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Nov 30, 2008

Page Tracking a Blog Using Google Analytics

I use the free Google Analytics service to track views of my blog. My pages send tracking information to the GA computers. GA reports how many visitors have read the blog, for how long, and a lot more, but it does not report individual information about who is visiting.

The "GA Tracking Code" is a short JavaScript program provided by GA that is part of each page, indicated by a title at the bottom of the page. You include the tracking code by using the Layout page of the Google blog setup.

This article discusses:

  • How GA determines page view time
  • Installing the GA Tracking Code
  • Setting a filter and cookie to exclude your own page views
  • Time on Page with "/endpage" checkpoints
  • Top Content Report - Time on Page
  • Tracking outbound links
  • Sources

How GA Determines Page View Time

GA is optimized for tracking commercial sites. Each page request generates one log entry (a checkpoint). A commercial site wants to track the progression of a customer from main page, through product pages, shopping cart, and payment. Here is a simplified example of what log entries are like:

                    Check   Time
                    Point   Spent  What Happened
                    -----   -----  ---------------
Page /BuyThings     40:00   0:10   User views site
Page /productA      40:10   1:50   At product A
Page /productB      42:00   2:30   At product B
Page /ShoppingCart  44:30   1:20   At Shopping Cart
Page /CreditCard    45:50   1:00   Provides payment
Page /Confirmation  46:50   0:00   Payment accepted
Page ??                ??          User Disappears

Time Spent is calculated from the differences in the Check Point times. For example, the user looked at the /ProductA page at 40:10, and at the /ProductB page at 42:00, so the /ProductA page displayed for 1:50.

Notice that the time entered for the /Confirmation page is 0:00. We suspect that the user spent at least a few seconds on that page, but we don't know how long, because that was the last page the user looked at. There is no following checkpoint to compute time spent, so GA records 0:00.

This doesn't work out well for tracking blogs. Here is an example:

                    Check  Time
                    Point  Spent   What Happened
                    -----  -----   ---------------
Page /MyBlog        40:00   1:40   User views site
Page /MyBlog/Page1  41:40   0:00   Goes to Page1
Page ??                ??          User Disappears

The user looked at the first page /MyBlog, read some posts, went to /Page1 to read, then went to another site. There is no page view following /Page1, so the time spent is unknown and is entered as 0:00. Your reports will show page views, but you won't know the time spent reading the last page visited.

My solution generates a checkpoint for the artificial page "/endpage" when the page is unloaded. This results in reports that capture almost all of the time spent on each page. The above logfile for MyBlog then looks like this:

                    Check  Time
                    Point  Spent   What Happened
                    -----  -----   ---------------
Page /MyBlog        40:00   1:40   User views site
Page /endpage       41:40   0:00   Leaves /MyBlog
Page /MyBlog/Page1  41:40   1:10   Goes to Page1
Page /endpage       42:50   0:00   Leaves Page1
Page ??                ??          User Disappears

No time is usually assigned to /endpage, because it is immediately followed by another blog page or a disappearance. It is there to determine the display time of the last page read.

Sometimes /endpage accumulates Time Spent. I think this happens when a visitor leaves the site and comes back within 29 minutes. The tracking log has /endpage followed by a blog page, so the time is assigned to /endpage.

Sometimes, pages viewed show zero Time Spent. Possibly the visitor left that page within a few seconds, and GA ignored the page view.

Installing the GA Tracking Code

My blog is on Blogger, so I don't know how this advice adapts to other services.

Go to the Google Analytics sign-in page, create a Google account if needed, and sign in.

GA Overview Page: Click "Add Website Profile" at the lower left.

GA Create New Website Profile Page: Enter your blog URL in the box labeled "Please provide the URL of the site you would like to track". Click Finish. For example, my blog url is
"http://easyopinions.blogspot.com/" .

GA Tracking Code Page: The pale yellow box shows "Tracking Status: Tracking Not Installed". This is expected.

Copy the JavaScript text from the white box farther down the page, and place it into a convenient text file for the moment. Save this as part of your own documentation about your website. (Ignore the link to "Legacy Tracking Code urchin.js" ) Don't add or delete spaces or break up lines. Click Finish.

The tracking code is the same for all sites and all web pages, except for the identifier in blue ("UA-5212345-6") which corresponds to the website URL you just registered. You will get your own identifier in the code generated for you.

<script type="text/javascript">
var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www.");
document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "google-analytics.com/ga.js' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E"));

<script type="text/javascript">
var pageTracker =

GA Overview Page: You will now see a line for the site URL you have registered. The Status will show a yellow triangle /!\ showing that data from your site has not been received yet. GA will fully recognize your blog after you install the tracking code into your blog pages and it sends some page tracking information.

Go To Your Blog Setup: Navigate to your Blogger setup page: Layout: Page Elements. You will see the block diagram of the parts to your blog page. Click on the short, wide rectangle at the bottom, on the blue link "Add a Gadget".

Pop Up Window: Add a Gadget - Basics: Scroll to about the middle and click on "HTML/JavaScript: Add third-party functionality or other code to your blog".

Pop Up Window: Configure HTML/JavaScript: I suggest the title "Google Analytics" (without the quotation marks), but this is your choice. Paste the saved JavaScript code into the big box. Click the orange Save button.

Layout: Page Elements: Click the orange Save button. A yellow rectangle confirms that "Your Changes Have Been Saved". Click "View Blog". The installation is done.

The GA Overview Page that you visited above will show the yellow triangle for up to 24 hours until GA gets some data from you or others visiting your site. A green check mark indicates data has been received and correct operation. Browse around the GA pages and read the explanations. Click on the View Report link to see the many possible reports of your blog traffic.

Eliminate Self Tracking

The GA tracking code records your own page views along with other views. You may not want your reports to include your own activity.

You can set up a Filter at GA (a rule to include or exclude data) to ignore information from one or more IP addresses. Unfortunately, most people have a changing IP address assigned to them by their Internet Service Provider. It may be constant for a while, but it changes unpredictably.

Instead, I use a Filter Value to exclude activity coming from my account on my computer. A cookie is a text file that holds information stored and used by a website. First you create a custom filter at GA, then you write a Filter Value into the cookie for your blog.

** Create the Filter at GA

Go to GA Settings: click on "Filter Managers" in the lower right corner.

GA Filter Manager Page: See the gray heading "Existing Filters. Click on "Add Filter" at the right of the heading bar.

GA Filter Manager> Create New Filter Page:

Filter Name: Enter "Exclude Cookie", or use another name. Don't include the quotation marks.

Filter Type: Choose "Custom Filter" from the drop-down list. More choices will appear.

List of circle choices: Choose "Exclude"

Filter Field: Choose "User Defined" (showing at the top) about the 10th item in the entire list.

Filter Pattern: [Your Blog Name]. For example, if your blog is WonderfulStuff.blogspot.com then you would enter "WonderfulStuff", or "wonderstuff", or something based on your blog name. If I suggested that you use a particular name "cat", then any other blogger who also used "cat" would not show up in your blog statistics. Just for discussion below, we will assume you used "wonderstuff", but don't use that particular value.

Case Sensitive: No

Apply Filter to Website Profiles: Select your blog in the box on the left, and click "Add" in the middle, to move the name into the box on the right. If you are tracking more than one blog, this filter applies to all blogs that you move to the box on the right.

Save Changes: Click to create the filter.

** Write The Filter Pattern to the Blog Cookie

Cookies are text files with a complicated format and security restrictions, so your Web browser has to write to them. You will write your Filter Pattern (eg "wonderstuff") to the cookie with a blog post, by clicking a link containing a GA JavaScript function call. You do this once to update the cookie, or again if you delete the cookie by mistake. There is no harm in writing the cookie more than once. The link shows an alert "Cookie is set" to confirm that it operated.

Create a blog post that holds the following content. You may include other content or explanation. Give the post a date in the past that hides the post. You may delete the post or make it a draft after use, so that visitors don't use it by mistake. Replace the text "wonderstuff" with whatever value you chose above as your Filter Pattern, and keep single quotes around it as shown.

<p><a href="#x"
onClick="javascript: pageTracker._setVar('wonderstuff');
alert('Filter Pattern is set');">
Write Filter Pattern</a>

Copy and paste this code into your post, publish it to your blog, visit it, and click on the link to write the Filter Value into the cookie. The presence of that value will activate the Exclude Filter you set in GA, keeping your own activities out of your GA reports. You should see this effect within a day.

The link will look like the following on your blog page, and you can click this one to see how it operates. This one shows a message, but doesn't write a cookie.
Write Filter Pattern

You could do this for possibly many users on many computers that you want to exclude from your activity reports. Each user displays the special blog page and clicks on the link to put the Filter Pattern into the cookie for your blog.

You can look at the cookie for further confirmation. For user Dad, using Windows XP, the cookie created for blog WonderfulStuff is located at:

Directory: C:\Documents and Settings\Dad\Cookies
File: dad@WonderfulStuff.blogspot[1].txt
If you click on the cookie, it will display as run-together text with many "small-box" symbols. You will find your Filter Pattern "wonderstuff" in the text somewhere, if all is well. Again, use your own value in place of 'wonderstuff'.

Time on Page with "/endpage" Checkpoints

Navigate to your Blogger setup page: Layout: Page Elements. Click on Edit within the box titled Google Analytics (or the title you gave it), to expose the code. Use cut and paste to add the three green lines in the code group below, with a blank line for readability:

<script type="text/javascript">
var pageTracker = 

function f_unload()
window.onunload = f_unload;

Click the orange Save button to finish. You should see the effect in your reports within a day.

