It’s hard not to cynical about this given the way the CBO scores legislation.  Via Alex Tabarrok:

Last week, I wrote about the CLASS act. As you may recall, this long-term health insurance program was scored as a big 10-year deficit reducer because it combined early taxes with late expenditures. It was obvious that the late expenditures would quick overwhelm the early taxes but the CLASS act added some $80 billion to projected health-care savings which helped to pass the bill. Now the bill is passed, however, reality is setting in and the program has been scrapped. House Republicans are upset:

“Make no mistake,” Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said in announcing the hearing, “the CLASS program was tucked into the health care law to provide $86 billion in false savings, and this budget gimmick is a prime example of why Americans are losing faith in Washington. We plan to hold this hearing to get answers about why this sham was carried on for as long as it was, and what cancellation of the program means for the law’s growing price tag.”



Slovakia rejected the EFSF.  Via Tyler Cowen:

Today, Slovakia has the lowest average salaries in the euro zone. How am I supposed to explain to people that they are going to have to pay a higher value-added tax (VAT) so that Greeks can get pensions three times as high as the ones in Slovakia?

Here is the story.

Searching for Confidence

From a blog on

A few weeks ago The Economist invited readers who enjoy our Big Mac index to invent other quirky economic indicators. We were particularly interested in ideas that might help to show where the economy is heading.

A contributor offered a quirky index that ties consumer confidence to Google searches for “gold price”.  More detail:

This does not follow the gold price itself. For example, during 2008 when the world’s financial system was melting down, the gold price fell yet the number of searches soared.

And the chart, with the consumer confidence data lagging in availability behind the searches for gold price.  I have a feeling I know what it will look like when it comes in.

[Insert Joke Here]

Former reality TV star Rupert Boneham is considering running for governor of Indiana:

His responses to reporters’ questions was long on talk of sharing Libertarians’ values of self-sufficiency and self-reliance, as well as repeated references to living for decades as a regular Hoosier.

But Boneham declined to offer positions on major political issues including school funding, abortion, immigration and drug laws. He said more than once that if elected, he would save taxpayers millions by reducing spending sharply.


I just learned that WashU has a satirical newspaper, WUnderground, modeled after The Onion.  It’s decent.  Some recent headlines:

  • Delicious, Nutritious Now Mutually Exclusive
  • Career Center Helps Student Almost Get a Job
  • Pulp Fiction Poster Showcases Freshman’s Unique Personality
  • Senior Beats System, Graduates Without Learning Anything
  • In Tragic Coincidence, WashU Fails to Enroll Any Hot Chicks for Class of 2015.
  • Residential College Olympics Rocked by Doping Scandal
  • New Study Finds Texting While Driving Only Dangerous If You Suck At It
  • Truth Conforms to Wikipedia
  • Girl Searches for “Cute, Funny, Creative, Sexy, Slutty, Unique” Halloween Costume, Comes Up Short
  • Male Students Plan First Showing of Penis Monologues
  • Ghetto-Raised Frat Guy Takes Receiving of Pledge Father Way Too Emotionally
  • Suitemate’s Coming-Out Announcement Not as Dramatic as He had Hoped
  • Professor Flouts Convention, Wears Bow-tie
  • Heroin Use Linked to Pleasure
  • Student Doesn’t Do Reading: Outfoxes Professor to Delight of Fellow Classmate

And my personal favorite:

  • Per Capital St. Louis Population Remains Steady at One

“Good” Immigrants

From Tyler Cowen:

The article is about how the new wave of immigrants from Mexico, fleeing the drug war, are often very wealthy and highly educated.  Keep in mind that the overall yearly flow of Mexicans to the United States is now about a fifth of what it was in 2006.  Nonetheless, it is being called the “Mexodus.”

The linked article includes this:

Unlike the much larger population of illegal immigrants, they are being warmly welcomed.

Sorry poor immigrants.  Come back when you’re rich.

Controversial Government Services

Matt Yglesias channels a previous Mere Aggregation post in response to a silly Twitter debate he had with Jim Harper of the Cato Insitute:

In some people’s heads, the existence of public functions is presumptively illegitimate. When people point out that many of these functions are, in fact, useful, they sometimes push back by noting that were the federal government forbidden from monitoring hurricanes, it’s not as if the hurricanes would go unmonitored. This is true…  instead of having a single National Weather Service tracking the weather, maybe we’d have three or four private firms all reproducing each others’ data and selling it to clients. We’d have systematically higher costs and maybe (?) a slightly higher quality product.

Alternatively, we could do the sane thing and be glad we have a well-functioning federal agency that performs this function. It’s possible that had we never created federal undertakings in this sphere all would be well. But we did, and — like many other federal functions — it seems to work quite well and be useful to people, to municipalities, to states, etc. So why complain?

I agree with the “why complain?” sentiment.  I see three distinct arguments here:

  1. We need the government to provide hurricane monitoring because the market cannot provide that function.
  2. The market could provide hurricane monitoring, but the federal government does a better job than the market would (cheaper, more accurate, or however you want to measure its performance)
  3. The federal government may or may not be better at providing this service than the market, but it seems to be doing a good job, so why complain?

I don’t think many people believe #1.  I think many people believe #2.  I don’t because I don’t know how well the market would do.  I think a lot of people believe #3.  I do.

If it were left me to decide whether the National Weather Service should exist or not, there is a good chance I would weakly prefer it not to exist.  But it would not be a priority.  And its existence does not outrage me.