-40 billion on R&D yielded 35-40 new drugs. Now, however, $60 billion on R&D yields fewer than 30 new drugs.
2) A good excerpt from an old article in the Economist:
"• Drugs Much of the recent debate over the impact of IPR on the poor has centred on the issue of access to expensive medicines. On paper, many of the world's least-developed countries have laws which provide patent protection for pharmaceuticals. In practice, few enforce them. Spurred on by a victory in April 2001 against drug companies fighting patent reform in South Africa, developing countries issued a declaration at the WTO meeting in Doha last year. This asserted the primacy of public health over IPR. They resolved that the world's least-developed countries should be given at least until 2016 to introduce patent protection for pharmaceuticals.
On September 17th, the WTO council responsible for TRIPS will consider a far trickier proposition in the declaration: how to make compulsory licensing (the manufacture and marketing of a patented drug without the patent-holder's consent) work for the poorest. TRIPS already permits compulsory licensing under certain conditions, including national emergencies. This is fine for countries such as Brazil, which have domestic drug industries to copy the medicines. Brazil has, indeed, used the threat of compulsory licensing to wring price discounts out of drug companies, a ploy which the commission, somewhat controversially, supports.
The problem is what to do with countries which have no drug makers. For the moment, they can import generic copies from the likes of India, but come 2006, when those exporters are supposed to have fallen in with the TRIPS line, who will supply the drugs?"3) Random fact: Viagra was initially developed as the hypertension drug, Slidenafil. But they were like, hey, there's this weird side effect and we can make so much more money this way! Ha.
Hillary: "Can you imagine? You're going to climb Mount Everest and you pack some Viagra with you, and people are like, 'why are you bringing that along?!'"
4) From Hillary: "This does make the drug companies look pretty evil, but the argument that drug companies need to make money in order to invest in new research is a valid one."
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Interesting fact about Larry Summers and baseball, "in the sixth grade Larry created an analysis of baseball games that attempted to predict the probability of a team’s performance at the end of the season based on its position in the standings on the Fourth of July." [from the New Yorker]
Alan Greenspan also learned how to do fractions by studying baseball stats.
Let's go YANKEES, let's go!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
That's the subtitle of Paul Blustein's book, Misadventures of the Most Favored Nations. How can one not want to pick up a book with that title/subtitle?!
The Washington Post says, "Blustein has thoroughly mastered the craft of breathing life into intrinsically dull material with compelling thematic narrative and delicious character studies." Delicious, indeed.
Paul Blustein came to Georgetown Law today to talk about his book, and it was so fun! He read some pages from his book and at one point he pretended to be an army guy yelling at trade representatives.
Apparently, Americans attending the Doha round were given the password "paging Mr. Black," which meant that there was a terrorist threat and all Americans had to evacuate so they could be taken to navy ships nearby. (To hell with the reps from other countries, right? Haha.)
Blustein talked about the frustrations of different countries during multilateral trade rounds like Doha, and the challenges that must be overcome when negotiating a deal between parties with disparate views and priorities. Towards the end of his lecture, Blustein said he felt that a moratorium should be placed on bilateral trade agreements because they draw attention away from multilateral processes.
I thought this was an interesting statement for him to make since he had spent so much time talking about the doomed nature of multilateral trade rounds. If multilateral rounds are so ineffective, isn't the opportunity cost of focusing on bilateral trade agreements insignificant? Why not focus on the pareto improvements that could be made through bilateral trade agreements rather than those that will never be made through multilateral agreements?
Blustein clarified: Although the WTO has its flaws, countries need to preserve this organization that has done so much to prevent trade wars (through its dispute settlement system). When countries start shifting toward bilateral agreements, there is less of an incentive for them to pursue/cooperate in multilateral agreements that can lead to more benefits at the margin. (He explained all of this much more eloquently that I have...)
I agree that countries need to start thinking about themselves as part of a global community, and not just the European community, or the East Asian community, etc. Like Lant Pritchett said, we need to stop having these "imaginary communities."