Top Content Report - Time on Page

The GA "Top Content" report shows an overall average Time on Page in the report header, and an individiual average Time on Page for each blog page. This is how they are computed.

 Page  TimeOn  %Exit   Page   Total
Views    Page          Count  Time

    6    1:00  33.33%    4    4:00
    4     :30  25.00%    3    1:30
                       ---    ----
              Totals     7    5:30
    Avg Time on Page           :47  

Columns Page Views, Time On Page, and %Exit are from the GA report. We compute Page Count and Total Time. The figures above are an example containing two pages.

GA accumulates the total time spent on each page from all page views (not unique page views). GA divides this by the number of pages that accumulated a known viewing time. Page views that were interrupted by an "exit" could not be assigned a viewing time, because there is no endpoint available to calculate a time.

We calculate a "Page Count" column as the number of Page Views minus the number of exits = "Page Views" x (1 - "%Exit"). The "Time on Page" is the average viewing time for each one of these pages, so the total time measured for that page is "Time on Page" x "Page Count".

In the example, the first page has 6 Page Views with a 33.33% exit. So, 2 of the page views has no measured time, and the remaining 4 contributed to the 1:00 average viewing time. 1:00 x 4 = 4:00, the total viewing time known for that page. The same calculation for the second page gives 3 page views having a total viewing time of 1:30.

The Total Time for all measured pages is 5:30, and there were 7 measured pages, giving an overall average Time on Page (at the top of a GA report) of 0:47 per measured page. This approach entirely leaves out the unmeasured pages from the averages. This assumes that the unmeasured pages are probably average in the amount of viewing time. You can make your own estimates if you wish, knowing how the averages are computed.

The statistics in the report heading fit the following formula.
   Measured_Pages = PageViews x (1 - Exit%)
   Total Viewing Time = Measured_Pages x TimeOnPage

For example, given these numbers from a report heading:
Pageviews 100,  Unique Pageviews 80,  Time on Page 2:00,  Bounce Rate 30%,  Exit% 40%.
   Measured_Pages = 100 x (1 - 40%) = 60
   2 hours Total Viewing Time = 60 x 2:00

Tracking Outbound Links

You probably have links to other sites included in your blog. Without the Endpage code above, the user just disappears. With the Endpage code, the current time on that page is recorded, and the user disappears. Sometimes, you want to know if a particular link was used.

You can include a bit of JavaScript code in any link that you want to track individually. For example:

<a href="http://www.CoolOtherSite.com"
Goto Other Site</a>
The GA function _trackPageview('/outgoing/Cool') sets a checkpoint for '/outgoing/Cool' when the user clicks "Goto Other Site". The checkpoint can be any text.

This groups together outgoing link information under the artificial page name "/outgoing" . The "/Cool" part is whatever best reminds you of the link that is used, and could be the entire link name. You may use the same text for all links that you are tracking, or a different text for each one.

The Endpage code removes the need to track all outgoing links just to capture the Time Spent on the page. The above code is shown in short lines for display; it may appear in the HTML page as one line if desired.


Analytics Help Forum Archive: Discussions > Tracking Your Site
Questions and answers about site tracking.

Time-On-Page Goals in GA and Website Optimizer
09/05/07 - EpikOne by Justin Cutroni
Using setTimeout() with the older GA UrchinTracker code. The ideas can be applied to the current TrackPageview code.

New GA Tracking Code: GA.JS
09/16/07 - EpikOne by Justin Cutroni
An article about the then "new" TrackPageview code.

Standard Metrics #4 : Time on Page and Time on Site
01/08/2008 - kaushik.net by Avinash Kaushik
How GA and other services determine Time On Page

Google Analytics Tracking Code: Extending Event Tracking
2008 GA - Comprehensive, complicated event tracking with a new library of JavaScript functions.

Nov 29, 2008

Political Arrest in Great Britain

A British Political Arrest
11/29/08 - Samizdata.net by Brian Micklethwait (London)
The Damian Green Political Arrest

--> An outrage that brings shame on Britain
01/12/09 - (11/29/08) TimesOnline by Mathew Parris

[edited] Nine counter-terrorism officers raided the home and offices of a senior member of the Opposition. What a blunder. What an outrage. What a stupid, stupid, thing to do.

This is a gift to the Tories (conservatives), and incredibly damaging to a governing party whose Prime Minister enjoys a reputation for bullying. That is the best argument for doubting that Labour ministers had anything to do with the arrest of Damian Green, a mild-mannered and distinctly herbivorous Shadow Immigration Minister.

Maybe ministers really were kept in total ignorance, but few ordinary voters are going to believe it. A Prime Minister otherwise known as the Big, Clunking Fist will struggle to dissociate himself in the public mind from an astonishingly heavy-handed police operation against a critic.

Micklethwait comments on declining ethics in politics:
[edited] I include references to f---ing and f---ers very deliberately. Our rulers now swear a lot more than they used to. It is all part of that atmosphere, that tone, that they have been so busily creating. It is an atmosphere in which there are now so many laws, and laws which are so sweeping in their scope, that all are now guilty.

The law simplifies down to the question: do they like you? If they really really do not like you, look out, they'll come for you, and find or make up the laws they need as they go along.

A front bench politician has been, very publicly, on the receiving end of this parody of the idea of law. It is cause not for rage and more swearing, but for rejoicing [because it brings the corruption of government and law into public view].

Politicians and CEO Pay

11/29/08 - NYPost.com by Thomas Sowell (via PowerlineBlog)   --> Source

[edited] For years, politicians have pressured banks and other institutions into lending to people they would not lend to otherwise. They used the Community Reinvestment Act, other regulatory powers, and threats of legal action.

Yet, when all this blows up and the economy turns down, what is the answer? To have more economic decisions made by politicians, because they choose to say that "deregulation" is the cause of our problems.

No matter what happens, for politicians it is "heads I win and tails you lose." If we keep listening to them and their media allies, we are all going to keep losing big. Keeping our attention focused on CEO pay [a very small expense compared to the big picture] is part of this game. We are all goats if we fall for it.

Reject Medicare and Lose Social Security

11/29/08 - (11/08/08) San Diego Union Tribune Editorial
(via InstaPundit and NAlert)

The freedom and fairness of socialized medicine.

[edited] The first wave of baby boomer retirees will soon turn 66 and get their first Social Security check. But they won't get Medicare without signing up, soon.

That's one Medicare requirement worth knowing. Here's another: Opting out of Medicare is possible – if you don't mind losing your Social Security, too.

Three seniors have sued. They want to pay their own medical costs, and they would abandon the Medicare taxes they've long paid. But, they don't want to abandon Social Security.

That would ensure the privacy of their medical records and spare them bureaucratic review of every lab test and office visit. If not deemed "medically necessary", Medicare doesn't pay, and the physician by law can't bill the patient. No wonder why many elderly have difficulty finding a doctor.

No law mandates participation in both programs or none. The Clinton administration instituted that regulation, buttressed by Congress' ban on seniors going outside Medicare for any service it provides.

Nov 27, 2008

Men with Flu Get Five Minutes of Sympathy

11/27/08 - Telegraph.co.uk by John Bingham   --> Source
Is this why half of marriages end in divorce?

52% of women polled said that they lose sympathy with their husband or boyfriend within five minutes of his first complaint about feeling under the weather.

Nov 26, 2008

A Car Wreck Made in Washington

11/26/08 - WSJ.com by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.   --> Source

[edited] It was a fantastic moment in last week's congressional hearings. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D.MA) asked CEO Rick Wagoner whether General Motors was also asking China for a bailout.

He seemed to imply that GM can't afford to pay inflated UAW wages because it is squandering money building cars in China. Mr. Wagoner mildly answered that GM's China operations are profitable, and actually help to offset massive losses in the U.S.

Ford and GM are able to run profitable auto businesses all over the world, but not in the U.S., because the United Auto Workers union (UAW) is present only here.

Congress's CAFE fuel-economy rules, not labor law, have been the biggest factor in preserving the UAW's monopolistic power. CAFE effectively requires the Big Three automakers to lose tens of billions making small cars at a loss in U.S. based UAW factories. CAFE keeps the Big Three from profitably importing small cars, and removes any ability to control labor costs by moving some production to factories in Spain, Taiwan, or Poland. Let's face it, that's what other successful U.S. manufacturers do.

CAFE intentionally gives the UAW the ability to keep wages high and uncompetitive in the face of global competition. It has nothing to do with giving Americans efficient cars. Yet, not a single legislator doubted the idea that Detroit's woes result from an improbable series of "stupid decisions" (as another Massachusetts congressman put it) by 18 CEOs over 30 years.

Nov 23, 2008

A Short Argument Against Stimulus

Economist Henry Hazlitt debunks stimulus in three paragraphs at Economics in One Lesson: The Broken Window (1978). Here is the first part:

[edited] A hoodlum heaves a brick through the window of a baker’s shop. A crowd gathers to stare with quiet satisfaction at the hole in the window. After a while, several will notice a bright side. Broken windows support the glass business. This will give $250 in business to a glazier.

Then, the benefit is endless. The glazier will spend $250 more with other merchants, and these in turn will spend $250 with other merchants, and so on infinitely. The smashed window will provide money and employment in ever-widening circles. The logical conclusion from all this would be that the hoodlum made everyone better off.

Hazlitt criticizes this reasoning using just two more paragraphs at the link.

This incorrect reasoning is the idea behind "stimulus", that spending causes money to flow around making everyone better off. Stimulus is used to justify government spending, even if the activities are inefficient or useless.

