2:00PM Water Cooler Columbus Day 2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, Water Cooler will be light today, since it is, after all, a holiday, and since it’s a lovely day I can go outside and do some stuff.

Columbus Day

This seems to be the, er, money quote on Columbus Day. Howard Zinn:

“They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned…. They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane…. They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

The Indians, Columbus reported, “are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it. When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone….” He concluded his report by asking for a little help from their Majesties, and in return he would bring them from his next voyage “as much gold as they need … and as many slaves as they ask.” He was full of religious talk: “Thus the eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities.”


The first Democratic debates are tomorrow. Here’s the whole schedule:

Gee, that’s odd. It’s almost like the DNC wants to bury them, isn’t it? And then there’s this:

“D.N.C. Officer Says She Was Disinvited From Debate After Calling for More of Them” [New York Times]. You’ve got to read all the way to end for the real kicker:

[In 2016] the candidates could be excluded from the sanctioned debates if they take part in ones that are not approved by the national committee.

So, the odious Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s DNC elbows the League of Woman Voters, who used to run debates, aside, and muscles their way to a monopoly. They then use their monopoly to reinforce their preferred candidate. Unsurprising for those who remember when, in 2008, the DNC took delegates away from one candidate, and gave them to their preferred candidate. All of which is fine, if the Democrats didn’t pretend to be something other than cigar-brandishing pols in a smoke-filled room.

The Hill

We have two (entirely artificial) potential fiscal crises coming up: Another debt ceiling, and another budget/government shutdown. Given that the Republicans control the House, have fallen to fighting among themselves, and might end up not raising the debt ceiling, and might even enjoy shutting down the government (which they were elected to do, after all), it’s hardly surprising that… Can you guess what? That’s right:

Interestingly, retweeted by Joe Weisenthal, and with Yglesias included in the thread. In other words, #mintthecoin is inside the Overton Window, an amazing achievement. More Beltway chatter:

Somebody better get to Vox tout sweet and help out with the explainer…

Stats Watch

As usual with the Daily Mail, the headline tells the story — “Revealed: The ghost fleet of the recession anchored just east of Singapore” — but then this picture does too:


This image, from September 8, 2009, is a proxy for the depression conditions of that time. And, unlike statistics, the ships (assuming provenance) are part of the real economy (much like the periodic reports of business and social conditions we ask for are real).

Statistics are all very well; but the problem with them is not that they are noisy (though some of them are) but that they are gamed. That doesn’t mean that they can’t move markets; they do, which is why its important to watch them. (After all, that weather reports are noisy, and gamed, doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t pay attention to them.) But when economics statistics are gamed, they move away from the real economy of work, food, house and home, health, relationships, and all the other ways we lead our lives — if our goal in life is something other than making a killing in the markets. So they aren’t especially useful to us, not being designed for that purpose. (The classic example is the unemployment statistics, which are taken as a proxy for the health of the labor force, but which leave out, erase, suppress those thrown out of the labor force.)

A second example of a proxy: An acquaintance thought something was up a year ago in China, when California almonds stopped being shipped from ports on the West Coast. To them, that meant that the Chinese middle class had cut back on buying luxuries; we see the same sort of proxy when we hear that Chinese squillionaires aren’t buying as many fancy guilty conscience-inspired bolt-holes from impending chaos condos as they used to.

Readers, do you have your favorite proxies for the state of the real economy?

This Maine bear asks, because on the one hand we have people like LaGarde and Carney and Summers with their hair on fire because the financial system — hold onto your hats, here, folks — hasn’t been fixed, so what happens when this already long-in-the-tooth recovery ends in tears, and on the other, the stats are telling the story of a US economy that’s bumping along and will continue to bump along. Every so often a red light will flash, and people get excited, and then it will go out. Then a green light will flash, and people get excited, and then the green light won’t pan out either. But the feeling of a crappy recovery that stays crappy, and the hair-on-fire doominess of some elite factions don’t seem commensurate to me. True, the elites could be talking their book, and pleading with J-Yel for more free money, because free money. So how do we get a check on the stats, and a check on the elites? Proxies from the real economy, say I. But which?

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant (Eric):


This is an extremely large pumpkin! Via the Stillwater Harvest Fest. The Fest closed yesterday, so you missed the Pie Eating Contest. But the Democratic debates are tomorrow!

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. Winter is coming, I need to buy fuel, and I need to keep my server up, too.


