Thursday, May 21, 2015

Scott Sumner and Bob Murphy: Profiles in Nitpicking

     If there were no Paul Krugman, Murphy would have to invent him-otherwise what would he talk about; his favorite subject by far is Krugman bashing. 

     Bob is back to one of his favorite parlor games-allegedly proving that Krugman in hindsight said something years ago that was wrong. It must be nice to be as perfect as Mr. Murphy who doesn't has never been wrong about anything. 

     Usually what he uncovers in his 'Krugman was wrong!!!' meme is so trivial as to strike one as rather pitiful that he would even pursue such hairspliting. 

     Not surprisingly, Scott, who is a pretty fair nitpicker in his own right, had to get in this parlor game. 

     "For a guy who has been right about everything, Paul Krugman sure is wrong about an awful lot of things.  Bob Murphy has an excellent new post which digs up lots of Krugman claims that turned out to be somewhat less then correct."

Krugman, armed with his Keynesian model, came into the Great Recession thinking that (a) nominal interest rates can’t go below 0 percent, (b) total government spending reductions in the United States amid a weak recovery would lead to a double dip, and (c) persistently high unemployment would go hand in hand with accelerating price deflation. Because of these macroeconomic views, Krugman recommended aggressive federal deficit spending.

As things turned out, Krugman was wrong on each of the above points: we learned (and this surprised me, too) that nominal rates could go persistently negative, that the US budget “austerity” from 2011 onward coincided with a strengthening recovery, and that consumer prices rose modestly even as unemployment remained high. Krugman was wrong on all of these points, and yet his policy recommendations didn’t budge an iota over the years.

Far from changing his policy conclusions in light of his model’s botched predictions, Krugman kept running victory laps, claiming his model had been “right about everything.” He further speculated that the only explanation for his opponents’ unwillingness to concede defeat was that they were evil or stupid.

     Which policy conclusion does he need to change according to Bob? He admits that he too thought nominal rates couldn't go negative-does he claim that Krugman still believes they can't?

    As for austerity, as usual he and Sumner go for the lowest hanging fruit. I mean they lower the bar so low as to be absurd: according to them-and we know that Sumner has been crowing about winning an imaginary bet from Krugman for 2 years-I guess that's how real economists comport themselves; now that's maturity-if you do austerity and the economy doesn't simply explode, then it is in no way a harmful policy. 

   I mean if the minimum wage were raised and the economy didn't explode they'd complain that they never claimed it would-that they were talking 'about the margins' and 'deadweight loss' and all that but with austerity unless the economy shrinks by 10% then it's been shown harmless and maybe beneficial. 

   Keynesians don't need there to be a double dip to show that it has ill effects just that the economy would have grown faster than it did if there were no foot on the fiscal break. 

    "First, taking the totality of empirical macro and macro theory on the impact of fiscal shocks, the weight of evidence is greatly in favour of what Ferguson and others are calling ‘Keynesian’.  Which is that an experimental yank of the fiscal tiller to tighten it will contract the economy, temporarily.  How much is uncertain.  That this obtains for all levels of initial debt is dubious.  But I’m pretty sure that the UK is/was in the region where fiscal tightness could not have been expansionary."

     "Observing that the UK eventually started growing again after a few years of shrinking deficits doesn’t tilt this weight of evidence.  Indeed, as others have pointed out, what we saw is entirely consistent with the consensus view that fiscal shocks are temporarily contractionary.  (If I were lecturing my MSc macro lot, I would also tick them off for making no proper attempt to identify fiscal shocks – what was alluded to by the ‘experimental yank at the fiscal tiller’ phrase above.  But that is for another post.)"
     "Some were undoubtedly predicting that the economy would enter a death-spiral of ever greater deficits following austerity.  We haven’t seen such a death-spiral.  But that this hasn’t happened doesn’t disprove that that was a consideration worth weighing in the menu of policy options.  [In fact, I’m sure it did weigh on policymakers minds, else the medicine would have been doled out in harsher doses]."
     What Scott and Bob need to show is not that there was no double dip but that they can prove that it wouldn't have grown faster if there hadn't been austerity; I mean no one considers this recovery to have been impressive-it took 6 years and the economy still has some acute problems in terms of wages. 
    Traditionally after a shock as deep as 2008 you would expect to see GDP at twice or three times it's rather pedestrian 3% during the recovery. 
     This attempt to make Krugman look silly has as usual made Murphy and his buddy Sumner look silly. 
     Maybe Scott can run out and win some more bets to redeem himself. 


