Wednesday, June 5, 2013

This is Actually Quite Good. Larry Summers Speaks Clearly.

Via Brad DeLong's Blog:

The example I always like to use is Kennedy Airport is going to be repaired. It is going to be repaired at some point. Potholes in roads are going to be filled. The question is whether we’re going to fill them now, when we can borrow to fill them at zero in real terms, and when construction unemployment is near double digits, or whether we’re going to do that years from now, when there will no longer be any multiplier benefits to those expenditures and when the deficit problem will be a more serious problem. So it seems to me that we need to recognize that burdening future generations is a crucial issue, but that you burden future generations when you accumulate debt; you also burden future generations when you defer maintenance; you also burden future generations when you underfund pensions or you undercompensate the civil service or you underinvest in research and development and education or public institutions. Now, the challenge, of course, in this view is that it has a St. Augustine character. You’re urging the more pleasant steps today and deferring the more painful steps. But the track record going back to the Greenspan Commission of commitments made at one point that kick in some years hence is that when those commitments are made – not always, but with very substantial probability, they in fact are kept when the time comes. And the observation that the retirement age increases in Social Security have been implemented for some time now without substantial political disruption suggests to me that appropriate measures focused, in my view, on containing health care costs through improved reimbursement procedures is a critical priority; and on mobilizing revenues with appropriate phase-ins, I think we’d make an important fiscal contribution.

Emphasis mine.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Culture? I'm Soaking In It.

My own life at the moment, is entirely bound up with the pursuit of tying down the ephemeral with pastepot and glue.  I just finished making the poster for my youngest daughter.   At the same time I generate as much ephemera, or more, than I keep.  My oldest daughter is undergoing a strange ritual, from another time and place (as the menu at the flyover country diner said of bagels and blintzes when I drove across country in the 90's).  She is having her Arangetram this summer. On the one hand this is a "traditional" activity with a long--we're talking millenia long--history. On the other hand it has been as Americanized and as updated as a turkey tettrazini fajita wrapped in a croissant.

One apparently component part is the creation of "the invitation" or perhaps I should say THE INVITATION because its just that important. First we had an official photo shoot for all the girls going through this process together (there are about five pairs of two girls each so the families can share the cost and the stress).  The girls are got up like a bloomin' idol with eyes rimmed with kohl and hands colored red with magic marker (don't ask. Yes, its just magic marker). They wear an astounding combination of "real fake" or "fake real" temple jewelry. They are posed against a black background and the other mothers dart in with coos and cries to tweak the fans of their skirts, or pick distracting fluff off the background.

We've sent out 160 invitations and are on track to producing a minimum number of warm bodies. Our secret sharers, the other girl's family, will be sending out at least 200 invitations and perhaps we will partially fill the 300 seat venue which we have had to reserve for this occasion.  If there aren't enough people the dance school will send out an urgent plea--how often have I not been urged to go to an Arangetram and modestly declined, not wanting to intrude! Now I know that I should have shown up with a flatpack me to sit next to me just to bump up the headcount.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Why No Cheap Solution To Tornado Deaths?

Just by the by, since we've just had another deadly tornado in Oklahoma.  Can anyone explain why a cheap and effective solution to the problem of OK's not being willing to build storm shelters and basements (this has been extensively covered in the news recently as being partially thrift, partially market failure, partially a rejection of "government intervention.") has not been found?  You'd think that a mandated (government intervention!) slit ditch behind each house and public school, possibly with a piece of clean sewer pipe lowered into it, only half above ground, would be a good solution? The rounded upper half would, theoretically, be resistant to the force of the tornado, the buried lower half would make it stable.  It would be hard to clean from year to year but it only has to be useable for a few minutes at a time.   At the rate Tornados are sweeping through there is going to have to be some general, inexpensive, solution.  Sounds like a good time for the hated national government to put up a prize for architects and disaster relief specialists to come up with an inexpensive, easily installed, quick fix for storm shelters.