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Anon

    Either my eyes are deceiving me, or everything after the Platinum Coin story is bold, and I mean everything.

    1. Daryl

      And fixed! I was just going to make a comment about it, but it appears Lambert’s quicker on the draw than a DOJ settlement with a giant bank.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Well, if I didn’t have the bad habit of writing and coding until the last possible second, these things wouldn’t happen. On the other hand, perhaps people enjoy the high wire act, and the occasional wobble….

        1. Nigelk

          Joseph Gordon-Levitt doing a bad accent has nothing on you, Lambert. Appreciation for everyone at NC for their dedication, even on a banking holiday!

          1. PQS

            Oh, do yourself a huge favor and watch the original “Man on Wire” which was utterly charming and totally riveting. I can’t believe Hollyweird thought they needed to “improve” on it….but then, they have to get paid somehow, I suppose.

            1. timotheus

              Exactly. The original doc was so perfect I could not understand why anyone would bother to remake it as fiction. The facts cannot possibly be improved upon.

  2. NOTaREALmerican

    My economic proxy is restaurants. It’s a common bling that the nobility and peasants enjoy (but, of course, in different places).

    In my bucolic limousine-liberal college town, filled to the brim with the riches of student-loan debt, the restaurants – of the nobility and the peasantry – are PACKED.

    With new ones opening every month.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’m in a university town, too. We’re not doing so badly. (Then again, this is Maine, and things turn for the better here very slowly, so I expect things to turn for the worse quite soon; we lag.)

      There is probably some more generalizable proxy for that: Like linen service suppliers, for example.

      1. ambrit

        We’re in a ‘University Town’ and the restaurant scene is similar. Also being a retail business school venue, start up eateries are common, as training grounds. Of interest is the sight of formerly packed low and mid range restaurants having thin crowds suddenly. It looks like discretionary income is drying up for the middle and lower income groups.
        What I haven’t seen before are some pawn shops closing, and large increases in the customer traffic in the local thrift shops. (We’ve had our Goodwill Credit Card since St. Ronnies day.) I get the thrift shop information by questioning the cashiers in all and the managers of two of the larger thrift outlets. Being a long time regular, one gets to know people in the back rooms.
        The number of vacant storefronts in the newer strip malls is increasing. Again, from our acquaintance who owns the smaller Health food Vitamin store, the word is that the absentee landlords are not lowering rents. Most worrying to her in particular is that lead times for orders are lengthening. The central distributors in the Vitamin field seem to be cutting back and making their customers wait a little longer to receive orders.
        One good way to tell that a chain is having trouble is when the cashiers start the “Would you like a credit card with those fries,” routine. From my experience, this is an indication that middle management is not hitting their ‘metrics.’ Bonus season is approaching. That smell you perceive is fear.

        1. JTMcPhee

          The three principal markers of the Idiot Economy: Resorts, Restaurants and Renovations…

          And why does the word “recovery” get used so poignantly and wistfully and glibly, as if it has any actual meaning? I mean, other than the paradigmatically arbitary-metric-defined BS that “the economists” and Banksters’ and revolving-door Commerce and Fed types poop out…

    2. lyman alpha blob

      My proxy has been a beer in a restaurant or more specifically the cost as a percentage of my hourly wage.

      Back in the early ’90s I could get a half liter of Heineken in Greece for about the equivalent of one US$. My Greek friends thought I was rich when I told them I made $20-$25 per hour working in a restaurant until I mentioned that the same beer in the US would cost 4-5 times as much (and so would my rent compared to theirs). Clearly the Greek economy was not booming compared to the US at the time. Then came the euro and suddenly my Greek vacation wasn’t nearly as cheap although I couldn’t see that the lot of my Greek friends had improved that dramatically.

      Now that I’m older and boring I can’t really say I know how much the average beer costs out on the town but I’m guessing it’s gone up significantly, I’ll wager at least a 50-100% increase. Meanwhile, never having been much for trying to climb the corporate ladder, I still make the same hourly rate in a much more professional job than I had 20 years ago (although I am lucky enough to work at a company with an honest to goodness decent healthcare plan and other benefits which I did not have doing restaurant work).

      Haven’t managed to save enough to go back to Greece in the last decade so no idea what a Heineken costs in your average taverna anymore.

      Anybody else more up to date on current beer prices as proxy for the real economy?

