John Irons's Blog


Economic News, Data and Analysis

Heck-uv-a-job Al.

So, if you’re Al Hubbard, the outgoing chair of the NEC, do you put this on your resume? Seems like this is not exactly a flattering list of accomplishments…

Bush Chooses New Economic Adviser – New York Times

Hubbard has helped direct White House policy on entitlement reform, energy security, climate change, housing and trade investment policy. Among other issues, Hubbard has been deeply involved in the debate over the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and Bush’s proposal for a major shift in tax policy to, for the first time, treat health insurance costs as taxable income.

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Progressive Growth: Transforming America’s Economy through Clean Energy, Innovation, and Opportunity

The Center for American Progress has released first part of a series on economic policy…

Progressive Growth: Transforming America’s Economy through Clean Energy, Innovation, and Opportunity

Progressive Growth
The Center for American Progress offers a fiscally responsible investment plan to:
Grow our economy through the transformation to a low-carbon economy and leadership in innovation, technology, and science.
Recreate a ladder of economic mobility so that Americans may make a better life for themselves and their families, and America may be a land with a thriving and expanding middle class prospering in the global economy.

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CO2 emissions

Dani Rodrik points us to an interesting website with data on carbon emissions….

Dani Rodrik’s weblog: More than you ever wanted to know on CO2 emissions

More than you ever wanted to know on CO2 emissions
Want to know how much CO2 is emitted by the power plant across town, and how it compares to the one in the city you are planning to move? The Center for Global Development has just launched a web site that will tell you exactly that. In fact, the site has emissions data for every single power plant in the world–some 50,000+ power plants and 20,000+ power-producing companies.
Called the CARMA (CARbon Monitoring for Action) website and database, the site focuses on the global power sector, the largest carbon emitter industry. It has reported or estimated data on current emissions, emissions in 2000, and future emissions based on published capacity expansion plans. It is a downloadable database, with tools for ranking and comparing power facilities, power companies, and geographic areas.
For those plants that have not reported their emissions publicly, CARMA provides “estimates based on the latest plant-level technical information, a statistical model fitted to data for thousands of publicly-reporting facilities, and adjustments for national differences in capacity utilization.”
This is an amazing treasure trove of data. It will set into motion an interesting experiment on what transparency can achieve with respect to public activism and corporate responses.

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Bills to Pay

I just got my annual web hosting bill… (ouch!) … please click on an ad to support

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Lessig on the Dems

Lawrence Lessig has an interesting post on the top democratic contenders. It’s refreshing to see an evaluation of the candidates on some of the non-top-tier issue – in this case access, information and privacy policy. As you’ll see, he’s for Obama.

4Barack (Lessig Blog)

Second, on the important: As you’ll read, Obama has committed himself to a technology policy for government that could radically change how government works. The small part of that is simple efficiency — the appointment with broad power of a CTO for the government, making the insanely backwards technology systems of government actually work.
But the big part of this is a commitment to making data about the government (as well as government data) publicly available in standard machine readable formats. The promise isn’t just the naive promise that government websites will work better and reveal more. It is the really powerful promise to feed the data necessary for the Sunlights and the Maplights of the world to make government work better. Atomize (or RSS-ify) government data (votes, contributions, Members of Congress’s calendars) and you enable the rest of us to make clear the economy of influence that is Washington.

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Capital Gains and Games

Collender is better know for his “budget battles” column for the National Journal and for being the most quotable budget guy around. Should be a good read.

Capital Gains and Games | Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Policymakers and the financial services community think about each other all the time, but neither really understands what the other is doing. This blog, written by Stan Collender, is intended to change that.

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The Worst President in History? : Rolling Stone

Last year, a historian weighed in on Bush’s potential legacy as well. Here’s the bit on the economic record….