The Washington Post says, "Blustein leaves the book's punch line until its final section: The benefits of free trade have been grossly oversold. By the WTO's own accounting, even the utopian elimination of all tariffs would boost world GDP by less than a half-percent, with most of that benefit going to the wealthiest nations." However, it is difficult to swallow this idea after reading pieces like "Ricardo's Difficult Idea" by Paul Krugman.
A friend of Blustein argued that by claiming that the sky is falling, one is only doing more to catalyze the self-prophesied failure of the WTO. It's kind of like deflation - if people go around saying that there is the threat of deflation, even when there is none, we could end up in a deflationary death spiral like Japan's lost decade...
Blustein mentioned Smoot-Hawley at one point and it reminded me of the '93 debate where Gore gives Perot a framed picture of Smoot and Hawley and says, "I framed this so you can put it on your wall if you want to." Ha!
Professor Johnson used to do Ross Perot imitations. Those were fun. (Sigh, I miss Wellesley.)
Greg Mankiw blogged about VAT not too long ago.
In other news:
I'll be blogging about ridiculous things countries have done to discriminate against certain imports. (Are all cows the same?! Are all sardines the same?! What exactly is a "like good?")
Filling out paperwork for my retirement account and health insurance has made me even more depressed about turning 22 this week...Melky Cabrera is only 3 years older than I am and he plays on the best baseball team EVER, AND he has crater like dimples. How am I supposed to beat that?!
Anyway, time for sleep. Tomorrow's Thursday - my favorite day of the week! (b/c I get to go to International Trade and get out of work knowing that the next day is Friday...but I assure you, Friday is not my favorite day of the week. My favorite day of the week is Thursday.)
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Here's how it went.
Me: Hello. Can I help you?
----: Oh, my. What a cute voice you have. You're so cute. You must be brand new.
Me: Well, I just started 2 weeks ago...
----: Well, you're brand new and squeaky clean, aren't you?
Me (in my head): Well, I did take a shower this morning, but he doesn't know that...
----: I'm looking for L----. Is she here today?
Me: Yes, but I'm not sure where she is right now.
A little while later.
----: L----, isn't she nice? (points toward me) What's your name?
----: Oh, cmon. That's not your real name.
Me: My real name?
----: Is it?
Me: Uhh, yeah...
----: Where did you go to school?
----: (laughs) Oh, well I went to Babson. I know you Wellesley girls, with your noses in the air. Who did you date in college?
Me: No one. My econ textbooks. If we have our noses in the air, it's with good reason.
----: You probably only dated Harvard men, isn't that right?
WTF. Does he SERIOUSLY wonder why Wellesley girls wouldn't go out with him? I'm pretty sure it's not because he went to Babson...
Anyway, I've been feeling sick and went to bed at 7pm last night thinking that I would wake up in an hour or so. I ended up waking up at 9am the next morning. Haha. WIN.
I've been reading Brothers Karamazov, which I love love love. I just finished reading "Rebellion," a chapter in the book that makes one of the strongest arguments against the existence of God. (according to people who know way more lit than I do...) I will probably still go to church tomorrow and ask God to make sure I don't get H1N1. (Thanks, God.)
In Development Econ, Professor Lucas once asked us to name examples of things that are correlated with GDP per capita where the causation only runs from GDP per capita to that something, and not vice versa. It's actually kind of difficult, no? My group's response was religion. We figured that as countries become wealthier, they place less importance on religion. However, religion does not really have an effect on GDP per capita. [Apparently, the U.S. is an outlier and is very religious for its level of wealth.]
Robert Barro has also studied religion in the context of economics. It was mentioned in Marginal Revolution here!
The Economist had a little something about Islam: here.
As Voltaire once wrote, s'il n'existait pas Dieu, il faudrait l'inventer. [In Bound Together, Nayan Chanda claims that Voltaire drank 80 cups of coffee a day at Le Procope, to which I say, eww.]
It was probably not a good idea for me to blog in a feverish state...I don't think this is a very coherent post.
OMGSH GUYS. I just googled "religion economics" and found a blog called RELIGIONOMICS. HAHAHAHA. How funny is that?!
I also found this article about economists and religion.
That's all for today. Is it a bad idea for me to try to make Phoenician honey biscuits while sick?