Darrell Revis and Jeb Bush: Profiles in Wretchedness

     Some may not like me lumping in sports and political commentary-perhaps sniffing that 'politics is not a game'-but

     1. I see nothing wrong with games

     2. If you read about politicians at all levels of power-particularly high levels-what you see is that they love sports analogies-especially football analogies. I mean the folks in the Oval Office, in the Pentagon, the Defense Department, the State Department, it is what it is.

     To me there's nothing wrong with this as football tells us a lot about the nature of human society and our mode of Heidegger's Being in the World.

    Maybe some don't like the football metaphor with its competitive connotations-they want to think that as a society we should cooperate more and compete less. I think it's a mistake to draw any artificial Chinese Wall between competition and cooperation-it seems to me that any society needs elements of both to function and ours certainly does.

    To understand society better, I'd argue that sociologists would stand a lot to learn if they open their minds to it. You might notice that lately I've been writing a lot about sports, whereas I had a phase where I wrote constantly about economics.

    What I'm finding is that now that I've digested a fair amount of knowledge of economic theory-certainly of the customs and prejudices of economists-sports is a great chance to use some applied knowledge. Ironically, as athletes are castigated for making so much money, the Marxist polarization of capital vs. labor can be seen in a much purer form in sports today than in most other industries.

    As counter intuitive as the man in the street-particularly the sports pundit in the street- may find it, you can make $20 million a year to hit a baseball or hit a football and feel 'exploited'-and I'm not at all clear that you'd be wrong.

    At present, baseball players are actually underpaid; the owners may have lost the 1994 strike and finally had to give up on their socialist paradise of a salary cap-but they found another door: revenue sharing and the luxury tax. The union let down it's guard not realizing that the luxury tax and revenue sharing is just the salary cap with another name-not quite as effective perhaps but, nevertheless,  Marvin Miller's baseball league has now lagged behind both football and basketball-even though both of those leagues have a salary cap.

   Ok regarding Revis and Bush: both strike me as utterly shameless. I see their recent comments as from the same cloth. First Revis is throwing his former Patriots team under the bus after just winning the Super Bowl with them. Turns out he knows for a fact they're cheaters-everyone knows that. Somehow that didn't stop him from signing with them last year. Is he a cheater too?

   "Darrelle Revis did not say anything too inflammatory when asked about the penalties given to his former team/teammates for Deflategate, but he did say that the penalties were deserved based on the New England Patriots’ history of cheating."
  “New England’s been doing stuff in the past and getting in trouble,” Revis told the New York Daily News’ Manish Mehta. “When stuff repeatedly happens, then that’s it. I don’t know what else to tell you. Stuff repeatedly happened through the years. You got SpyGate, you got this and that and everything else. Obviously in those situations in the past, they had the evidence. So they did what they needed to do.”
     Note that he's saying they deserve the penalty based on their history with Spygate: so if not for that, they wouldn't deserve it?
    Talk about new levels of being a mercenary! Look a lot of people feel it's his right to be a mercenary and I agree that as much as management seems to take a mercenary attitude towards the players, you can't fault him. 
    Still, it's one thing to be willing to play for the highest bidder, but do you have to throw your former team totally under the bus the moment you get someone else's money? I don't get that. So is he a cheater too as he was an integral part of last year's Super Bowl team? 
    I see it as an attempt to basically revise history-I mean hearing him you'd never guess he was in the Super Bowl back in January with these alleged cheaters-which brings us to Jeb Bush who is totally trying to revise history in an attempt to take a coherent position on the Iraq war. 
   "Jeb Bush is already testing out this new strategy. It’s hard to say whether it will work: While blaming Obama is a sure-fire winner among GOP primary voters, the middle of the country may still have firm memories of Iraq as Bush’s War. The strategy also risks putting more pressure on Republicans to detail what they would do in Iraq instead. Of course, with the situation in Iraq deteriorating, and with Obama’s numbers on foreign policy ailing, perhaps many Americans will be open to spreading the blame around."
    "The “knowing what you know now” question simplifies the genesis of the Iraq War by blaming it all on a supposed intelligence failure. That alone whitewashes away the fact that many critics warned at the time that the intelligence might not actually indicate what Bush and company claimed it did, and that Bush might be cherry-picking intel to help build the case for an invasion. Worse, as Peter Beinart and James Fallows explain, this narrative also obscures the fact that invading was a bad idea regardless of whether Saddam had WMDs — because it risked creating all kind of unintended consequences."
    "The simplistic line of questioning could help the new GOP rhetorical strategy. The story now becomes: Hey, we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq based on what we know now, and it was a mistake, given the intelligence failure. But since we did, what really matters is how we prosecute the current conflict. This is now all about Obama’s strategy — Bush’s “mistake” is old news — and Obama’s weakness is really to blame for the current mess."
     Greg Sargent seems to think that this will put the Democrats in a tricky position:
     "It will be on Democrats to prevent that from happening. But they might find themselves constrained in their ability to do that, since Clinton and Democrats, too, have an interest in keeping the questions safely confined to shallow “based on what you know now” waters."
      If this is true then what you're saying is that the Democrats will suffer more for many of them having voted for the war than Bush in pushing it with faulty intel that was the thinnest pretext. 
     Ok, so Hillary voted for it, but you can argue that tenor of the times made her feel that she had to support it and she and many Dems wrongly trusted Bush. They didn't have the facts in front of them but only what Bush gave them. I don't mean they deserve no criticism and Hillary admits that. But her history here is not equivalent with Bush's. 
    P.S. Jeb is trying another shameless argument in distancing himself from his brother-he thinks W spent too much money.
    More revisionist history. 