Stimulus is supposed to justify taking more tax from the lazy investments of the rich, to give money to the non-rich, who will spend it immediately to improve the economy. But, if it were true that government spending created waves of prosperity, we would all be on lounge chairs in Aruba by now.

Stimulus is the fundamental myth of our time. It wrongly tells us that we don't have to be careful about what we buy or in what we invest, because we will somehow create jobs and prosperity if only we all go shopping, and force rich taxpayers to spend through the government.

Stimulus is a cruel myth, because reality is just the opposite. Higher taxes are taken from people with knowledge and ability who are investing in profitable businesses that create jobs. Instead, these resources are directed to uses that produce less. We can have a society of manufacturing and service businesses, making goods that people want, or we can have more bureaucracy, producing paperwork in filing cabinets.

See also Econ 201: The Myth of the Economic Multiplier for a more detailed discussion of stimulus and the related myth of the Economic Multiplier. It is not true that each $1 of spending flows around to produce $2-$4 of benefits. Spending $1 transfers just $1 of goods from one person to another. That's it. What did you expect?

Nov 22, 2008

Brussels, The Cucumber, and Deregulation

Brussels and the Cucumber
11/22/08 - WSJ.com Opinion

EU regulators will do a bit less regulation. Ever wonder what all of those people are doing in your own government?

[edited] European Union Commissioner for agriculture and rural development, Mariann Fischer Boel says "It's a new dawn" in Brussels. Next July, the EU will lift rules dictating the size and shape of 26 fruits and vegetables. Hello, curvy cucumber.

For decades, the EU has issued rules in the name of "consumer protection", such as how to use mayonnaise, the definition of an egg, the diameter of a peach, and protecting European shoppers from the sight of a misshapen carrot. This requires an army of bureaucrats and a few editorial writers.

These rules cost billions in higher grocery prices and the taxes that support Europe's notorious Common Agricultural Policy. Ms. Fischer Boel says the new regulations will cut administrative costs and reduce food prices. "We simply don't need to regulate this sort of thing at the EU level. It is far better to leave it to market operators." What a thought.

The "bonkers Brussels bureaucrats" are still with us. 16 of the EU's 27 member states oppose the changes, and the EU will continue to set standards for apples, tomatoes, and 8 other fruits and vegetables making up 75% of the value of EU trade.

- -
Protected From UglyRipe Tomatoes
02/02/11 - 02/24/05 - Mises.org by Gary Galles  [edited]

Why are winter tomatoes pretty but tasteless? The government is protecting us from having to think too much about them, and about other fruits and vegetables.

UglyRipe tomatoes come from 10 years of work by Joe Procacci. Customers say they have the luscious taste they remember from the good old days. Few UglyRipe meet the FTC’s standard of beauty for selling out of state because they fail roundness standards.

This is the latest in a long line of rip-offs in the name of consumer protection and enforced by government marketing boards. Marketing boards trace from New Deal legislation to “save” agriculture.

Florida growers of pretty but bland tomatoes dominate America’s winter supply, and they protect their profits at consumer expense. Marketing boards block the sale of “lower quality” tomatoes to restrict competition from newer varieties that consumers might prefer.

Nov 21, 2008

The U.S. Needs Modern Nuclear Weapons

11/21/08 - WSJ.com Opinion by Melanie Kirkpatrick   --> Source

[edited] Gen. Kevin Chilton says we've done a pretty good job of maintaining our submarines, missiles, and bombers. Back when we had a robust infrastructure to replenish nuclear warheads, they were designed for a 15-20 year life. Now, they are all older than 20 years. The analogy is trying to extend the life of your 1957 Chevrolet.

Gen. Chilton illustrates his point with an electronic vacuum tube, a glass bulb two inches high with connection pins at the bottom. It is a component of a V-61 nuclear warhead from the 1950-60's that is still in the U.S. arsenal. "I remember what these things were for. I bet you don't. In the 1950's, my father used to take these out of the television set down to the local supermarket to test and replace them. This is the technology that we have today."

Compare that to a circuit board that fits in my hand. "That tube is just a tiny, little chip on this circuit board". Congress has not appropriated money for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, to replace tube technology, and the Department of Energy has no appropriation even to study how to do so.

Nov 20, 2008

Stock Market Rules Do the Unexpected

11/20/08 - The New Republic by Clay Risen   --> Source

[edited] Normally, this would be a great moment for buyers, with the potential to boomerang the market upwards. But there are a few reasons why it’s a little too early to expect such an outcome. First, as the Reuters article notes, many institutional investors are barred from buying stocks below $10, which means some of the only people left with cash on hand are unable to participate.

In the spirit of "No good deed goes unpunished", I suggest "No mindless government restriction goes unused". Politicians are not usually analysts or businessmen, and they like rules that are simple, "obvious", and often stupid.

Read more ...

Here is a disastrous consequence to a minor but mindless rule. Stocks that trade for less than $1 per share (penny stocks) are usually considered "cheap" and risky, and many are. The low price is arranged by the company to make 100 shares affordable to the people who want to invest with only a little money.

Laws that force "prudent" investing stop many institutions from buying penny stocks which they wouldn't buy anyway, and they go further to prohibit buying stocks priced at less than $10 per share. These laws require buying "quality" stocks, and they associate quality with price.

Actually, the price of a share of stock is arbitrary. It depends on what piece of the company is represented by a share of stock. Warren Buffet's company Berkshire Hathaway sells for more than $70,000 per share. It seems that he likes it that way so he does not have to deal with small investors.

It is common for companies to "split" their stock if the price goes too high, so that ordinary investors can buy the usual 100 shares. Say the stock is priced at $80/share. The company issues a "4 for 1 split", issuing 4 new shares to each owner of an old share, and taking back the old shares. The new shares are worth $20/share. Nothing has changed except each old share has been cut into 4 pieces.

There is also a "reverse split" where the company collects 4 shares and issues 1 new share, which then has a market price 4 times the old price. They have glued four old shares together.

The $10 rule is based on appearances, so that congressmen can say that they passed laws to require prudent investing in quality stocks. Actually, quality is not directly related to stock price. In the current financial crisis, part reality and part panic has sent the stock price of many quality companies below $10 to bargain prices. Many institutions who can analyze their true worth could start buying to support and raise those prices, except for this rule.

I fear the other thousands of mindless, general rules that are keeping our society from its best accomplishments.

Nov 19, 2008

We Can Learn From The Savings And Loan Crisis

An economic recovery is based on confidence, which follows from profits earned from a new analysis. The Savings and Loan bank crisis in the 1980's is an instructive example.

Read more ...

"Savings and Loans" were specialized banks that were allowed to invest only in local home mortgages. They had the guarantee of the federal government to pay back their depositors. These banks lobbied for more freedom to make riskier and more lucrative loans. They attracted a huge amount of money under the government guarantee, attracting depositors into high interest certificates of deposit. When the economy had a downturn, almost all of these banks failed.

In this S&L crisis, the government made good on the guarantee to pay back the depositors, and it took ownership of the buildings and assets backing up the failed loans. This is similar to our current financial situation, both in cause and effect, but now bigger and through the mechanism of making failed housing loans.

Amy Alkon at AdviceGoddess quotes Nicole Gelinas at City Journal about how the Saving and Loan crisis in the 1980's was resolved.

[edited] Consider what got us out of the savings and loan crisis of the late eighties and early nineties. William Seidman was head of the FDIC in the eighties and of the federal Resolution Trust Corporation, which handled the S&L aftermath. The U.S. government closed down failed S&L institutions and had to sell off their holdings.

These holdings consisted of $600 billion in diverse assets, including office buildings, hotels, golf courses, and apartment complexes. Seidman said “There was no real market for such assets. We decided we had to create a market. We said, we’re going to start selling these properties at whatever price we could get.”

Private owners of similar assets howled "You’re driving the market down". Congress was critical. "Congress asked us to keep the assets for five years to get prices up. I said if I’m sitting here just waiting to sell my assets, the price isn’t going to go up." Selling initially at distressed prices was “the only way we could get it done. We began to sell.”

Investors who bought assets at rock-bottom prices found that there was real value there, which encouraged investors to purchase more of the assets, increasing demand and raising the prices at future sales. Within a year, many formerly distressed properties approached 70 percent of their original values.

Investors, including large institutions, have a pragmatic and fearful follow-the-leader mentality. Many institutions in the current crisis failed to do their homework, to individually value the Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) and the more synthetic and dangerous Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO) which they bought. They accepted the market price and the opinions of rating services (Standard & Poor's, Fitch) who themselves did little investigation before assigning AAA (very safe) ratings. The government was buying these or similar bonds, so this and the AAA rating was good enough for investing institutions.

Today, all of the housing assets are questioned, and the MBS and CDO bonds based on them. They don't have a value because they are painted by the same brush. It doesn't matter that analysis shows some are good and some are bad. Trusted institutions already did a worthless "analysis", so how can one trust an analysis now? The same investors that happily bought MBS bonds when everyone bought them, now won't buy them at any price because no one else is buying them. This is follow-the-leader.

The only way out is for the owners of these questioned bonds to do a careful analysis and sell some of those bonds for any price available. After some time, when those buyers have profits on the purchase, others will believe the analysis and will be willing to pay more. Analysis and profits go together, and only new profits from those bonds will encourage a higher price and reasonable valuations.

This sets the timescale for a recovery. It won't happen faster, and further government mistakes will make it slower.

See We Guarantee It to read how government guarantees and a huge off-budget loan operation called Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac lost $650 - $1000 billion and produced our current recession and bank failures. It is a long post, but only a few words per billion dollars lost. We learn again, that if you want a huge crisis, you need the wisdom and power of government.