Monday, October 12, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I picked out my apartment in Pentagon City and it's going to be awesome! It's pretty much across the street from the Pentagon City mall, Pentagon City metro station, Costco and a Mr. Smoothie. What more could a girl who does not drive ask for? Maybe a puppy...
Anyway, I linked you guys to Jenn's blog earlier. She wrote an awesome post about Chavez's impact on Venezuela. As promised, here is my post on expropriation and social institutions. (I promised Jenn it would be meaty...)
In ECON 333, we studied a paper called, "Why do some countries produce so much more output per worker than others?" by Robert E. Hall and Charles I. Jones. In this paper, Hall and Jones hypothesize that output per worker is affected by differences in social infrastructure across countries. They assume that social infrastructure is determined historically by location and other factors captured in part by language.
So, what exactly is "social infrastructure?" Unfortunately, social infrastructure is not easily quantifiable. However, Hall and Jones think that "the ideal measure of social infrastructure would quantify the wedge between the private return to productive activities and the social return to such activities. A good social infrastructure ensures that these returns are kept closely in line across the range of activities in an economy." Good social infrastructure protects people against "diversion." Diversion includes things like expropriation, corruption, etc.
Not surprisingly, Hall and Jones find that:
1) Differences in social infrastructure across countries cause large differences in capital accumulation, educational attainment, and productivity, and therefore large differences in income across countries.
One might argue that there is a feedback effect from output per worker to social infrastructure (i.e. high output per worker may lead to the creation of better social infrastructure). However, Hall and Jones control for this feedback by using instrumental variables.* This is explained in their last finding:
"The extent to which different countries have adopted different social infrastructures is partially related to the extent to which they have been influenced by Western Europe. Using distance from the equator and language data, we conclude that our finding that differences in social infrastructure cause large differences in income is robust to measurement error and endogeneity concerns."
Basically, Hall and Jones are saying that countries that have been influenced by Western Europe tend to have better social infrastructure and higher output per capita. They study a sample of 127 countries and give a nice table of different countries' productivity levels as ratios to U.S. values.
Here are some figures:
The average for 127 countries was 0.296 w/a standard deviation of 0.268.
Why is the quality of social infrastructure so different across countries? (UGH, my mom just pulled a white hair out of my head as I was typing...WTF. THAT HURT.)
Anyway, there are several theories that address the above question, but I think I'm going to need another blog post to write about Acemoglu, Johnson & Robinson, and Engerman & Sokoloff...
* Instrumental Variable:
Let's say we want to find the effect of "x" on "y." However, "x" is not quantifiable. So, we create an instrumental variable, "z," which is quantifiable. "z" affects "y" ONLY through "x." A bad instrumental variable affects "y" through other pathways.
x = total number of hours of TV watched
y = prevalence of autism in a city
z = amount of rainfall in that city
If we had no way of measuring the number of hours of TV watched in a city, but wanted to study its effect on the prevalence of autism, we could create instrumental variable "z," which is the amount of rainfall in that city.
More rain --> More kids stay indoors and watch TV --> higher prevalence of autism(?)
However, "z" is not a very good instrumental variable because you can make a pathway like this:
More rain --> More kids wear raincoats --> higher prevalence of autism(?)
Does all of that make sense?
OMGSHHH. I'm going to die laughing. I'm watching FRIENDS DVDs and my dad says, "Why do these people never look older? They're still so young!" I told him I was watching DVDs, and he said, "Oh okay. So they're old now, right?" Haha. LOVES IT.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Thanks so so so much to friends who have helped me along the way! Could NOT have done it without you. I <3 you!!!
I'll be working at Georgetown Law/thinking about going to law school because it will be FREE.
Here is the awesome Professor with whom I will be working: John H. Jackon
I'll have a chance to go to his International Economic Law seminars/classes. YAY! I'm SUPER EXCITED.
AND I WILL HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE! YESSSS!
Please visit me in D.C. PLEASE?!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
The Economist (a while ago): "Morton Marcus, a prominent local economist, calls [Indiana] 'the middle finger of the South thrust into the North.'"