More on LA's New High Minimum Wage: Is $15 Really $15?

     Don't get me wrong, while I like most liberals are excited about LA's new $15 minimum wage there are some moving parts to this. Yesterday I said that a $15 MW is at least in the ballpark of a livable wage.

    However, a piece at Nate Silver's FiveThrityEight-by Ben Casselman points out that LA-like the other places that have a $15 MW: San Francisco and Seattle-has a very high cost of living. I live in New York which has the one larger city than LA with NYC which has the most expensive cost of living in the country.

    He points out that the MW doesn't get to $15 till 2020 so there will be some inflation by then, and when you factor in both that and the very high COL the real wage is about $9,76. Comparatively, the real NYC MW-the nominal is $8,75-is actually $3,86 per hour. 

    Factoring the COL, Columbus Ohio actually has the highest MW at $8.91-in 2020, LA's will be the highest based on these 2015 numbers. 

    I can imagine a conservative using these numbers to show liberal folly about the MW-he'd probably start with comparing NYC to Nashville Tennessee where there is no state MW but factoring the COL on the national MW leaves it with one of the highest MWs at $8.10. 

    The one thing I'm not sure about with Casselman is he factored in inflation between now and 2020 for LA, Seattle, and SF, but the LA MW is indexed to the inflation rate. So I read that as the $15 being in 2015 not 2020 dollars. 

    A commentator, CJ Battey argued that it's wrong to factor in COL as places like LA and NYC are so much better to live than Columbus or Nashville.

    "Nope: $15 is $15. Money doesn't go as far in Los Angeles as it does in Columbus because Los Angeles is a better place to live than Columbus. More people want to live there because the weather is great, the economy good, and the culture passable, which drives up the cost of housing. We shouldn't mentally down-weight the incomes of residents of coastal cities because it's expensive to live there, we should just recognize that people living in LA are paying the cost of living in a desirable place where other people also want to live."

    I don't know if he's right about this or not. Anyone who knows should let me know. 


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Phil Jackson and JR Smith: It Takes a Genius

     Like Phil Jackson to let a player who just put on a show tonight in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final by scoring 28 points and 8 rebounds in Cleveland's 97-89 win over the Atlanta Hawks, go for absolutely nothing.

     Ok, I'm not saying there weren't any good reasons to let Smith go, but for absolutely nothing?! Smith is declaring vindication as well he might. 

    "This, of course, comes not only after Jackson traded Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to the Cavaliers this season but after Jackson was caught trolling teams in the postseason for not being good enough to win. It was the pot calling the kettle black in the most bizarre of ways, and none of it was lost on J.R. Smith."

