Category Archives: economics

And This Is Bad News?

OK, yes, in this economy, I don’t relish any business going under.

But still, I think this might be good for the county’s soul:

A new study by AlixPartners, an international business-advisory firm, suggests that up to 40 percent of the nation’s chain restaurants could be fighting for their very survival within the next 12 months.

The startling study reveals that many chains are taking a beating as a result of a combined one-two punch of fewer diners spending less money and massive debt. AlixPartners’ analysts described the plight of the industry as worrisome, citing low-price, quick-service eateries as the lone bright spot.

Four out of ten chain restaurants may go under in the next year? Does that mean that we can say goodbye to bland and “fun” places like TGI Friday’s and Applebee’s in favor of locally-run restaurants serving ethnic and local cuisine that have some heart?

Can we do away with crap like Buffalo chicken tenders, blossoming onions, and fried cheese spooge?

A guy can dream.


The Poor Give More than Most?



I’d like to see the methodology used and how charitable giving was measured, but on the face of it, this information seems to be commonsensical.

If you are low-income, chances are that the people that you know are also living through touch economic times. If a neighbor is in need of help, you do as much as you can. You can relate to where the person in need is coming from and you see that need on a daily basis.

When I worked with homeless individuals, I was often surprised by the small acts of philanthropy they practiced  daily. They tended to be generous almost to a fault, as they regularly shared food and blankets with each other, along with other items that are less healthy, but provide comfort. They ‘took care of their own.’

It seems that kind of behavior is unexceptional among those in need.

Thank You, President Bush!

Republicans are funny!


From the inbox:

For the last eight years, President Bush has led our country with firm determination and a steady hand in the face of numerous challenges and crises. He restored honor and integrity to the White House and protected America from another terrorist attack.

As President and Mrs. Bush prepare to leave Washington in a few weeks to return to Texas, I know I speak for Republicans and grassroots leaders across America when I say we are all grateful for their tremendous service to our country. To show our appreciation for our Commander-in-Chief, the RNC is asking every Republican to sign an electronic card that will be presented to President Bush before he leaves office. It is the least each of us can do to show our gratitude to the leader of our country and our Party.

And if you can, Robert, I hope you will also consider giving a gift to keep our Party strong and moving forward. Your secure online contribution of $1,000, $500, $100, $50 or $25 will go a long way toward helping the RNC provide the support our Republican leaders need to fight the Democrats’ liberal agenda and prepare for the vital 2009-2010 elections.

I hope you will add your name to the RNC’s Thank You card to President Bush and Laura Bush today. And thank you for your continued support of our Party and our cause.

Best Wishes,

Robert M. “Mike” Duncan
Chairman, Republican National Committee

P.S. Robert, in order for your name to be included on the RNC’s Thank you e-card to President and Mrs. Bush, you must reply to this e-mail by January 15th. Please click here to sign the President’s Thank You card and to make a secure online gift to help strengthen our Party for the battles ahead. Thank you.

Umm, I don’t know where to start. Apparently, in the minds of Republicans, “restoring honor and integrity to the White House” means being a corrupt bastard who is admirable because he allegedly stopped drinking at 40 and who can’t admit that he has ever been wrong about anything.

As far as we know, there have been no blow jobs in Bush’s Oval Office under Bush, but the collapse of confidence in our government nationally and internationally seem to mean that they have restored honor and dignity to the White House. And waging pre-emptive wars and enacting policies that have cause our economy to collapse have also helped in that arena? Ugh!

And he prevented another terrorist attack on the country? Well, that’s nice, considering that 9/11 happened 8 months into Bush’s first term after there were clear warnings that Al Quada planned to attack us. I guess not being attacked again is some sort of prize. But these GOP clowns seem to be OK with 5,000 American deaths in an unnecessary war.

Please join me in signing the GOP’s Thank You card to George W. and Laura Bush.

President Obama, Invest in Our Future

I was surprised and heartened to see this piece by Eliot Spitzer in Slate:

This moment presents the administration with what is likely to be its best—and perhaps only—opportunity to have essentially unlimited capital (both fiscal and political) to spend on a transformative economic agenda. It is a unique moment to build a new foundation. It would be wise to ensure that a significant portion of the stimulus package is spent on new investments that may not be quite as ready to go but are surely more important to our long-term economic viability. There are many such critical investments, but here are a few for consideration. These are not, of course, the only ideas, and they may not be the best ideas. But they should spur discussion of how to use the fiscal stimulus not just to put people to work but also to build the over-the-horizon projects that will set the stage for the next great American economic miracle.

He goes on to list a few good ideas that include upgrading our energy infrastructure to allow us more efficient delivery of alternative fuels and to improve our internet backbone, which, I would guess would include making high-speed internet available to people in rural areas and wi-fi access widely available in our cities and towns.