Indiana is a rather dichotomous state. On July 21 and 22, the Indiana Office of Energy Development hosted an event called WIndiana. The conference focused on wind farming in Indiana, and according to the American Wind and Energy Association, "Indiana leads the nation in the growth of wind energy." On May 29th, Indiana celebrated the construction of Fowler Ridge Wind Farm, which will eventually produce 750 MW of wind energy (enough to power ~200,000 homes). However, only 2 out of 5 Dems in Indiana voted in favor of the climate change bill. The climate change bill is pretty flawed, but these Dems didn't oppose the climate change bill because of the $600 billion in forgone revenue (free permits vs. auctioned permits). They opposed the bill because they believed that stricter energy standards in Indiana would translate into a loss of jobs.
Indiana ranks 3rd in per capita consumption of coal (10.45 tons per year in 2007-2008) and approximately 94% of its electricity comes from coal. U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly opposed the clean energy bill because he believed that Indiana's manufacturing sector would no longer be able to compete with those of China and India if stricter clean energy standards were imposed. In the face of such difficult times, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity created this fabulous ad. I remember first hearing about this on Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! Oh, such wonderful things I learn from Peter Sagal and Carl Kassel!
Anyway, I think America needs to quit whining/blaming foreign competition and up its game. Also, I think it's ironic that poorer countries are most adamantly opposed to clean energy standards even though they will be hit the hardest by climate change. Although, their opposition is more understandable. If you have to choose between food in your stomach and clean air in your lungs, you're going to choose food. Mmm....food. Lunch time! Peace out!
Also, I'm going to post about expropriation/nationalization next. And I think you should all read Jenn's post about Chavez to prepare yourselves!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
However, a few tidbits from the news:
Taxpayers are realizing profits as big banks repay their loans. This article reminded me of the Resolution Trust Corporation from the S&L crisis.
The WTO ruled that the U.S. would face ~$300 million in annual sanctions as a result of illegal subsidies to U.S. cotton growers. WP article here. Hrm...does this remind anyone else of corn subsidies?! Corn subsidies and sugar tariffs also make it impossible for Brazil to export sugar cane based ethanol, which is more environmentally friendly than corn based ethanol. Boo. I imagine Professor Johnson shaking his fists angrily as he tells his students this...
Paul Krugman's reaction to Greg Mankiw's post on SAT scores here. I guess even grown ups have frienemies...haha.
Pieces on health care from Free Exchange and WP.
Going to meet Chanda for bubble tea now! She is leaving for Peking University tomorrow. I am 80% excited, and 20% sad. Chanda, NY will miss you! That's right. ALL OF NEW YORK WILL MISS YOU, ESPECIALLY ME!
Friday, August 28, 2009
Check this out!
So the argument that I had with the guy outside my office was about oil prices and speculation. LaRouchies were stopping people on the street and telling them that speculators were the reason oil prices were so high. When they stopped to tell me this, I asked, "have you considered reverse causality?"
I argued that speculators were perhaps betting on higher oil prices BECAUSE oil prices were rising. Maybe it's not the speculators who are driving prices up. Rather, it is our increased demand for oil that is driving oil prices up...
And then, of course, we got into an argument about whether climate change is real. They don't believe in climate change.
They also hate Britain.
I don't really know why...Britain has good scones. Mmmm. Scones...
Anyway, Susan, Anli and I wrote this in response to an ECON 321 [Money & Banking] p-set question. We mentioned oil speculation...
Financial asset markets often fail to exhibit the "law of demand" we learn in ECON 101, in which price increases lead to decreasing demand and increasing substitution. In these financial asset markets, however, rising asset prices actually cause higher demand and falling asset prices are a signal to sell. This failure of the "law of demand" in financial asset markets means that asset price movements feed upon themselves. Once they're going up, they continue to do so. As the Economist writes, "asset prices pull themselves up by their own bootstraps." But once there is a downturn, prices drop very quickly.
In the case of Lehman's collapse, one can argue that the reluctance of other financial institutions - BofA and Barclays - to buy Lehman, even at bargain prices, served as an indication that the government and other banks were losing faith in the financial system. After the collapse of Lehman, the prices of such debt instruments as MBSs and CDSs fell in price, further contributing to higher debt to asset rations for surviving banks. This led to a freeze-up in credit as surviving institutions tried to liquidate their balance sheets.