    "Cleveland has found a real gem with J.R. Smith, as he’s an offensive production machine at times and is going to be critical in the cave quest to make it back to the NBA Finals. It’s been almost ten years since the Cavaliers went to the NBA Finals, but this is a first time trip for guys like J.R. Smith — and the trolling likely won’t stop anytime soon."

     Smith is dead right. You can justify trading JR Smith but how do you justify trading him for nothing? 

     Stephen A. Smith is also dead right in his tweet tonight.

     Jackson has a good reason for it: JR doesn't square with the triangle offense. 

      “As our journey moves through this season, we will search for the type of players that fit the style we hope to exhibit for our fans,” Phil Jackson said in a statement. “Our desire is to improve our ability to compete. In addition, these transactions improve our flexibility to the current roster and the salary cap for future seasons.”

     The Knicks want to win-what was Cleveland taking JR-they were robbed. 

      Ok, like most Knicks fans I'm frustrated right now. The Knicks can't even lose properly, as the Lakers stole the number 2 pick in the draft. While it's true, that the Knicks can still get a very good player in the draft-Stephan Curry went 7th-I don't get why Jackson couldn't at least be there at the lottery. 

     Larry Bird didn't have anything better to do but Jackson did? Phil was probably massaging his wife Jeanie Buff's  back as she stole the Knicks pick; she just happens to be part-owner and President of the Lakers. 

    The Knicks did get $30 million dollars in cap space and who knows what kind of free agents they can sign with. So to judge the deal you have to wait and see who they get and how these players contribute to the team vs. how Cleveland ends up this year and in subsequent years-ditto JR. 

    Right now though, the optics are just bad and Jackson could have at least been at the lottery as he was in Chicago-again, maybe watching tv with Jeanie as she took his pick. 

    Now we're hearing that the Knicks might trade down to get a player who likes the Triangle? At this point, he's borderline in Chip Kelly country: the Knicks need to improve the next 2 years or the egg is totally on his face. 

    P.S. The thing is we Knicks fans have had little to cheer about since Van Gundy left. Last year, I admit I felt honored just to have Mr. Karma here, but starting this year, we need some actual results not just the world's most impressive resume. 




The Minimum Wage and Why Sumner Hates Public Opinion So Much

      This is a big moment for the MW which I'd want to celebrate, but even better, I want to celebrate it with my good ole buddy, Scott Sumner. However, his latest post is not about this big victory for the MW-unsurprisingly-but yet another post gloating about how those who doubted the powers of QE have egg all over their faces.

     Scott gloats 'Whatever happened to the QE skeptics?' Mostly he's attacking straw men. However, the question I'd like to ask in his honor is whatever happened to all the minimum wage skeptics? Oh, I understand they're still out there-Scott, Bob Murphy, the GOP Congress, it's just that no one is heeding them. 

    Sumner always says 'There is no such thing as public opinion in economics' which is a pretty condescending attitude to take about public opinion. He is basically the Rush Limbaugh of monetary economics and what his claim is here is that the public is so ignorant of economic matters that there is no point listening to their opinion on economics-as you can show them to have any opinion if you phrase the question the right way. 

    The economists call this the framing effect-which rational expectations says shouldn't have any effect. Conservatives like Sumner think that the markets are rational but voters aren''t. Bryan Caplan has written a book to this effect.

    The question that begs is if Caplan thinks democracies choose bad policies what kind of government would choose better policies?

    This is at the crux of Monetarists-of any stripe-like Scott. How else do you understand his religious opposition to ever using fiscal policy for demand stabilization?

     When people push him on the effectiveness of monetary policy he comes back with 'Well, if the Fed buys up everything in the world are you telling me the price level won't rise?'

     However, the question that he can never answer is why wouldn't that be fiscal policy then? Why must it be monetary policy-I think it's teh opposition to democracy in economic matters. He strongly believes that the American people have no business deciding questions about their own economy-just alleged know it alls like him. 

    Today's story of the biggest victory for MW advocates yet demonstrates his frustration. No matter how many times he piously intones that the 'standard economic theory has shown that the MW costs jobs' the public doesn't head the economists-after all, if the American people had listened to economists in the 30s there would never have been a MW.

    Today was a huge win for the MW-in Los Angeles! That's the second largest country in the country-and they now have a $15 minimum wage! 