    3. Lee

      I’m no longer in the workforce and due to health issues I don’t get out much so I largely rely on family members for experiential economic indicators.

      SF East Bay (Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley etc.) Until recently my son worked for an electrical contractor who was booked to the eyeballs by folks rehabbing warehouses and big Victorians for mostly techie workers. Since then he went to work for a small, high end vintner operated by another branch of the family in what used to be gold country. We’re all hoping for the crick to rise this winter.

      House prices and rents in the east bay are increasing. In my zip code home prices jumped 16% in the last year. Zillow is forecasting 4% next year.

      My daughter just sold her condo for cash to a party from China. Her realtor says such no-lender-involved transactions currently represent a large part of her business.

    4. mrmetrowest

      My proxy is a place in the next town that buys junked cars. Summer of 2014 you could get $200. Then the price dropped to $150, then $100. A couple of weeks ago I was very surprised to see the price at $50. I’m sure that’s all due to Chinese demand.

    5. Bunk McNulty

      I play bass, so I visit bass-player sites. There are a lot of guys (it’s mostly guys) who like to own electric basses. There is a name for this, “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” aka GAS. Right now, a lot of GAS types (including one who works in the energy industry!) are “out of money.”

      Has Anyone Else Run Out Of Gas?

  3. frosty zoom

    isn’t calling columbus day “columbus day” kinda like calling the washington football team the “redskins”?

    perhaps y’all should change this day to “canadian thanksgiving” and thus have two!

  4. ex-PFC Chuck

    I’m boycotting all Dem debates unless/until Larry Lessig is invited. Will still watch Republican debates, however. They’re too much fun even if they do increase my popcorn intake above safe levels.

    1. Proof

      I really like Larry Lessig. I’ve read his books, including, “Republic Lost.” I used to follow his blog.

      He simply isn’t, however, a viable candidate in any way shape or form. I would expect him to lose to every Republican candidate, including Fiorina, who I hate with a passion from my time at HP.

      He is a wealthy successful academic, but I can’t even really understand how he would think about running, as anyone who’s followed him for a while should know that he would get absolutely destroyed in a serious campaign.

      1. jrs

        The fact that Fiona is ever for a moment considered a viable candidate just proves how bad things are. I also don’t know if I care much who loses to a Republican candidate if all the Dems end up running is Hillary Clinton or similar.

        As I understand it Lessig is running single issue: money out of politics.

      2. Massinissa

        Personally, I don’t think ‘winning’ against the Republicans means diddly if we win using someone like Clinton. I think it might even be better if we have a Republican ruin the country, because at least that way people will be blaming the left less. I mean, Hillary Clinton will ruin the country about as well as any Republican.

        As Glen Ford says, democrats like Hillary are the More Effective Evil.

        1. Jason

          I think the same, but have a lot of friends who are willing to hold their noses and vote for Hillary because they’re terrified at the idea of a Republican president appointing Supreme Court justices. Their logic is that a post-Hillary Court will rule for the megacorps much as they do now, but it will at least be liberal on social issues.

          1. JTMcPhee

            …so the Hellary-enhanced Supremes will say it’s okay to f__K whoever and whatever you want to (because Freedom?) and the nose holders are so shallow that they think that’s a gain while the kleptocracy is f__king all of them in every possible orifice, 24/7?

            What’s the advice women are given? Don’t scream “Rape!”, scream ” FIRE!”…

      3. ex-PFC Chuck

        Have you read about the plan he’s put forward to change campaign financing and thus level the electoral playing field considerably? He’s committed to focusing on its passage and resign in favor of his vice president once it’s passed. Will it work? I don’t know. But he’s undoubtedly one of the most creative (in a good way) lawyers of his generation so if he thinks the plan is viable I give him benefit of doubt enough to support him in giving it a shot. I believe we’re well down the slippery slope to become a shell democracy, and Lessig is the only candidate who’s put something out there to address the root problem.

        The US of A is like a jumbo jet that heading toward the turf at 500 knots. The difference between it being piloted by legacy establishment Dems vs Goopers is whether the impact velocity will be 550 or 450, and it’s not at all clear which is which. The more effective evil and all that.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          It’s interesting that we now have two recent examples of explicitly redefining the roles of Constitutionally mandated officers: First is the Speaker of the House; and now we have Lessig reconceptualizing the Presidency.

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        . . Lessig qualified but declined to participate.

        That is emphatically not true. Lessig has been all over the net and on cable shows pressing his case to be included.