The market for oil and oil speculation is another example of the failure of the "law of demand." During the summer of 2008 [when I got into that argument with the LaRouchie!], many domestic consumers of oil complained that high prices were being driven by speculation. However, the Economist argued that in reality, high prices may have been driving speculation.
[To which the LaRouchies would say, "but how can we trust The Economist? it's from Britain!"]
This post reminded me of Stuy, which is NOT a private school.
Correlation between income and SAT scores for this year. Greg Mankiw and I had the same reaction to this...
If only I could also sell millions of textbooks every year. Haha.
Jenn, Toby, do we really want to be professors? I'm convinced professors have the best lives...
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Question: wait, what about this in america, now? http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2009/08/research-on-homeownership-rate-through.html
from homeowners to renters?
Response from Professor Case:
Friday, August 7, 2009
Class of 2009, rejoice! Unemployment may be a lagging indicator, but do recent numbers give us hope? Or will we have to be more patient?
Also, I think this is so cute! Greg Mankiw at a Jason Mraz concert?! Haha.
Monday, August 3, 2009
From Rice to Riches. (Like the rice pudding place in Soho!)
After the division of the Korean peninsula at the 38th parallel in 1945, the economy of South Korea was comparable to those of Cameroon, Ghana, and Malaysia. However, it effectively utilized foreign aid and pursued measures that would boost exports. Thus, South Korea established itself as the 16th largest economy by GDP by pursuing export-led growth. It has improved human welfare through what Robert Barro calls "capitalism without apology." As GDP per capita increased for Koreans, so too did domestic demand. This increased domestic demand may help Korea get through the financial crisis as it mitigates the sharp decrease in global demand. However, it is not enough to maintain medium to long term growth. Some issues that need to be addressed: rigid labor market, economic diversification, low savings rate.
The Labor Market
Although flexible labor markets can cause unemployment to be higher in countries like the U.S. than in countries like Korea (b/c it is much more difficult to fire people in Korea), in the long run, flexible labor markets promote long term growth through quicker and more efficient redistribution of resources. Dr. Lall commented that although the U.S. has done well in promoting flexible labor markets, it has not provided an adequate social safety net for times like these when the flexible market can cause unemployment to reach very high rates. Historically, the U.S. has relied on credit to serve as a social safety net. People would borrow against future earnings to get through times of frictional unemployment, etc. However, credit is not a guaranteed social safety net, as we discovered during the "credit crunch." Like the U.S., Korea also needs to expand and improve its existing social safety net. While doing so, it also needs to promote more flexible labor markets that will be necessary in order to allocate resources efficiently and promote long term growth.
One thing Korea has done well in the face of the crisis is execution. In the U.S., the passing of a fiscal stimulus bill does not immediately lead to a distribution of funds. However, when a fiscal stimulus bill is passed in Korea, they are quick to get funds where they are most needed.
Because Korea has depended on export-led growth for so long, its government is accustomed to providing incentives for export industries. However, these industries no longer need government support, and Korea might get more bang for the buck, or wham for the won?? if it were to provide incentives for entrepreneurs. Korea has an abundant supply of human capital and needs to find more outlets for its educated workers. Dr. Lall suggested that Korea pursue Silicon Valley type projects.
Korea also needs to expand its labor market and work its women! Korea isn't all that into gender equality, and I always tell my mom that I can't marry a Korean guy because I find them to be chauvinistic. I say this because I think it's kind of true, and also because it annoys her to no end that I don't date Korean guys. Haha.
Anyway, back to economics...productivity in non-tradable sectors stands at about 2%, while that of the manufacturing sector stands at about 4.6%. In order to compensate for the low productivity in the services sector, Korea needs to expand its labor market. It needs to include young people, old people, women...you get the idea.
Save, save, save!
If you go to outlet malls in New York or Boston, I promise, you will run into a group of Korean tourists. That's right. Outlet malls are a Korean tourist attraction. Why? Because Koreans are obsessed with designer clothes, bags, shoes, napkins...everything.
