Friday, April 23, 2010

Goldman Sachs

Some seem to think the American people are really making out nicely since Goldman Sachs paid back their loans with interest to the American taxpayer. If you think they're helping the economy and the average American read this.


HispanicPundit said...

My argument is more subtle, I dont necessarily think we "profited" more than the financial bailout turned out to be alot less costly than say, the union bailout or GSE bailout.

Btw, you really should read more than Matt Taibbi for financial information. His last post wasn't the most well rounded. And its no surprise that the Goldman Sachs debacle turns out to be a bit more nuanced than he lets on either.

Granted, it doesnt fit in a "rich people are evil" framework, but then few things really do.

Jon said...

Well, I've been watching Megan, though not super closely so I could have missed some. She seems to think the SEC has the goods, which tends to confirm Taibbi's point regarding them selling crap to investors and betting against it. Did you read Taibbi's article? I know it's long.

Jon said...

By the way, your argument style has become extremely predictable. Vague accusations that are impossible to rebut because they lack substance. Taibbi isn't "well rounded" and things are a bit more "nuanced". Well, that may be, but it's impossible to evaluate since you offer no evidence.

I could argue that way with you. You lack nuance and you aren't well rounded. Case closed. Is that persuasive for you?

HispanicPundit said...

Sometimes I am not arguing...just making an observation. But its a pattern because your posts have a very familiar pattern: linguists who comment on economics and foreign policy, journalists who comment on legal issues, and denials of democracy when in fact there is. ;-)

Anyway, for an equally one sided view of the Goldman Sachs issue, read Richard Epstein here. He's one of my favorite Libertarians.

HispanicPundit said...

Link didnt come through...I meant here.

Jon said...

It's not that you sometimes don't argue. You usually don't argue. You assert. And your assertions are unjustified and in dispute. I think assertions in this context are kind of pointless.

I think you're trying to be funny with your other comments, but in all seriousness Greenwald is a constitutional lawyer, so the fact that he's also a journalist is kind of beside the point. I really don't cite Chomsky much at my website here. 15 posts ago I briefly cited his analysis regarding the Oil for Food scandal. 34 posts ago I linked to a discussion from him regarding US media, which he is a world renowned expert in. These are my two most recent references to Chomsky at this website.

Really I wouldn't know which side to take in the legal dispute regarding GS. If you read Taibbi you'll see that the issue is not as much the illegality of their behavior but that their behavior does impose systemic costs on our economic system that they don't consider when they engage in transactions. Kind of like buying and selling a car. When you do that you don't consider externalities (what is the effect on a third party in terms of noise and environmental pollution, freeway congestion, etc). Those are real costs that must be paid, but they aren't paid by the buyer and seller. That's just the nature of the transaction. GS does many things, most of which are probably legal, that put the whole financial system at risk and they make a lot of money. Then when the risks are realized the costs are born by third parties.

So my view is not that rich people are evil. Who's going to turn down all that fat loot? That's human nature. But we need to realize the third party costs. That's reflected in today's economic realities. Enormous suffering, flat wages for those that still can find work. That's not just in the US. Yet the financial industries are booming as exploit a system that lets them pass costs to third parties.

HispanicPundit said...

That's reflected in today's economic realities. Enormous suffering, flat wages for those that still can find work. That's not just in the US. Yet the financial industries are booming as exploit a system that lets them pass costs to third parties.

I dont see the world through these eyes. For example, even if you assume flat real wages, actual wages have actually gone up - why? Because we are currently in a deflationary environment. Same with all your talk about "Enormous suffering". In fact, as Im reading my RSS reader, I come across this.

ON the contrary, I see alot of poverty alleviation.

Jon said...

Currently in a deflationary environment? I'm not talking about internals of a few months. Wages can vary in the short term. Long term trends wages are flat as adjusted for inflation over the last 30 years. We've been down this road before and you disputed the inflationary #'s that were the basis for the claim, but regardless of that and whichever inflationary #'s you want to use growth radically reduced in the 70's with the financialization of the economy. That is the dismantling of Bretton Woods, etc.

