False Choice / Changing the Subject

I’ve seen this a lot lately:


Somewhere between changing the subject and offering a totally false choice.  Leaving Syrian refugees to rot, is not going to do one thing for veterans – I’m sure of that.

Furthermore, its just a clumsy attempt to change the subject when the Syrian issue comes up.

It’s sad that immigration scares so many people so much.  I think it is one more way the 9/11 attack damaged this country so badly.

”Global Warming ‘Hiatus’ Never Happened”


About that supposed pause in global warming:

Global warming ‘hiatus’ never happened, Stanford scientists say: An apparent lull in the recent rate of global warming that has been widely accepted as fact is actually an artifact arising from faulty statistical methods, Stanford scientists say. …The finding calls into question the idea that global warming “stalled” or “paused” during the period between 1998 and 2013. …

Using a novel statistical framework that was developed specifically for studying geophysical processes such as global temperature fluctuations, Rajaratnam and his team of Stanford collaborators have shown that the hiatus never happened.

“Our results clearly show that, in terms of the statistics of the long-term global temperature data, there never was a hiatus, a pause or a slowdown in global warming,” said Noah Diffenbaugh, a climate scientist in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, and a co-author of the study.

Faulty ocean buoys

The Stanford group’s findings are the latest in a growing series of papers to cast doubt on the existence of a hiatus. …

The Stanford scientists say their findings should go a long way toward restoring confidence in the basic science and climate computer models that form the foundation for climate change predictions.

“Global warming is like other noisy systems that fluctuate wildly but still follow a trend,” Diffenbaugh said. “Think of the U.S. stock market: There have been bull markets and bear markets, but overall it has grown a lot over the past century. What is clear from analyzing the long-term data in a rigorous statistical framework is that, even though climate varies from year-to-year and decade-to-decade, global temperature has increased in the long term, and the recent period does not stand out as being abnormal.”

[I omitted the detailed discussion of the research.]

”Global Warming ‘Hiatus’ Never Happened”
Mark Thoma
Thu, 17 Sep 2015 16:49:22 GMT

The Bottle Opener

This was an interesting piece, about how racism and xenophobia have been more openly expressed since Trump’s presidential campaign came to occupy the headlines.   It is mostly based on personal anecdotes, but I suspect it is pretty accurate.  I think it is not the full story though.

Trump is just the bottle opener that has released pressure that has been building for the last 7 years.  President Obama has been elected twice, and I think has the support of the majority  of Americans.  Like most presidents though, he is less esteemed by a minority of the country.

Unlike past Presidents, though I think he is viewed by a significant minority as an actual material  threat to their well being, their freedom, if not their lives.  Being the first African president has to be a big part of this.  Especially, in many red states, you can live your life and generally not have to interact with anyone who isn’t white for  long.  You certainly don’t often have an African, or other non-white in authority over you.

When someone is first under the authority of a person not of their race, any latent racism tend to rise, even if only in the back of one’s mind.  Most of us have racist tendencies to  one degree or another.  Usually, these kind of feelings don’t last, as one becomes more comfortable with a new situation.  This adjustment is taken a while in most of Red America.  At the same time this  angst has been bottle up to a degree.  While most of us are racists, we know  you can’t generally express that feeling.  For many, this angst has been bottled up.

Mr. Trump in seeming to make it OK to  express these feelings has just popped the top of the bottle and released the pressure that has been building.

Interest Groups and the Competition Between Green and Dirty Technologies


While “enlightened” entrepreneurs such as Bloomberg, Musk and Steyer celebrate the nascent green economy, there are other entrepreneurs growing rich from fracking activity.   Today there is a race between “green technologies” that have a smaller climate change impact than fossil fuel technologies.  Economists such as Acemoglu et. al. have studied how “sustainable” development could result depending on the relationship between these two technologies and government policies intended to tilt the playing field towards green tech.
In my past work, I have documented the fact that educated progressives (i.e Californians) are more likely to purchase green products.  Take a look at my hybrids work, and my solar work.
But, today — a new NBER Working Paper got me thinking about another key margin here;  workers.  At this time when there is great concern about income inequality and the well being of the middle class; does the green economy or the fracking sector create more jobs for the low skilled?  If the low skilled benefit both from cheap gas prices (as car drivers) and from employment opportunities in the fossil fuel sector (as frackers) , then they will not support carbon pricing.  My past political economy research ; read this and this,  supports this claim.  In this case, the greenhouse gas mitigation effort has a challenge in convincing the median voter.
So, this was a long winded intro for talking about this recent NBER paper;

Who Needs a Fracking Education? The Educational Response to Low-Skill Biased Technological Change

Elizabeth U. Cascio, Ayushi Narayan

NBER Working Paper No. 21359
Issued in July 2015
NBER Program(s):   CH ED EEE LS

Over the past decade, a technological breakthrough – hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” – has fueled a boom in oil and natural gas extraction by reaching shale reserves inaccessible through conventional technologies. We explore the educational response to fracking, taking advantage of the timing of its widespread introduction and the spatial variation in shale oil and gas reserves. We show that local labor demand shocks from fracking have been biased toward low-skilled labor and males, reducing the return to high school completion among men. We also show that fracking has increased high school dropout rates of male teens, both overall and relative to females. Our estimates imply that, absent fracking, the male-female gap in high school dropout rates among 17- to 18-year-olds would have narrowed by about 11% between 2000 and 2013 instead of remaining unchanged. Our estimates also imply an elasticity of high school completion with respect to the return to high school of 0.47, a figure below historical estimates. Explanations for our findings aside from fracking’s low-skill bias – changes in school inputs, population demographics, and resource prices – receive less empirical support.