Economics in One Lesson: The Lesson

Economics in One Lesson
11/19/08 - Henry Hazlitt (1946) at Hacer.org (pdf)

These are the simple facts you need to know about economics. But, you say that you don't need to know? That is why you let politicians ruin the economy and steal from your future. Henry Hazlitt's plain, short, and important book is available free in the PDF file at the above link, or purchase it at Amazon. Short chapters cover all the details.

[edited] Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any subject known to man. This is no accident. The difficulties of the subject are great enough, and they are multiplied a thousandfold by the special pleadings of selfish interests.

Every group has interests antagonistic to all other groups. Some public policies benefit everybody in the long run. Other policies benefit only one group at the expense of all other groups. The group that benefits by such policies has such a direct interest in them that they argue for them plausibly and persistently. The group hires the best buyable minds to present its case. It will either convince the public that its case is sound, or so befuddle the argument that clear thinking becomes next to impossible.

A second factor spawns new economic fallacies every day. People see only the immediate effects of a given policy or its effects only on a special group. They neglect to ask what the long-run effects of that policy will be, not only on that special group, but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.

Priorities in Healthcare per Healthcare CEOs

11/19/08 - DrWes   --> Source

Dr. Wes comments on how to fix healthcare, as proposed by a board of healthcare CEO's and Sen. Max Baucus (D.VT). The difference between "should" "could", and reality. [edited]

Use the "bully pulpit" to fix obesity.
Nice. Tell people to stop being fat. I'm seeing an efficient use of doctor's time here, aren't you? And clearly this job is too difficult for the healthcare companies to take on themselves. Make this the focus of the surgeon general and be sure to increase the PR spin about obesity.
Tort Reform - use the vaccine model to reduce malpractice.
Best of luck. Remember, it's the lawyers who write the playbooks. [Vaccine producers stopped making vaccines because they were being sued out of business.]

Define and Measure Value - measure desirable outcomes for most common diseases

Look for more check lists and "quality measures" to be tracked.
Payment Reform - Reward preventative care and evidence-based care and no longer reimburse inappropriate, unnecessary, or wasted care.
Can you say more "Pay for Performance"? In other words, continue covert rationing efforts and care denials as well as renewed efforts to "discover" waste, fraud, and abuse in the system. [If we don't pay for it, they will go away. Did you follow the checklist? Did you do anything not on the checklist?]
Build the Health Care Workforce - Focus on primary care, increase registered nurses, nurse practitioners and allied health professionals, and doctors.
Oh, they almost forgot the doctors.

Nov 18, 2008

Woohoo! Free Hamburgers! With Bacteria

11/18/08 - WhiteCoatRants   --> Source

[edited] The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says the superbug bacterium Clostridium difficile should be so uncommon that it won’t pay for the costs of treating any disease associated with it. [They say it is introduced by bad hospital practices.]

Well if you live in Arizona right now and are eating a hamburger, chances are about 50/50 that you are chewing on some C.difficile right now. An article in MSNBC reports that more than 40 percent of packaged meats in three Arizona chain stores tested positive. It was in every type of meat tested, including uncooked ground beef, pork and turkey; pork sausage and chorizo; and ready-to-eat products including beef summer sausage and pork braunschweiger.

Specialists from the CDC said the connection between the presence of C.difficile bacteria and infection has not been established, with not enough evidence about food transmission to warrant public alarm.

Not enough evidence? Are they serious? C. difficile is spread by the fecal-oral route. C.difficile has to make it out of one host’s colon and into another host’s mouth in order to cause an infection. Meat already has the C.difficile contamination out of one host’s colon. Consumers are putting the meat into their mouths to “savor its flavor.” I’m not a specialist from the CDC, nor do I study C. difficile, but is there something I am missing here?

Nov 17, 2008

Franken Sues Again For Votes

11/17/08 - PowerLineBlog by John Hinderaker   --> Source

[edited] The real problem in our elections, of course, is not the tiny handful of ballots that might be rejected incorrectly, it is the much larger number that are cast illegally.

This year, around 25 percent of all the ballots cast in Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located, were by voters who registered at the polls. No one will ever know how many of those votes were illegally cast by illegal aliens, felons, or people who also voted in other precincts or other states -- all of which are absurdly easy to do.

No doubt, Al Franken benefited from thousands of illegally cast votes. But there is no way to connect a particular ballot with a specific illegal voter, so it is hard to see how these illegalities can ever be remedied. Many people fear that Al Franken will steal the election in the recount process, but I think it's much more likely that he stole it on November 4.

The Sperm-Supply Problem

11/17/08 - Freakonimics by Daniel Hamermesh   --> Source
Supply and demand is upset by possible liability.

There’s a shortage of sperm in Britain! Apparently, Britain needs donations for about 4,000 women per year; to reach that number, about 500 sperm donors per year are required, while only 300 are currently registered.

Things were fine until 2005, when a law was enacted allowing children of sperm donors the right at age 18 to discover the identity of their father; simultaneously, the number of women who could use the same donor’s sperm was limited further.

Nov 16, 2008

How dare they limit their patients clients!

How Dare They!
11/16/08 - 11/09/08  OhioSurgery by Jeffrey Parks MD

[edited] This is amusing. Public defenders in several states are suing to limit the number of cases they take on because of ethical concerns that the quality of legal representation is compromised by the current overwhelming workload. How dare they? A highly educated professional class that provides a necessary and free service to the community expects to deliver that service on their own terms.

I seem to recall another profession that provides an essential service to its community but is forced to see three times as many patients clients each day just to make ends meet. They spend less time than they would prefer with each individual, and therefore rely more on specialists and proceduralists to "figure out" what the patient's client's problem is, driving up overall costs.

Surely, we would not entertain the unfathomable notion that if public defenders and primary care docs were better paid, the quality of work provided by each might be better and, in the long run, cheaper.

Nov 15, 2008

Health Insurance is Not Health Care

Health Insurance is Not Health Care
11/15/2008 - InsureBlog by Mike Feehan

[edited] High health insurance premiums result from high health care costs. If health care were not expensive, health insurance would not be expensive. If the cost of health care were not rising, the cost of health insurance would not be rising. The cost of health care is the deeper problem.

High health care costs are not lowered by clever ways to shift costs to somebody else via insurance premiums. Insurance is inherently a cost-shifting device, whether private or public, sometimes decreed by politics. It is fine to seek the best and fairest way to allocate health care costs via insurance premiums. But even the optimal manner of setting premiums won't reduce health care costs by a nickel.

Lack of Competition in Health Care Insurance
06/11/09 - Easy Opinions -> St. Louis Post-Dispatch by David C. Rose

[edited] Medicare is a good deal partly because the government drives a hard bargain with health care providers. Medicare offers artificially low payments. No one insurer could do this in a competitive market of many insurers.

Providers shift the unpaid Medicare costs onto everyone else. In other words, the lack of competition in today's market leads to higher insurance costs for people who aren't old enough to qualify for Medicare. Extending Medicare-like insurance to everyone won't work, because no one will remain to pay the shifted costs.

Nov 14, 2008

Why Spending Stimulus Plans Fail

Why Spending Stimulus Plans Fail
11/14/08 - WSJ.com by Brian Riedl

What Congress gives to some it takes away from others

[edited]:  Government stimulus bills are based on the idea that feeding new money into the economy will increase demand and production. But, every dollar it injects into the economy must first be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. Value is merely redistributed from one group of people to another. No new spending power is created.

If Congress funds new spending with taxes, it is redistributing existing income. If the money is borrowed from American investors, those investors will have that much less to invest or spend in the private economy. If the money is borrowed from foreigners, the balance of payments must still balance. That means reducing net exports through exchange-rate adjustments, thereby leaving net spending on the economy unchanged.

Fixing "our crumbling infrastructure" has become a new plan for creating jobs. But, before the government can spend $1 billion hiring road builders and purchasing asphalt, it must first tax or borrow $1 billion from other sectors of the economy, which then lose a similar number of jobs.

In other words, highway spending merely transfers jobs and income from one part of the economy to another. As economist Ronald Utt has explained, "The only way that $1 billion of new highway spending can create 47,576 new jobs is if the $1 billion appears out of nowhere as if it were manna from heaven."

Waiting for the jobs Obama is building a new society. I'll wait until he is done.
07/02/09 - Instapundit

Small business owners are standing by the fence and watching, paralyzed by regulatory uncertainty. They aren’t hiring precisely because of government intervention in the economy. So-called stimulus won't change that.

Nov 13, 2008

Sponsoring Recklessness at Fannie Mae

11/13/08 - (07/28/08)  The New Yorker by James Surowiecki   --> Source
(Via Greg Mankiw)

[edited] Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have long been required to tell investors that their securities are not guaranteed by the federal government. But, the financial markets have always believed that this demurral was window-dressing, and everyone was right. The Federal Reserve rescued them last week when fears of their collapse threatened a financial crisis. The implicit guarantee became an explicit one.

There is no obvious reason for these Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE's) to exist in the form they do. The government could directly do Fannie and Freddie's jobs. They were set up to buy and sell mortgages to promote home ownership. Fannie Mae started in 1938 as a government agency with authority to buy mortgages, in the hope that this would expand the supply of credit to homeowners.

Read more ...

Fannie was privatized in 1968. Freddie was created two years later, private from the start. Accounting was the main reason for the change. Lyndon Johnson was concerned about the large debt of the Vietnam War on the federal budget. Making Fannie Mae private moved its liabilities off the government’s books, without removing the obvious, real liability. It was like what Enron did thirty years later, when it used “special-purpose entities” to move liabilities off its balance sheet.