The Washington Post recently had an article about this phenomenon. At lunch, Dr. Lall mentioned the article, and I opened my bag and was like, "oh yeah! This article!" Haha. What a dork I am.
Anyway, low savings is dangerous in countries like Korea because the population is aging. Well, all populations age of course, but the birth rate is not high enough for the ratio of workers to old people to remain constant.
Wow! I'm amazed by how much I learned just by having lunch with Dr. Lall. I told him I felt like I was back at Wellesley sitting in a lecture. [a great thing for someone who is homesick for college!]
Friday, July 31, 2009
Thursday, July 30, 2009
The Embassy has been rather busy this week...the IMF will be releasing a forecast of the Korean economy in the next few weeks. (Details on Korea's economic recovery coming soon!) Apparently, the IMF gets calls from other countries asking how Korea plans to recover from the financial crisis because Korea has been rather resilient in dealing with economic crises...
In other news: One of my housemates just returned from Tajikistan! He's in the army and was studying Farsi.
He told us so many stories about Tajikistan! Apparently, they have a lot of natural resources, but none of it is really tapped because it's as if the country is being run by the mafia. He pointed out that Tajiks are somewhat lazy in that most businesses are owned by Russians or Chinese immigrants. Of course, I argued that if property rights are non-existent and Tajiks are constantly afraid of expropriation, they would not be motivated to start businesses, etc. He agreed that Tajikistan's property rights are somewhat antediluvian. (GRE word, Jenn!) Apparently, if a man builds a business on a piece of land and gets killed, whoever gets there first (I'm assuming it would be the killer) could claim that piece of land. (To which I say, WTF?!) Jonny Steinberg mentioned that in Africa, there was a man who had a really successful store in the neighborhood and he told his neighbors that the store was owned by a white man because he was afraid of backlash from the neighbors, etc. Jonny said the man lived in constant fear that people would kill him out of jealousy. Maybe Tajiks have the same fear?
J bought a Russian fur hat in a store whose owner was on the losing side of the civil war. He had a whole bunch of fur hats of Russians that he had killed with pictures of their corpses...J bought the hat, but left the picture of the corpse at the store...
Also, if an American is shot by a Tajik policeman, the Tajik gov't shoots that policeman and calls it even stevens...
In another adventure, he was being driven up a path that had a rising cliff on its right side and a cliff edge on its left side. And if you looked over the cliff edge on the left side, you could see cars that had fallen off in the past. There were many...
Upon seeing these car-wrecks, his friend said, "why are we driving so close to the left?! I like the right side so much better!" Haha.
In Tajikistan, they eat something called "osh." Apparently it's served on a rug on the floor. It's a pile of rice and oil and onions. Everyone sits around the rug, sits on their left hand, and eats with their right. When J tried to wash his hands before eating, he was told that it was an insult because he was implying that the woman's rug was not clean. He got sick later that night.
Currently, J is enjoying his first real shower in 6 weeks. Apparently, the running water in Tajikistan is muddy, and he said he felt as if he were trading sweat for filth...
I hope he doesn't fall asleep in the shower!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Also, an older NYT editorial here.
Sorry it's taking me so long to post about other health care systems. It's difficult because there are so many that are better than our own...
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Medicaid: means-tested program that provides health insurance for low-income individuals. Medicaid is federally funded.
Medicare: not means-tested, which means even Bill Gates will receive Medicare. And why shouldn't he? He seems like a lovely fellow. I'm sure he will also need help from the government when he turns 65!
Anyway, it's for people over 65 years old who have paid Medicare taxes.
40% payroll taxes, 39% general revenues, 12% beneficiary premiums [yeah, I know, these numbers don't add up to 100, but that's what they are in the Kaiser factsheet]
Part A [Hospital Insurance]: 85% funding comes from payroll taxes (2.9% from employers and employees, each paying 1.45%), the rest comes from general rev.
Part B [Supplementary Medical Insurance/Non-hospital]: 75% general rev, 25% beneficiary premiums.
Part C [Medicare Advantage Plans/private]
Part D [Drugs, but not the bad kind. The gov't will not fund your crackhead habits!]: 77% general rev, 13% state payments for dual eligibility, 11% beneficiary premiums. [again, these numbers do not add up to 100]
U.S. Health Care Spending [click images to enlarge]
From oecd.org, here.