The growth rate for the rich remains what it was before. For the poor and middle class it has dropped. Greenspan was very excited about "the significant wage restraint" resulting in the wake of NAFTA. Great for the economy, if by economy you mean great for the stock market and great for wealthy people. Not so great for middle class and poor people. "Workers are worried about job security" so they're ready to take less money. Isn't that great? Greenspan thought so.

HispanicPundit said...

DO you remember where we had that discussion? I thought I addressed your arguments fairly well there, and dont want to rehash them again. Can you post a link?

Jon said...

HispanicPundit said...

Quickly glancing over what I wrote, I seem to have made primarily three arguments:

1. Wage stagnation arguments often exclude 401k's and rising healthcare costs...which really should be included.

2. Wage stagnation arguments often dont control for changing family environment.

3. Free trade, particularly with China, has reversed a lot of income inequality by reducing prices for goods bought primarily by the poor, whereas products bought by the rich have increased in costs. This also has a wage increase affect, precisely for those at the bottom.

As far as I can tell, I dont think you addressed these arguments well. Granted, we both kinda went in tangents so maybe its best to finish it up here again. You make what I see as three responses:

1. First, you argue, 'Well okay, but people work harder now'...but even this is not a response, I would make the claim that the rich work far more hours vis a vis the poor. In other words, even this response helps my argument, not yours. It argues for a reduction in inequality, not an increase. For more on this, look at Figure 7 here.

2.Then you argue, "The final point is that compensation is actually up when you look to 401k's and benefits. But remember that rising medical costs are a function of the crony capitalist system that I'm criticizing." Fine. But I could say the same thing. I could argue that rising healthcare costs are precisely because of the anti-free market, anti-free trade mentality that you seem to be promulgating. What free marketer would defend, for example, the vast insulation of prices that our healthcare system supports? Certainly not this one. In short, I dont see how this detracts from the factual claim that employer provided healthcare compensation should be included in wage calculations.

And what happens when you include healthcare compensation in wages? The wage differential disappears.

Then we go off on a tangent. So have I convinced you that wages (and by wages I mean total compensation) have in fact NOT stagnated? Because frankly, I think I have, and all without even using my point #3 above (or point #2, btw)...which happened to be my personal favorite (precisely because few people have heard about it, but it makes sense).

Jon said...

I think I responded to all of those points.

1-I said that even accounting for 401k's the savings rate is down since the mid 70's. I provided the data. 401k's were not widespread until the mid 90's. So why the collapse since the 70's?

2-You say that these figures don't account for changing family environment. But they do include the additional working hours. If Dad leaves, but working productivity and working hours combine to increase 10 fold we should still see improved wages. We don't.

3-Blame health care on whatever you want but admit that wages are flat since the 70's. Could be a lack of liberterian ideals. You need to explain it somehow though and concede the point that wages are flat.

I'm interested in your claim that if you account for health benefits the wage increase differences disappear. Your link has too little information to evaluate the claim. I'm trying to dig deeper. Do you have the access to the NBER paper?

HispanicPundit said...

Let me respond to each point:

1. So what? What does this have to do with 401k contributions by employers? If employers give me 5k/year in 401k contributions but then part of that is lost in the stock market, should that take away from the fact that my employer did indeed give me 5k/year? Shouldn't that 5k/year still be included in compensation (wages) figures? I say yes. If you say no, you need to explain why.

2. I'm not getting your point here. Can you elaborate. Btw, I've already addressed the leisure argument above.

3. Thats the point I am addressing: wages, when you include ALL forms of compensation, have kept pace with historical data. I am arguing two points: 1. 401k, employer healthcare contributions and other "non-cash" benefits by employers should be included in compensation calculations. 2. When you do that, you see that total compensation has indeed kept pace with historical levels. Its just part of it is in a different form now.

You can purchase the paper for $5. Come on you cheap bastard, buy it. After all, your wages have been improving dramatically. ;-)