I checked, and re-checked, and triple-checked, and I can confirm that it's not 1979 anymore.
Now, that shouldn't be too surprising -- I'm not writing this on an Apple II, after all -- but it is to a generation of men (and yes, they are all men) who think stagflation is always and everywhere a looming phenomenon. No matter how low inflation goes, they see portents of Weimar. But that neverending 70s show isn't just a phobia of rising prices. It's the idea that the solution to economic pain is more pain. In other words, Volcker-worship.
Stagflation wasn't supposed to happen, but it did. Economists had thought there was a stable relationship between higher unemployment and lower inflation -- the Phillips Curve -- that broke down in the 1970s: prices rose, but so did joblessness. It broke down because people started to expect more inflation the more inflation there was. This cycle of ever-rising prices got going with too loose monetary policy, and continued with the oil shocks. The former started when Richard Nixon pressured Fed Chair Arthur Burns into lowering rates in the runup to the 1972 election, and the latter turned commodity inflation into wage inflation due to widespread cost-of-living-adjustment contracts. It wasn't until Jimmy Carter appointed Paul Volcker to run the Fed in 1979 that things began to turn around. After unsuccessfully trying to target the money supply, Volcker decided to jack up interest rates, and keep them there, until inflation came down. It worked.
But whipping inflation didn't exactly make Volcker popular in the short run. It took what was at the time the deepest recession of the postwar period to bring down people's inflation expectations. Out-of-work homebuilders sent two-by-fours they no longer needed to the Federal Reserve; farmers barricaded it with their tractors. In other words, it was the paragon of what Very Serious People think about when they think about "leadership": inflicting pain today for a better tomorrow. It just so happened that in this case, it was the right thing to do.
It's not now.
Our present problem isn't too little inflation-fighting, but too much. Indeed, headline prices rose just 1.1 percent in April, while unemployment is still a depressing 7.5 percent. But it's not just the unemployment; it's the long-term unemployment. Millions have been out of work for six months or longer, at which point companies won't even look at your resume. The only bit of good news is this is an easy problem to solve: with interest rates as low as they'll ever be, the government can borrow money and put people back to work. It's really that simple.
Except for people who don't want it to be that simple. People like Michael Kinsley. He's the not-so-rare austerian who's suspicious of stimulus because it seems like the easy wrong instead of the hard right. Here's what he said about in The New Republic:
I don't think suffering is good, but I do believe that we have to pay a price for past sins, and the longer we put it off, the higher the price will be.
This gets things completely backwards. The longer we put off austerity, the lower the price will be, since fewer of the long-term unemployed will become unemployable. And besides, there's no reason we shouldn't produce as much as we can now just because we made mistakes before. As Keynes said, the resources of nature and men's devices are just as fertile and productive as they were -- or, as John McCain might put it, the fundamentals of the economy are strong. It's up to us to make those fundamentals work with the right ideas.
But this doesn't make for an exciting narrative. A failure of ideas is much less dramatic than a failure of Leadership™. Where's the sacrifice? The hard-headed vision? That's what Kinsley pined for back in 2010, when he lobbed this puzzling complaint about the stimulus:
But this cure has been one ice-cream sundae after another. It can't be that easy, can it? The puritan in me says that there has to be some pain. That's not to say that there hasn't been plenty of economic pain. But that pain has come from the recession itself, not the cure.
In other words: Give me Volcker, not Keynes. Give me penance, not prosperity. Give me hard choices, not easy ways out. But most of all, give me what worked in the past.
That would all be fine if it were still 1979. It's not. The facts have changed. It's time for inflationistas to change their minds.
Orr:Wait a minute. There’s a royal wedding—and nobody dies a horrible death? A man is beheaded—and we can all agree that it was for the best? What the hell show am I watching? I came here for Game of Thrones, baby, not Wizards of Waverly Place.
I kid, of course. Given David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s tendency to take George R. R. Martin’s material and render it even more bloody than it already was, I’m actually mildly relieved that they didn’t throw in a random homicide just to spice up the nuptials of Margaery and young Tommen, First of His Name.
Freddie Gray's death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.*
Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they're investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It's even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protestors taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray's death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of a man he shot. The deputy says the shooting happened while he was trying to tase the man. Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Take a walk along West Florissant Avenue, in Ferguson, Missouri. Head south of the burned-out Quik Trip and the famous McDonalds, south of the intersection with Chambers, south almost to the city limit, to the corner of Ferguson Avenue and West Florissant. There, last August, Emerson Electric announced third-quarter sales of $6.3 billion. Just over half a mile to the northeast, four days later, Officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. The 12 shots fired by Officer Wilson were probably audible in the company lunchroom.
Outwardly, at least, the City of Ferguson would appear to occupy an enviable position. It is home to a Fortune 500 firm. It has successfully revitalized a commercial corridor through its downtown. It hosts an office park filled with corporate tenants. Its coffers should be overflowing with tax dollars.