Why Costs are Increasing
1. adverse selection/moral hazard: Unhealthy people are more likely to buy insurance. People with insurance are more likely to engage in dangerous/unhealthy activities, driving up health care spending.
2. malpractice insurance: Evs, I can't find the paper that we read about malpractice insurance for ECON 332, so correct me if I am wrong. I think this is what the paper said. I'll try to find it later...
Anyway, In rural areas, doctors have fewer patients per whatever unit of area you want to use than in cities. Therefore, when malpractice insurance costs increase, rural doctors pass these costs onto their patients. Since there are fewer rural patients per doctor, these patients feel increasing costs more acutely than do patients in the city. Overall, the impact of malpractice insurance premium increases is not very large...
3. defensive medicine/over-utilization: here
4. technological advances/improved quality of life: Clifford Asness of AQR Capital Management points this out (very avidly) in the paper linked in my previous post. (thanks, tina!) He says, "I’m reasonably certain the cost of 1950’s level health care has dropped in real terms over the last 60 years (and you can probably have a barber from the year 1500 bleed you for almost nothing nowadays). Of course, with 1950’s health care, lots of things will kill you that 2009 health care would prevent. Also, your quality of life, in many instances, would be far worse, but you will have a little bit more change in your pocket as the price will be lower. Want to take the deal?"
4. Americans are fat. When I was home, I saw a commercial protesting taxes on junk food and soda...has anyone seen it? I tried finding it on Youtube, but was unsuccessful. In the commercial, there's a family going camping, and they've packed chips and soda and stuff, and the voice in the background is like, "so many Americans are facing tough times, and now is not the time to tax simple pleasures like chips and blah blah blah. write to your congressman, etc, etc."
I'm sorry, simple pleasure of what? Being FAT? Is it much more difficult to pack baby carrot sticks and peanut butter than chips during a recession? Does the recession somehow make juice and water less appealing than soda? Does being FAT somehow make being poor more bearable? I don't get it...and this is coming from someone who also writes in a blog called Fat Kid Adventures.
Also, don't be like this. If someone asks you why HFCS is bad, you can respond with, "large quantities of fructose stimulate the liver to produce triglycerides, promotes glycation of proteins and induces insulin resistance." [wikipedia] in other words, it makes you FAT.
In one of my many classes with Prof. Johnson (I can't remember which), he pointed out that people who smoke around us are not just hurting our lungs, but they're stealing from us! His argument was as follows:
People who smoke are a negative externality because they are more likely to get lung cancer, throat cancer, etc. Health care spending will go up. As a result, health insurance premiums will go up. Of course, smokers pay more in premiums anyway, but I think the same logic can be applied to people who consume junk food excessively.
Health insurance companies have ways of attracting "good risks." Prof. McKnight told us about "3rd floor walk up" policies - policies that are meant to keep out those who wouldn't be able to walk up three flights of stairs without passing out. For example, some health insurance companies offer deals at ski resorts because they know that healthier people go skiing, spend more time working out, etc.
Sneaky, right? And you thought the health insurance companies just wanted you to have more fun...
Anyway, I need to go study for GRE. I finally registered for Sept. 24th!
But don't worry Tina, I'll post about other countries' health care systems. [South Korea, Singapore, etc] In ECON 332, different groups presented on different health care plans/countries. Those were fun...will post [soon!]
Friday, July 24, 2009
I've had vestibular vertigo for the past week and a half and have been horribly dizzy. I have been to the hospital 5 times in the past 6 days for an MRI, ENG, hearing test, vestibular rehab, etc. Fortunately, no brain tumors or calcium deposits were found. That means the vertigo should go away on its own in about a month. Although I will have fully recovered by then, I doubt the American health care system will have made as much progress. This whole ordeal has made me realize (again) that American health care is in desperate need of reform...