The Worst President in History? : Rolling Stone

The heart of Bush’s domestic policy has turned out to be nothing more than a series of massively regressive tax cuts — a return, with a vengeance, to the discredited Reagan-era supply-side faith that Bush’s father once ridiculed as “voodoo economics.” Bush crowed in triumph in February 2004, “We cut taxes, which basically meant people had more money in their pocket.” The claim is bogus for the majority of Americans, as are claims that tax cuts have led to impressive new private investment and job growth. While wiping out the solid Clinton-era federal surplus and raising federal deficits to staggering record levels, Bush’s tax policies have necessitated hikes in federal fees, state and local taxes, and co-payment charges to needy veterans and families who rely on Medicaid, along with cuts in loan programs to small businesses and college students, and in a wide range of state services. The lion’s share of benefits from the tax cuts has gone to the very richest Americans, while new business investment has increased at a historically sluggish rate since the peak of the last business cycle five years ago. Private-sector job growth since 2001 has been anemic compared to the Bush administration’s original forecasts and is chiefly attributable not to the tax cuts but to increased federal spending, especially on defense. Real wages for middle-income Americans have been dropping since the end of 2003: Last year, on average, nominal wages grew by only 2.4 percent, a meager gain that was completely erased by an average inflation rate of 3.4 percent.
The monster deficits, caused by increased federal spending combined with the reduction of revenue resulting from the tax cuts, have also placed Bush’s administration in a historic class of its own with respect to government borrowing. According to the Treasury Department, the forty-two presidents who held office between 1789 and 2000 borrowed a combined total of $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions. But between 2001 and 2005 alone, the Bush White House borrowed $1.05 trillion, more than all of the previous presidencies combined. Having inherited the largest federal surplus in American history in 2001, he has turned it into the largest deficit ever — with an even higher deficit, $423 billion, forecast for fiscal year 2006. Yet Bush — sounding much like Herbert Hoover in 1930 predicting that “prosperity is just around the corner” — insists that he will cut federal deficits in half by 2009, and that the best way to guarantee this would be to make permanent his tax cuts, which helped cause the deficit in the first place!
The rest of what remains of Bush’s skimpy domestic agenda is either failed or failing — a record unmatched since the presidency of Herbert Hoover.

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The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush

Joe Stiglitz nominates Bush for worst president ever on the economy.

The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush: Politics & Power:

The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush
The next president will have to deal with yet another crippling legacy of George W. Bush: the economy. A Nobel laureate, Joseph E. Stiglitz, sees a generation-long struggle to recoup.
by Joseph E. Stiglitz December 2007
The American economy can take a lot of abuse, but no economy is invincible.
When we look back someday at the catastrophe that was the Bush administration, we will think of many things: the tragedy of the Iraq war, the shame of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, the erosion of civil liberties. The damage done to the American economy does not make front-page headlines every day, but the repercussions will be felt beyond the lifetime of anyone reading this page.
[…] a tax code that has become hideously biased in favor of the rich; a national debt that will probably have grown 70 percent by the time this president leaves Washington; a swelling cascade of mortgage defaults; a record near-$850 billion trade deficit; oil prices that are higher than they have ever been; and a dollar so weak that for an American to buy a cup of coffee in London or Paris–or even the Yukon–becomes a venture in high finance.
And it gets worse. After almost seven years of this president, the United States is less prepared than ever to face the future. We have not been educating enough engineers and scientists, people with the skills we will need to compete with China and India. We have not been investing in the kinds of basic research that made us the technological powerhouse of the late 20th century. And although the president now understands–or so he says–that we must begin to wean ourselves from oil and coal, we have on his watch become more deeply dependent on both.
Up to now, the conventional wisdom has been that Herbert Hoover, whose policies aggravated the Great Depression, is the odds-on claimant for the mantle “worst president” when it comes to stewardship of the American economy. […]

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From Ants to People, an Instinct to Swarm

The NY Times has an interesting article on insect swams. Connection to economies should be obvious. But does being more intelligent than your average ant lead to more or less complicated group behavior?

From Ants to People, an Instinct to Swarm – New York Times

By studying army ants — as well as birds, fish, locusts and other swarming animals — Dr. Couzin and his colleagues are starting to discover simple rules that allow swarms to work so well. Those rules allow thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism.
Deciphering those rules is a big challenge, however, because the behavior of swarms emerges unpredictably from the actions of thousands or millions of individuals.

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IRS outsourcing

Rangel tax bill has a provision to get rid of the IRS’s outsourcing of tax collections. Apparently Bush is threatening a veto (in part) due to this provision. Next thing you know, the CIA will be outsourcing interrogations…
See Stop the Madness! By Derek Douglas, John S. Irons, Bobby Lepore on the IRS sending cases to private debt collectors.

Paul Krugman – Op-Ed Columnist – New York Times Blog

PS: I missed this:

The White House also said language in the bill to terminate an IRS program farming out delinquency cases to private debt collectors would subject it to a veto.

Privatization — and tax farming, no less, which went out with the French Revolution — trumps aid to the middle class.

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