    2. Massinissa

      Is it because you like Lessig or don’t like Lessig?

      If you like him, I cant imagine many other NCers sharing that opinion. Isnt he a Rubinite?

      1. jrs

        I’m not sure what a Rubinite even means (does it mean he is iin Wall Streets pocket?) None of that has anything to do with why Lessig even says he is running which is single issue.


        I like Lessig, I like his campaign, I like it more than Sanders, who makes a lot of promises but may be a great disappointment (and money in politics will probably play no small part in it if he is!). Now this doesn’t mean I think Lessig has a chance of winning, but then even Sanders is a long shot.

        1. neo-realist

          At least Sanders will have some economic policies and proposals to regulate the financial sector to even if Congress is too corrupt to give his legislation the time of day. As noble as Lessig’s position is on campaign finance, which would get clobbered just like Sanders policies, does he have other notes to play other than the equal voter representation issue? Civil Rights? Unemployment?

    3. Carolinian

      I refuse to watch unless HRC is disinvited. One can only take so much of that cold eyed stare she was giving Judy Woodruff the other night. As Yves says, she has all the warmth of a corporate lawyer. It’s quite likely that she doesn’t even want to run for President. Pat Lang was spreading the rumor that Bill talked her into it.

      This NY Post story is probably fanciful and yet may have a grain of truth to it.


      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        It sounds like Hillary stories from the past, but Ed Klein is on the byline.

        Admittedly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Clinton camp wants to tamp own expectations for Hillary supporters. New York was a safe seat, and Obama was more celebrity than anything else. Hillary in the eyes of the average voter is more myth than reality. Hillary supporters are likely expecting her to wow America, and one of Hillary’s problems to date is how unimpressive she has been in front of friendly crowds.

        The 2006 me would be excited about Hillary putting things right and allowing the party to focus on building, but Hillary has been too much of a dud to make that argument.

  5. cwaltz

    I really want to smack some people at the Fed if their next intention is to go to negative interest rates.
    Yes, the labor market is concerning. However, guess who else should be concerning you? – the retirees and disabled people who already live on the edge. It’s not bad enough that they are going to get zero in COLA because gas prices are low(even though health care is set to DOUBLE for some.) No instead your intent is to make the $100 they have in the bank worth $98 too.


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s not just free money for the 1%, now they’re going to pay the 1% to borrow? That seems odd.

      Adding, I followed the link and:

      Although negative rates have a “Dr. Strangelove” feel, pushing rates into negative territory works in many ways just like a regular decline in interest rates that we’re all used to, said Miles Kimball, an economics professor at the University of Michigan and an advocate of negative rates.

      But to get a big impact of negative rates, a country would have to cut rates on paper currency, he pointed out, and this would take some getting used to.

      For instance, $100 in the bank would be worth only $98 after a certain period.

      I know this is an unsophisticated response, but (a) that sounds like a recipe for me to take out what money I have ASAP and bury it in a coffee can in the back yard, and (b) gosh, “my money” seems not to be “my money”…

      And then there’s this:

      With negative rates, “aggregate demand is no longer scarce,” Kimball said.

      Does this remind anybody else of “the beatings will continue until morale improves”? Idea: Jobs that pay and aren’t crapified; products that aren’t optimized for fee-sucking and crapified (especially the basics, like food, clothing, and shelter). That would help with aggregate demand in a, dare I say it, more humane and less sociopathic way, than forcing people to spend whatever they have in the bank because it will evaporate if they don’t.

      Anybody with a different, and more sophisticated, response?

      1. ProNewerDeal

        cwaltz & Lambert, agreed with yall, on negative interest rates imho seems to be a bad idea.

        Do we have empirical evidence of any nations/time era combinations that have tried this? IIRC I read an NC headline a Eurozone nation(s) had negative shorter-term (3 month?) Treasury yield.

        In such a situation, I understand savings/checking account customers actually get their money slowly stolen in nominal terms. But conversely, how does the situation work with loans? Instead of an interest payment every month or 6 months, does the bank actually pay interest to the borrower? Does the bank offer such loans only to the economically powerful or socially connected? It seems that if such loans were almost always offered like 90%+ of the applicants, ala the ~2006 US housing bubble No Documentation Liar Loans, many citizens would be applying for loans as much as possible, not necessarily because they need the money for a express purpose, but because “the banks are handing out free money, might as well take it”.