If I can add items to Spitzer’s  wish-list I’d also like to see:

  • An investment in high-speed passenger trains. They’re energy efficient, fast, and affordable. In the US, we are severely lacking in any high-speed rail systems that would provide the airlines with some needed competion.
  • Rebuild the nonprofits! In the US, we really don’t have much of a welfare state and it’s doubtful that we ever will. Nonprofits take the place of the welfare state in our country. So why not invest in nonprofit capital projects so our people are able to access health care, housing, and social services in buildings that are not on the verge of crumbling to the ground?
  • Alternative energy is where our future is. Let’s invest money in research into solar, wind, hydrogen and any other potential energy source  that will help us achieve energy independence.
  • Mass transit! Too few of our major cities have decent mass transit systems. Washington, New York,  San Francisco and Chicago come to mind, but most medium-sized US cities have poor mass transit. Invest in light-rail systems to help commuters get to work cheaply and efficiently.

Other ideas?

We have a great opportunity here to build for our future. President-Elect Obama, let’s not blow this chance.

McCain: Economy Is Fundamentally Strong

AP: Meltdown in US finance system pummels US economy

The upheaval in the American financial system sent shock waves through the stock market Monday, producing the worst day on Wall Street in seven years as investors digested the failure of one of its most venerable banks and wondered which domino would be next to fall.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 500 points, more than 4 percent, its steepest point drop since the day the stock market reopened after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. About $700 billion evaporated from retirement plans, government pension funds and other investment portfolios.

The carnage capped a tumultuous 24 hours that redrew U.S. finance. Lehman Brothers, an investment bank that predates the Civil War and weathered the Great Depression, filed the largest bankruptcy in American history. A second storied bank, Merrill Lynch, fled into the arms of Bank of America.

John McCain:

John McCain still believes the fundamentals of the nation’s economy are strong even as the uncertain fate of two of Wall Street’s oldest institutions sent stocks tumbling.

In remarks to a crowd of several thousand in this pivotal electoral state, the Arizona senator said he agreed there should be no taxpayer-financed bailout of Lehman Brothers even as the investment banking giant filed for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch was selling itself to Bank of America for less than half of the iconic brokerage firm’s recent value.

Reacting to the turmoil on Wall Street, the Dow dropped some 300 points.

“Our economy, I believe, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult times, so I promise you: We will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street,” McCain said.


The GOP nominee underscored his message with a new campaign television commercial that seemed to contradict his rosier assessment of the country’s economic health.

John, I think if you spoke with jobless people, or older Americans whose comfort in retirement is jeopardized by Wall Street’s problem, you might realize that our economy is not as strong as you might think it is.

A Failure of Economics – Or the Economics of Nice People


Sam Bowles argues in Science June 20 that economics will get it wrong then, sometimes badly so. He points to new experimental evidence that people do often act against their own personal self-interest in favor of the common good, and they do so in predictable, understandable ways. Poorly-designed economic institutions fail to take advantage of intrinsic moral behavior and often undermine it.

I’m glad someone is doing some work on this point. In economics classes, we were always told that people behave in their own “rational self-interest.” When we brought up people behaving kindly through philanthropy or whatever, that kind of behavior was dismissed as “extra-rational.”


Take this example: Six day care centers imposed a fine on parents who picked their children up late. The effect? Tardiness doubled, and it stayed high even when the fine was removed. Parents, it seems, stopped seeing lateness as an imposition on teachers, and instead saw it as something that could be purchased with no moral failing.

Another example is a study this year which showed that women donated blood less frequently when they were paid for it than when it was an act of charity.

These examples show that economists ignore human altruism at their peril. Standard economic theory assumes that incentives that appeal to self-interest won’t affect any natural altruism that may exist, but that assumption is clearly wrong. Bowles discusses the research to date that helps to explain when and why that assumption breaks down.

As the world becomes more interconnected and the resulting challenges to humanity increase, learning to harness these altruistic impulses becomes even more important, Bowles says. So the economists’ “holy grail,” to learn to design institutions and policies to direct the selfish impulses of individuals to public ends, “will be necessary but insufficient,” Bowles says. “The moral nature of humans must also be recognized, cultivated, and empowered.”

Humans have natural altruistic impulses? Selfishness may not be a virtue?

If Ayn Rand weren’t dead, this would kill her.

Don’t like the recession? High gas prices? Inflation? John McCain Says the Problems Are All in Your Head

From Think Progress‘ transcript of McCain’s interview with Neil Cavuto:

CAVUTO: I think you know, Senator, we’ve been in and out another all time high for oil and gas prices today. Oil hovering around 113, 114 dollars a barrel. Many are sort of jumping on your proposal to nix the federal gas tax — a little north of 18 cents — throughout the summer. Are you afraid though, by the time we get to the summer, we’ll be up that much and more in gas prices?

MCCAIN: I’m very concerned about it, Neil. And obviously the way it’s been going up is just terrible. But I think psychologically — and a lot of our problems today, as you know, are psychological — the confidence, trust, the uncertainty about our economic future, ability to keep our own home. This might give them a little psychological boost.

Yes, John. The problems are psychological. When someone earning $8.00 an hour has a hard time making it to work or buying enough food for his or her family because of the inflation of food and energy prices, that situation is psychological. An extra three dollars in his pocket per fill-up during McCain’s gas-tax holiday will make low-income people FEEL so much better than they’ll stop worrying about the economy or inflation during the Summer of No Gas Tax and that psychological relief will have an economic multiplier effect and the recession will end.

Thanks, John.