Hours after a major earthquake wreaked havoc across his country, Nepali Information Minister Minendra Rijal appeared at a news conference on Saturday to announce that schools would be closed for the next five days. "We never imagined we'd face such devastation," he said.
But for geologists, Saturday's disaster—which has claimed over 2,400 lives—was sadly predictable.
"Physically and geologically what happened is exactly what we thought would happen," James Jackson, head of the earth-sciences department at the University of Cambridge, told the Associated Press.
Blessed with stunning natural scenery, Nepal is a popular tourist destination that attracts hundreds of thousands of travelers each year. But the source of the country's beauty is what makes it particularly vulnerable to earthquakes. Much of Nepal's population lives in a valley beneath the Himalayas, a mountain range formed by collisions between the Indian and Central Asian tectonic plates. These collisions—which occur when the Indian plate slides underneath its much larger neighbor—are what cause earthquakes. According to The Washington Post, a chunk of the earth measuring 75 by 37 miles shifted 10 feet in 30 seconds on Saturday, destroying much of what lay atop the surface.
After a five-month delay, Loretta Lynch made history last week. On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Lynch as the next U.S. attorney general, the first African American woman ever to hold this Cabinet position. Her long-stalled nomination sometimes seemed in doubt, held hostage to partisan jockeying between Democrats and Republicans. But one political bloc never gave up, relentlessly rallying its support behind Lynch: the black sorority.
During her initial hearing, the seats behind Lynch were filled with more than two dozen of her Delta Sigma Theta Sorority sisters arrayed in crimson-and-cream blazers and blouses, ensuring their visibility on the national stage. These Delta women—U.S. Representatives Marcia Fudge and Joyce Beatty among them—were there to lend moral support and show the committee that they meant business. The Deltas were not alone. The Lynch nomination also drew support from congressional representatives from other black sororities: Alpha Kappa Alpha members Terri Sewell and Sheila Jackson Lee took to the House floor to advocate for a vote while Sigma Gamma Rho members Corinne Brown and Robin Kelly and Zeta Phi Beta member Donna Edwards used social media and press conferences to campaign on Lynch’s behalf.
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal early on Saturday, centered 10 miles below the surface, less than 50 miles from the capital of Kathmandu. At least 2,200 are already reported to have been killed by the quake and subsequent avalanches triggered in the Himalayas. Historic buildings and temples were destroyed, leaving massive piles of debris in streets as rescue workers and neighbors work to find and help those still trapped beneath rubble. Below are images from the region of the immediate aftermath of one of the most powerful earthquakes to strike Nepal in decades. (Editor's note, some of the images are graphic in nature.)
I’m not a dog person. I prefer cats. Cats make you work to have a relationship with them, and I like that. But I have adopted several dogs, caving in to pressure from my kids. The first was Teddy, a rottweiler-chow mix whose bushy hair was cut into a lion mane. Kids loved him, and he grew on me, too. Teddy was probably ten years when we adopted him. Five years later he had multiple organs failing and it was time to put him to sleep.
When I arrived at the vet, he said I could drop him off. I was aghast. No. I needed to stay with Teddy.As the vet prepped the syringe to put him to sleep, I started sobbing. The vet gave me a couple minutes to collect myself and say goodbye. I held Teddy's paw until he died. Honestly, I didn't think I was that attached.
In her new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson tells readers a story about her friend, Tim. When Tim started a new job as a manager, one of his top priorities was communicating to his team that he valued each member’s input. So at team meetings, as each member spoke up about whatever project they were working on, Tim made sure he put on his “active-listening face” to signal that he cared about what each person was saying.
But after meeting with him a few times, Tim’s team got a very different message from the one he intended to send. “After a few weeks of meetings,” Halvorson explains, “one team member finally summoned up the courage to ask him the question that had been on everyone’s mind.” That question was: “Tim, are you angry with us right now?” When Tim explained that he wasn’t at all angry—that he was just putting on his “active-listening face”—his colleague gently explained that his active-listening face looked a lot like his angry face.
Soon, thousand of police officers across the country will don body-worn cameras when they go out among the public. Those cameras will generate millions of hours of footage—intimate views of commuters receiving speeding tickets, teens getting arrested for marijuana possession, and assault victims at some of the worst moments of their lives.
As the Washington Post and the Associated Press have reported, lawmakers in at least 15 states have proposed exempting body-cam footage from local open records laws. But the flurry of lawmaking speaks to a larger crisis: Once those millions of hours of footage have been captured, no one is sure what to do with them.
I talked to several representatives from privacy, civil rights, and progressive advocacy groups working on body cameras. Even among these often allied groups, there’s little consensus about the kind of policies that should exist around releasing footage.