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Why Does the New York Times Publish Casey Mulligan?

8/28/09 6:06 PM

Grasping Reality with Both Hands The Semi-Daily Journal of Economist Brad DeLong: A Fair, Balanced, Reality-Based, and More than Two-Handed Look at the World J. Bradford DeLong, Department of Economics, U.C. Berkeley #3880, Berkeley, CA 94720-3880; 925 708 0467; delong@econ.berkeley.edu. Weblog Home Page Weblog Archives Econ 115: 20th Century Economic History Econ 211: Economic History Seminar Economics Should-Reads Political Economy Should-Reads Politics and Elections Should-Reads Hot on Google Blogsearch Hot on Google Brad DeLong's Egregious Moderation August 24, 2009

Why Does the New York Times Publish Casey Mulligan? Why oh why can't we have a better press corps? If the New York Times is still around a generation from now, it will be because it spent the first generation of the twenty-first century building a reputation for informing its readers. So I look at things like this: Casey Mulligan, October 2008: So, if you are not employed by the financial industry (94 percent of you are not), don’t worry. The current unemployment rate of 6.1 percent is not alarming, and we should reconsider whether it is worth it to spend $700 billion to bring it down to 5.9 percent. And this:[1] Casey Mulligan, August 2009: Unfortunately, public policy has done much during this recession to discourage the supply of labor, and little to encourage it. There are lots of smart, articulate conservative economists interested in informing the public whom the New York Times could publish--people who are reality-based enough and have good enough judgment not to have spent last October mocking those who correctly forecast a deep recession. And there are lots of smart, articulate conservative economists interested in informing the public whom the New York Times could publish--people who are reality-based enough and possess good enough judgment to have more to say about how public policy should deal with this recession than merely "the federal government needs to roll back... the marginal income tax rates in excess of 100 percent embedded in... mortgage modification programs..." So I wonder: what are they thinking in the New York Times building? Do they care at all?

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Why Does the New York Times Publish Casey Mulligan?

8/28/09 6:06 PM

[1] What does Mulligan mean by "public policy [that] has done much during this recession to discourage the supply of labor? The only thing I can find is: School’s Out for Summer: [T]he federal government needs to roll back some of the terrible incentives it has created, like the marginal income tax rates in excess of 100 percent embedded in President Bush’s and President Obama’s means-tested mortgage modification programs... RECOMMENDED (4.91) by 4 people like you [How?] You might like:

Red and Blue Economies? (FiveThirtyEight.com: Electoral Projections Done Right) Current Recession vs the 1980-82 Recession (Angry Bear) 2 more recommended posts » Brad DeLong on August 24, 2009 at 08:34 PM in Economics, Economics: Macro, Information: Better Press Corps/Journamalism, Utter Stupidity | Permalink TrackBack TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00e551f0800388340120a506faa7970b Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Why Does the New York Times Publish Casey Mulligan?:

Comments You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post. It's notable, too, that every single comment on Mulligan's silly analysis (at least on the first page) is critical and dismissive. Most seem to offer simple and plausible reasons why Mulligan's case is trivial (reasons made all the more plausible by Mulligan's own giving away of his own argument toward the end of his piece: "To be clear, much of the unemployment rate spike and the employment collapse do not result from bad policies initiated during this recession. Demand is relevant too. For example, the housing collapse would put a lot of construction employees out of work regardless of what the government did." Mulligan's effort to sound smart, when this last statement is taken in context, becomes "both supply and demand matter for consumption of a commodity", which isn't exactly revolutionary. Nor do his opponents, whose statements Mulligan obviously cherry-picked, say anything else. Posted by: PQuincy | August 24, 2009 at 10:27 PM "..there are lots of smart, articulate conservative economists.." Are you talking about Milton Friedman? I thought he was dead! :-) Posted by: Sundar Srinivasan | August 24, 2009 at 11:00 PM Casey Mulligan: Another tick on the Chicago-School-has-crashed-and-burned-watch. Posted by: mike | August 25, 2009 at 07:19 AM "..there are lots of smart, articulate conservative economists.." Professor DeLong, would you care to name few? Zingales is the only one who comes to mind (Fama and Cochrane seem articulate enough, but akin to Mulligan fail to provide constructive policy advice). Posted by: Denis | August 25, 2009 at 08:26 AM I'm going to defend Mulligan. My interest in his column is that he takes a particular Econ Model and looks at the crisis through it. Since I separate Econ from Pol Econ, and see Econ as basically producing more or less useful tools http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/08/why-does-the-new-york-times-publish-casey-mulligan.html

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Why Does the New York Times Publish Casey Mulligan?

8/28/09 6:06 PM

crisis through it. Since I separate Econ from Pol Econ, and see Econ as basically producing more or less useful tools for Pol Econ, it interests me to see a model applied to the crisis. Of course, I see Pol Econ as the more important partner. Let me give you an example where I found Mulligan's post interesting: Because I follow Fisher, I believed in Oct. that job losses would exceed the downturn in actual business. In other words, employers would lay off workers proactively, in anticipation of a severe downturn. Mulligan's blog was one of the first that I found discussing the issue of rising productivity ( which I say is explained by the employers actions, at least in the short run ). Now, it's true that he said that workers were not taking jobs. I've read numerous posts saying that employers were doing what I said would happen. On the other hand, in normal times, if there was a demand for workers based upon business, but employment was lagging, one could conclude, I suppose, that workers were holding out for a better deal. So, I can see such a model pointing out an anomaly, which in Pol Econ we can explain by a Proactivity Run. That's why I find his blog interesting. I often disagree with his conclusions, but find the model's analysis interesting. Mulligan probably wouldn't like this defense, and probably considers my posts on his blog idiotic( as do most bloggers ), but that's why I find his comments interesting. From the point of aiding Pol Econ, they're of some use. But as Pol Econ, they're not. His model is just that, and not a picture of the real world. Posted by: Don the libertarian Democrat | August 25, 2009 at 09:10 AM I followed the links on the greater-than-100%-marginal claim. As best I can tell--and I may well be wrong--if your assets indicate you can afford to pay the current mortgage, you're less eligible for the program than if your current assets don't indicate that you can maintain the current mortgage. Given Mr. Mulligan's other writings, I'm still wondering what he sees wrong with this. From both a "personal responsibility" and a triage model, that would seem to be appropriate. (Exception noted for those who should not have been placed in such mortgages in the first place, which is a principal-agent issue that was not addressed by the program.) Posted by: Ken Houghton | August 26, 2009 at 09:14 AM

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Why Does the New York Times Publish Casey Mulligan?

8/28/09 6:06 PM

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Why Does the New York Times Publish Casey Mulligan  

Brad DeLong's Egregious Moderation J. Bradford DeLong, Department of Economics, U.C. Berkeley #3880, Berkeley, CA 94720-3880; 925 708 0467;...

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