        Does such a situation lead to stacking cash, and other assumed value-stores like 1 oz gold or silver coins at home? Is there a crime increase, specifically a home invasion increase, given said stacking of home valuables? Unlike most/all other nations, we already have a massive gun death problem, which would surely be worsened by home invasion, & gun enthusiast being ultra-fearful of home invasions & mistakenly shooting their wife, etc.

        I feel that the Fed is not earnest in their stated goal of improving The American Economy, & either evil or stupid. I don’t understand why they don’t propose low interest loans, say at the US 10-yr Treasury rate + 0-1%, to governmental units to initiate maintenance projects on Civil Engineering-type/bridges/etc infrastructure (US Civil Eng society claiming a $2T backlog iirc), &/or for renewable energy infrastructure like solar power panel installation. Perhaps this type of policy is what UK’s Corbyn is proposing with “The People’s QE”? It seems obvious to me that such a policy would actually help The Real Economy, much more than the prior QE for Financial Speculators, or this Negative Nominal Interest Rates idea.

        1. cwaltz

          My feeling is the putzes in charge of this country aren’t all on the same page. This feels like one big giant game where most of us are caught in the middle and being blamed for everything. Health care a problem? It must be because consumers don’t have any “skin” in the game. Housing market out of control? It must be because consumers are taking out loans they can’t afford.

          It’s like crazyland where no one seems to get that business exists to provide goods and services to consumers. Profit is a side effect. Instead the model our leaders seem to be going on is consumers exist to service industries. It’s @ssbackwards.

      2. cwaltz

        For a nation that chastises its people for not saving this move makes absolutely no sense. You’re saying you are going to essentially penalize people for doing what you’ve told them to do (save for retirement.)

        Just once I’d like the people running our country to work in a coordinated manner that makes sense for the majority of us instead of saying one thing and a week later offering up “my bad, we were wrong.” We’re paying them six figures for cripes sakes and from where I’m sitting they’ve offered up little to no value to the majority.

        1. jrs

          I’d rather have a vast increase in the retirement safety net. Then ok consider negative interest rates if you like. What’s so great about people making money from money anyway? In fact it is all that is wrong with the world (capitalism). But with things as they are now, with insufficient safety nets, it’s survival for a lot of 99s as well so no it’s not good now.

          1. cwaltz

            I’d like them to improve the social safety nets too. Only there is absolutely no evidence they intend to do that. People are essentially being told that when it comes to our well being that none of us are “too big to fail” and we’ll be on our own.

            I’m not involved in the stock market because a) I’m not a fan of gambling and I don’t have tons of time to research companies b) I don’t like the idea that my money could be utilized as an excuse to beat down workers and take things away from them to short term improve a bottom line. Saving passively was the only way I intended to save, and now I’m being told that the only way I’ll be allowed to do that in a government insured facility and now I’m being told that if I want to do that I’ll have to pay for the privilege.

      3. lyman alpha blob

        Sounds like Vegas where you see the signs to hook the rubes: “Our slots pay out 98%!”

        Seriously, what would be the difference except the speed at which you see your bankroll eroded down to nothing?

      4. Just Ice

        “With negative rates, “aggregate demand is no longer scarce,” Kimball said. ”

        Oh, I see. People are going to be forced to spend what little money they may have. “Use it or lose it.”

        And thus the last few drops are to be pressed out of the host to feed the parasites, the banks.

        1. Higgs Boson

          Negative interest rates will cause people to pull all of their money out of banks and stuff it under the mattress. That seems very counter-productive until you consider the fix for that will be to get rid of cash.

          1. John Merryman

            Oh well. I have about 8 grand in the bank and my 15 year old pickup is turning to rust. Suppose I wait for the cash for clunkers campaign this time around, buy a fairly new work truck and get negative interest on what I borrow. They have me hooked.

          2. Just Ice

            “until you consider the fix for that will be to get rid of cash.”

            On the bright side, people will more clearly see the need for a Postal Savings Service or equivalent* (and canceling government deposit insurance for the banks) for the risk-free storage of and transactions with fiat for free or at most at cost.

            *Such as allowing all dollar uses to have an account at the Fed.

  6. Cat Burglar

    My short-term economic downturn indicator here in the Pacific coastal states: gas station window washing squeegees. When the economy worsens, the squeegees start getting more beaten up or disappear. Might not be as reliable an indicator in states with temperatures routinely below freezing for large parts of the winter.