    "The city council in Los Angeles has passed a bill to increase the minimum wage in the nation’s second-largest city to $15 an hour, in stages between now and 2020. While similar increases were recently passed in San Francisco and Seattle, L.A.’s size alone — it has a population of almost 4 million, four and a half times as large as San Francisco and almost six times as large as Seattle — makes this the most significant development in the growing movement for an increase in the minimum wage."

     "What’s remarkable is how dynamic this issue is, as the range of options we debate keeps changing and politicians try to catch up to what grassroots activists are pushing for. Not long ago, when fast-food and other low-wage workers began demanding a $15 minimum wage, it seemed like an unrealistic request, at a time when people were talking about raising the federal minimum of $7.25 to something like eight or nine dollars an hour."
     "But the ground keeps shifting."
     "We see it happening again and again: Politicians endorse a modest increase. Activists pressure them to go further. The politicians realize that the public is in favor of a more significant increase and that the debate has changed. And they follow along."
      "For instance, in his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama proposed a $9 minimum wage; in his 2014 SOTU he endorsed a bill in Congress to raise it to $10.10; and now his administration has come on boardwith a new bill that would it to $12. Something similar happened in Los Angeles: Mayor Eric Garcetti had proposed raising the minimum to $13.25 by 2017, but at the urging of activists the city council went all the way to $15, and now Garcetti says he’ll sign the bill they just passed."
     The political momentum for the MW is unstoppable. If Sumner, Bob Murphy, Greg Mankiw, et. al are right then we should expect the sky to fall in LA. After all, it's one thing to argue that a rise in the MW from $7.25 to $9 or $10 is not a big shock, but to $15?
    That's at least getting in the ballpark of a livable wage-though this does depend on the price level of the cities in question. I mean, I live near the biggest city in the country-NYC-and things are awfully expensive there-I live on Long Island. 
    If LA is anything like NYC I'm not sure if $15 is quite a livable wage though it's a sharp move in the right direction. 
    If nothing else, this is going to give economists that rare thing they crave: a natural experiment. Sumner and friends predict that firms will go out of business because they can't afford $15 an hour or at least cut employment. It will be very interesting to behold. 
    P.S. There will be lots of naysayers. What a shock that Bloomberg doesn't approve.
    I'm sure, the writer, Megan McArdle, would be happy to work for $7.25 an hour. One thing the MW haters try to do is hide behind 'life cycle effects'-basically, that the MW is just for kids starting out in the workplace. If only this were the case and maybe there was a time when that was more true-pre 1980 maybe-but certainly not today. Many adults, including those with a fmaily to support are forced to take MW jobs these days. 
    It'd be nice to live as sheltered a life as Ms. McArdle, or John Tammy:
    "If the above isn't properly understood, imagine a life that is the norm in much of the world whereby our daily work were solely directed at survival as opposed to building on our talents? What a cruel life. In the U.S. some become financiers, yoga instructors and film directors, while others pursue careers as chefs, accountants, and technology entrepreneurs. So rich and free trading is our economy that we have choices. As opposed to spending our lives surviving, we're able to focus on what we're best at.  Survival is a given. Figure more than a few Americans support themselves in a spare way (by American standards) such that they can devote the lion's share of their time to luxurious pursuits such as skiing. Readers may ask themselves how many ski bums hail from Myanmar, Peru and Zimbabwe."
     P.S.S. Another suprise: Forbes is against a $15 MW too. Bloomberg and Forbes, who would have thunk it? Tim Worstall feels there is 'no just price'-'just let the market handle it, baby! If you can't live off that, oh well.'
    I thought that Morgan Warstler says that $1 is a fair price?


On Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell, Let's Hope Matt Light is Right

      As I said earlier, while I'm a big admirer and fan of Robert Kraft and everything he has accomplished and represents, I was a a little disappointed with him backing off after allegedly
'hugging it out' with Goodell last Saturday and then the owners' meeting.

      He''s still a great owner but he was almost on a whole new level after he stood by his QB like this. Because usually, owners are expected to sell out their players for the 'good of football'-or in baseball the 'good of baseball.'

      But now, I'm with Skip Bayless: Kraft has thrown his QB who won him 4 Super Bowl rings under the bus to please Goodell and some other owners who hate the Patriots anyway and are glad for the chance to somehow 'tarnish' the accomplishments of Brady, Bellichick, and Kraft.