But I'm going to dins with the fams right now, so I'll blog about universal health care when I get back! [but I have to pack for DC tonight, so I might post tomorrow night]
Thanks for pulling me back into the blogging world, Tina! And thanks for linking me to this paper!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
While doing research on the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, my thoughts wandered to the wonderful thing that is food. What a dichotomous thing food is...the demand for certain types of food is elastic (remember that word, nams? If wheat bread gets too expensive, I'll just buy white bread!) but the demand for food in general is inelastic.
I think people in America should think about this. If you and your children were starving in a desert, you would gladly trade a $1000 bill in your wallet for a bottle of water and some food for your kids. But what if you didn't have $1000? What if your annual salary were ~$1000, and the people who promised you food argued about where to purchase the food from while your children withered away and died?
Such a situation is not too far from the truth, I suppose.
There will be over a billion hungry people this year. But sure, why shouldn't the U.S. government care about its own farmers first? Surely, the right thing for Americans to do is support what the Council on Foreign Relations called "a Byzantine system of handouts and insurance benefits [in which] only households making over $1.5 million a year will see any reduction to their subsidies—and even those restrictions can be avoided through loopholes."
The G8 Statement on Food Security makes me hope that U.S. policies in the future will be more focused on effectively executing their purposes. The Minister Counselor and I met with a few economists yesterday, and one of them stated that policy in the U.S. is in a state of transition. As my friend Nami and I realized while working on various policy recommendations, the biggest challenge in making policy recommendations does not lie in modifying details. Rather, it lies in garnering support from people with divergent views and guaranteeing a positive reception from the media and the public at large. Just look at what Harry and Louise did to Hillary's Health Security Act!
OMG! it's 12:22 (2 hours past my bedtime!) Must go to sleep.
Tomorrow is packed, but it looks like fun!
Trade, Aid and Security Coalition
American Leadership for Global Development
Wednesday, July 15, 2009, 8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
8:30 a.m. – 9 a.m. Registration
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Opening remarks: Rep. Jim McDermott (WA-7), Committee on Ways and Means, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Committee
Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business and Agricultural Affairs, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Covington & Burling, LLP
10:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Panel I: National Security: Economic Development, Trade and Investment
Featuring: Rep. Adam Smith (WA-9), Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee on Armed Services; Tim Reif, Office of the US Trade Representative, Rudy deLeon, Former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Center for American Progress
Moderator: Doug Wilson, Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, The Leaders Project, Harvard University, Howard Gilman Foundation
[Room: The Hill]
Noon – 2 p.m. Luncheon: Business Innovation and Partnerships for Development
2:15 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. Panel II: Climate Change and Economic Development
Featuring: Rep. Brian Baird (WA-3), Committee on Science and Technology, Chair of the, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, Manish Bapna, World Resources Institute, Jim Lyons, Oxfam America, Walter Grazer, National Religious Partnership for the Environment
[Room: The Hill]
4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Panel III: Investing in Women
Featuring: Rep. Joseph Crowley (NY-7), Committee on Ways and Means, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ritu Sharma, Women Thrive Worldwide, Mary MacPherson, Vital Voices Global Partnership
[Room: The Hill]
5:30 p.m. – 6 p.m. Reception: Remarks by Rep. Charles Rangel (NY-15), Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means; Rep. Debbie Halvorson (IL-11), Committee on Agriculture, Rep. Kevin Brady (TX-8), Committee on Ways and Means
Friday, July 10, 2009
Also, 5 down reminds me of this hilarious blog post. Here's a preview:
"...if I was a degenerate crackhead who snuck into your neighborhood and mugged you for $50, the Wall Street Journal Opinion Page would want me thrown in jail. Now imagine that I’m a degenerate crackhead who took out a subprime loan to move next door to you, in an arrangement that I’m likely not going to pay off. I might not even make one payment. If I default you’ll lose 10% of the value of your home from the externality effect. Assuming your home is worth $300,000, there’s a 20% chance I default in 2 years (realistic numbers), and you lose 10%; 300,000*.2*.1 = I’ve just robbed you for $6,000 while the Wall Street Journal Opinion Page cheered me on. And that’s one house – I’ll have a dozen neighbors. Now mind you, the product was great for me – I got to smoke crack indoors, in a house I could never realistically afford, which was a big plus. The subprime lender sold my loan to a pension fund in Denmark for a nice fee. It goes in the win column for us."