      1. Cat Burglar

        During the spring, summer, and early autumn the squeegees were in really bad shape. Lately, there been some kind of change going on — lots of brand new replacements at some spots, and in other places there aren’t any. It could be the end of the tourist driving season, or regional differences in the economy — maybe I need to do a double seasonal adjustment to the model!

  7. 3.17e-9

    All of which is fine, if the Democrats didn’t pretend to be something other than cigar-brandishing pols in a smoke-filled room

    And man, are they coming down on Tulsi Gabbard for telling the truth! Good for her for having the spine to speak out.

    FWIW, there was a short discussion about this on the Sept. 1 2:00PM Water Cooler in response to a question about why the League of Women Voters didn’t just hold more debates and invite Clinton and Biden to join them. I pointed out back then that by doing so, they would be violating the DNC exclusionary rule.

      1. 3.17e-9

        I think it would be great if they did! As I wrote before, if they violated the rule and participated in an outside debate, Hillary would be left on stage debating herself. But they all would have to stand together for it to work.

        I also would love to see the League of Women Voters break ranks and hold their own debates.

    1. Massinissa

      Maybe we could trick Jeb into supporting it that way. Someone infiltrate his campaign and tell him that the platinum coin will be the new $5 coin or something.

  8. Jess

    Dear Lambert: Given your extensive vocabulary and command of the language, I beseech you to find a stronger, more damning description of Wasserman-Schultz than merely “odious”. Something which denotes more revulsion and condemnation. You can do it! I’m sure you can. (Readers, want to help out?)

    1. Lee

      Google provides:

      adjective: odious

      extremely unpleasant; repulsive.
      synonyms: revolting, repulsive, repellent, repugnant, disgusting, offensive, objectionable, vile, foul, abhorrent, loathsome, nauseating, sickening, hateful, detestable, execrable, abominable, monstrous, appalling, reprehensible, deplorable, insufferable, intolerable, despicable, contemptible, unspeakable, atrocious, awful, terrible, dreadful, frightful, obnoxious, unsavory, unpalatable, unpleasant, disagreeable, nasty, noisome, distasteful….”

      My top three: execrable, detestable, and reprehensible in that order.

      1. Nigelk

        The first thing that comes to mind is “Enemy of small-d democracy” but that is more than one word…

        1. Jessica

          It is hard for us to find the correct word for Ms. Wasserman because as a society, we do not yet intensely reject the deliberate shifting of power and human potential from the vast majority of ordinary people into the hands of our oligarchs* and other elites with all that much passion. Nor do a large enough number of people intensely reject people acting as spokespeople for a large group, then selling them out for personal gain. Similarly, the general practice of selling the truth in the form of endorsements is not intensely rejected either. That is the general form from which worms like Wasserman arise. Many NC readers intensely reject at least the likes of Wasserman, but not a large enough portion of society and not intensely enough.
          There exist words, or at least long strings of dry latinate ones, that can express it, but we do not have the word that also conveys the correct emotional and social meanings. “Our enemy” is close but does not specify in what way she is our enemy.
          When I say “intensely reject”, I mean that the likes of Wasserman should be viewed the way we view child molesters or terrorists or bankers. After all, thanks to the likes of her, how many children will be left vulnerable to abuse and how many people will be murdered by terror from the sky?

          1. Jessica

            *Oligarch This word has the correct degree of opprobrium because the image-servants of the 0.1% have used it to refer to rival elites, for example the Russian ones, not to our own.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      She’s just a less pleasant Hillary, a social climber with less of a sense of the state of the electorate or less of a free celebrity pass. Take her stance on drugs in recent years. She worked aggressively against Marijuana legalization and expected to be anointed as the Team Blue nominee for Senate. Now she’s a loser who won’t win statewide and probably can’t get anywhere in the House after her spin at the DNC. Being a loyal foots older for Hillary is her safest play at this point for advancement.

      There is no Wasserman-Schultz legislation or vision out there, so she needs patronage at this point to not be forgotten.

    3. skippy

      The Washington Consensus…..sssssssssssss…. hay lets all loot equitably….

      Skippy… personally I prefer the old vernacular of **** Opportunistic Bootlicker **** whom on the other hand has has nothing but disgust for those beneath or in her way…

    4. Oregoncharles

      “odious” isn’t real familiar, but as the dictionary definition above indicates, it’s about as strong as they get, without getting into questionable territory.