     We are hearing a lot of revolting talk of how Kraft is to be admired for putting 'the interests of football' over his own team and QB. I disagree vigorously: he would be more admirable if he had stuck to his guns. How would the game be destroyed if he had appealed his punishment?

     Matt Light, though, has a different theory-who has 3 rings he earned while playing with Tom Brady.

     "On Wednesday, Light reacted to Kraft’s decision to stand down in his battle with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell over Deflategate penalties, and said he thinks Kraft struck a deal with Goodell to get Tom Brady’s suspension elimated."

     “Overall, I don’t think the punishment to the Patriots is a big deal,” Light said Wednesday on Boston Herald radio. “The punishment and how Tommy’s reputation has been tarnished and everything has been called into question, that’s a big deal. So, I would imagine, in the interest of what’s best for the NFL, they looked at each other and said ‘OK let’s hug it out for the camera, let’s go ahead and make this deal that Tommy is going to get nothing,’ because I can’t see it happening any other way. I would be very upset if he had any kind of punishment.”

   "’s Mike Florio also believes Kraft struck a deal with Goodell, although it may not necessarily be tied to Brady’s suspension."

    “Whether it’s just for future considerations, whether it’s for a Super Bowl in Foxborough at some point in the next decade, whether it’s a wink/nod, ‘Don’t breathe a word of it to anybody but maybe Roger Goodell’s going to reduce Tom Brady‘s suspension’ type of a promise, there’s got to be something,” Florio said on WEEI’s Dennis and Callahan show Wednesday. “Because you don’t pivot that quickly.
    If he got something then I feel better about it. But if Kraft got nothing I don't respect this genuflecting in front of Goodell as the physical embodiment of 'the good of the game.' It should be something for Brady-not this nonsense about a Foxborough Super Bowl. 
    Some feel that Brady has to get something
    "Florio also told “Dennis and Callahan” that he’s not sure Goodell and the NFL would be willing to eliminate Brady’s suspension entirely, as the public outside of New England would take issue with such a move. “For now they’re dealing with one very angry fan base,” Florio said. “If they would cut it to zero, they would be dealing with somewhere between one and 31 other angry fan bases. I don’t think it’s going to be cut to zero for that reason.”
    He may be right, though, I'm not a Patriot fan-Giants, of course-and I'd prefer it be eliminated entirely. I don't want to concede anything to Brady haters who get to say 'Yeah, but he's a cheater' as if the reason he's won 4 SBs is because of air pressure. 


On TPP, Investors Business Daily Not Doing Obama Any Favors

     My own position on TPP is somewhat like Hillary's-I'd rather see what's in it than go too half-cocked about how it could mean the end of the minimum wage or Dodd-Frank. I'm kind of torn:

     1. I'm not so sure the legacy of Nafta, et. al has been so great. 

     2. The President really wants this and I just hate to see him with egg on his face. 

     What's more I do believe he's sincere that he believes he has labor protections with teeth this time and that corporations won't be able to sue and overturn minimum wage laws or Dodd-Frank. 

     Don't get me wrong-maybe the reason Corporate America is so in favor of TPP is because they believe it will enable them to do just that. But there's no question Obama doesn't want to in any way harm Dodd-Frank. 

     However, there is rising skepticism about the deal

      The IBD is not the kind of advocate Obama is looking for. IN their piece today for TPP they don't mention him-and he's probably not sorry about that. This is an uneasy fight for both sides in that Obama is on the same side as a lot of Republicans where his own party is more skeptical.

      The IBD piece leads with a quote by Henry Hazlitt

      "What is harmful or disastrous to an individual must be equally harmful or disastrous to the collection of individuals that make up a nation." - Henry Hazlitt, Economics In One Lesson

       See also:

      UPDATE: My apologies, I see that these two links are actually the same piece. 

         It occurs to me that even based on 'standard economics'-that Sumner always lectures me that I don't understand-this is wrong. Basic supply and demand can show you situations that are good for certain individuals but not for society. Hazlitt's comment suggests that every individual in a nation must prefer an action to be good which is obviously an impossibility. 

      Hazlitt's one lesson seems to be based in a failure of composition. 

       Here is a-critical-piece by Joseph Stiglitz. 

       "Trade agreements are about more than business—they’re about who has final say in the way people around the world live, what they eat, how much they are paid, what medicines they can buy and whether they have jobs. Such agreements shape economic policies that impact billions of people. The discussions surrounding these agreements are far too important to done in secret. But that’s precisely how the Obama administration is trying to pass the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)."