So, the authors of this paper are interested in how human capital attainment choice is affected by labor demand shocks.  I’m interested in a different question; what is the economic incidence for lower socio-economic groups from a boom in fossil fuels? Their evidence suggests that Tom Steyer’s push to nudge us away from extracting fossil fuels  won’t have many supporters away from Stanford and UC Berkeley.
Self interested workers in industries that will be injured by carbon mitigation regulation have strong incentives to oppose such regulation.     How will Steyer’s team respond to this challenge? How will he avoid being painted as an elitist? Will he say that “the people” are the ones who will be hurt by climate change?  “The people” are likely to counter that if they are allowed to earn and work in these growing sectors that they will earn the $ to be able to protect themselves.
Back in 1997, John Matsusaka and I published a paper studying Californian voting on direct democracy initiatives related to environmental protection.  We found that voters in agricultural and manufacturing counties voted against specific pieces of regulation that threatened their industry’s well being (even though they protected the environment). Our paper was squarely in the University of Chicago/Peltzman School of political economy.  The same issues are very relevant today. It is no accident that President Obama (because of his war on coal) isn’t that popular in West Virginia.

Interest Groups and the Competition Between Green and Dirty Technologies
Matthew Kahn
Sat, 05 Sep 2015 15:17:00 GMT

Public and Private Sector Payroll Jobs: Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama


By request, here is another update of an earlier post through the August employment report.
NOTE: Several readers have asked if I could add a lag to these graphs (obviously a new President has zero impact on employment for the month they are elected). But that would open a debate on the proper length of the lag, so I’ll just stick to the beginning of each term.
Note: We frequently use Presidential terms as time markers – we could use Speaker of the House, or any other marker.
Important: There are many differences between these periods. Overall employment was smaller in the ’80s, however the participation rate was increasing in the ’80s (younger population and women joining the labor force), and the participation rate is generally declining now.  But these graphs give an overview of employment changes.
First, here is a table for private sector jobs. The top two private sector terms were both under President Clinton.  Reagan’s 2nd term saw about the same job growth as during Carter’s term.  Note: There was a severe recession at the beginning of Reagan’s first term (when Volcker raised rates to slow inflation) and a recession near the end of Carter’s term (gas prices increased sharply and there was an oil embargo).

Private Sector
Jobs Added (000s)


Reagan 1

Reagan 2

GHW Bush

Clinton 1

Clinton 2

GW Bush 1

GW Bush 2

Obama 1

Obama 2

131 months into 2nd term: 10,648 pace.

The first graph shows the change in private sector payroll jobs from when each president took office until the end of their term(s). President George H.W. Bush only served one term, and President Obama is in the third year of his second term.
Mr. G.W. Bush (red) took office following the bursting of the stock market bubble, and left during the bursting of the housing bubble. Mr. Obama (blue) took office during the financial crisis and great recession. There was also a significant recession in the early ’80s right after Mr. Reagan (yellow) took office.
There was a recession towards the end of President G.H.W. Bush (purple) term, and Mr Clinton (light blue) served for eight years without a recession.
Private Sector Payrolls Click on graph for larger image.
The first graph is for private employment only.
The employment recovery during Mr. G.W. Bush’s (red) first term was sluggish, and private employment was down 844,000 jobs at the end of his first term.   At the end of Mr. Bush’s second term, private employment was collapsing, and there were net 463,000 private sector jobs lost during Mr. Bush’s two terms. 
Private sector employment increased slightly under President G.H.W. Bush (purple), with 1,510,000 private sector jobs added.
Private sector employment increased by 20,955,000 under President Clinton (light blue), by 14,717,000 under President Reagan (yellow), and 9,041,000 under President Carter (dashed green).
There were only 2,018,000 more private sector jobs at the end of Mr. Obama’s first term.  Thirty one months into Mr. Obama’s second term, there are now 8,895,000 more private sector jobs than when he initially took office.
Public Sector Payrolls A big difference between the presidencies has been public sector employment.  Note the bumps in public sector employment due to the decennial Census in 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010. 
The public sector grew during Mr. Carter’s term (up 1,304,000), during Mr. Reagan’s terms (up 1,414,000), during Mr. G.H.W. Bush’s term (up 1,127,000), during Mr. Clinton’s terms (up 1,934,000), and during Mr. G.W. Bush’s terms (up 1,744,000 jobs).
However the public sector has declined significantly since Mr. Obama took office (down 584,000 jobs). These job losses have mostly been at the state and local level, but more recently at the Federal level.  This has been a significant drag on overall employment.
And a table for public sector jobs. Public sector jobs declined the most during Obama’s first term, and increased the most during Reagan’s 2nd term.