The implicit guarantee of the government empowered Fannie and Freddie to borrow money more cheaply than their competitors. They used this cheap financing to buy increasing numbers of mortgages [and make outsized profits].

They were able to grow extravagantly because neither the market nor the state checked their growth. Had Fannie and Freddie been ordinary private companies, there would have been a natural limit. Companies with more debt are usually seen as riskier, and that makes investors less willing to invest. On the other hand, had Fannie and Freddie been government agencies, visible budget constraints would have limited the size of their operations.

Congress failed to give regulators sufficient power to rein them in, thanks in part to ardent lobbying [and political contributions] by Fannie and Freddie.

See also We Guarantee It for more about what caused our current financial problems.

The Historical Lessons of Lower Tax Rates

The Historical Lessons of Lower Tax Rates
11/13/08 - 08/13/03 Heritage.org by Daniel Mitchell

[edited] There is a distinct pattern throughout American history. When tax rates (and marginal rates) are reduced, the economy’s growth rate improves, living standards increase, tax revenues grow, “rich” taxpayers pay a greater share of taxes, and lower income citizens pay a smaller share. This result should lead class-warfare politicians to support lower tax rates.

Conversely, higher tax rates are associated with weak economic performance and stagnant tax revenues. When politicians attempt to “soak the rich,” the rest of us take a bath.

We can look at three United States episodes of tax rate reductions for useful lessons.

  • The tax cuts of the 1920s
  • The Kennedy tax cuts
  • The Reagan tax cuts

Nov 11, 2008

Cameron's UK Tax Con

11/11/08 - Stumbling And Mumbling   --> Source

The British Tories (conservatives) propose an employment stimulus package. [edited]

The Tories’ call for tax breaks to employers is a scam. A fiddle. A con. A fraud.

They propose that firms be given a credit against national insurance contributions, who take on a worker who has been unemployed for over three months. This will be £2500 for a full-time worker, and less for a part-timer. They claim this will create 350,000 new jobs, and that the plan will pay for itself in savings on unemployment benefits.

Nonsense. This ignores the enormous deadweight cost of the plan. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are created every year even in declining industries or in recessions (pdf). By the Tories own figures (pdf), 1.5 million people unemployed over three months were reemployed during the 1991 recession.

September this year had the biggest rise in net unemployment since 1992, yet 227,400 were reemployed. This huge job creation means the Tories’ plan gives taxpayers’ money to employers for doing what they would do anyway. That’s not revenue neutral.

If this plan were implemented the Tories could no doubt point to tens of thousands of claims for the tax credit. But, these claims would consist mainly of jobs created anyway, not of jobs created by the plan.

Warren Buffett and the Estate Tax

11/11/08 - Blog.Oup.com by Edward Zelinsky   --> Source
Via TaxProf Blog

[edited] Buffett has said that inherited wealth is a danger to democracy and that the rich have a moral obligation to give back to society. Buffett outspokenly supports keeping the federal estate tax, and he has complained that his federal income tax rate is lower than his secretary’s. He is an acquisitive investor who believes in success, capitalism, and the marketplace. Bill Gates shares these views about capitalism, inherited wealth, and the estate tax.

Each of Buffett and Gates are contributing the bulk of his assets to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, using meticulous legal means to avoid federal tax on the contribution. They could more easily make these contributions so that federal tax would apply, delivering less to the foundation and more to the government.

I am not surprised that Buffet and Gates want to control every dollar of their wealth, both in life and in death. Each earned it, and should consider it his own to do with as he pleases. This is what all people want to do with what they produce.

Their statements about keeping the estate tax are hypocritical, based on the above post. Here is the lesson for me. Reject public policy recommendations that take wealth and freedom from you. Our leaders don't apply those recommendations to themselves. They are not better than you are as creatures on this earth. Their abilities don't give them the right to make policies that limit your life, but not their own. Demand to be governed as they govern themselves.

Nov 10, 2008

Children's Volunteer Community Service

11/10/2008 - Jenn comments at MichaelGraham.com   --> Source

I don't know about anyone else and where they live, but where I live we don't have money for bussing never mind an administrator to coordinate volunteer activities. I do have children in school and there is no community service requirement now. You have parents who are working two jobs to put food on the table and don't even have time to help with homework but now they will be required to transport their kids to additional commitments. This plan is unrealistic at best.

I think community service and volunteerism is integral to our society, but it should not be a requirement and the government should not be telling us what to do with our kids. They are our children. GO ahead and enourage community service, provide information resources to locate opportunities, but don't require it. I read Obama's plan and it was clear that his efforts are going to cost a lot of money - I think it said 3.5 billion. Still unclear where he is going to get that money. We will have to wait and see.

Disaster Resistant Energy

11/10/08 - ChicagoBoyz.net by Shannon Love   --> Source

[edited] Advocates of alternative energy seem to work from an unconscious conception that energy is to some degree a luxury good. They believe that we can live safely, healthily, and well without it. They plan in a cavalier manner, assuming that conditions will always be ideal and predictable, and if not, well, we can do without luxuries if we have to.

Energy is the heart of our lives. Without it, most of us will die within days. Losing 50% of our energy during a northeastern blizzard would kill millions. Sustained shortages of energy would kill more slowly, but just as surely, as we reverted back to the horrific lives of our ancestors. We need to think about rare scenarios because we are so dependent on energy that it would take only one such scenario to destroy everything.

People who advocate alternative energy need to tear their eyes away from the marketing brochures and instead try think hard about how to keep an old woman in the slums of Detroit warm in the heart of a once-in-50-years blizzard. If they can’t do that, they need to shelve their plans.

What Happens When the Wind Stops Blowing?
06/01/09 - ChicagoBoyz by Shannon Love

Can we tolerate an electric grid that depends on windpower? What if the wind doesn't blow?

[edited] At 6:41 p.m. Feburary 26 2008, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) activated a stage two emergency response to keep the Texas power grid from failing and triggering rolling blackouts. The operators cut off power to “interruptible” customers, such as industrial sites who have their own power generators. They pay lower rates in return for being kicked off the grid during emergencies.

Translation: The wind stopped blowing. The grid couldn’t adapt to the loss of wind generated electricity and they had to kick people off the grid.

Currently, Texas receives 3% of its electricity from wind, the highest percentage in the nation. What will reliability be like when windpower contributes 10%, 20%, or more, as many people want to require by law?

Most people didn’t notice this incident because large numbers of diesel powered backup generators all across the state kicked in to take up the slack. In the future, are all electricity consumers, down to the individual small businesses and households, going to buy fossil fuel backup generators to handle routine outages of power? Is it even possible for backup generators to compensate for the loss of 10% or more of total power?

Specially Built Autos

11/10/08 - PowerLineBlog by William Katz   --> Source

[edited] About bailing out General Motors.

When an auto worker ordered a car, that car was tagged "For one of the boys." The workers made sure the car was made right. It makes you think about the thousands of other cars that were coming off that same line. You might have owned a few.

In the fifties, sixties, or even seventies, car buyers were told to make a list of defects and bring the car back after a thousand miles for repairs. Certainly this gives us confidence in Detroit quality.

Don't mention safety. President of GM Lee Iacocca said, "Safety doesn't sell." In the early sixties, if you wanted a seat belt, you went to a Chevron dealer to install one for five bucks. The American auto makers weren't interested until they were forced to be interested.

Nov 9, 2008

The Political Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce wrote The Devil's Dictionary, which gives skeptical, satiric, and bitter definitions of words and phrases. A wonderfully funny book. Many of his definitions are online here.

The following definitions of political meaning are inspired by his work. Email or comment your suggestions. I may accept, reject, or edit these, and I will cite you as the author if used.

New as of 06/29/12:  compassion,  greedy,  Heinlein: bad luck,  political,  rational ignorance,  shared sacrifice.

bad luck   n.  
Glen Reynolds:  Politicians are always surprised. They pile on taxes and regulations, and then — who’d'athunkit — businesses go somewhere else.

Robert A. Heinlein:  Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded here and there, now and then, are the work of an extremely small minority. They are frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as bad luck.

bipartisan agreement   n.   A temporary equilibrium where the available money has been divided according to power and seniority. Or, general support for important decisions where the outcome is chancy, and later finger-pointing must be avoided.

bribe   n.   A word for something that does not exist. Constituents learn of the politician's thinking and analysis, possibly in private meetings, and feel moved to support such important and practical legislation with political contributions. They may give cash, as a convenience, if they have forgotten a checkbook.

campaign promise   n.   H.L.Mencken:  Every election is a sort of advance auction of stolen goods.

compassion   n.   Thomas Sowell:  A deep feeling for the poor and their votes. A politician shows compassion by taking earnings from those who are greedy and redistributing them to the more deserving and numerous members of his electoral district. The politician is deservedly proud of his compassion as explained in repeated emails to the recipients.

compromise   n.   Reconciling differences to find the middle way. When the Democrats want to take all of your money, and the Republicans want to take 1/3rd, then a compromise is taking 2/3rds of your money. It is a common observation that our government runs on compromise, and that politics is the art of compromise, at least until the money runs out.

down   n.   Up and/or down.

earmark   n.   From cattle ranching, where a mark on its ear would direct each cow to its buyer. It is the same for government spending.

First Principle of Government   n.   Be careful and frugal with the public's money. Don't cast it onto the land without thought. Each dollar should encourage a contribution or a vote.

foresight   n.   Identifying an issue of future importance, then supporting both sides of that issue. The skill for making those positions vague enough so that later one can be denied while promoting the other one.

greedy   adj.   Thomas Sowell:  A person who wants to keep what he has earned despite numerous people depending on his support. A compassionate politician is usually available to provide counsel, arrange payments, and attempt to save this person's miserable soul.