  9. Gaylord

    Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences — http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S44/46/47E11/index.xml

    “The consumption of goods and services is a fundamental part of people’s welfare. The Laureate, Angus Deaton, has deepened our understanding of different aspects of consumption,” the Nobel committee said. “His research concerns issues of immense importance for human welfare, not least in poor countries. Deaton’s research has greatly influenced both practical policymaking and the scientific community. By emphasizing the links between individual consumption decisions and outcomes for the whole economy, his work has helped transform modern microeconomics, macroeconomics and development economics.”

    “Angus Deaton is a brilliant economist whose pioneering research attacks big questions with rigor, imagination and daring,” said Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “He has deepened our understanding of poverty, inequality and human well-being in ways that will inform both academic and policy debates for decades to come. Angus has been a leader not only in his field but on this campus, where he has taught for more than 30 years. We are fortunate to have him at Princeton, and we are thrilled that he has won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences.”

    Influenced outcomes? The gentleman has taught at this Ivy-league university for over 30 years, during which we have witnessed an unprecedented rise in inequality, as well as unprecedented environmental degradation, in no small part due to the pursuit of profits and the promotion of consumption by graduates from that university (and others). Shades of Obama Peace Prize (well, maybe that is unfair)? I think Economic Science is an oxymoron to begin with.

    1. djfjd

      Nobel prize is economics is not a real Nobel prize. It is the svirges econmics prize in memory of Alfred Nobel, or something like that. I don’t remember the full story but some banks or wealthy bankers donated the money to establish the prize. Of course afterwards the Nobel prize trust decided they would never again allow another group to donate to establish a “Nobel prize” in a new area. How the Nobel in economics was established is in my opinion very fitting of the quality of the awardees and the area

  10. anon

    From the Inland Empire of So. Cal., my proxy for insight into the real economy is freeway truck traffic. Practically everything everyone in America consumes is made in China and shipped through Long Beach/LA, and almost all of that is loaded on trucks that go to here for warehousing, and through here to points east for distribution at Walmarts. This was a great leading indicator for the 08-09 crash; traffic eased up everywhere starting around a year before the crash and totally cratered a couple of months afterwards. Right now, freeway traffic has been persistently bad since 2012 at least. It doesn’t look like our collective appetite for Chinese junk has waned.

    What is interesting though is that there is a ton of commercial real estate construction (mostly empty warehouses), a lot of which appears to be coming available at the same time, despite no rise in rents and no apparent rise in demand. I am very curious why so much money has been thrown at commercial real estate, and who is going to gain when it crashes again.

    1. JoeRenter

      My proxy from Seattle is a booming city where there a lot of high tech jobs that has raised that rent by x amount and forced of people out of the city further south. The place is no longer the city it was. This has happened just in the last 4 or so years. I am moving north closer to Canada. Time to bail. This place sucks.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Oh, I thought of another proxy, though I don’t know if it works any more: Airport runways.

      When the economy is good, airplanes are fully loaded and there are more flights. So more planes travel farther down the runway before taking off, and more planes touch down more heavily farther up the runway.

      So you can look to where the runways darken from the rubber of their tires. Farther up the runway on takeoff, economy is good. Farther down the runway on landing (lighter and fewer planes) bad economy.

      This might not work any more, because all the planes are packed to the gunwales. The real economy changes too.

      A roundabout way of asking whether the tire marks at toll booths on the Interstate would be a proxy for your proxy.

    3. barrisj

      Quite agree on lorry traffic as a marker…we travel continuously between NW WA to NorCal on I-5, and during the period 2008-2010, heavy lorry traffic dropped substantially…really a pleasure to motor along back then…but, recently…good God, mile after mile of goods transports…if anything, it’s rising to peak-traffic. Also, during 2008-2010, we always saw mile after mile of parked railway flatbed cars on sidings in SW WA…these used to carry Chinese-originated containers up the coast and onto BC…today, all gone and presumably in service.

  11. PQS

    Report from the commercial construction industry (a headhunter told me this): the hottest markets for construction professionals are: Bay Area, Seattle, Denver, Dallas/Ft. Worth. Can’t get bodies to do the work, everyone poaching, salaries sky high. Good news until it isn’t.

    Cranes everywhere in the Seattle/Eastside area. Even very hard places like Aberdeen are seeing new hotels going in.