Public Sector
Jobs Added (000s)


Reagan 1

Reagan 2

GHW Bush

Clinton 1

Clinton 2

GW Bush 1

GW Bush 2

Obama 1

Obama 2

131 months into 2nd term, 183 pace

Looking forward, I expect the economy to continue to expand through 2016 (at least), so I don’t expect a sharp decline in private employment as happened at the end of Mr. Bush’s 2nd term (In 2005 and 2006 I was warning of a coming recession due to the bursting of the housing bubble).
For the public sector, the cutbacks are clearly over at the state and local levels, and it appears cutbacks at the Federal level might also be over.  Right now I’m expecting some increase in public employment during Obama’s 2nd term, but nothing like what happened during Reagan’s second term.
Below is a table of the top three presidential terms for private job creation (they also happen to be the three best terms for total non-farm job creation).
Clinton’s two terms were the best for both private and total non-farm job creation, followed by Reagan’s 2nd term.
Currently Obama’s 2nd term is on pace to be the 2nd best ever for private job creation.  However, with very few public sector jobs added, Obama’s 2nd term is only on pace to be the third best for total job creation.
Note: Only 118 thousand public sector jobs have been added during the first thirty one months of Obama’s 2nd term (following a record loss of 702 thousand public sector jobs during Obama’s 1st term).  This is less than 10% of the public sector jobs added during Reagan’s 2nd term!

Top Employment Gains per Presidential Terms (000s)

Total Non-Farm

Clinton 1

Clinton 2

Reagan 2

Obama 21


131 Months into 2nd Term
2Current Pace for Obama’s 2nd Term

The last table shows the jobs needed per month for Obama’s 2nd term to be in the top three presidential terms.

Average Jobs needed per month (000s)
for remainder of Obama’s 2nd Term

to Rank




Public and Private Sector Payroll Jobs: Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama
Bill McBride
Fri, 04 Sep 2015 18:02:00 GMT

Weekend Reading; Daniel Larison: Scowcroft, the GOP, and the Nuclear Deal

My emphasis added below.

Daniel Larison: Scowcroft, the GOP, and the Nuclear Deal:

Brent Scowcroft writes in favor of the deal with Iran:

Let us be clear: There is no credible alternative were Congress to prevent U.S. participation in the nuclear deal. If we walk away, we walk away alone. The world’s leading powers worked together effectively because of U.S. leadership. To turn our back on this accomplishment would be an abdication of the United States’ unique role and responsibility, incurring justified dismay among our allies and friends. We would lose all leverage over Iran’s nuclear activities. The international sanctions regime would dissolve. And no member of Congress should be under the illusion that another U.S. invasion of the Middle East would be helpful.

Gen. Scowcroft makes a strong case for the nuclear deal, and a more sober and responsible Republican Party would listen carefully to what he has to say. Regrettably, we already know that on foreign policy generally and this issue in particular the current GOP is neither of those things. Comparisons between the debate over the Iraq war and the debate over the current deal with Iran can be overdone, but it is instructive to remember that Scowcroft was one of a relative few prominent Republicans to oppose the invasion of Iraq publicly. Now he is one of a very few former Republican officials to express support for the nuclear deal.

It’s not an accident that he was right about the Iraq war. Supporters of the invasion erred in failing to consider the costs and risks of an unnecessary war because of their shoddy assumptions about American power and how to use, and Scowcroft opposed the invasion in large part because he was willing and able to weigh those costs and judge them to be unacceptably high. Unlike the loudest advocates for the invasion, Scowcroft didn’t think preventive war in Iraq made sense as far as American security was concerned, and he was also warning about the many unintended and unforeseen consequences that wars have. Applying wisdom and prudence then, Scowcroft got one of the biggest foreign policy questions of the last generation right while almost everyone in and out of elected office in his party (and many in the other party) got it badly wrong. So when the same person advises support for the nuclear deal as the sound and responsible thing to do now, his recommendation should carry considerable weight. If there is to be any accountability in our foreign policy debates, it isn’t enough to reject discredited hard-liners. It is also necessary to heed the skeptics and realists that have proved to be discerning and farsighted.

So it is more than a little strange that Scowcroft is once again almost alone among prominent Republicans in taking a pro-deal position. His caution and warnings from 2002 were thoroughly vindicated, but instead of causing Republicans to pay more attention to his advice his opposition to the war effectively made him persona non grata in his own party. If any Republican candidates have sought his counsel on foreign policy, they aren’t advertising it to anyone, and most of them wouldn’t want to linked to him for fear of being labeled too much of a realist. One reason not to trust most Republican candidates on foreign policy is that they consciously go out of their way to ignore the best advice that former officials from their party have to offer. In a competent and responsible party, Scowcroft’s argument for the deal would provide ample cover for many members of Congress and presidential candidates to support it. Unfortunately, we already know that his endorsement of the deal will instead be cited as a reason why Republican candidates should shut their ears to his words.

Weekend Reading; Daniel Larison: Scowcroft, the GOP, and the Nuclear Deal
J. Bradford DeLong
Sat, 05 Sep 2015 12:20:57 GMT