Ineptocracy   n.   Dr. Sanity:  A government where the least capable to lead are elected by those least able to produce, who are rewarded with the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of hard workers.

Keynesian Economics   n.   The economics of Lord John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946). See also Wikipedia.

Winston Churchill said: "If you put two economists in a room, you get two opinions, unless one of them is Lord Keynes, in which case you get three opinions."

Milton Friedman was an economist interested in maximum freedom and limited government. He commented: "Keynes was a great economist. Progress comes from people who make hypotheses, most of which turn out to be wrong, but which point to the right answer. Keynes set forth in 'The General Theory' a beautiful hypothesis which altered the shape of economics, and turned out to be wrong. That doesn't mean he wasn't a great man!"

In his 1936 book "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money," Keynes proposed that total demand explained variations in the total level of economic activity.

He said the total income (production) in a society is consumption plus investment. When there is unemployment and unused productive capacity, one can only increase employment and total income by first increasing expenditures for either consumption or investment.

Translation. The total production of a society is what it consumes (eats) and what it invests (doesn't eat). When there are unemployed resources (people and machines), you can increase employment and production only by increasing what you eat and what you don't eat. To restate, you can increase production only by increasing what you produce.

This insight made Keynes the most famous and influential economist of all time.

In a fortunate accident, a government reviewer of The General Theory spilled coffee on the book, producing this result: "When there is unemployment and unused productive capacity, one can only increase employment and total income by first increasing expenditures [coffee stain]. This was such a happy justification for increasing government spending that governments never looked back. This is "Keynes' Command".

Keynes, Digger of Holes
No one should trust a theory that predicts greater prosperity from digging holes. Yet, this is the theory by Keynes that Obama and many past presidents have followed to forcibly change our society.

Liberal Economics   n.   Money falls from heaven for everyone to use. But, the immoral and sneaky rich gather more than their share. The government's purpose is to redistribute the money the way God intended. Or, if you wish, the way Gaia, or the Tooth Fairy intended.

Taxes remove the excess income of the rich and give it to the voting poor, through a fair and organized bureaucracy. The rich oppose this action by selfishly and spitefully decreasing employment. Government responds by borrowing and printing money to increase grants, spending, and employment. The government runs a deficit while it attempts to discover the secret formula for creating the jobs that the rich are hiding.

Business may decline in recession or depression. The free market is again proven to be a dangerous and unplanned experiment, failing despite detailed regulation, oversight, taxation, court action, and subsidy by government.

As a last resort, Government looks to its memory of the Great Depression. So far, politicians have not declared a world warAn economist quipped: If you think WW2 ended the Great Depression in the U.S., then we can carry out the same enlightened policies without needing a war.
  Conscript most of the able bodied men and have them build tanks. Then destroy the tanks. Impose rationing for good measure. At the end, everyone is supposed to be rich.
to improve the economyStatisticians would normally adjust for the price level to compute the "inflation adjusted" GDP. This adjustment couldn't occur, because the government made it illegal for the CPI to go through the roof.
  Official measures showing "real GDP" rising during World War II are as phony as the Soviet Union's announcements of industrial achievements.
. They do the next best thing, raising taxes and borrowing, then distributing the money to federal agencies, states, local governments, and politically connected businessmen and supporters. These people do their miracle work of innovation and efficient production, very slowly restoring wealth and happiness to the people.

Left  vs  Right   adj.   Puzzling terms applied with merry abandon to everything. People usually deny such classification, instead calling themselves Moderate.

To appear knowledgeable at a cocktail party:

  • Unelected dictators are of the Right. Elected dictators are of the Left. Lenin and Stalin were Leftists, but they are dead and don't count.
  • A leader is Right if he supports a uniformed army; Left if the army dresses in athletic workout clothing.
  • Left is right, and Right is wrong.

lie   n.   What your opponent always does. If you are proved by videotape or writing to have possibly told an untruth or a contradiction, then one or both of your statements were merely out of context, a simple word error, ill-conceived, not well-formulated, unintentional, a joke, a reaction to changing circumstance, a youthful indiscretion, in the past, already examined and dismissed, not like you, the result of cold medication, a true change of heart, a fresh look at the situation, an illegally recorded or obtained document, or all of these together.

The most famous and repeated examples are "I will not raise your taxes", "I did not intend to vote for/against that law", and "I did not have sexual relations with that woman".

lobbyist   n.   A helpful person who has devoted his (or her) life to effective politics. Often a former Senator or Congressman. He acts as a friendly connection to constituents, helps with office work (such as writing legislation) and ensures that contributors name the correct organization on their contribution checks. Most politicians see their time in office as a steppingstone to this helpful and genteel profession.

macro economics   n.   (Compare to "micro economics") The study of overall statistics about income, debt, production, and employment. You would think that statistics are dull, but macro economics is a center of intellectual ferment. Motto: "We just don't know, but we are willing to guess". Critics say that it is history confused by mathematics, or mathematics splattered by history.

Macro economics is noted for the gigantic cost of the occasional government experiments carried out with fanfare in times of crisis. Experiments in good times are never advertised or acknowledged, for fear of being held responsible for yet again ruining a good thing.

The world barely scraped together $9 billion for the A huge installation for accellerating and smashing together hadrons, a family of sub-atomic particles. Scientists look at the pieces to understand the forces and particles which form the universe.Large Hadron Collider to do fundamental research in particle physics. The U.S. scraped together $1000 billion over a weekend to find out if banks, auto companies, and restaurants can be encouraged not to lay off workers. Macro economists are cheering and watching closely. The statistics from this one event will provide professorships for 100 years.

Macro economics divides roughly into three areas of practice. Government is the experimental division, run by congressmen who are always willing to "do something" to meet a challenge. Fortunately, experiments cannot be rerun, so "doing something" always wins praise for action and courage, if not results.

Journalism is the executive division, where freshman courses in economics (minus the math), and experience with drinking and being fired, guide big media to establish the policies that will "stimulate the economy" and "save jobs".

Academia is the theoretical division. The complexities of their pronouncements using math and big words leave them respected, feared, and mostly ignored. An exception was Lord John Maynard Keynes, founder of  Keynesian EconomicsClick for the definition. who simplified the subject for politicians. He said in effect "You can increase production only by increasing what you produce - through government borrowing and spending", and won eternal fame.

Sociological bias is apparent. Liberal macro economists promote higher taxes, togetherness, and community spirit, where politicians eat American caviar. Unfeeling, heartless, "sell their grandmother", conservative economists promote lower taxes and prosperity, where businessmen and the public eat Russian caviar.

Con-men and beggars regard macro economists as gods. They all create elaborate stories which encourage their targets to hand over money out of greed or to improve their self-image. Only macro economists require the targets to fill out their own paperwork, while half the targets berate the other half for not giving more.

There is an enduring mystery. Half the time, macro economists call for higher taxes to fund spending. The other half of the time, they just print the money. They won't reveal how they decide this.

Macroeconomics is Astrology, Not Science Frank J. Tipler is Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University.
  [edited excerpt] "Our leaders are being advised by macroeconomists who haven’t got a clue where they are leading us. Their actions may lead us out of the current recession, or they may lead us into a depression as bad as the Great Depression."
  "Science is about prediction and precise explanation. It is not enough to construct a different explanation about each past event. Science must produce a consistent, precise explanation for all of the relevant past events."
  AMG: The economists advising our government can't predict anything. They might as well be plumbers. Macro Economics, Stimulus, Recession, Depression

micro economics   n.   (Compare to "macro economics") The study of how people exchange money to trade goods and services, organize businesses, and assign value. Critics say this is sociology spoiled by mathematics. Most knowledge about rational economic interaction was discovered by 1950. It remains to find rational people to apply it to.

Most practitioners advise business, receiving plentiful work in exchange for giving up chances for government appointment.

Among the great discoveries in micro economics:

  • You can withhold taxes and people don't miss the money.
  • $15.99 is seen as $15, and $19.99 is seen as a good deal.
  • "Get another one FREE (pay only processing and handling)"
  • You should buy a warranty extension, because the fine product we are selling you is going to break at around 14 months.

non-partisan   adj.   A person or organization wanting greater influence by claiming a higher morality. Similar to "non-lying". There are some rare cases where the term can be applied without laughing. For example, the need for at least a little reliable information has supported non-partisan data gathering and statistical analysis. Whether or not reliable, data is little used in political decisions.

off budget   n.   (synonym: no-limit credit card)  Budgets are written lists and totals of what can be spent. Thoughtful, public debate and cutthroat competition examines all aspects of the U.S. budget, a thick and respected document.

President Lyndon Johnson pioneered a breakthrough in 1968 when he found a way to move some government operations off budget.

[edited] "Lyndon Johnson was concerned about the cost of the Vietnam War on the federal budget. He privatized Fannie Mae in 1968 to move its liabilities off budget. The U.S. remained responsible for those debts, as the recent crisis makes clear. This is similar to Enron using “special-purpose entities” to avoid reporting liabilities on its balance sheet (list of assets and liabilities)."

The government applies the best of cartoon physics. Falling isn't a problem if you don't look down. (M) Wife:  I've been looking at our savings.
Husband:  We have $80,000.
Wife:  But, what is this note at the bottom "Aces Casino gambling debt: $105,000"? Do we owe that in addition?
Husband:  Yes, but don't worry, that is off budget.
- -
Put Housing GSEs in the Budget and then Privatize
02/25/10 - Cato@Liberty by Tad DeHaven
  [edited] The Congressional Budget Office accounts for the cost of subsidizing new loans and loan guarantees by Fannie and Freddie at $370 billion through 2020. The CBO concludes that these institutions are effectively government entities whose operations should be included in the federal budget.
  Treasury Secretary Geithner dismissed this idea: “It is not necessary to consolidate the full obligations of those entities onto the balance sheet of the federal government at this stage.” [It is not counted into any deficit projections. -ag]

out of context   adv.   When a statement made to one group (eg. teacher's unions) is reported to another group of a different opinion (eg. taxpayers).