  12. Ron

    Clinton is a typical Demo running for President and not politically different then most going back to Truman but the Republican side has identity problems with there brand which isn’t hard to miss.
    Clinton is a political person and likes the venue and knows how to conduct herself but the Republican side cannot muster a seasoned political personality like her that controls a large share of the Republican voters. Frankly when you combine Clinton and Bernie the Democratic Party looks middle left of center which is a positive direction.

  13. skippy

    Ohhh the waybackmachine does delight – !!!!!!

    “Your calendar says it’s 2015, but it’s always 1984 in mind of the New Dems. These are the economically conservative Democrats that include centrists like the old Democratic Leadership Council, Third Way and financial sector-centric elected Democrats (plus Robert Rubin, the Rubin-launched Hamilton Project and associated advisers on the policy side). As always, they are again invoking 1984 to conjure images of a grave danger to Democrats’ ability to win elections in the form of ascendant progressive populism.

    The New Dems’ scare story goes something like this: In 1984 Walter Mondale lost 49 states because he ran as a Super Liberal. Democrats would have kept losing if the New Dems had not formed to take control of and steer the party. In 1992 Bill Clinton ran as Centrist Man and Democrats started winning elections again. Now, economic progressives who prioritize other things before Wall Street’s approval are causing trouble. If these progressives Democrats represent the party it will again be banished to the political wilderness and forced to relearn the lesson of the ’80s and ’90s.”


    Skippy… got to pay due when it starts off with this – “plus Robert Rubin, the Rubin-launched Hamilton Project and associated advisers on the policy side” – what productivity and wages have diverged… you don’t say… anywho Bill…

  14. griffen

    12 packs of adult beverage choices are approximately $1.00 less in the N.C. region I have relocated to. That’s in comparison to N. Texas.

    For argument’s sake, this is bud light or natural light territory. It naturally follows, that the per gallon cost of gasoline was most reasonable compared to gas pushing $4 per gallon.

    1. Chris Williams

      The man is prolly gettin some zs, so I’ll bite before him, Skip.

      That story makes me want to go there and say Amen

  15. Rhondda

    I think a good proxy might be the frequency and quality of re-usable items put out for trash. In my KC midtown neighborhood (I have lived here — 3 different places all within a few blocks — for about 35 years) when the economy is good, the “pickings” are good. Esp furniture. A couple 50’s dining chairs that just need some cleaning and re-upholstery, perhaps. A totally good 40’s sideboard that only needs some shoring up and a little tung oil love. Lamps, headboards, kewl picture frames. I have snagged all kinds of great things. Once I scored a quartersawn walnut set of drawers from a turn of the century dining room built-in. Lately…nuthin. It’s like no one is renovating or getting new furniture or appliances. The well’s just gone dry. Or maybe it’s all just moved to Craig’s List. What I do see is older guys who walk the hood on a Sunday night and pick the aluminum out of the recycling bins. Scrappers everywhere. The copper robberies of pipes in abandoned houses and jacking of a/c units are down but that’s probably due to the cratering of commodity prices.

  16. MattKC

    Economy proxy: firewood for sale. As the economy slumps, the number of houses that put piles of wood out rises independent of the season. Also, the quality of wood becomes abysmal. I think that people are cutting limbs off viable trees to sell, and not in a sustainable way. The other day someone had a pile of hedge apples with a sign for $5/dozen. These are abundant in this region and have very limited use. This would be like someone selling leaves, which wouldn’t surprise me at this point.

  17. Goyo Marquez

    Re Proxys for direction of the economy:
    We’re in one of the poorer counties in California, The NYT once referred to El Centro as the capital of the recession. Unemployment is 23.7% down from 30% or so. But here’s what my wife and I have noticed the past couple months.:
    – New cars, a lot of them. Seems like people waited for a long time to buy a new car and finally had to give in.
    – Restaurants. Took wife out for her birthday last week to Italian restaurant at the mall. Parking lot of restaurant was full, had to park across the street. Have never experienced that before. On the other hand it was $2 beer night. I assume $2 is pretty cheap for a beer.
    – Snack bar sales. My wife runs the H.S. Band’s snack table at football games, Churros Locos $4 and tamarindo apples $5. Sales are way up from last year, +20%. People seem to have money to spend at least on small items.
    – My feeling compared to prior recessions. It feels like we’re at about 9% unemployment nationally and are starting to recover, but still recovering so slowly that there’s a feeling it could go either way.

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