      All I know is that the quality of jobs for Americans took a hit after NAFTA, et. al. Starting in 2001 a lot of people previously in white collar jobs-data entry, bookkeeping- suddenly were burger flippers, I agree that causation is harder but there is a correlation here. What I'd like to see is how many Americans are in the service sector today vs. in the 90s. 

      What seems to be the case is that Democrats in Congress are often skeptical of these big trade deals, but Democratic Presidents always wants these trade deals. So what is it that makes trade deals something Democratic Presidents want but Democratic Congresses oppose? Does simply occupying the office of POTUS make you pro free trade. 

      P.S. This post doesn't really provide an answer as I haven't really definitively decided as yet. I'll try to bring myself more up to speed on it. 

     UPDATE: Wow, that Real Clear Markets post is bad. After that Hazlitt quote it's all down hill:

     "Thinking about the Hazlitt quote that begins this piece, an economy is not a blob with a life of its own. An economy is just a collection of individuals. Those individuals who comprise the U.S. or any economy generally receive a paycheck in return for their work, and free trade logically enhances the buying power of those checks. In a free market, monopoly profits are gradually competed away thanks to the arrival of new entrants. Open borders naturally speed up the process whereby the greatest number of globally talented producers strive mightily to serve us at the lowest prices possible."
      "This is important because contrary to what you hear from Keynesian thinkers, savings are not only good for the individual, but also for the economy itself. We're told in economics classes that the economy will collapse if we're not constantly spending, but such fraudulent thinking is exposed as silly when applied to the individual. As individuals we know intuitively that a life without savings is brutal and scary. We know that it means we're one missed paycheck away from having to rely on the kindness of strangers, and a lost job away from the soul-destroying (J.K. Rowling) act of going on the dole. Worse, a lack of savings deprives us of long-term financial security. For lowering prices, free trade enhances the possibility that we'll be able to save more."
     These are such bad arguments it's tough to know where to start. First of all, total failure of composition; in economics something can be good or bad for one individual and have opposite aggregate, social effects. 
     More of the same talking about individuals and savings. However, RCM does go on to admit that, yeah, trade deals do kill jobs but that's what economic progress is about. 
     "Naysayers will argue that free trade destroys jobs, but then so does all economic progress. This is a happy development. If jobs are or were the sole purpose of economic activity, then the logical next step beyond closing our borders to foreign goods would be to abolish the car, the tractor, the ATM machine and the internet. All four were massive job destroyers, but as evidenced by the fact that we're not in breadlines as a result of their proliferation, economic advances that destroy jobs don't erase work; rather they reorient investment to new forms of commerce that simply change the nature of our work. This is good. Indeed, not much more than 100 years ago most Americans worked on farms. Thank goodness for the economic progress that free trade speeds up. How skillful and productive would most of us be with the backhoe?"
     It seems to me that Nafta mostly 'changed the nature of our work' for the worst-many who had middle or white collar jobs suddenly were working at McDonald's and 7 Eleven. Sure it was a 'change in the nature of our jobs'-in the wrong way. 

     UPDATE 2.0: This writer, John Tammy, is driving me crazy. It goes on and on:

     "If the above isn't properly understood, imagine a life that is the norm in much of the world whereby our daily work were solely directed at survival as opposed to building on our talents? What a cruel life. In the U.S. some become financiers, yoga instructors and film directors, while others pursue careers as chefs, accountants, and technology entrepreneurs. So rich and free trading is our economy that we have choices. As opposed to spending our lives surviving, we're able to focus on what we're best at.  Survival is a given. Figure more than a few Americans support themselves in a spare way (by American standards) such that they can devote the lion's share of their time to luxurious pursuits such as skiing. Readers may ask themselves how many ski bums hail from Myanmar, Peru and Zimbabwe."

    It's as if no one in America has to worry about survival. With all these wonderful careers he mentions he doesn't mention Dunkin Donuts, factories, or even low paid telemarketer jobs. Folks who work in these jobs do so for one reason: survival. Right here in America. What a cruel life. 

   I hope there are other better arguments for the deal than this. There is nothing specific about TPP there, just a generalist excursion into the wonders of 'free trade' in the abstract.