Congressman Barney Frank:  Almost without exception, when someone in my business says this, he means "I wish I hadn't said that".

political   adj.   A decision or action which benefits the politician, often called a "compromise" (see entry). A decision based on reason and experience is called "thoughtful" or "reasonable", leaving all other decisions as "political".

A political decision may waste resources, favor some groups over others, make distinctions without differences, spread falsehoods and lies, reward the good (contributors), and punish the the bad (haven't given lately). A political decision will do anything but risk electoral defeat, if at all possible.

The primary defense is "If I didn't make this egregious decision, some other politician would." Knowledegable politicians are rare, as knowledge increases mental stress without changing political results.

politics   n.   Groucho Marx:  Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.

professional politician   n.   H.L.Mencken:  A professionally dishonorable man. To get anywhere near high office, he makes so many compromises and submits to so many humiliations that he becomes indistinguishable from a streetwalker.

rational ignorance   n.   The economic observation that it may cost more to learn about a political policy than the policy will cost an individual when implemented. The personal cost is time, compared to the policy cost of higher taxes, less freedom, or fewer jobs.

Politicians love rational ignorance, saying "Don't worry yourselves. Leave it to us. It is rational not to follow what we are doing".

Two snakes intrude into this Garden of Eden philosophy.
•  How do you rationally know that you rationally need not know about something?
•  Politicians assess constantly what the public does not know. Then they drive a truck through it.

regulation   n.
Liberal:  Money is powerful and mysterious. Anyone attempting to earn a profit is collecting extra money from his customers, probably an evil act, and something reserved to the Government. Anyone smart enough to earn a profit (there is no parallel in government) is smart enough to steal people's money. This is probably a projection of experience in government.

The government must apply whatever oversight, paperwork, renewal forms, oaths, and intimidations needed to prevent stealing, before the fact. If this reduces the amount of business and profit, then so much the better, as this reduces the amount of money that can be stolen. The government then attempts to collect whatever profits may survive. Some relief can be gained through political contributions.

Conservative:  Money is powerful and mysterious, and making a profit seems natural and praisworthy. Fraud can be caught after the fact, and the criminals punished severely.

Nevertheless, Conservatives support the Liberal position to defend against the charge that they are "thieving Republicans". They go further to require regular accountings and audits (there is no parallel in government). Some relief can be gained through political contributions.

See also Liberal Economics.

revenue neutral   n.   Congress may target an industry for a special tax, for example a 10% surtax on cosmetic surgery. In this case, the surgeons had organized political influence, and they convinced Democrats that their industry and political contributions are of national importance.

The loss of even this small slice of revenue would violate high principles of budget-balancing, and deny Congress a much anticipated bonus. Tanning salons are a more fragmented and less influential group. Redirecting this tax toward tanning salons is called being "revenue neutral".

Congress incorporates the spirit of the Japanese Samurai warrior:  Once drawn, the Samurai sword must taste blood, or the Samurai is dishonored.

shared sacrifice   n.   Our politicians have their hearts set on expanding various programs, doublng the amounts they spend toward their best supporters and campaign contributors. Sadly, there is never enough tax revenue. Eventually, they cannot even borrow what they want.

According to the principle of "shared sacrifice", the politicians give up 50% of their expansion plans, and they ask the people to give up 5% more of their incomes in higher taxes. The politicians see themselves as remarkably generous. They sacrifice 50% compared to the people's 5%, a 10 to 1 ratio of political sacrifice to public sacrifice. See also compromise.

sincerity   n.
Groucho Marx:  Sincerity is the most important thing. Once you can fake that, you've got it made.

Willard Van Orman Quine:  It doesn't much matter what you believe so long as you are not sincere.  MHelme at Samizdata(v)
Intelligence destroys sincerity. Analytical thought makes it hard to agree with everyone. Intelligent politicians are rare, because they are the type who can beat a lie-detector, yet they have avoided a youthful criminal record. They usually come from wealthy families who can influence the local judges.

Most politicians have high-school yearbooks stating "I'm a people person." They are guided by their gut, not their head, a utilitarian choice. They can empathize with everyone except the rich, who they see as useful but immoral supporters.

A religious politician believes that God has chosen him to serve the public from high office. A non-religious politician sees himself as objectively the smartest person in the room.

spending cut   n.   An allocation below what you hoped or promised to spend. Last year your department spent $5 million. This year you wanted $8 million, but your allocation was just $6 million. This is a 25% spending cut.

stimulus package   n.   A distribution of $500 to each voting adult who is not rich. This stimulates the economy by reminding people that TV's are fun, and working hard to buy one is a good goal. Well, maybe the next TV. This supports job growth for 3 months, after which another stimulus package will prevent a job decline. For efficiency, the rich don't get checks; why send them part of what you are trying to take from them?

The government asks that everyone spend the money quickly for the greatest rush. Saving the money removes the stimulus effect. Have fun today, tomorrow is in the future. This supports the widely held belief that money deposited in banks only goes to buy boats, houses, and BMW autos for the bankers.

Each stimulus package is actively debated by Congress. The Democrats propose each time to print on the checks "Provided to you by caring Democrats". After this is defeated in the Senate, the bill receives overwhelming bipartisan support.

up   n.   Up and/or down.

wisdom of crowds   n.   The fabled effect where the combined judgment of many people is better than any one individual. The successful experiments asked crowds to estimate the number of jelly beans in a jar, or the butchered weight of an ox. The averaged estimates came closer to the exact answer than any one guess.

Unfortunately, we routinely see the awful result of applying crowd-wisdom to electing politicians. Possibly, this is because the crowd is smarter than any jelly bean or ox, and the beans and ox are incapable of making promises.

George Carlin expressed this well: "Just think how stupid the average person is, and then realize that half of them are even stupider!"

wonk   n.   Also "policy wonk". Sometimes called "an accountant for legislation". The somewhat disagreeable but vital person who understands the details in current and proposed law.

A low level wonk corrects spelling and translates the particular dialect of Old English used in laws. For example, he crafts the intricate art called the tax code, rivaling the DaVinci Code in elegance and obscurity:

(11) the exclusion from gross income provided by section 911 (a)(1) shall not apply;
(12) in lieu of the deduction provided by section 164 (f) (relating to deduction for one-half of self-employment taxes), there shall be allowed a deduction equal to the product of—
(A) the taxpayer’s net earnings from self-employment for the taxable year (determined without regard to this paragraph), and
(B) one-half of the sum of the rates imposed by subsections (a) and (b) of section 1401 for such year;
A high level wonk maintains the "checklist" that relates political supporters to particular provisions, and advises how to apply legislation to business deductions and requests for subsidies.

The least careful wonks produce confused and contradictory law, and are most valued by lawyers who call them "career angels".

Nonprofit Eatery Doesn't Bring Home Bacon

11/09/08 - Salt Lake Tribune by Kathy Stephenson   --> Source
Via ChicagoBoyz

An altruistic restaurant has spent more than $100,000 on an experiment in human behavior, although that was not the goal. It was a heartfelt attempt to operate a business in a new way, discarding old notions of price, finance, and experience.

Our society has been doing this experiment on a much larger scale with the same results, but you are losing the money. Have heart, we will try again and again until the altruistic model works. Build it and they will come. Serve it and they will pay (smile). Unworkable plans can go on for a while, if you ignore losses along the way.

I suggest that this is a matter of self-respect. If you can not or will not place a value on your services, then why would you expect others to do it? Ignore history and experience at your peril.

[edited] Denise Cerreta founded One World Cafe a year ago in Salt Lake City with the altruistic goal of letting customers set their own meal price, with no menus or set prices. She and her chefs made meals from organic meats and locally grown produce. Diners filled their plates with only the food they wanted and paid what they thought the meal was worth or what they could afford.

This unique idea gained national attention. Cerreta turned the business into the nonprofit One World Everybody Eats Foundation with a board of directors. She traveled the country speaking about the concept and helped people start similar community kitchens in other cities.

While Cerreta was away this summer, meal donations fell from $10 to $7. Employee paychecks bounced

Inexperience seems to be the problem. Cerreta said “As the restaurant grew, I didn't have the expertise at running a structured and professional kitchen.” The restaurant was overstaffed and time management was poor. There was no employee time clock, or concise records of food costs and fixed costs. Mismanagement cost the restaurant $8,000 to $10,000 a month.

Monty Python: Mr. Creosote

Monty Python: Mr. Creosote
11/09/08 - YouTube

And now for something completely different

This was a signature line in the TV productions of Monty Python's Flying Circus, a revolutionary British comedy group formed around 1970. John Cleese of that group is often on TV today in commercials and movies. Their skits are odd and hillarious.

This video clip is an amazingly funny and disgusting part of the Monty Python movie "The Meaning of Life", about a huge, vile man Mr. Creosote eating an impossibly large dinner, followed by a "wafer thin mint". Explosively funny. You have been warned.

The Radiology of Competitive Speed Eating
11/09/08 - NotTotallyRad

How do they eat so much? X-rays show how one competitive eater puts all that food away.

A kitten hides in a couch

You might want to see a cute kitten to recover from the two posts above. At YouTube.

