mark_thoma   26

How the Internet Is Changing What Economists Do | The Fiscal Times
The development of digital technology and blogs puts economists in real-time contact with the public, press, and policymakers, and when there are problems in the economy people come looking for answers. (via Mark Thoma)
blogs  ökonomie  analyse  realtime  mark_thoma 
october 2013 by cpoetter
The social safety net encourages...?
Mark Thoma responds to the meme that the social safety net encourages bad behavior overall: The idea that the unemployment problem is due to lack of effort on behalf of the unemployed rather than a lack of demand is convenient for the moralists, but inconsistent with the facts. The problem is lack of demand, not the means through which we smooth the negative consequences of recessions.
But what really irks me is the implicit moralizing, the idea that people deserve to be thrown into poverty. Someone who gets up every day and goes to a job day after day, often a job they don't like very much, to support their families can suddenly become unemployed in a recession through no fault of their own. They did nothing wrong -- it's not their fault the economy went into a recession and they certainly couldn't be expected to foresee a recession that experts such as Casey Mulligan missed entirely. They had no reason to believe they had chosen the wrong place to go to work, but unemployment hit them anyway. And since one of the biggest causes of foreclosure is an event like unemployment, it's entirely possible that this household would lose its home, be forced to declare bankruptcy, etc., and end up in severe poverty if there were no social services to rely upon.
What moral lesson is being taught here? <!-- more --&gt Why does this household deserve to be punished for their bad decisions? It did nothing wrong. I understand that people should suffer the consequences of their own bad choices, but that's not what happens in recessions. People who have done nothing to deserve it are nevertheless hit by severe negative shocks. That's what social insurance is for, to smooth the path for such unfortunate households, to avoid sending people into poverty who have done nothing to deserve it (see "The Need for Social Insurance"). It is not an attempt to reward bad behavior and most programs do their best to avoid giving benefits to people who have made bad choices (for example, the system is far from perfect but in most states unemployment insurance can only be obtained if you lose your job through no fault of your, e.g. if you quit or get yourself fired it is not available). The extent to which we should distinguish between deserving and undeserving households for social insurance programs is debatable and depends upon the type of program, but the idea that all households are undeserving is, in my view, simply wrong. I would apply the social safety net widely myself -- I think the benefit of the doubt should go to compassion, not harshness and moralizing -- but in any case I'd dispute the idea that "safety-net generosity" is too high. If anything, we are not generous enough.
Update: Karl Smith comments on this topic.
social_safety_net  Mark_Thoma  unemployment  unemployment_benefits  medic  from google
november 2011 by takshimada
Why Taxpayers Are So Angry and So Wrong About Spending
As most everyone is aware at this point, inequality has been growing steadily since the 1970s. There have been substantial gains at the top of the income distribution charts, but incomes for those in the middle and bottom have been flat. As households have come under increasing stress because of their stagnant incomes, many people have started to wonder why they should share with others when nobody is sharing with them. Let those who received the gains – those at the top who don’t have to worry about making it to the next paycheck – bear the burden.<br />
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What to Do<br />
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In order to overcome the increasing resistance to social spending, we must do a better job of educating people about how their tax dollars are used and who those tax dollars actually support. But that alone won’t be enough. We must also find a way to solve the growing inequality problem, or support for important social programs will continue to fall.
income_inequality  inequality  mark_thoma  from delicious
july 2011 by bmaclean

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