John Irons's Blog


Economic News, Data and Analysis

Want my job?

I will shortly be leaving my current position at OMB Watch – so they currently have an open position (see announcement below).
Anyone want to venture a guess as to where I’m headed before I make an official announcement?

OMB Watch – Senior Budget Policy Analyst
OMB Watch, a nonprofit research, advocacy, and watchdog organization, is seeking to hire a senior level Policy Analyst in our federal budget group. The Senior Budget Policy Analyst would undertake a wide range of activities in support of our work on federal budget and tax policy issues consistent with our mission of promoting an open and accountable government that has adequate revenue to meet our nation’s priorities.
In addition to monitoring the federal budget process — from the submittal of the President’s budget, through congressional action, to final appropriations — the Senior Policy Analyst position entails working extensively with the nonprofit community, both within Washington, DC, as well as “outside the beltway.” The analyst will also focus on tax policy and its impacts on the overall budget and on various programs.
Specific responsibilities include:

  • Directing and undertaking analysis and research projects on federal budget and tax issues;
  • Helping to develop and manage an initiative (over the course of the next 12 months) to bring nonprofits together to promote proactive long-range tax and budget policies;
  • Directing and conducting advocacy and education efforts, including working with community groups and the news media, about federal budget issues — both on the tax and expenditure sides;
  • Supporting activities of nonprofit coalitions on federal tax and budget issues, including coordination of a coalition to preserve the estate tax;
  • Monitoring the budget process including synthesizing information from news sources, executive branch agencies, Congress, and other nonprofit organizations; and
  • Support of OMB Watch efforts in other policy areas.

This position will report directly to the Executive Director. Applicants should, at a minimum, have a college degree with significant related policy advocacy or policy analysis experience (5+ years), and an advanced degree is preferred. Knowledge of nonprofit organizations is a plus as well.
Salary: Low $40s to low $50s (depending upon education and experience) with comprehensive benefits. We will consider exceeding the salary range for those with significant related experience.
Time frame: The position will be open until filled.
How to apply: Applicants should submit a cover letter, resume, and short writing sample (2-5 pages). Send to: Senior Budget Policy Analyst, OMB Watch, 1742 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009, or
About OMB Watch: OMB Watch was founded in 1983 to monitor the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and has since expanded our policy areas to include regulatory policy, nonprofit issues, information policy, and the federal budget. Our goal is to increase government accountability and citizen participation. More information is at
Women and people of color are strongly encouraged to apply.

Filed under: Economics

Balanced Budget Amendment Again

Can you say hypocrisy?

OMB Watch – Action Alert! The Unfortunate Return of the Balanced Budget Amendment
The House of Representatives is again set to consider the ill-fated Balanced Budget Amendment (H. J. RES. 22). The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to address the proposal this Wednesday, September 22. Regardless of one’s opinions about the wisdom of balancing the budget or running massive deficits, the Balanced Budget Amendment is exceptionally bad economic policy.

The long-ago defeated proposal for a balanced budget amendment is rearing its ugly head once again. Unable to pass a budget this year and having created near-record deficits, some members of the House of Representatives are desperate to create the appearance of being fiscally responsible, and are considering bringing up a vote on the measure

Filed under: Economics


First, the 2004 Economic Report of the President suggests that McDonald’s might be manufacturing.
“When a fast-food restaurant sells a hamburger, for example, is it providing a ‘service’ or is it combining inputs to “manufacture” a product?” (see p.73)
Now this…

IT’S WORSE THAN THAT. Yesterday, Dick Cheney took the time to say something really dumb:

Indicators measure the nation’s unemployment rate, consumer spending and other economic milestones, but Vice President Dick Cheney says it misses the hundreds of thousands who make money selling on eBay.
That’s a source that didn’t even exist 10 years ago,” Cheney told an audience in Cincinnati on Thursday. “Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay.”

Message: He doesn’t care. John Edwards had a witty riposte:

“If we only included bake sales and how much money kids make at lemonade stands, this economy would really be cooking,” Edwards said in a statement.

But now here’s the thing — as Brad DeLong notes we actually do include eBay’s domestic revenues in our economic statistics. It’s a pretty big company, and the fact that it’s relatively new doesn’t change that. To be generous, I assume Cheney was thinking of the fact that GDP systematically understates the value of new products, but that’s something that’s been going on since the dawn of time, not an excuse for the economy’s poor performance under Bush’s allegedly employment-boosting tax cuts.

As for the GDP claim… GDP measures the total value of goods and services produced in a given year. Most of ebay is stuff being moved around from one garage to anther and shouldn’t be included in GDP.
Why don’t we all just stick to the official government data for the time-being, and not make even more denials about how the economy is doing.

Filed under: Economics

Economists’ Voice

Two thoughts:
1. This is a great, great, great idea.
2. It’s long overdue, and hopefully not too late.

Brad DeLong’s Semi-Daily Journal: A Weblog: Preview: The Economists’ Voice: A Manifesto
Economists are losing the battle for mindshare in public debates and discussions about the economy. Too much of what we economists write meets the technical canons of modern economics, but reaches a very small audience (if it reaches any audience at all). Too much of the rest of what we write is murdered by being forced into the Procrustean bed of the 700-word op-ed: a space too small to make any but the most pathetic and oversimplified excuse for an argument. The result is that public understanding of the economy is abysmal, and the intellectual level of the public debate is far too low. We economists all can, no doubt, think of a dozen examples in the past month of hideous errors in the public perception of the economy and hideous mistakes made in good faith (i.e., not by lobbyists) about the effects of public policies. (And, because we are all economists, we economists at least would all largely agree on at least 80% of what are hideous mistakes.)
We–that is, Joe Stiglitz, Aaron Edlin, and I–aim to start an online publication, The Economists’ Voice, to be “published” by Berkeley Economic Press, to try to remedy this situation.

Filed under: Economics

Labor Day Finds Little to Celebrate in Recent Trends

OMB Watch – Labor Day Finds Little to Celebrate in Recent Trends
Yesterday we celebrated Labor Day. Unfortunately, there has not been much to celebrate in the labor market over the last 4 years. A look at the recent record shows an extremely under-performing labor market economy.
Since the start of 2001, the economy has lost nearly a million jobs. Part of the job-loss was due to the recession, however, even after 2001 the labor market has just barely crept along. Measuring from the end of the recession, the economy has added an average of only 18,000 jobs a month.
This stands in stark contrast with previous administrations and recent historical experience. Over the last 30 years, employment growth has averaged a healthy 150,000 jobs. Looking at the past six 4-year terms, on average, a 4-year term will contain 30 months with growth above this level. Under the Bush administration, there have only been 4 months with satisfactory levels of growth. (See figure below). The Bush Administration will be the only administration since Herbert Hoover in the 1930’s to have a net job loss during its term in power.

OMB Watch – Full Story

Filed under: Economy