The Radiology of Competitive Speed Eating

11/09/08 - NotTotallyRad   --> Source

A doctor sees on X-rays how one competitive eater puts all that food away.

Nov 8, 2008

Stimulus Does Not Cure a Recession

Jobs change when people change what they want to buy or can afford

The U.S. is in recession, officially a decrease of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over 6 months (two quarters). GDP is the total of all goods and services produced in the US. "Why is there a recession" is the same as asking "Why are we producing less, with less employment?"

Many people borrowed against the increasing value of their homes when home prices were going up. They "took money out of their house" in exchange for higher monthly payments. They didn't want to save this money, or else they would have let it stay in the value of the house. They spent it or invested it, buying (consuming) things like restaurant meals and cars, or buying stock in companies. A large amount was invested in building more houses, which supported manufacturers of housing materials.

Criminals in Mortgage Lending

Criminals did much of this borrowing, or shady mortgage brokers skimmed money from loans made to unwitting clients. They took advantage of No Documentation Loans, the most idiotic idea in 50 years. It was Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Congress who gave the seal of approval to No Doc Loans by buying 20% of them. A lot of the money went to consumption, over many years, supporting increased production of consumer goods.

When criminals steal your savings or bank loans, they take money from one type of spending (equipment and business investment) and direct it toward another type of spending (dinners, vacations, and cars).

[edited] Raymond Zwego had been convicted of bank fraud and on probation when he decided to commit mortgage fraud, along with 8 accomplices. He purchased 61 Missouri properties, often by using fake buyers and paperwork. He acquired $16.9 million in mortgages, almost all of which went to foreclosure.
Florida is an example of inept regulation. (More below and at the original article.)
[edited] During 2000-2007, Florida regulators allowed at least 10,529 people with criminal records to process mortgages. 4,065 of them passed background checks despite committing crimes that state law specifically requires regulators to screen out, including fraud, bank robbery, racketeering and extortion.

People convicted in other states and in federal court were allowed to peddle loans. Regulators allowed at least 20 brokers to keep their licenses after committing mortgage fraud

A lot of money is lost because many loans will not be repaid. Falsified appraisals and falling prices leave many houses without enough value to pay off the loans against them and the cost of forclosure. The amount lost is about $500-$900 billion, which is 3-5% of our $18 trillion economy, with the losses concentrated in banks and financial companies. The extra houses built have oversupplied the market for housing, so houses have dropped in value, causing even larger declines for years in personal assets (overall savings).


This has suddenly and greatly changed what, and how much, people want to consume. People now want (or can afford) fewer houses, cars, and vacations. They want to save more now, just when the government is competing with them by printing money and lowering interest rates. Businesses want to produce and sell, but they don't know how much or what, so they lay off people and wait for price signals to guide them to future production.

The government is making things worse by propping up failing businesses having political connections. For example, it looks like General Motors should fail, so that its resources can be bought by people who are willing to bet on what to do next. Instead, the government may give their clueless management $25 billion more loans, removing resources from more productive uses.

The massive bailouts are misallocating resources. In very special cases, it makes sense to prop up a failing company. For example, we can't let the electric company go dark. Overall, the bailouts are a mistake. Moving resources from productive uses to failing uses kills jobs, even if the particular business or industry is propped up for a few years.


Stimulus packages are a mistake. A stimulus package produces a small extra demand for consumer items like TV's. This demand is small compared to total production, and is temporary and artificial. Companies can't tell what to produce after the stimulus is used up. They can't tell if demand is shifting or if it is only the stimulus acting.

A stimulus package is only a gift to the public, taken out of the savings and investment of the society (such as Social Security). It is like losing a job, then throwing a party to cheer up. It interferes with looking for the next job, and it uses up savings.

There are clues that stimulus packages are worthless. The last stimulus package didn't do anything lasting. It increased GDP for three months without stimulating or recovering from anything.

The Economic Growth Mirage
08/28/08 - CNNMoney.com [edited]

The economy declined in Q4 of 2007, grew at 0.9% in Q1 2008, and at 3.3% in Q2 2008. Economists say the gain may be temporary and warn of tougher times ahead. Temporary factors make the jump in the second quarter unusual, such as the $90 billion in economic stimulus checks that reached taxpayers during the quarter.

The National Bureau of Economic Research will report soon on Q2 results. David Wyss, chief economist with Standard and Poor's said "Mostly this report will say that when you give somebody an $1,800 check, he spends it".

Another clue is that the entire housing bubble was a giant stimulus. The good times raised people's ability to buy what they wanted, but they were spending borrowed money. This was just like borrowing on a credit card; it required higher mortgage payments to pay off the larger house debt. I suppose the plan was to sell the house, which isn't working out.

A funny note. After bipartisan agreement to hand out $150 billion in stimulus checks in March 2008, Democrats in congress publicly blamed President Bush for increasing the deficit by $150 billion. These Democrats knew that the money would have to be borrowed, adding to the deficit, in order to be handed out.

Borrow More to Spend Your Way Out?

The bad times are now very bad. The entire society must adjust to what people want now and can earn now. Spending during the bubble directed businesses to hire people and produce things which people could afford then. The recession is part of reorganizing to employ people and produce the different things that they can afford now. It is made worse because people were spending their savings, thinking that they were spending unending increases in house values.

Every month, some companies shrink or fail and others expand or start up. There are always local recessions as demand shifts to better or different products and companies. A nationwide recession is rare, but it can't be improved by forced spending from savings (or future savings). This delays the shift to producing what people can afford now.

The government can borrow money from future national savings (future taxes) and give the money away. This is a contination of the past bubble and credit mistake, not a way to a comfortable future.

Trust Those Who Built the Country

Only the market, thousands of productive people and businesses, can now apply organization and judgment to produce the right things in an efficient way. The government can borrow more money, but it doesn't have a clue. It can't even regulate effectively to keep us safe from fraud.

If the government wants to be kind, it should support limited unemployment payments and let companies rise and fall according to demand. It should not feed losing companies and starve future productive winners.


 Ex-convicts were active in mortgage fraud
2008 - MiamiHerald.com by Jack Dolan, Rob Barry, Matthew Haggman
[edited]  The Miami Herald discovered that regulators in the State of Florida allowed thousands of mortgage professionals to have criminal records, costing consumers millions.

During 2000-2007, Florida regulators allowed at least 10,529 people with criminal records to process mortgages. 4,065 of them cleared background checks despite committing crimes that state law specifically forbids, including fraud, bank robbery, racketeering, and extortion. Florida regulators have refused to do background checks on more than half of mortgage brokers, despite pleas from industry leaders to screen them.

Despite a growing epidemic of mortgage fraud in Florida, the highest level of all the states, the number of license revocations declined over the last five years, leaving borrowers at the mercy of predatory brokers.

The Florida Office of Financial Regulation ignored a 2006 state law requiring nationwide criminal background checks on applicants. People convicted in other states and in federal court were allowed to peddle loans. Regulators allowed at least 20 brokers to keep their licenses even after committing mortgage fraud, the one crime that seemed sure to get them banned.

U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fl) said "I knew we had a problem. I had no idea how bad."

Don Saxon, commissioner of the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, said he didn't know why his staff issued licenses to bank robbers and racketeers, but would look into the cases cited by The Miami Herald. He said "You're asking me to get into the heads of the people who made those choices. Certainly we are not proud of the fact that these people have gone on to do bad things."

OFR officials said there is no single standard they use to decide who gets a license. The criminal background check is just one of many factors. Terry Straub, director of OFR Division of Finance said "We look at all the facets around, you know, whatever file, and we predicate on the fact that everybody deserves another chance".

- -
Why Spending Stimulus Plans Fail
11/14/08 - WSJ.com by Brian Riedl [edited]

What Congress gives to some it takes away from others.

Government stimulus bills are based on the idea that feeding new money into the economy will increase demand and production. But, every dollar it injects into the economy must first be taxed or borrowed out of the economy. Value is merely redistributed from one group of people to another. No new spending power is created.

If Congress funds new spending with taxes, it is redistributing existing income. If the money is borrowed from American investors, those investors will have that much less to invest or spend in the private economy. If the money is borrowed from foreigners, the balance of payments must still balance. That means reducing net exports through exchange-rate adjustments, thereby leaving net spending on the economy unchanged.

Fixing "our crumbling infrastructure" has become a new plan for creating jobs. But, before the government can spend $1 billion hiring road builders and purchasing asphalt, it must first tax or borrow $1 billion from other sectors of the economy, which then lose a similar number of jobs.

In other words, highway spending merely transfers jobs and income from one part of the economy to another. As economist Ronald Utt has explained, "The only way that $1 billion of new highway spending can create 47,576 new jobs is if the $1 billion appears out of nowhere as if it were manna from heaven."

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Spending did not end the Great Depression
Reduced spending and lowered tax rates did it.

[edited] What happened in 1945 at the end of WWII? FDR was convinced the only way to employ the 12 million returning soldiers was another New Deal program, but he died before he could impose his plan. The new President Truman proposed it, along with national health care.

Both the Congress and Senate had Democratic majorities. They said "No" to the whole New Deal revival: no federal program for health care, no full-employment act, only limited federal housing, and no increase in minimum wage or Social Security benefits.

Instead, Congress reduced taxes across the board. Top marginal corporate tax rates effectively went from 90% to 38% after 1945.

By the late 1940s, a revived economy was generating more annual federal revenue than the US had received during the higher tax rates of the war years. Price controls ended by the end of 1946. The US began running budget surpluses.

Unemployment had remained double-digit throughout the whole New Deal. One year after the end of New Deal policies and the return of economic freedom, it was under 4% despite the return of a huge number of soldiers.